The public sector is in a state of flux. Budgets are being challenged yet citizens are increasingly demanding better and relevant services that work first time, every time.
The situation presents a real challenge for leaders in this sector: is it really possible to do more with less? I believe in a number of key areas it is possible, if there is a shift in both the way services are delivered to the public and how public sector employees work. This shift needs to be fuelled by technology and transformation, which will create efficiency while improving experiences for both public sector employees and the people they serve.
How organisations such as municipal service providers, the police force and the NHS can maintain high standards will be one of the major issues for this government and probably many more administrations to come.
A growing, aging UK population means the nation’s care bill is increasing, particularly in areas such as Accident and Emergency where admissions are increasing quickly year-on-year. In policing, people want the reassurance of seeing Bobbies on the beat, yet cost-saving priorities are putting downward pressure on staff numbers.
With this ever changing macro- environment, technological and digital advances coupled with an ever more demanding and hyper-connected citizen; just how can the UK public sector build a culture of readiness? One that is ready to adapt, ready for change and effectively ready for anything.
Just how does the Public Sector need to change?
The priority for the new government has to be to think “online first” when it comes to providing key public services. The transition has already begun. Many people are now comfortable completing their tax return or paying a bill online, for example and to a degree organisations are pushing at an open door when it comes to shifting perceptions.
But delivering services through online is only half the solution. This will reduce pressure on stretched workforces who will require less time to process the data they receive. It will also provide a new, improved channel of communication to web-savvy individuals. But public sector organisations also need new ways of working internally to create dynamic workplaces where digital is at the heart of everything.
In the public sector, being ‘ready’ for today and tomorrow means creating an agile culture in which employees can work flexibly and efficiently, anywhere and on any device. They want to focus on serving citizens, rather than wasting time on unnecessary travel or admin tasks. They need to be able to access information anytime, anywhere, particularly when they’re on the frontline. This is vital to the improved efficiency of police officers, community health and social care workers.
This type of workplace and organisation can be achieved by providing digital services for the public (e.g. possible to order new tax discs online), enabling frontline staff to be more efficient by servicing citizens in the streets/in their homes and create an overall culture of mobile working.
It sheds a whole new light on building costs – having remote teams lowers the need to accommodate them in permanent desk positions, and it could be a great motivation tool for people who used to work from the same work station every day.
Cloud technology facilitates consolidated communications by providing a central hub for an organisation’s data, accessible in a secure way and giving real-time touch points to people who could be working anywhere in the UK.
The Public sector is already moving in the right direction
The Metropolitan Police is one example where the public sector is embracing digital. By equipping police officers with tablets and 4G connectivity, officers can take witness statements on the move rather than having to return to the station to type up notes from a pad. Meanwhile, victims of crime can electronically sign witness statements and get a crime reference number straight away – instantly improving the experience the police is providing to the public.
Advancements are not just limited to government agencies and policing however. In the case of NHS Blackpool, community health professionals are using cloud applications to make appointments with patients in their home. The appointments are processed immediately and securely, which frees up precious time for front line healthcare staff and benefits citizens.
Technology will underpin the move to agile public sector processes, but it needs a cultural shift to really get the fires going. Performance indicators, for example, need to focus more on how the citizens are benefited rather than how long employees spend to complete a task in the office.
How public sector leaders can prepare
How can the public sector become ready? The leadership for the public sector needs to provide their staff and the public the right tools. They must offer citizens digital services, empower their frontline and embrace a culture of flexible working.
Being ready is about creating an organisation that can change when change required and respond to ever evolving citizen preferences and employment trends. And in order to thrive, UK public sector organisations must adopt a culture of readiness.