7HRC Human Resources Management in Context Assessment 3B

In the CIPD exam you have three hours to complete the paper. Section A is a case study and in Section B you are required to answer five questions. The two sections are equally weighted – so you have roughly 1.5 hours to answer Section B. There are two Section B questions on this paper and a Section A case study, so aim to complete it in around 2.25 hours. There is no word limit.

The following questions have been taken from past CIPD exam papers for this module:

  1. You work for a French multinational company which is hosting a seminar in London for its managers from around Europe. You have been asked to make a short presentation to this group on “Three main differences between the UK market economy and European social market economies.”
    Drawing upon research, outline three main differences and discuss their implications for developing and implementing HR strategies and practices in the UK business.
  2. Traditionally, public services in the UK, at both local and national levels, were insulated from the pressures of the market, competition and continuous change. Since the late 1970s, however, there have been successive waves of public management or administrative reform.
    1. Identify up to three policy initiatives in public management reform in recent years and their underpinning objectives.
    2. Critically evaluate the impact of these initiatives on the HR function in public service organisations

The following Section A type question is taken from the CIPD exam paper in January 2012:

Note: It is permissible to make assumptions by adding to the case study details given below provided the case study is neither changed nor undermined in any way by what is added.

Mid-shire District Council (MDC) is a relatively small, rural local authority, located in a geographic area known for its natural beauty, in south-west England. MDC provides a range of local services to its resident population of about 120,000 people. The services include highways and transport, economic and community development, waste collection, street cleaning, and environmental and public health services.

MDC is organised into six directorates – Environment, Planning, Leisure and Tourism, Housing, Finance, and Policy – headed by a Chief Executive Officer (CEO). The Senior Management Team is a small one, consisting of the CEO and two Strategic Directors. The responsibilities of one Strategic Director include resources and finance; the other’s responsibilities include planning, tourism and leisure. You are the Director of HR Strategy and Policy Development. You are not in the Senior Management Team but report to the CEO, with whom you have a good trusting relationship.

The vision of the local authority is to maintain and enhance its geographical area as an excellent place in which to live, work and visit in the UK. The Council has a medium-term financial strategy looking forward several years, although this has been challenged by recent cutbacks in the Council’s planned spending. The Council also has a best value strategy and has adopted a local planning policy too. This aims to promote high quality building projects in the area and some affordable housing, as well avoiding bad building design and overdevelopment locally.The Council’s Strategic Plan covers the following priority areas where it aims to:

  • Work in partnership with outside bodies, both public and private, to sustain active, healthy and economically prosperous towns and villages with full employment.
  • Protect and enhance the environment locally.
  • Maintain the district as a clean, beautiful place with low crime and nuisance levels.
  • Support individuals and families to stay in the area by providing affordable housing.
  • Encourage tourism, leisure and cultural opportunities for all and promote healthy living.
  • Be recognised as a leading council that provides efficient, value for money services.

Given the dynamic nature of local government, the Council’s Strategic Plan is a living, organic document. Some part of the Council’s work goes on steadily from year to year, whilst other areas change in response to new needs, opportunities and challenges. The Strategic Plan is set out in modular form and individual strategies, with other parts being revised, added to or removed as necessary.

The Council has 55 Members and is ruled by a Liberal Democrat-Conservative coalition administration. The Council Leader, who has parliamentary ambitions, is a young person, open to new ideas and innovatory solutions to complex issues. He is supported by seven Cabinet Members, most of whom are middle-aged or retired from full-time employment. The portfolios of the Cabinet Members cover: change and efficiency; environment; housing and community safety; leisure and health; the local economy and the community; resources; and strategic planning.

MDC employs 230 full-time staff and 100 part-timers, many of whom are well-qualified, professional and technical specialists. Last financial year, the Council’s revenue expenditure totalled £14.1 million, a decrease of six per cent over the previous year. This year’s estimated revenue expenditure is £12.6 million, a decrease of 11 per cent over the previous year. Following the Coalition Government’s national spending review in 2010, further planned decreases in revenue expenditure of 25 per cent over a three-year period are expected in MDC. The Council has local elections next year, when a third of the council wards are up for election.

Following discussions with the Leader of the Council and Cabinet Members, the CEO and Senior Management Team are concerned that delivery of services will be badly affected by these financial cutbacks. Indeed, some reduction in service provision has already taken place. They are also concerned that staff morale, motivation and engagement will deteriorate. Staff turnover is normally low within the authority and employee relations and relations with the local unions are good.

The terms and conditions for the majority of staff are determined nationally. HR policies determined locally include:

  • long-service awards
  • workforce profiles
  • exit interviews
  • managing vacancies
  • flexible retirement
  • Staff and Management Forum.

Because of the proposed cutbacks, the Council’s Strategic Plan needs revision, as do its HR strategies, policies and practices. The CEO believes that there needs to be better integration of the Strategic Plan and HR strategies.

In the light of these changing circumstances and the Council’s vision, the CEO has asked you, as Director of HR Strategy and Policy Development, to write a report covering the following issues. In preparing your report, you are expected to draw on research and current practice where appropriate, especially in question 5 below.

  1. Identify and evaluate the main external constraints on the Council’s ability to deliver the priority areas in its Strategic Plan. Based on this analysis, recommend whether these priority areas need changing (or not) and why.
  2. Justify the case for adopting a low-cost generic strategy within the Council, outlining how this might be achieved in practice.
  3. Analyse and review the HR implications of question 2 above.
  4. Explain how vertical integration between the Council’s Strategic Plan and its HR strategies can be made more effective and why this is important for the organisation.
  5. Drawing on research, examine how effective strategic leadership can promote the achievement of MDC’s Strategic Plan and its HR strategies.

It is recommended that you spend 20% of your time on each of the above tasks.


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