How Ordnance Survey Ireland is evolving as a highly transparent and accountable organisation and building a skilled workforce to enable it to sustain its success long into the future.

As you would expect of any entity that is nearly 200 years old, OSi has changed a lot.  Ever since it was first founded in 1824, the organisation has constantly evolved, embracing new technologies and spearheading new techniques to meet the needs of governments, businesses, and citizens.

This heritage of evolution continues unabated today

To deliver value for money for the state, OSi is still evolving, improving the transparency of its corporate governance processes and ensuring that it is fully accountable to its stakeholders.  At the same time, the organisation is investing in developing the skills and capabilities of its employees to enable it to deliver new products and services that meet the changing needs of government, industry, and communities.  Through this focus on transparency, accountability, and skills, OSi can ensure that its operations will be sustainable in the years ahead.

Transparent and accountable

OSi is continually enhancing its governance and compliance framework to help it meet its obligations and ensure transparency in its operations.  The latest version of this framework provides clarity on matters such as the role of OSi’s board, making it easier for people to understand how OSi operates and hold the organisation accountable for fulfilling its purpose.  The framework also ensures that OSi is aligned with EU directives and government policies, including new legislation on GDPR, information security, and business continuity.

Furthermore, OSi is constantly assessing its performance against industry best practices to stimulate new programmes of business improvement.  It routinely undertakes internal and external audits in areas such as health and safety, GDPR, finance and IT controls, to ensure that its processes and systems remain compliant and effective.  It has also achieved a quality management accreditation from the International Standards Organisation (ISO 9001:2015) which attests to the rigour of its remote sensing services.

OSi works hard to foster a culture of accountability throughout its organisation, which helps it to ensure that all its resources are used appropriately to deliver the best value for money for the state.  For example, OSi is accountable to the government for delivering value from the centrally-funded National Mapping Agreement.  This scheme makes national mapping data available to public sector bodies free of charge, so that they can use it to deliver the best possible public services for citizens as efficiently as possible.

Ultimately, all these initiatives, and others like them, help OSi to build trust.  OSi wants to ensure that all its stakeholders – from the government to citizens – can trust it to operate transparently according to best practices and be accountable for delivering value in return for the public investment it receives.

Skilled and sustainable

For OSi to be sustainable as an organisation, it needs to have a skilled workforce now – and a strategy in place to retain a skilled workforce for many years into the future.  This is a particular challenge for OSi at present, as 47% of its employees are at or approaching retirement age.  OSi is therefore actively working on initiatives to identify which skills it is likely to lose and which skills it will need to recruit to sustain its business in the coming years.  OSi’s succession and talent management policies need to take into account the fact that new technical skills are evolving such as web services and data curation.

As well as recruiting new staff, OSi is also expanding its coaching and mentoring schemes, to help existing employees gain new skills and transition into leadership roles.  OSi is also actively supporting ‘lateral mobility’ by giving people the opportunity to move sideways into different roles at the same grade to broaden their experience and knowledge.  Approximately 30% of employees at OSi are already accredited with a professional body, and OSi is keen to help even more members of staff achieve professional recognition and qualifications that reflect their skills and experience.

To help diversify OSi’s workforce, OSi’s HR Strategy 2020-21 includes an inclusivity policy that addresses the organisation’s public sector duty to promote equality, eliminate discrimination and protect the human rights of staff.  OSi’s HR team is actively creating awareness of the need for greater equality and diversity and putting measures in place to pave the way for more people with disabilities to work within the organisation.  Indeed, OSi is quite literally ‘paving the way’, as it has recently installed new wheelchair-accessible footpaths at its head office.

Of course, OSi needs more than just the right people to be sustainable.  It also needs the right combination of technology, resources, and partnerships to ensure its long term success.  It will need to continue to develop its products and services to address the emerging new requirements of citizens, businesses and policymakers and explore new ways to deliver its products and services more efficiently.  A key part of being sustainable is being adaptable – and OSi will need to adapt in all aspects of its business to meet the needs of the changing world in which it operates.

Without a doubt, the future for OSi will be full of change.  The Irish Government plans to merge OSi with the Property Registration Authority of Ireland and the Valuation Office to create a new government body called Tailte Éireann, but the timings for this exciting new phase in OSi’s story are, as yet, unknown.  Until then, OSi will continue to evolve, to operate transparently, be accountable to stakeholders, and develop its skills, so that it can be as strong tomorrow as it is today.

Authors: Geraldine Murphy, Strategic HR, and Corporate Services Manager, OSi, and Niamh McLoone, General Manager of Finance and Corporate Governance, OSi.

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