The human factor

People and technology are perhaps the two most fundamental aspects of public sector delivery. In order to develop our organisations and deliver services that are modern, relevant and fit-for-purpose, we need to ensure a symbiotic relationship exists between our human resources and technology teams.
    
For that, we need to consider what HR and IT directors are trying to achieve for their organisations – are there synergies that need to be further explored and exploited?

Joined-up departments
The role of both departments is to support the organisation’s corporate plans – ‘encouraging accessibility, efficiency and effectiveness to ensure delivery of quality front line services’. I’m sure you have something in your corporate plan that reads similar to this.
    
But are we still toiling away in our ‘silo’ departments, working towards our closely-defined professional and technical goals, or can we say we are truly ‘joined-up’ and ensuring that our business planning aligns to deliver timely improvements for the greater corporate good? My guess is that it’s a patchwork quilt – with some teams showing well-developed partnership working and others (to paraphrase Oliver) thinking they better think it out again.
    
So here is your challenge for next week – sit down with your HR director and
compare notes. A good practical starting point might be your organisation’s approach to home working – where IT, HR and property all have a key role. Are you working in tandem on this, or are you all ploughing your own furrows? Bringing together the technology, plans for hot-desking and accommodation with proper procedures for staff working at home has to be the best way forward for any organisation that is moving towards more home-working.

Future needs
So what else is on the HR directors radar at the moment? There is an ever increasing need to develop corporate people strategies to fully support the organisation for the next three to five years. We need to forecast and predict our future workforce needs; streamline and automate human resource processes; provide information to managers and employees in a modern and accessible way and generally transform our HR services. The right technology and the correct deployment of that technology is absolutely key to long-term planning.
    
Developing people strategies requires the senior management team in any organisation to have a clear vision about the skills and competencies they need for the future. Transformational leadership is needed to manage and develop growing partnerships and shared services opportunities – it’s all about managing relationships and business in uncertain times.
    
Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? But are we ready to move to these strategies that will better plan our workforce and manage our talent - and what are the technology implications of having a more agile and flexible workforce? We need to attract the right people, have them in the right places at the right time, develop their skills and retain them in the organisation. The whole technology infrastructure needs to support this.

Knowing your staff
Wouldn’t it be great if we knew how many project managers we had in the organisation? It would be nice, when we had an urgent requirement for a fluent German speaker, if we could easily identify suitable individuals from within our own ranks? The starting point for workforce planning has to be having a clear, accessible and up-to-date workforce profile. There are a number of examples in this field where public sector organisations have worked together.
    
For example, JGP - provider of web-based talent management to the public sector - is operating two projects in the north of England, where several local authorities are working together on group workforce planning. These authorities make use of a shared skills audit system. As Michael Douglas of JGP explains: “Shared skills audits allow all staff to be assessed in the same way to allow for collective action in areas of development, career pathways and staff deployment”.

Streamlining automating HR processes
Where do we start on this one? When was the last time customers commented on whether policies and procedures were fit for their purpose – and what are we doing about it? Is your attendance policy 15, 30, or 45 pages long? And can you find the relevant paragraph, or is it easier to call the HR team and check?  My own experience, and that of my colleagues in HR across the public sector, tells me its easier to call HR - so we need to work together to change this.
    
Do you know how many processes your HR function has that could be automated to make them more cost effective and efficient? Has any work been done on process mapping? Setting out a business case? Are you so deep in carrying out the process weekly, monthly or bi-monthly that you have overlooked any ongoing business development?
    
If you haven’t already seen them, you might want a look at the National eService delivery standards programme for HR on www.nesds.org.uk. It is helpful to benchmark your organisation against these standards regularly – your HR director might appreciate an independent view on their progress.

Partnerships
Managers and the public want fast, easy to find and accessible information, and politicians and directors want value for money and efficiency. We in the middle are increasingly drawn towards working in partnership and managing relations with others in the public and private sector. That means we have to work in different ways to manage our businesses, understanding the needs of each party in the partnership and often coming up with flexible solutions that engage as many stakeholders as possible. A good recent example of this is the London Boroughs recruitment project where councils have contracted a flexible contract of recruitment and selection processes.
    
Dave Goldsmith of the London Borough of Sutton explains: “This provides a framework where partners can choose business specific elements from an end-to-end recruitment process, delivering both time and cost efficiencies. The collaborative partnership between Boroughs means we save on procurement costs and time and can offer the service to other public sector organisations to enhance collaboration across London.”
    
Of course, collaboration is a two-way street. I’ve given the public sector people manager’s view of how we might develop better working relationships between HR and technology professionals, but we need to hear more about how HR can provide a better fit with technology.For more information
Website: www.ppma.org.uk  

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