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Facing the future with confidence

Written by: Gemma Taskas is deputy chief officer HR at Leeds City Council
Published on: 8 Nov 2018

In Leeds we are familiar with the feeling that comes with achieving big things that seem impossible by collaborating across the region and beyond – like the Tour de Yorkshire, Triathlon World Series or the relocation of Channel 4. This is why I was excited Leeds City Council was again supporting the Public Services People Manager’s Association (PPMA) Northern HR Summit held in the city and, like last year, it offered an opportunity to get together with other HR professionals to collaborate on the issues that are important to us.

Since relaunching in 2017, the event has grown. Now in its second year, the summit goes from strength to strength.

As a member, I was looking forward to catching up with colleagues from the PPMA and especially looking forward to meeting new colleagues from other professional bodies – the Healthcare People Management Association and Universities HR as well as hearing from Daphne Doody Green, head of The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development for Northern England. This was the first joint event since the memorandum of understanding between the professional bodies was agreed earlier this year. (You can find more details of this at

I always look forward to hearing perspectives from senior leaders who are big supporters of the summit. Cllr James Lewis, deputy leader of Leeds City Council, welcomed us to the event and reflected on World Mental Health Day – the first day of the summit marking this event. We took the opportunity to thank Cllr Alison Lowe who is stepping down as chair of the Local Government Association in the region and as an elected member. Cllr Lowe has been such a huge supporter of this summit and instrumental in the relaunch last year. As ever, she left us with challenging and inspirational words. Tom Riordan, chief executive of Leeds City Council and another great supporter of the summit, presented Cllr Lowe with a gift on behalf of the PPMA and addressed the conference – closing our first afternoon and leaving us with plenty of inspiration for day two.

This year’s summit was a great example of how this type of collaboration is of benefit, as we work together to support and build strong, diverse, high performing HR and OD communities that can best support the millions of people employed in public service and the third sector. It sets the tone for future partnership working for all of us.

As a delegate and a member of the PPMA, I was looking forward to seeing an even bigger turnout this year, with even more delegates from across the sectors working together on common themes – leadership, health and wellbeing and facing future workforce challenges together.

The clear message is that together we are stronger. Working as a group, we can amplify our voice on matters that mean the most to us – our profession and our sectors.

Working with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) we can bring our message to the national stage.

With all four professional bodies represented at this summit, talking about the big issues that we are all having to tackle, this event is a great opportunity for HR professionals to share experiences across sectors and to work with the CIPD.

One of the themes of the summit was sustainable change. We heard about the significant challenge for HR and OD professionals – balancing the ‘day job’ with making real, sustainable, progress on transformational change across all of our networks.

I enjoyed the opportunity to share our experiences and to think about the capacity and capabilities required to make these changes.

As Sheree Axon, director of Leeds Health and Care Academy said, we need to ensure we have the right partnerships and alliances so we can make the right change for the right purpose. We need to remember to focus on the person the change is going to affect. The individual is central to the change process.

I was proud of our Leeds City Council Choir ‘Sing as One’ when they opened the second day of the summit, championed by chair of the PPMA Yorkshire & Humber and choir member, Lorraine Hallam.

As the popularity of workplace choirs has grown over the years, we have seen first-hand the benefits reach the people who take part.

We were told there is no test or audition: everyone is welcome. Good job too, as all the delegates participated in the singing, although I’m not sure everyone was expecting to take part. It was a great way to wake us up to start day two!

Towards the end of the summit, thoughts turned towards the future. Helen Grantham introduced research conducted by MHR and the PPMA around where we are as a HR profession. The question asked was: Is HR really taking its place in driving positive change for organisations?

It was helpful to look at where we currently are and what more HR can do to lead our organisations through a changing world as technology continues to make an increasing impact.

The answer seems to be that we are probably not doing enough. The session was a chance to challenge ourselves to think differently. How can we be even more influential? How can we develop the confidence in our teams and individuals to get involved and to drive some of that change?

As we left this year’s summit still humming a show tune, happy to have caught up with old friends and having made some new ones, questions were still fizzing in my head.

I am reminded of how important it is to take time out, to think about how we are going to get from where we are now to where we need to be in the future while also helping our teams to thrive and to be the best.

Check out our highlights video over at The PPMA on YouTube.

Gemma Taskas is deputy chief officer HR at Leeds City Council

Gemma Taskas