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Bright Light on the Importance of HR

We’ve seen lots of changes in public sector human resources over the years, but none as startling and transformative as those that occurred during the pandemic.

So, we were glad to see the new report from Deloitte that cited the management of people, at all levels of government, as the biggest underreported story of these weird and deadly two years.

The report, titled “The Rising Influence of Human Resources in Government During the Pandemic”, includes a strong focus on the remarkable adaptations that governments made to deal with telework, and the ability of human resource directors to deal with “on-the-fly” flexibility.

“Rarely in modern history have we seen so many large-scale experiments in government rolled out so quickly and at such a massive scale,” wrote report authors Glenn Davidson, Emily Dydo, Sami Tewolde and Nathan Watson.

As the pandemic abates (we hope), we’re seeing still more massive scale HR transformation. That’s partly due to the pressure that’s come from the hiring, retention and staff capacity crisis that has accelerated in 2022. But it also comes from rapidly growing attention to the benefits of smoothly working technology and the data it generates.

To combat fierce competition with the private sector for employees, more governments are making conditional job offers at the same day as interviews. We’re seeing increasing use of data to surface pay and hiring inequities; pinpoint the overuse of overtime; track employee skills and competencies, plan for future workforce needs and reduce health plan costs.

We worry a bit about the affect that the many rapid changes, and continued staff shortages, have on the HR profession.

But we like the optimistic observation that ends the Deloitte report: It makes a good case that, as a result of the pandemic, a growing number of government officials have heightened and enlightened appreciation for the importance of the people who are in the human resources field.

As Kimberly Loving, the Chief Human Resources Officer in Seattle, is quoted as saying: “At its core, the pandemic’s impact on the HR function is this: it has shined a light on the value that the HR apparatus brings to an organization.”


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