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Thank You Holiday Workforce!

From Christine Carmichael…

Many of us spend 358 days of the year looking forward to the week that is upon us now.  The holiday season is a time when most companies and organizations either shut down altogether or at a minimum reduce the number of days they are open.  You can almost hear the collective sigh of relief when the work world finally slows down enough to gift us with an opportunity to spend unhurried time with family and friends.

Unfortunately there are many workers who won’t get an uninterrupted break this week. In fact the holiday season and the week ahead will only serve to increase their demanding workloads.  The medical industry, for example, runs 24/7, so lots of doctors, nurses and other hospital staff will be stepping up this week.  Retail and restaurant workers, along with hotel and airport personnel, will also clock in. But there’s another industry that is in high demand too during the holiday season…our public sector workforce. Paramedics, firefighters, police officers and emergency dispatchers will be escalating their hours the coming days.  After all, some family gatherings actually drive an uptick in 911 calls.  Throw in a burning Christmas tree or two, and it’s not hard to imagine why holidays drive overtime for our public safety workforce.  Public Works, DOT’s, and several other government offices will be on high alert as well as roadways and other public systems are taxed.  And then there’s the military.  None of us can forget our armed forces and the sacrifices they and their families are making this holiday season to protect our freedom.

I have family members who work in all of these industries, and their presence is often missed around the holiday dinner table.  When I’ve caught up with them later to bid belated holiday cheer, they often speak of their co-workers as being extended family. They talk about how “the family” will pull together to cover a co-worker’s first Christmas at home with a new baby, or they’ll share an example of covering for someone who needed to be home during the holiday with a sick relative.  It’s never surprising to me that those who have selected public service work for a career also pull together to support their extended work family during the holiday.  As one family member said to me at Thanksgiving, “It’s just how we roll.”

As we scarf up the last bit of holiday ham and sweet potatoes, I hope we don’t easily forget those who are completing their workdays as usual so that we are able to enjoy our holiday break.  My hope is that we pause for just a few minutes to tap a doctor, a retailer, a public safety officer, or numerous others who are making the sacrifice and let them know how much we appreciate their awesome dedication.


Efficiency and the role of HR Technology

Remember the old days when your employer handed you a blank piece of paper with some boxes to fill in your hours worked and called it a “timesheet”?  That little piece of paper stood between you and an accurate paycheck.  It only had to go through three other hands (your manager, the mail courier, and a payroll clerk) to be manually entered into a system that processed the payroll checks.  Scary,right?

Unfortunately, too many organizations still rely on this manual, antiquated system of collecting employee’s time and other processes.  The Public Sector is notorious for being behind the times when it comes to technology, but HR departments have a lot of pressure to be more efficient.  In a recent blog by HR Bartender, Sharlyn Lauby states “It’s time to realize that HR and technology are forever intertwined. More and more human resources functions and solutions have a technology component to them. Human resources technology is part of our jobs. Frankly, technology is part of our jobs – no matter what position or level in the organization. Period.”1  How I interpret that statement is “put budget and the “we’ve always done it this way” sentiments aside and just explore what is out there”.

An open mind can lead to some innovative ideas that don’t necessarily change your entire way to doing things.  Remember the goal is efficiency.   Taking an existing process and just finding a more streamline way of doing it.  Let’s look at a couple of HR technology examples:

  • Village of Schaumburg, IL2 – With internal communication primarily being done through the village’s intranet site, Schaumburg knew it needed to modernize this approach and move to social media.  They quickly adopted a portal hub for all village employees.  Now, projects are open for all to share information, track progress, and keep phone/email communication to a minimum.
  • City of Orlando, FL3 – After being hit by three hurricanes in under 6 weeks, the city was going to have to rely heavily on FEMA funds.  Instead of manually calculating hours dedicated to the clean-up and public safety needs during those events, Orlando took advantage of their automated time tracking system for quick, real-time reporting on labor hours.  All leading to quick and accurate reimbursement.

So, if I can get you to walk away with one goal for the New Year, it’s to venture out into the world of HR Technology and see what’s new.  Go for some test drives, look under hoods, and kick a few tires.  You may be more ready for a change than you think.



1 HR Technology and 2014 – #HRTechtrends – HR Bartender, Sharlyn Lauby, posted 12/12/13

2 Village of Schaumburg Case Study – SuccessFactors

3 City of Orlando Case Study – Kronos

Are Millennials a Match for Public Service?

Generation Y, also known as the Millennial generation, is comprised of about 80 million U.S. citizens who are becoming of age just before or after the millennial.  Generation Y people tend to follow several definitional characteristics, but at a high level they are known as much for their tech savviness as they are for their belief that employers should adjust the organization’s culture to align to their values and personal lives.  In other words, unlike the baby boomers before them who tended to make careers and job loyalty high priorities, Millennials very much expect to have a healthy balance of work and home life.  If these needs aren’t met, Millennials tend to become dissatisfied and will often leave their current place of employment is search of balance and change.

I’m a baby-boomer parent to two very spirited Gen Y daughters, and as anyone with teens can attest, debates around the dinner table can be lively.  In a recent discussion with our college-age sophomore, I was informed she and many of her friends are keenly interested in public service, and she predicted a disproportionate uptick in Milliennial hiring in the next decade compared to the wide swath of more experienced workers in the market.  She used her cousin, Caroline, as an example, since Caroline just landed a job on Capitol Hill right out of college.

Given the prediction that 40 percent to half of the current baby boomer public sector workforce is due to retire in the next decade, I found our daughter’s proclamation to be admirable.  I also decided to test her theory by paying closer attention to the people I’m seeing in public sector circles.  What I’ve found is our daughter’s prediction is credible.  As I’ve started to work and interact more with younger public sector workers, I have to admit I’ve been extremely impressed with the ideas and outputs they are driving.  I also believe the Millinneals possess a genuine desire to serve and to serve well.  They’re highly educated, they’re creative, and they’re innovative.  However, in their quest to lead strong public service missions, I do worry whether the Millinneals will hang tight and be the generation that abolishes  government inefficiencies and bureaucracy -or- whether they’ll succumb to the frustrations and take their talents somewhere else.  I for one hope they give public service a chance.