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People strategy

Developing a workforce for now and the future 2019 - 2022 and beyond


  1. Why have a strategy?

  2. Introduction by John Henderson: Chief Executive

  3. Scope of the strategy

  4. How the strategy was developed

  5. How we will deliver the strategy

  6. Our values

  7. Plan on a page

  8. Keeping and attracting talented people

  9. Promoting a positive working environment

  10. Developing skills for now and the future

  11. Developing leaders for now and the future

  12. People strategy implementation timeline

  13. How will we know progress is being made?

  14. Printable version



Why have a strategy?

'Strategy' is not a word that conjures much by way of emotion. In fact, it probably draws a silent sigh from most of us. So why should you care about this one? Well, because this strategy is about you and how we will invest in you.

Over the past 8 years, the council's vision for the county has remained the same, but our role in making this happen is changing.To squeeze as much value as possible from every pound we have, in recent times, we've moved from directly providing to commissioning others to provide many of our services. As we continue to become a smaller, leaner organisation our role will keep evolving.

Today we're here to prevent need in our communities as much as we are to meet it. We need to be 'community connectors' with the freedom and flexibility to create the conditions that help communities meet their own needs, rather than relying on council services.

We might even be so bold as to say that we no longer because we need to work with, not for our residents and businesses to give them access to the opportunity to be happy, healthy and prosperous.

As we stride out into this new world, we don't want to be constrained by a specific way of working. We need to be empowered to 'do the right thing' - whether this is to provide a service directly, commission one, work with a community to build something, use data and technology to meet a need or something else. We do whatever makes tax payers money work hardest for the people who need us.

This kind of flexibility, while exciting for many, can create a bit of fear and uncertainty. That is why this strategy is so important.

Based on your feedback, it outlines how we will invest in you so that you can embrace the future:

  • With the right skills and knowledge to give you confidence in your ability
  • Surrounded by people and an environment that can support your efforts to make a difference and
  • With leaders who can inspire and empower you

Read on to find out more.



Introduction by John Henderson: Chief Executive

Recruiting, retaining and developing the right people for Staffordshire County Council sits right at the top of my task list as your Chief Executive and that is simply because it is us who will deliver the outcomes we seek for Staffordshire's residents.

Of course, we are still going through a large, and in places, painful series of changes which will mean that there will be fewer of us to deliver those outcomes. These changes are driven as much by external factors, such as the accelerating digital revolution, as by our internal changes.The challenge in launching this People Strategy is to give ourselves the right skills and culture to operate in what is going to be a very different world, but one in which we will still play a key role on behalf of Staffordshire's residents.

The county council is still the biggest single public-sector organisation in the county, and each year we spend around £500million supporting our communities across an almost bewildering array of services that - is unlikely to change. Add this to an organisation where we have been fortunate to attract an abundance of talent with an unwavering commitment to public service and there is much to be positive about as we look to the future. This extends to those who we want to encourage to join our organisation and it is our mission to ensure that we and those who come after us continue to have the skills and the tools to do their jobs well.

Many of you have been involved in development of this strategy which is no coincidence, because it is fundamentally about you. It's action not words however, that create change. My request of you is therefore a simple one: own this strategy and grasp the opportunities it presents. Challenge yourself and each other to deliver what we've committed to and make this a great place to work, where people are supported to develop, flourish and contribute to our ambitious plans.



Scope of the strategy

We already work extensively with partners, both from the private and public sectors and from voluntary and community groups and this will only continue and accelerate in the future. Our strategy reflects this trend, recognising that:

  • The strategy and its priorities will impact on and apply to all the council employed workforce and Members

  • Some parts of the strategy will impact on our networks through our changing ways of working and on our volunteers

  • We will be working with partners and suppliers to make our strategy a reality, for example attracting talent and developing workforce skills.



How the strategy was developed

This strategy was developed with the input of over 200 county council employees, based on a straightforward but comprehensive approach:

  • Listening to employee groups and managers so that we were clear about Staffordshire's aims and ambitions, what that means for our organisation and the part that both the employed, wider and volunteer workforce play in achieving those aims. We also wanted to know what we are currently good at and what needs to improve.

  • Analysing data and information, for example staff surveys from across the organisation to verify our current position. Our sources of information are in the following document:

  • Checking and challenging our thinking with national research and using our findings to identify a set of priorities to tackle first. Using organisations such as the LGA to externally challenge our thinking.

  • Developing the strategy together with a clear action plan, with milestones, accountabilities and measures of success, to ensure we action our priorities.

  • Testing our strategy back with employees to ensure it reflects their input and does what it needs to.

  • Presenting the strategy to Cabinet and realising the benefits.



How we will deliver the strategy

Our Strategy will be delivered through:

  • Working closely with managers and employees on developing the most effective solutions to address the priorities.

  • Engaging with partners to develop and deliver specific aspects of the strategy.

  • A detailed implementation plan which will be reviewed every six months.

  • A review of strategy outcomes annually together with any revisions.



Our values



We are ambitious for our communities and citizens.


We recognise our challenges and are prepared to make courageous decisions.


We empower and support our people by giving them the opportunity to do their jobs well.

Our employer consultees thought that these values resonated for them. The Strategy and Plan aim to bring them to life across the organisation.



Plan on a page

This page summarises the four areas we'll focus on as part of our People Strategy, but in reality, they are all interlinked. Keeping talented people, for example, will rely on us promoting a positive working environment, ensuring we provide opportunities for people to develop and that we have skilled people managers.

Keeping and attracting talented people

Keeping the skills we already have and attracting talented people to fill skills gaps will be key to our success. While we accept that a smaller organisation means that some of our talented people will move on to new opportunities, we also want to ensure that many of our existing skilled employees, partner employees and volunteers want to stay and build a career and life in Staffordshire.

Promoting a positive work environment

We will work hard to make the council a positive working environment for everyone. This will include living our values and challenging others to do the same, creating diverse and effective teams,embracing Smart Working methods that allow us to work as productively as possible, using all the tools we have available and supporting each other as we change.

Developing skills for now and the future

Focussing on the development of skills for now and the future and the provision of opportunities for all. This will mean better development opportunities for employees enabling them to pursue careers across the council and provide for volunteers to ensure we have the skills we need for the future.

Developing leaders for now and the future

Our leaders are not just in senior positions but are at all levels and across the council, leading projects,working with volunteers and commissioning services. They have a significant part to play in our success. We recognise in this strategy that we must provide them with support and development to be able to fulfil their important roles.



Keeping and attracting talented people

Over the next four years, we will become a smaller organisation with big ambitions, so we need talented people. We want people with the skills we need for the future to stay here and will welcome new colleagues who can fill skills gaps and bring fresh ideas. We want the people who are working with us and on our behalf to be excited about coming to work and passionate about what they do. The best people will want to work in a modern and stimulating, positive environment and we need to meet these expectations. When recruiting new people, we need to be mindful that the way recruitment works is changing radically, reflecting different approaches to work and an increase in the use of digital methods.

Our focus

  • Create a distinctive profile for Staffordshire County Council as an employer and Staffordshire as a place to build a career. We will exploit modern digital recruitment methods and streamline our processes so that applicants get a great experience

  • Address known skills gaps, working with partners where applicable, specifically in social work and social care

  • Have a diverse workforce which is important for everyone and important for an organisation which takes a lead in local communities. Therefore, we will seek to improve diversity in the workforce, including at a senior level.

  • Just attracting talented people is not enough. We need to keep them when they get here by making Staffordshire a place in which people want to build their careers and lives. Our focus will be:

    • Creating the right sort of development and career experiences together with a positive working environment which allows people to flourish and to balance their careers with busy lives.

    • Reviewing the way that we design jobs with a focus on developing interesting, meaningful and rewarding work for people, allowing growth and development and the ability for employees to define their own career path as well as creating flexibility in the organisation.

    • Reviewing current reward and recognition arrangements.

    • Ensuring that our change management arrangements support those staff who stay and those that exit the organisation, so that we remain a good employer throughout our change programmes.



Promoting a positive working environment

We want everyone to enjoy coming to work, feel challenged by and appreciated for what they do, make a positive difference to the lives of their colleagues and most importantly to the people of Staffordshire. We know that people perform best in a positive, supportive and well managed working environment. We also know that an excellent working environment is not only good for our staff but has a direct impact on our work with communities, through lower levels of absence, better performance, a willingness to take personal responsibility and a strong commitment to what the organisation wants to achieve. The development of a culture where employees find work a positive experience, is in itself an aim worth having.

Our focus

  • To make the revised values a way of life by adopting them in our day to day work, throughout our organisation. This will include talking to partners and volunteers about how they can best adopt the council's values in the way they work and we will share examples of the values and behaviours in action. A culture based on strong values which are relevant to all, will contribute to making Staffordshire a great place to work.

  • The health of our workforce is a priority. We will provide support so that wherever possible, during periods of ill health, our staff can stay in work and when it is not, get them back to work quickly and safely. We will focus on both physical and mental health and will include embedding the work already begun on taking a positive approach to mental health, through our initiative called MindKind.

  • Agile and flexible working is valued by our employees and critical for the way that we manage our organisation. We will help our staff get the most from these arrangements through our SMART working project, meeting business needs and helping managers maximise the opportunities and resources available.

  • We know that swift, confident and accountable decision making is important to both staff and partners and we will make sure our governance arrangements support this. We will encourage an inclusive approach to making decisions.

  • We will take a supportive and fair approach to managing people performance and develop revised policies and processes to support this.

  • We wish to take a proactive and resolution focussed approach to address any concerns raised by staff quickly and fairly which does not always rely on the use of formal and potentially protracted procedures to get issues dealt with.

  • We know that our staff like to know what is expected of them and get regular feedback. However, we are told that My Performance Conversation does not work for many of them. We will look at alternatives that work well and reflect our new flexible and agile working practices.

  • Encouraging and fostering the development of diverse and dynamic teams.



Developing skills for now and the future

We have a highly skilled and committed workforce but our role is changing and many of us will need new skills in the future. We are now as much about preventing need as meeting it. We need to be confident in using data and technology to streamline processes, digitise services and provide information to support people to meet their own needs. We also need to know how to work with communities to build on their strengths and connect people to sources of support that exist in their neighbourhoods not just to council services. With this in mind, both managers and staff have identified a number of key skills which they believe will need to be developed further and this is where we will put our focus in the next few years.

Our focus

  • A 3-year rolling programme which is continually updated to reflect the council's changing needs that will include:

    • Developing digital skills across the council to support how people, communities and society integrate and interact with technology and data

    • Equipping staff with the skills to work collaboratively with volunteers and partners

    • Addressing the development needs of our volunteers and how these can be accessed

    • Equipping the workforce to be mental health aware

    • Supporting staff to be able to respond to change including developing ways of reducing the impact on those staff who exit the council

    • Developing awareness of working in a political environment

    • Recognising the increasing role of the council to support communities to help themselves by building skills in networking, partnership working and as community champions

    • Induction that helps people join and settle into their roles quickly

    • Creating learning networks across the council and wider workforce

  • Take a fresh look at how skills development can be delivered using cost effective blended learning methods including how people can best use on the job, collaborative and formal learning.

  • Look at innovative ways in which we can facilitate employees to develop experience and careers across the council.

  • Accelerate the council's use of the Apprenticeship Levy to support the development of key skills including leadership and development of existing staff and to encourage younger and local people into the workforce.

  • Understand with partners the impact of major national and legislative changes which will affect skills requirements.

  • Continue to meet the needs for mandatory/statutory professional training.

  • Ensure that all employees have a personal development plan.

  • Grow skills across Staffordshire, particularly with respect to attracting, retaining and developing people in social care.



Developing leaders for now and the future

Traditionally we think of leaders as those who hold the most senior roles in an organisation, but there are many different types of leader. We have people leading teams or departments, projects and partnerships. We also have political leaders. The next few years will be challenging for all of our leaders as they aim to be role models for the organisation, champion our values consistently and adopt working practices which are sustainable and supportive. Leaders who manage teams will be the first port of call for staff who want to understand the changing nature of the organisation and who need support to manage this change. Our aim is to invest in our leaders to support them in their roles and to become less hierarchical, with flatter structures to increase the speed of decision making and accountability.

Our focus

  • Work with all leaders at all levels including those that lead projects, volunteers or staff and across the council to be able to describe what makes an excellent leader in Staffordshire County Council, reflecting the values and the underpinning behaviours which bring them to life. Ensure that this is built into our approach to recruitment, development and performance management.

  • As part of the 3-year council development plan which harnesses opportunities from the Apprenticeship Levy; provide learning and development opportunities which:

    • Promote accountability and decision making at the right level to create a more empowering culture

    • Support leaders and managers to lead and manage change well

    • Further develop the skills to embed a 'digital by default' approach to commissioning services and managing people

    • Enable managers to effectively promote robust health, safety and well-being standards

  • Provide timely and effective induction for managers and leaders.

  • Look at organisational design to reduce management layers and ensure that the size of teams is neither too small which increases the number of layers or too large for managers to be able to support them.

  • Develop an aspiring leaders programme which will help and encourage talented people to develop their career at Staffordshire, improve diversity and address the challenges of an aging workforce.

  • Work with Members on identifying the development they need, recognising the changing role of political leadership and in particular the local member role.



People strategy implementation timeline

Year 1

  • Make all our staff know about our strategy and what will be different.

  • Create a clear Staffordshire employment profile and review traditional recruitment methods - targeted in Year 1 on Social Care roles. Develop a complementary induction programme. 

  • Understand skills gaps and develop solutions to bridge these.

  • Develop a simple approach which will support staff to develop skills, experience and careers across the council. 

  • Provide support to staff and leaders to manage change well.

  • Increased use of Apprenticeship Levy to support development for staff.

  • Core development for managers so that they are able to lead change, inspire and develop for the future including people manager induction. 

  • Work with staff to make the values relevant to their service area and put them at the core of what we do and how we do it.

  • Review and improve the speed of decision making.

  • Provide extra support to staff who are experiencing long periods of absence, to help them back to work.

  • Share our strategy with key partners and look for opportunities to work together on the key priorities.

  • Accelerate our plans for SMART working.

  • Review our current learning platform and recommend a revised approach.

  • Research alternative, effective approaches to replace My Performance Conversation.

  • Understand Member development needs.

  • Create a priority plan for the review of HR policies.

Year 2

Proposed priorities for year 2:

  • Understand the workforce demographic e.g age, ethnicity and sexual orientation and develop a diversity strategy/plan.

  • Develop next stage of SMART working.

  • Introduced revised approach to positively manage performance.

  • Develop new approach to addressing staff concerns promptly.

  • Deliver year 2 of rolling development programme.

  • Deliver joint projects with partners as identified in Year 1.

  • Expand work on the Staffordshire employer profile to all recruitment.

Years 3 and 4

To be confirmed at the end of Year 1.



How will we know progress is being made?

It is really important that we monitor and publish our progress, so that we are confident that we are making this plan a reality. There will be regular reports to the councils Workforce Programme Board and to the Senior Leadership Team as well as frequent updates for staff and partners. The progress of a People Strategy cannot be measured in numbers alone, so we will use a combination of measures which include how people feel and what they see that is different, as well as data.

Year 1

  • All our employees will know about and understand the key aims of the strategy.

  • Our employees will have contributed to and helped to design how we will bring the values to life in their areas and will have a common understanding and evidence of how they positively affect the way we work.

  • We will have created a new Staffordshire employment profile and approach to recruitment of children's social workers and social care staff.

  • We will see an increase in successful applicants for hard to fill jobs in the County Council.

  • Our partners will know about our strategy and we will have well designed joint projects to improve overall capacity across our services.

  • We will see a reduction in absence levels.

  • We will see an increased Apprenticeship Levy spend of at least 10% and have explored opportunities to explore collaboratively with key partners.

  • Staff will feel confident that they understand the future direction of the council.

  • Our employees and managers will understand and be using agile and flexible working methods (SMART) wherever possible.

Year 2

  • All our employees will know what progress has been made against the year 1 priorities and be able to say what differences they see.

  • All employees will be able to say what the values are and be able to explain how they have had a positive impact on their own and others working environment and how they work together with citizens.

  • Our revised approach to recruitment with a clear Staffordshire employment profile will be delivering results - reduced recruitment costs and improved quality of applicants.

  • We will have delivered some clear results on the project with partners.

  • The amount we spend on agency staff with compare favourably with other authorities.

  • Feedback from employees (both those that remain and those that leave the organisation) about the support they have received through change will be favourable.

  • Retention rates will remain stable.

  • Our demographic will remain stable or improve to be a more diverse workforce.

  • Our absence levels will be at the local government benchmark or lower.

  • We will receive positive feedback on the management of change projects.

  • Employees will feel confident that the council is and will continue to invest in their skills development.

  • SMART working will be the default approach across the authority

Years 3 and 4

  • The workforce is flexible, has a work environment in which employees flourish and has the skills needed to deliver the Staffordshire vision.

  • Strategy action plans are well embedded into our standard business practices and approach and build on year 1 and 2 successes. 

  • The council's workforce is working seamlessly with partners, networks and volunteers/community groups to provide for the citizens of Staffordshire.

  • Details for Years 3 and 4 to be confirmed at the end of Year 2.

  • Feedback will demonstrate that the strategy has had a positive impact on the workforce, on volunteers and on citizens.



Printable version

You can find a PDF version of this information for printing below:
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