At the recent NASPE Conf in Nashville, I witnessed the kind of best practice sharing that can only really happen in the Public Sector. Private Sector companies are so fiercely competitive that they miss out on learning from each other. But in Public Sector, in this case State Government, they just have to turn to their neighboring state and say “here’s how we do it”. NASPE (National Association of State Personnel Executives) is an organization dedicated to State Government Human Resource leaders who come together so they don’t have to go at new initiatives alone. They acquire knowledge from each other, because who really wants to reinvent the wheel? I’ll share some examples:
- Succession Planning – Trish Holliday, Chief Learning Officer and Assistant Commissioner, State of Tennessee, walked the NASPE audience through the strategy Tennessee is implementing to make it through the “silver tsunami”. Read her article, Success(ion) Planning: The Learning Community Circle of Life in HR Professionals Magazine.
- Onboarding – Jim Honchar, Deputy Secretary of Human Resources and Management, Governors Office of Administration, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, recently shared the states’ move to creating a more simplified process for new hires. Read Governing Magazine’s article, How Pennsylvania Is Helping New Hires Get to Work Faster for the a detailed description.
All you have do is look at the agenda to know this is the kind of meeting that makes you want to go back to the office and implement change. Oh, and did I mention it’s a small, intimate group so everyone has an opportunity to get to know each other. It’s inspiring to hear how Human Resources sees their department as leaders in transformation. They know the impact they have on the employees in turn has a direct impact on citizens within their state. More importantly, though, they learn from their neighbors’ triumphs and mistakes.
We are close to being blessed by a new driver in our house. I use the word “blessed” a bit tongue-in-cheek, because I’m not sure the steep increases in car insurance and the fresh cloud of worry hanging over our heads are any consolation to having a kid with a driver’s license. You’ll also note that I said, “close to being blessed,” because it turns out the visit to the DMV didn’t actually render a new license. It’s not that our daughter isn’t a good driver and failed the test, rather the arduous processes and mountains of paperwork required to actually get a license these days disassembled our plan. We ultimately determined that we would need to take our daughter out of school and ask for a half day vacation if she is going to be successful securing a legal spot on the highway.
One doesn’t have to look far to find a multitude of empirical data that indicates productivity advancements in the public sector (i.e. the DMV) have not kept pace with increases in the private sector. Killefer, 2006. To actually improve productivity, and to make notable gains in operational efficiencies, government workers would have to figure out creative ways to eliminate bureaucracy and to improve communication amongst themselves and the citizens they serve. This challenge got me thinking about human resources processes inside government organizations, because my experience has taught me that HR is likely one of the most operationally inefficient areas of government. Think about a typical time-off request. If I’m a public servant in most government organizations today and I want to take a day off, I have to complete a 3-part leave form ahead of my leave. This form moves from me to my supervisor for signature and approval, and then the original form is shuffled to an envelope that has to make its way across town in the back of a mail truck. Hopefully the form lands on the desk of someone in Payroll, because the Payroll Administrator will have to make a manual entry in the official system of record so that the system can keep track of how many leave days I’ve taken. And heaven help the poor citizen who may need my services on my day off, because there’s a high probability no one will know where I am.
The workforce leave process and the DMV process for a new license are two simple examples of productivity gaps in the public sector. Fortunately technologies exist today that have the ability to manage these processes more efficiently. It just becomes a game of budgets, weighed against pain, weighed against vocal employees and citizens. The pain is high. Perhaps our voices need to become louder.