Introducing the next candidate in our ‘Meet the Board’ series: Penny Phillpotts, Director of People and Place at the IPO. We spoke to Penny about where her career started, how her experience has been since she joined the IPO last year, and what she sees as her priorities for the future.
A healthy start
Penny told us how her first job was in HR, temping in an NHS organisation.
I fell into it. I didn't really know what I was going to be when I left university, like most people, and I loved it. I loved the people I was working with. I loved working for an organisation that was impacting on people's lives. I loved the drama that came with it.
Penny loved it so much, in fact, she stayed to pursue her HR qualifications. Since then, she has worked in a number of different public sector organisations – some NHS, higher education, audit organisations and some freelance consulting.
All the places I’ve worked have had some kind of purpose that I've really been able to identify with. All of those companies have kind of brought me to here, I guess, have made me really understand what I need from an organisation and what I can contribute to it.
I need to work for organisations that get me on that visceral level where I feel I'm able to contribute positively to peoples’ lives.
A match of values
We asked Penny to describe what attracted her to join the IPO.
I joined the organisation after periods of consulting and then a period of maternity leave. I must have been about eight and a half months pregnant when I got the job, so I had an interesting – and very short - maternity leave, but one where I was really excited about the future.
I stayed in close contact with the Chief Executive at the time, hearing about how the organisation was going through a period of transformation, organisational redesign, doing lots of really exciting projects to make things better for customers and for staff.
There was something about the organisation that I felt really drawn to, the way that it talks about itself, the way that it talks about the people that work here. I felt really attracted to that and felt that it really resonated with my values. And so here I am.
Future priorities – and a culture audit
We were keen to find out about Penny’s focus so far and what she sees as her team’s future priorities.
Life at IPO has been interesting so far. Currently we are focussed on delivering our One IPO Transformation for customers and for our people.
Penny outlined how this year is all about planning for the future, assessing where we are against where we said we want to be and building plans for the future.
We need to know what the organisation might look like in ten years, where we're going to recruit from, how we're going to work with higher education, what we're going to be doing about pay. We know we need to plan ahead so that we're not just focussed on the short term. We're really heads up looking to the future. That's a big priority for us.
So how will the IPO get to where we want to be?
We need to build our capability, so we're auditing our culture. We're saying, what is it like to be here and how does that fit with where we want it to be? What kind of culture do we need within the IPO to deliver our strategy?
Although the organisation has a really good culture as it stands, there will always be things that we want to do differently and better, so this is about saying, what skills do we need and what changes will we need to make within the organisation to deliver our strategy?
Diversity and inclusion
We've done a lot of work on diversity and inclusion. We know we've got to do more to encourage women into our science and technology roles and achieve a better balance.
Aware that this is a challenge shared by organisations right across the STEM sector, Penny is determined that as an organisation, we can make a difference.
There are always things that we can do in an organisation like this to improve. STEM roles are really important to the IPO and to the success of our customers and ultimately, the Great Britain brand. This is an area we really want to improve on.
One initiative is a programme supporting science and technology ‘returners’ back into work after a career break.
It's all about the talent pipeline, it's all about looking at where we can have a more diverse range of people coming in and progressing through the organisation.
Investing in leadership
We're making a big investment in leadership. We've organised a series of masterclasses, because the world of leadership is changing.
People are looking for something very different from their employment. We all want more. We all want to feel that our work is meaningful.
We've got some fantastic leaders in the organisation, but hybrid working has come with a whole load of new challenges and so it’s important that we support our people. Our leaders need a different set of skills to support their teams remotely, manage meetings effectively.
Accommodation plays its part, too.
Looking at our accommodation strategy, we have a fantastic building here in Newport. What are we going to do with this fantastic asset that we've got here? How can we open it up, use it for different things, make it a different space that people want to be in?
Thoughts on the future
I feel really positive about the future in IPO. We've got an exciting time ahead of us with our One IPO Transformation that will deliver completely new, digital services for our customers. It's providing experiences for our staff who are getting involved in some really interesting work and I'm just I'm really excited about it.
We've got fantastic people here who do amazing things every day. We've got all of the things we need, all of the ingredients to make this an amazing future for the organisation, the people in it, and really most importantly for the people that experience our services.