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4 HR Challenges for the Local Government Sector (Councils)

Local governments (councils) provide a range of critical services and amenities to local communities, including transport, town planning, infrastructure, housing, waste management and general public services. Each local government must ...

4 HR Challenges for the Local Government Sector (Councils)

Local governments (councils) provide a range of critical services and amenities to local communities, including transport, town planning, infrastructure, housing, waste management and general public services. Each local government must recognise and address not only local issues but also consider the impact of national and international affairs.

There are 537 councils Australia-wide. Of these, around 55% are regional, rural or remote councils.[1] The sector employs 194,000 people, which is nearly 10% of the total public sector (as at June 2018).[1]

In 2018-19, the total expenditure of the local government sector was $38.8 billion. The major expenditure items included transport, recreation, culture, religion and environmental protection.[1]

The sector – just like all others – faces unique strategic and operational challenges, all of which have been exacerbated by COVID-19. In this blog, we outline the common HR-related challenges specific to the local government sector, and how technology can ease those challenges.

  1. Governance

There is not a one-size-fits-all approach for local governments when it comes to serving a community. However, there is a responsibility for every council to abide by a legal framework enforced by parliament to ensure that it remains contemporary, has the resources required to best serve its community and empowers its citizens.

As local governments are responsible for a large amount of public assets – as well as the livelihoods of community members – it is imperative that regular audits take place and compliance best practice is implemented to ensure a high level of transparency and accountability.

In times of crisis, local governments are leaned upon for information and guidance. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, it has been the duty of local governments to enforce the State and Federal governments’ restrictions and guidelines. They have had to continually deliver essential services to support community members, putting pressure on finances and resources.

Going forward, local governments must develop greater operational resilience and re-evaluate their approach to and allocation of resources to ensure priority areas are being serviced. One way to maximise outcomes is to leverage technology to facilitate employee learning and development. ELMO Learning Management can help local governments automate their learning initiatives, removing the need to rely on paper-based methods like spreadsheets.

With ELMO Course Library, local governments can access over 400 online courses covering a range of topics including compliance, soft skills and productivity training. With regular updates to the training content, local governments can ensure that employees’ skills remain sharp and relevant.

  1. Managing change

In these uncertain and fluctuating times, it’s important that councils are adaptable and continually establish policies that represent and benefit the communities they serve. Employees should be given the training opportunities to enhance their skills to ensure they remain compliant and are knowledgeable about contemporary legislation and current affairs that impact their community. This is particularly important since COVID-19, as non-compliance could cost lives.

To ensure staff compliance, local governments should facilitate effective training. With ELMO Course Library and ELMO Learning Management, mandatory training is streamlined, and employees will be up to date on evolving legislation that impacts their community. With ELMO Course Builder, organisations can create bespoke courses to educate on arising issues, process changes and change management.

To better manage change that impacts employees, organisations should enhance their employee listening channels. ELMO Survey enables organisations to conduct and manage staff surveys to gain actionable insights into employees’ attitudes and opinions towards work.

  1. Attracting, retaining and engaging top performers

Local governments can only achieve good outcomes for their communities if the people that work within them are empowered, supported, developed and connected. Employee development is a key retention tool and aids future leadership preparation.

To reach optimum efficiency and achieve the best outcomes for their communities, local councils should encourage learning and development opportunities so that employees are best equipped to improve the lives of local citizens. Enhancing learning and development opportunities is a retention driver, which is simplified with ELMO Learning Management.

To ensure skills gaps are identified and addressed, organisations may adopt ELMO Performance Management to track performance and skills. They may then build out succession plans with ELMO Succession Management to further boost retention.

If skills cannot be developed internally, ELMO Recruitment and applicant tracking system (ATS) is a highly configurable system that helps streamline the hiring process and build candidate sourcing capability.

  1. Stretched HR resources

Despite Australia’s population growth and demographic change, local governments are often stretched when it comes to resources – especially within HR. A lean HR team may be responsible for several typical HR activities but rely heavily on manual processes to complete critical tasks. This is both time-consuming and error-prone, which in this hugely regulated sector risks non-compliance.

To streamline and automate critical HR tasks, organisations should adopt an employment management tool. ELMO HR Core can centralise and automate people management, helping to ease the admin burden. HR Core’s Employee Self-Service (ESS) and Manager Self-Service functionality allows staff to find information anywhere, anytime. It enables employees to apply for leave and check their leave balances, and for managers to oversee absentees. Regaining precious time means HR can focus less on administrative tasks and more on key decision-making.

In this period of change, local governments are under increasing pressure to achieve smart outcomes while still satisfying citizen and stakeholder expectations. Leveraging technology and tools like ELMO’s modules will help organisation address specific challenges and reduce administration burden.

For a concise version of this blog post, download our Fact Sheet on Australia’s Local Government sector here.

Case Study: Enabling effective learning & development in the local government sector: How ELMO helped Melton City Council.

You can also read: ‘The Local Government Sector in New Zealand: 4 HR Challenges – and How Tech Can Help’ here.

ELMO Software  is a cloud-based solution that helps thousands of organisations across Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom to effectively manage their people, process and pay. ELMO solutions span the entire employee lifecycle from ‘hire to retire’. They can be used together or stand-alone, and are configurable according to an organisation’s unique processes and workflows. Automate and streamline your operations to reduce costs, increase efficiency and bolster productivity. For further information, contact us.

[1] Facts and Figures, Australian Local Government Association.