“When you’re delivering so much cyclical activity and hiring thousands of people a year, there’s so much work that needs to happen just to stand still,” says Debbie Adler, HR Director General at the DWP. If the idea of "running to stand still" sounds familiar, that’s because issues like pay freezes, budget cuts and Brexit uncertainty have created serious HR headaches throughout the public sector. Then there’s the added pressure of digitalising services across multiple channels whilst continuing to meet citizens’ expectations, which adds extra complexity. No wonder staff turnover has reached up to 25% per year in some government departments.
Keep the faith
If it seems like I’m painting a negative picture, I passionately believe things needn’t carry on this way. Although most HR teams now have powerful modern HR and ERP tools at their disposal, I’m convinced it’s only by adding modern data analytics capabilities to the HR toolkit that HR leaders can finally start to regain the initiative. I speak from experience. Although many extravagant claims are made about workforce analytics, plenty of which go unfulfilled, I’ve seen firsthand how SAS is delivering tangible results in this space. Arming HR with workforce analytics means they can, at last, make the pivot from reactive firefighting to playing a key role in public sector digital transformation.
Defining what success looks like
The composition of the workforce – in terms of both the roles required and the individuals who fill them – is especially critical in the public sector. Workforce analytics can help you determine your ideal organisational model based on the outcomes your teams need to achieve. It does this by using evidence-based insights that help you organise your resources in the most efficient and productive manner.
Acquiring the right talent
By seamlessly integrating core HR data with data from many other internal and external sources, you can more accurately and effectively plan to put the right people in the right roles in order to meet future challenges. This includes balancing teams so they contain experienced staff who understand the intricacies of government, younger digital natives who are instinctively tech-savvy, and both strategic and operational specialists. As well as helping you structure or restructure teams with confidence, analytics can help support effective knowledge transfers as more mature and experienced staff leave the workforce.
No train, no gain
By using analytics to formulate more appealing training and development programmes, and increasing the uptake and throughput of relevant training, you can enhance employee satisfaction, boost the value of each team member to their team, and enhance your organisation’s return on training investment. Just as important, with 93% of employees stating they’d stay in their roles longer if their employer invested in training, this is a surefire way to tackle that talent retention challenge.
Retaining your star players
We’ve already touched on the issue of employee attrition and the perpetual challenge of preventing defections to the private sector and its fatter salaries. By leveraging analytics, you can identify potential star performers early in their careers. Then – if you choose – map more attractive career paths to make sure you retain those top performers. This will also help with your talent forecasting and planning.
Get fit for the future with data and analytics
What these examples show is just a flavour of how data and analytics have the power to deliver fast, deep and lasting change in public sector HR: realising cost savings, driving efficiency gains and improving citizen outcomes. And the really good news? These advantages are surprisingly easy to achieve, plugging into data from your existing ERP and HR platforms alongside others and putting a new world of actionable, data-driven insights at your fingertips. Over time, you'll then be ideally paced to adopt and deploy capabilities driven by artificial intelligence (AI) that continaully propel workforce innovation and better outcomes for citizens.
At SAS, we’re at the forefront of workforce optimisation. We’re helping organisations throughout the public sector to leverage data and analytics in order to modernise HR from being a back-office function into a true engine of transformation.
For a closer look at the possibilities of workforce modernisation and optimisation, please visit the HR Analytics Page.
 Institute for Government, 2019