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Posts tagged ‘Government’

The Year of Retention

Retention seems to be a popular word this year.  HR leaders across all levels of government are in a state of worry.  Attract and retain…  Attract and retain…  This is the mantra by which public sector employers are living and breathing.  So what’s all the fuss about?

As more employees are reaching retirement age, they know a plethora of knowledge will be walking out the door with each employee.  So governments are deep in succession planning and strategizing to address this.  But it’s also made many acutely aware that they need to figure out ways to retain this new generation of employees who are filling in these gaps.  With pensions in the condition they are and pay often lower than the private sector, what’s the draw to make them want to stay?

Regardless of the generation, people still believe in making a difference.  Whether it’s for their community or to make a difference in peoples lives, public service tends to draw people in.  But it doesn’t necessarily make them want to stay.  Employees want to be recognized for a job well done and offered opportunities to advance their careers.  They want to be part of decision making and know their voice is being heard.

According to an article written by Neil Reichenburg of IPMA-HR, Getting the Right People, employee engagement matters. “Engaged employees are five times more likely to be very satisfied, five times more likely to recommend their place of employment to others, and four times less likely to leave.

Engagement is not a one-size fits all; we are all individuals.  What motivates one person, might not motivate the next.  As managers and leaders address the reality of what retention means to their organization, they will discover there are multiple paths to create an environment employees can thrive in. And maybe, the employees who came into the public sector for the right reasons will want to stay a little while longer.



A Primer on Public Sector Big Data

Today’s blog is from Don Pagel, VP Public Sector Services at Kronos.

Big Data, Data Warehousing, Data Marts, Analytics, Business Intelligence….all are part of the same evolution of the growing digital world, the data it generates and the structured information contained therein.


As computer systems began to house databases of transactional data, users and executives have asked for more and more “reporting” from those systems to investigate problems, maximize efficiencies within processes, and my favorite in the public sector, or determine solutions or answers based on factual information rather than supposition or anecdotal experiences. In recent years the data generated by all of the systems we use and the potential interrelated information from disparate systems has generated voluminous amounts of data…thus “Big Data”.


The public sector is beginning to use analytical tools to mine all of the data they have to inform their constituents, look for efficiencies and also to help off-set some political “agendas” by focusing on facts. Public safety organizations use collected data to look for geographical or date-specific trends to help staff for the best use of safety manpower as well as educate the public on what is going on in their areas. Human resource departments regularly extract and update public pay and benefits data to reduce demand on their staff for public information requests. Executives are finding value in workforce management data to determine labor productivity and improve resource and budget management. Finance departments are unifying all of their collections data into one analytical format from disparate systems in order to gage how well they are collecting outstanding fines and fees, develop metrics to monitor and look for ways to enhance processes to improve collections. Parking and Police departments are collaborating on vast amounts of data collected by license plate recognition equipment and software to share information that can be valuable to both organizations. Parking departments are also learning the value of parking transaction data for both numerous supply and demand calculations as well as justifying new garage or meter placements. Traffic managers have long used data to determine traffic patterns but now can use that same data to automate lane use or determine where the next road work or expansion is necessary.


Putting some thought into structuring data within a larger organization that may contain multiple systems can lead to an easier delivery of many of the above ideas, allow for “drill-down” structured online reporting as well as simpler ad-hoc querying to more easily find true factual information in a political environment. This is not generally an inexpensive project, but it can pay off handsomely for years to come. If your organization hasn’t started a Big Data project, I suggest you consider the following:


  • Take an assessment of all of the different important systems you have and determine their purpose.
  • What data is being stored on each system?
  • Are their proprietary analytic programs already on a system that can be used to export data to a larger environment?
  • Is there an opportunity in an external database to link these disparate data sets together? Over time, you may initiate some data normalization of different systems in order to link data easier.
  • Now that you have a data storage strategy for your important data, what are your current pain points that you most want to solve with data? Start small or start focused on just those pain points. There will be a tendency to over-develop analytics that may or may not be useful. Since you spent time up front on your data storage strategy, you can build them as needed so they have the greatest impact and potential use by your organizations.
  • Develop a plan to use the analytical tools developed in a structured way or using a process. In other words, don’t just make them available, develop a process or policy for their use.
  • Use dashboards that are visible to wide audiences so that there is a natural draw to the information as well as a natural desire to improve the results. Visibility can create powerful competition.
  • Develop education around the data being displayed. Don’t assume that others will know what the data is saying or how to use it to improve results.


In short, Big Data is collecting the vast amounts of data we have and putting it to good public use. You have the data, it’s a shame for it to go to waste

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

Current status of Government Jobs: Good or Bad?

Current status of Government Jobs: Good or Bad?

It seems like positive and negative stories about the condition of personnel budgets in local government are everywhere.  Sure, they are better off than they were during the “Great Recession,” but is that something to really measure against?  And is it fair to compare to pre-recession levels when most economists and government leaders admit we won’t see those again for years to come?

Let’s look at a recent report from the National League of Cities to see if the answer lies there.  According to the City Fiscal Conditions of 2013, report 17% of cities are still implementing layoffs, which is down from 18% last year and 35% in 2010.  And 38% of cities are continuing with hiring freezes down from 45% last year and 74% in 2010. The positive side, layoffs and hiring freezes are down.  The negative side, layoffs and hiring freezes are still happening in over 17% of cities.  Is the glass half empty or half full?

Before we decide it’s all doom and gloom, here’s another stat to consider; college students participating in a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) cited Government as the top industry in which they wish to start their careers.   In my opinion that shows a great deal of integrity that our younger generation is displaying to put the nature of the work before the money in their wallet.  Maybe regardless of all the press, good and bad, public service is still the kind of job that makes Americans feel good, and there are no statistics that can change that.

I guess, in the end, the truth lies in the eye of the data holder.

Open Data – Can citizens and government employees work together?

If you attended the ICMA (International City/County Management Association) annual conference this week, then you know citizen engagement is becoming a growing theme in local government.  Why?  Well, for one thing, with limited resources it makes sense to tap into the community when so many are willing to play a role.  And cultivating data is a great place to start.  Governments have so much data; more than they know what to do with or have the bandwidth to analyze.  The concept of open data is to provide transparency and create an environment of “open government”.  Data can hold many thought-provoking discoveries for educative purposes.  All it takes is the right people to unleash its powers.  Street Bump

Take the City of Boston for example.  They encourage their residents to take an active role in bettering their neighborhoods and community with the City of Boston Open Government site.  One really cool project they are piloting is something called “Street Bump”, created through the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics.  Street Bump is an innovative app that actually counts the number of bumps you hit on your commute through your phone.  Residents are the ones collecting the data and serving it up to the Mayor’s office.  Think of how much more efficient the app is than taking complaint calls about pot holes. The city can actually proactively go out and fix the problem.

Now this brings us to the question of can citizens and government employees work together?  Employees are public servants who are paid to serve the community.  And citizens are recipients of these services, whether good or bad.  But when it comes down to it, the community is what they both care about.  So why couldn’t they work together to make it better?   The answer is, they can, and they are!  As Beth Simone Novack, founder and director of the Governance Lab, said during her keynote presentation at the ICMA 99th Annual Conference, “Local government staffs have jobs that allow them to do work that matters. Most citizens want to do things that matter too. Data availability offers them the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution”.

 Government employees are in a unique position to partner up with citizens to use data to bring solutions to real problems.  Keep your eyes open for more amazing things coming out of the move towards greater citizen engagement.

To read more about open data/open government and Beth Simone Novack’s keynote session, visit: Smart Communities and the Opportunities of Big Data