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June 09, 2017
HR as a center of innovation: A focus on people, not process
By: Mark Howard

A few weeks ago, I took an unorthodox position: that the government back office—including people, financial and procurement management—should transform to become a Center of Innovation. In this post, I want to explore how that might look within the people function.

As a Center of Innovation, where would HR focus? What would it do differently? And how would this transformation benefit the government back office, the agencies it supports and the citizens those agencies serve?

For starters, the HR function would devote less time to pushing paper and policing rule-breakers. Administrative and compliance tasks would still need to be completed, of course. But members of the HR team would devote most of their day to higher-value and more rewarding activities: Finding and recruiting top talent. Helping nurture and develop the talent already within government. And serving as a strategic enabler of new and better approaches to delivering public services.

Change is increasingly urgent, with HR teams inside and outside government competing for talent in a shrinking workforce. Holding onto top talent is increasingly challenging.  For a significant portion of the workforce, priorities are changing. In our latest study, 42 percent of citizens globally expressed an interest in working in the public sector, which increased to 49 percent for those age 18-34i. But, the millennial generation values exciting, innovative and collaborative work environments more than lifelong employment and secure pensions—the trademark advantages of a career in civil service. Ideas like rotational programs (where an employee moves from one role to another across agencies, rather than moving up within a single organization) as a career path, not just an initial training tool, are showing great promise.

Given those realities, you might assume that government faces an uphill recruiting battle. Recent Accenture research suggests it doesn’t have to be that way. One of our recent studies showed 40% of citizens already believe public service organizations are “Best Places to Work.” The same study also found that governments have a wealth of talent and potential talent within their ranks. What’s often lacking: the ability to identify top performers across agencies and understand their skills, capabilities and competencies.

All of these challenges across recruitment, development, and retention are where HR as a Center of Innovation can make a tremendous impact. By automating much of the routine transaction processing and compliance work, people managers are free to focus on—you guessed it—people.

In a Center of Innovation, HR experts apply innovative digital approaches to recruit talent. They focus on defining compelling career paths that show current and prospective talent: Yes, we have exciting opportunities for you to learn and grow. They help remove barriers between agencies and promote outside-the-box thinking so talent can flow across agencies and between government and the private sector. And they build and continually improve skill development opportunities that help government agencies nurture the competencies they need to meet citizens’ rising expectations. Thereby making the public sector a much more attractive career option in the process.

Ultimately, HR as a Center of Innovation is about coming full circle: using innovative technologies to offload administrative burdens and empower the people management function to focus their time, energy and talents on HR’s true mission. It’s the best way to develop attract and retain talent that delivers results.

Next we’ll take a closer look at what a Government Back Office Center of Innovation means for finance. In the meantime, please continue to leave your comments, thoughts, and suggestions at the bottom of this blog. To learn more about how to bring the back office to the forefront of government innovation visit us here, and follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

See this post on LinkedIn: HR as a Center of Innovation: A Focus on People, Not Process


iAccenture Public Service Citizen Survey, 2017

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