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Comment: Putting the 'pro' back in process

Comment: Putting the 'pro' back in process

Thursday 25 July 2019

Comment: Putting the 'pro' back in process


News that the Health boss's ex-colleague was the only person considered for a £45k contract, which was not advertised locally or on the mainland, didn't go so well among islanders concerned about wasting taxpayers' money.

According to Connect columnist Katherine Penhaligon - who each month picks the best business buzzword examples to try and reveal what lies beneath - "there is a need to know that everyone is playing by the same rules" when it comes to recruitment, as she explains...

"There’s a fair amount of tutting that goes on in Jersey about who gets what job. It’s partly a small community thing, and a ‘smidge of part’ protecting our own patch. 

Gender equality aside (as a larger topic for another day), recruitment decisions on all levels in any healthy organisation have to be made on ability to do a job. No matter what the system is to reach that decision, competency tests, reasoning assessments, fire-eating, the fact is that the goal is still the same – the best person for the job.

We all want expertise and hard workers, and that’s that. And if you know someone who has done the job, fits the bill and smells of roses then you’d be a bit silly not to ask them to apply if they’re willing. 

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Pictured: "We all want expertise and hard workers, and that’s that," says Katherine Penhaligon.

In a small enterprise, that’s pretty much up to you. After all, it’s your dollar and you own that decision – for good or for bad. In larger businesses there are layers of policies and procedures to make sure that you can’t make a decision to the detriment of the wider company.  

And, of course, in Jersey, there are a few more hoops to go through than that, and depending which industry you’re in, you’re likely to have gripes about the potholes which have appeared in the playing field which you weren’t convinced was all that level in the first place.

At the most senior levels, word-of-mouth is always going to play a part and as long as you’re following process then who you know and recommendations are going to be an extremely important way of getting someone to an interview – especially if skills and experience make that pool of people even smaller still.

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Pictured: You don't want to give the impression that you’ve just raided "your little black book for fellas you knew at school."

For most businesses, the most widespread risk of failing to address the perception that you’ve just raided your little black book for fellas you knew at school, is that you’ll have a load of disgruntled employees, including those who thought they should have been potential candidates, grumbling into their large glass of Chateau de xxxxx about the old boys’ network (or similar, and perhaps gender neutral).

All these things are as true in government as they are in business but, as you would expect given the tricksy matter of tax-payers taking wasted money so personally, the tutting reaches new levels when civil service appointments are involved. 

Much of the most outraged tutting is on social media, keeping the cogs of Facebook turning over in a self-perpetuating vortex of self-righteousness and mouthy, spitty hatred. But there are also legitimate concerns that need to be addressed. 

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Pictured: In the past, the jobs for the boys’ network accusations were firmly directed at the OV’s and Beeches.

As always, it is about the context of the appointments being made and, in this respect, there is an age-old problem at play here. The game doesn’t change, just the players.

In the past (and perhaps in the present in some dark corners of St. Helier) the jobs for the boys’ network accusations were firmly directed at the OV’s and Beeches (the alumni associations of Victoria College and De La Salle College respectively for those not in the know).

In government circles, the finger is now pointing at another clique, the ex-Westminster cabal which, so the rumour goes, is the real power behind the hot-desking at Broad Street.

As well as the underlying unease that a UK-centric takeover has taken place while everyone was busy banging on about the hospital, there are genuine concerns that in the midst of a massive and at times brutal restructure of the civil service, that we’re trapped in some kind of social experiment to see how many consultants it takes to change the Chief Minister’s lightbulbs. 

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Pictured: Are we trapped in some kind of social experiment to see how many consultants it takes to change the Chief Minister’s lightbulbs?

So, it is the circumstances, perception and communication of Health Director’s hire of a former colleague on a 12-week contract that wasn’t advertised here or in the UK, that does the process and appointment a disservice.

If the Health Service are to be taken at their word, they needed to act quickly and get the right person in place to wave their magic reform wand over the department.

That’s fine to a point, but the manner of the appointment and, concerningly, the reluctance of the States’ Employment Board to engage with media questions on their standard process, can only cause more division in the public sector; it doesn’t appear all that resonant with the One Gov or Team Jersey messaging. 

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Pictured: Charlotte Hall (left) and Caroline Landon (right) worked together for almost ten years before the latter appointed the former for a 12-week £45k contract.

From the outset of Charlie Parker’s tenure as Chief Executive, questions have abounded about just how appointments are made and this continues to distract both from whether they are the right appointments, and if the job that they were hired to do is being done comprehensively and well.

It comes back to that playing field. In an Island where most businesses struggle to hire at some point, there is a need to know that everyone is playing by the same rules, and doing their damnedest to get the right people. "

This column first appeared in Connect. Read the July edition by clicking here.

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