Voices from Accenture Public Service

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The government back office is continually asked to deliver more value-added services even as resources remain flat or decline. Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs) are no exception. In the face of these challenges, many CHROs want to know: Where should HR focus? What could it do differently? And, how would an HR transformation benefit the government back office, the agencies it supports and the citizens those agencies serve?

Based on a lengthy tenure in state government and my experience collaborating with Accenture clients, I believe the answer lies in three core strategies.

Strategy 1: Assess your effort-to-value ratio

There’s no shortage of tasks and transactions that can consume HR’s time. It’s worthwhile to pause and reflect on the value those activities are delivering. Begin by defining the strategic goals that support your mission. From there, identify the interim tactical objectives toward those goals—along with the specific tasks by which progress can be measured. Using this framework may make it clear where day-to-day activities are out of sync with your overall mission and strategic goals.

As stewards of taxpayer dollars, HR leaders can’t ignore the responsibility to ensure compliance with laws, regulations and policy. But that doesn’t mean you can’t closely evaluate the effort-to-value ratio involved in transaction processing and compliance activities. Be candid as you assess: Are there tasks that amount to pushing paper and aren’t increasing accountability or supporting the mission? Can some of the day-to-day activities be made more efficient through automation like AI and analytics? Delegated to those closer to the transaction? Or perhaps even eliminated altogether?

Strategy 2: Maximize technology to minimize effort

Technology today is unlike anything that has come before. More than ever, it offers some of the best ways to “delegate” lower-value tasks and transactions. For example, when combined with machine learning, chatbots can handle simple calls and achieve satisfaction rates that exceed human intervention.

We’ve seen this firsthand. Accenture helped a government agency in Italy to implement an AI virtual assistant to handle tier-one helpdesk calls—a capability rolled out in just four months. From Day One, the virtual assistant was able to successfully resolve 35 percent of the tickets. Within 12 months, the tool was resolving 95 percent of tickets, with 85 percent user satisfaction.

Those results point to tremendous opportunity to use AI to eliminate the drudgery of routine paperwork and transactions. When the HR workforce is freed of those burdens, they can focus on what truly matters.

Strategy 3: Mind the mission – talent!

What truly matters, of course, is HR’s mission: Finding and recruiting top talent. Helping nurture and develop the talent already within government. And, in doing so, serving as a strategic enabler of new and better approaches to delivering public services.

The battle for talent is fierce, but Accenture research suggests that government has some distinct advantages. Consider that in our 2018 Global Citizen Survey, 42 percent expressed an interest in working for the public sector, and among those 18 to 34, positive response was even higher (49 percent).  We also know that the Millennial workforce values exciting, innovative and collaborative work environments more than lifelong employment and secure pensions.

HR plays a critical role in making state government an attractive place to start and grow a career. That includes executing innovative ideas, such as using rotational programs not just as a training method but also as a career path. Doing so would enable employees to move from one role to another across agencies rather than simply moving up the ranks of a single agency. Yet HR teams can’t focus on those kinds of initiatives when their time is consumed with transaction processing and compliance activities.

I challenge state CHROs to set their eyes on the real “prize”: making a big impact on talent recruitment, retention and development. Get there by eliminating non-value-added work, automating much of the routine transaction processing and compliance work, and empowering HR professionals to spend more time driving value. I’d love to share more about how to make that happen. Please reach out with your comments and questions.

To learn more, visit us here and follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Marty Benison

Senior Manager, North America Public Sector, Accenture

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