Raffaela Goodby: How should HR be more involved in high pay decisions?

Senior pay in local government is a political hot potato, with regular sensationalist stories in the press about pay levels with the age-old comparator of ‘more than the prime minister’.

For me, stories like this are not helpful in morale and employee engagement terms because they tend to present an unbalanced view. Looking to David Cameron rather than to counterparts in the private sector lacks a sense of the whole story of senior pay in local government and creates misunderstanding in the workforce. 

More organisations are moving towards contribution- or performance-related pay, and in the most recent Spending Review, this was made a clear priority as the government moves away from a traditional time-served progression approach.

For HR managers working in local government, a clear part of our role is ensuring our pay policies are transparent, easy to understand and demonstrate value for money to taxpayers and to our citizens. This openness about pay and how decisions are made should engender trust in the wider workforce, and be used as an engagement tool, not only at high levels but across the workforce.

We constantly hear that surveys say ‘money is not a motivator’ and that employees from all levels of organisations feel other elements of reward are more valuable. Pension schemes, flexi-time, healthcare, employee discounts, family-friendly policies, salary sacrifice offerings, development opportunities and a clear career path, and work-life balance may be better retention tools than the traditionally highest-paid roles.

This is an area where HR in local government can offer senior executives a unique selling point due to the very social essence of our psychological contract.

In HR, we have a critical role in developing and communicating our employee value proposition, both within our organisations as an engagement and retention tool, and to influence the media to attract the most knowledgeable, skilled senior people into our organisations.

Raffaela Goodby is head of human resources and organisational development at Birmingham City Council.

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She will be speaking at Employee Benefits Live on 26 September.