Local governments can improve their sensitive HR processes through efficient self-service systems, potentially bringing reductions in costs and labour and increased employee satisfaction

Over the course of the last few years, and in the face of unprecedented pressure, local government organisations have implemented a variety of change programmes intended to alleviate the strain on their workforce. One such change has been the adoption of employee and manager self-service systems (ESS and MSS respectively) which helped streamline and eliminate time-sensitive processes across several Human Resources (HR) processes and functions.

By considering ways in which employees can claim greater ownership of actions such as reporting absences, claiming overtime or expenses and coordinating appraisals, organisations are able to take advantage of a model that promotes an increase in overall visibility and productivity. By removing the need for out-dated documents that often require printing, data can be more readily accessible through a central portal which effectively removes the requirement to chase information and allows managers in public sector roles to focus instead on supporting colleagues and their outputs.

Data is more likely to be accurate and up to date

A key benefit of adopting ESS and MSS systems into local government offices is that data is more likely to be accurate and up to date. The extra visibility afforded to managers can help organisations gain a greater understanding of their employees, helping to promote compliance with duty of care responsibilities.

Aside from the benefit of autonomously being able to record and request leave and expenses conveniently and remotely, particularly in the new normal of remote and hybrid-working, the evolution away from manual systems also reduces the margin for inconsistencies in policies and processes in areas where staff members may have started working at the organisation at different times.

Ensuring a successful transformation

For decision makers in the public sector, perhaps even more so for those in local government, the migration to ESS and MSS systems may be an enormous task with many barriers to success. Considering these barriers and carefully planning how and when to tackle them is an essential aspect of a successful transformation. Confirming where budget should be allocated and how best to manage spend in an efficient way will be crucial to a successful transformation journey and helps to highlight any priority areas, so systems can be put in place in line with priorities.

Understanding the current processes and degree of change required is key to successfully planning the improvement. Ensuring that employees are included at the earliest opportunity in the discovery, planning and transformation process ensures that a successful change journey will be more likely.

customers speaking to local government employees
© Roman Milert

The most important aspect of any change journey is people, and effective communication is key to success. Encouraging a person-centric approach, that focusses on the requirements of employees as well as ensuring that all information and planned changes are communicated effectively, will remove one of the largest obstacles in the transformation and encourage ‘buy-in’ amongst employees.

Tackling this challenge early and adjusting approaches in line with the workforce will be a vital consideration. Due to the immense pressure on local government organisations, specifically over the last few years, it’s important to remember that further changes may come up against complaints from staff, particularly after facing a series of unprecedented changes over the last couple of years.

Consistent communication mitigates any resistance to change

Maintaining consistent communication and promoting the benefits of a more streamlined HR process is advisable when trying to promote change for good and is vital to mitigate any resistance to change.  Employees, likely to feel under pressure to implement new processes against a backdrop of resource shortages and rising demand for public services, may instinctively push back against systems which provide more visibility and auditable procedures.

To ensure that the people affected by the change are as confident and comfortable as possible with the outcome of new processes, it is important to implement an effective, efficient and comprehensive communications, testing and training programme for all roles impacted. This helps to manage expectation throughout, as well as reduce the risk of legacy issues, helping to iron out any kinks before changes ‘go live’. It is important not to gloss over testing and training requirements through assumptions of data quality and resource capability that may not be accurate, particularly when introducing a new system.

Local government continues to evolve, with increasing demand and less budget; workers in the sector will need to evolve with it

Any transition period can be challenging, however, it’s important to make sure that decision-makers are actively communicating the benefits of ESS or MSS models throughout the transformation. Local government continues to evolve, with increasing demand and less budget; workers in the sector will need to evolve with it. Both employee and employer can benefit from streamlined HR processes and through the adoption of new ways of working, it’s possible to see more proactive processes, reductions in costs and labour and increased employee satisfaction which will all ultimately lead to lower turnover of staff and encourage a more transparent and fairer work culture.

This piece was written and provided by Tamara Pleasant, a principal consultant at business change consultancy Entec Si.


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