How Should Public Sector HR be Exploiting the Digital Age?

Hello PPMA members and friends

We had one of our regular meetings with the Councils “Leadership Group” yesterday. In was an opportunity to bring those managers up-to-date with progress on setting budgets for 2013/14 and the following financial year. The message was inevitably somewhat gloomy: whilst the gap for 2013/14 has now been closed (sounds simple, but £16m of savings have been found), there remains a significant challenge in covering the gap for the following year. The savings target is £18m and that is based on the assumption that there are no changes to expected levels of government grant. Even if all the “radical” savings proposals are accepted by our members (many of the “unthinkables” from a few years back) there is still a gap of £6m. Neither the current round of party conferences, nor economists, nor the IMF give much cause for comfort that things will get any better for the next five or six years. The conclusion was that we have to change radically and we have to do so quite quickly. No doubt this is a common message across all our organisations.

The final session though was deliberately much more upbeat. We had a presentation from Manoj Badale, co-founder of Agilisys, with whom our Council has set up a joint venture. He spoke about the digital revolution and the speed of change and the extent to which people’s expectation around how they would access services was changing. His key message is that the technology is there to do something radically different, customers are ready, but have organizations got the vision and capacity to change. Those changes were “not difficult to deliver, but difficult to believe.

The statistics are mind-blowing:

It took 47 years for 40% of the world’s population to get a TV. It has taken 17 years for 40% to get web access
58% of the world’s population have an I-phone
There will be more mobile devices in the world than there will be people if trends continue in a couple of years
Every second, one hour of video is up-loaded onto YouTube

Now my immediate reaction is that “this is ok for young people….” and it is true that when faced with any problems involving digital devices or guidance on how to do things, I do turn to the younger generation, both at home and in the PPMA. However I should reflect on the fact that a year or so ago I did not tweet, I did not have an I-Pad, I did not do internet banking, so I am part of that exponential participation curve. Research shows that use of digital media is not stronger in any particular socio-economic group either, so it is as relevant in Barking and Dagenham as it might be in Surrey.

The challenge to our leadership group was to consider how we could increase the pace of customer channel shift and explore more opportunities to exploit the technology to deliver services in different ways and in particular, to manage down the demand for our services, which is fundamental to the future local government model. This got me thinking about the potential implications for HR. We are already putting in place a new leadership and management development piece, which is intended to assist our manager to think creatively about the way they deliver their services and E-Learning is at the heart of that programme. There are issues about how we access the technical skills mix necessary to enable us to exploit the opportunities. There are implications for the engagement agenda with our staff and I know that some are already exploiting the power of social media.

But what about the way in which we deliver core HR services and enable managers to manage their people. How should public sector HR be exploiting the digital age? I can see opportunities around health and safety, occupational health, employee relations work and equipping self-serve managers. Now, I scrawled my notes from the presentation on what is now a rather weather-beaten scrap of paper (not very high-tech I know!), so if I have got any of my facts above wrong, I apologise and there is no need to correct me! However if you want to tell me about how you are already embracing the digital age in your HR function, what plans you have to do so, or what opportunities you see, please do leave a comment here, or engage in a discussion on our Linked In Group.


By | 2017-07-30T12:23:22+01:00 October 10th, 2012|Categories: Martin Rayson|3 Comments


  1. Raffaela Goodby 10th October 2012 at 9:13 pm - Reply


    I’m loving this post, and loving how far you’ve come along the spectrum to ‘geek’ this year 🙂

    I think most of the challenge is being willing to give it a go and see what happens. I think a lot of the resistance of engaging with social media, or electronic tools is fear of not being able to do it. Having just spent an hour with my Dad attempting to complain to Virgin Mobile by using their online system…and nearly throwing the computer out of the window…I can see why some people don’t try!

    If at first you don’t succeed – try try again:)


  2. Martin Rayson 11th October 2012 at 5:19 pm - Reply

    and how do you think HR should be changing Raffaela to embrace this digital age. Should we be changing the way our services are delivered?

  3. Richard Crouch 24th October 2012 at 9:22 pm - Reply

    I might venture to respond to this as someone who doesn’t do digital unless I really have to. I think we should embrace a bit of it in HR but to still remember that face to face is critical for certain aspects of delivery. So, self service HR products are great as long as our audience uses them. How many of us have introduced e-induction to find that few e? How many have introduced SAP like products with sophisticated MIS facilities that managers don’t use? Perhaps it’s not the digital aspect that’s the issue but our expectation that managers will use it to DIY. Perhaps our expectations placed on managers are too high and we use digital tech to dump on them rather than help them? Yes, I’m trying to be provocative here!

    If digital means we can simplify our systems then great (look at the DVLA and its vehicle license system as a great step forward), but lets ensure we don’t end up with the system running the zoo. emails is one example, PC security is another when it takes so long now to send an email on our pcs that we can send another one via a BB while we wait before it disperses into the wonder world of cyber space or wherever it goes.

    And one last thought that to date no one has helped me with which is if we in HR can find a way of avoiding our staff in having to ctrl, alt, delete all the time, we might be thanked more in helping the worlds working population to be more productive digital users. Plus maybe helping our disabled colleagues who struggle to ctrl, alt, delete single handed. Try it one day and see…..

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