Alexander Carlton 19 February 2020

Developing a cohesive council workforce

As local government faces uncertainty around its future funding, councils are being challenged to deliver internal efficiencies with restricted budgets. With this in mind, it’s become increasingly important for Human Resources (HR) departments to unify their council staff and create a unified workforce, enabling the effective delivery of critical frontline services.

Cultivating a cohesive workforce is about fostering strong individual and team performance and now more than ever, HR departments sitting at the heart of local councils need to ensure they have thorough processes for managing employee relations.

Put a clear strategy in place

As a ‘people focused’ business and employer of approximately 7,500 staff, Essex County Council has developed a workforce strategy to sit alongside our agenda for change. One that clearly defines the culture, skills and capabilities needed for our future workforce and business environment. The strategy addresses four key themes: creating the right conditions; staying ahead of the curve; transforming passion into impact; and enabling growth and development.

To successfully implement the strategy, promote high performance and new, effective ways of working we sought to partner with organisations that supported our approach to transformation. The route to cultivating a cohesive workforce requires a proactive approach but also one that harnesses technology.

Tracking HR cases in the cloud

People are an organisations greatest asset and an important part of our own workforce strategy has been maximising the value of our data – moving away from our existing processes and utilising configurable cloud-based systems.

To effectively manage employees, it’s crucial that the HR department has a clear overview of the most common case types such as grievance, disciplinary, or long-term sickness. Monitoring what’s going on in the organisation can help HR teams to spot trends and patterns of behaviour. To successfully do so, it’s worth considering a HR case management solution that provides a built-in workflow that adheres to the businesses HR policy. Not only does this ensure that the organisation meets the stages and steps required for each case within the allotted time frame, but also grants access to the right people within the organisation.

By implementing our own HR case management system - Selenity ER Tracker - we’ve not only found a decrease in the time taken to resolve HR cases but the system has also given us the ability to demonstrate the compliance of our cases in line with the HR policy.

Utilising up-to-date and accurate HR case data means that the HR team can begin to proactively monitor cases. Recording case information in this way, provides the HR team with the ability to cross reference cases, identify trends and spot correlations. This not only helps to drive efficiencies but also enables the HR team to continuously develop its case management processes going forward. Ultimately, harnessing real-time data allows HR to make strategic recommendations around how common case types can be reduced and mitigated at an early stage before they are made formal.

In HR cases such as bullying and harassment, the HR team may encounter situations where it’s one person’s word against another’s. This is why it is so important to gather additional information and ensure that every detail associated with the case is stored and managed in one place. HR departments should always make a record of complaints and investigations, ensuring that grievances are tracked and managed appropriately. Up-to-date and accurate case information is vitally important in helping investigators decide whether the alleged behaviour has taken place or not.

Early intervention

Identifying and recording patterns of behaviour is an important part of creating a cohesive workforce but it’s also vital for organisations to address the reasons why issues are occurring in the first place.

Every organisation has its own culture which defines the way employees interact with one another, how they solve problems and how they rationalise situations. Developing an open culture and one of conflict resolution enables HR teams to nip issues in the bud rather than letting them fester and grow. Ultimately, it’s important that organisations identify and combat negativity in the workplace efficiently and have mechanisms in place which aim to resolve any issues or conflict during the early stages.

Alexander Carlton is head of people insight & technology at Essex County Council

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