Empower - Chesterfield Borough Council

Empowering success in the public sector

Making the right decision

As one of the first district councils in the UK to outsource its services, Chesterfield Borough Council had to be sure it was selecting the right supplier. Not just a contractor that could deliver savings, protect employees and continue to provide an excellent service to residents and businesses. But, a long term partner that shared the Council’s ambitions.

Huw Bowen, Chief Executive, Chesterfield Borough Council, explains: “We needed to feel comfortable that Arvato was the right partner. That’s not always easy during a formal tender process. But, in addition to offering solutions that met our requirements, Arvato stood out when it came to the ‘softer skills’. They invited us to speak to their clients rather than doing a hard sell. Even during the competitive dialogue stage where there are always disagreements, Arvato brought a sense of humour to the table and committed to a shared goal of finding the best possible workable deal. We felt we could work with the Arvato team and that was a big comfort when taking such a bold step.”

In October 2010, the Council agreed a 10-year public-private partnership with Arvato to deliver a range of key services, including customer services, revenues, benefits, human resources, payroll, ICT, accounts payable and invoice processing; with sub-contractor Kier providing asset management, facilities maintenance and engineering services.

Just over two years on, the partnership has already delivered award-winning results, picking up Public Sector Outsourcing Project of the Year at the 2011 National Outsourcing Association Awards, as well as a host of commendations and finalist places in awards throughout the public sector.

People power

“The key to this success is the way Arvato has empowered our people,” Huw explains. “You can’t guarantee a good cultural fit at the outset, only sense it. But the proof is in the fact that the employees that transferred still walk the corridors of the Town Hall and are still considered very much part of the Council. That’s important. They may work for Arvato and their badge says that, but we are still one team working for the betterment of our residents and businesses. The real change is the empowerment; giving employees a new environment, fresh technology, training and redefined targets to enable them do their jobs far more effectively.”

Arvato trained the 170 TUPE-transferred employees up to White Belt standard in Six Sigma. A further 15% were accredited to Yellow Belt, while a selected group is being developed to Green Belt practitioner level. Lean Reviews conducted across all transferred services enabled employees to use their new Six Sigma skills in the areas of the business they knew so well. Employees were empowered to identify process inefficiencies, streamline workflows and reduce costs, thereby becoming a significant part of the solution.

This is still the crux of any successful partnership. Experienced staff delivering on the ground for a new employer that has been able to draw on this resource and invest in technology to make the entire operation more efficient. 

One Chesterfield

From the outset, both parties have taken a flexible and open approach to the partnership. “Hitting your partner with a big stick when KPI performance falls short and pulling the contract off the shelf at every opportunity is not engagement!” exclaims Huw. “Only the lawyers benefit from that type of approach. Honest discussions and a mutual desire to deliver good outcomes will achieve far more over the life of a 10 year contract.”

While the partnership keeps to the framework of the contract, conversations take place on a regular basis between the operational leads to explore the potential to make further improvements. In addition a joint Chesterfield-Arvato strategic board focuses more on macro issues and opportunities, with a longer term view.

Pushing the boundaries

One evolution of the agreement has been the partnership’s ability to offer services to other local authorities, such as Derby City Council. A six figure agreement went live in April 2012 harnessing Arvato’s revenues and benefits expertise and processes from the Chesterfield partnership.

Huw Bowen concludes: “Being able to draw on what we have built to offer similar services to other Councils demonstrates how strong the relationship is and the trust and confidence that we now have in the partnership. We are making efficiency savings rather than cuts and not only protecting jobs but also starting to grow employment. I can’t see how this would have been possible without such a collaborative approach.”