Agenda item

Digitalisation of the Council's Human Resources Function


Suzi Horn, Head of HR, presented the report to the Committee. Members heard that, following a restructure in 2022, the HR department now had two separate subject matter specialist teams – one dedicated to HR matters and one to recruitment. The HR department aimed to be digital by default, but the current systems did not interface with each other which was challenging. It was confirmed that, over the summer, the Learning and Development system would be upgraded to enable it to interface with the HR system.


Councillors were informed that Resourcelink was to be optimised to make it more efficient. Recruitment was a key area of focus, and it was important to raise the profile of the employer brand.


In terms of HR operations, it was confirmed that approximately seven queries were received from each staff member every year – officers were exploring the nature of these enquiries and aimed to introduce changes to free up officers’ time thereby enabling them to work on other matters.


In relation to the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, the Council aimed to ensure the workforce was representative of the Borough. A culture in which people felt a sense of belonging and were heard was vital to staff wellbeing.


In response to questions from the Committee, it was confirmed that the fundamental HR structure was now in place, but some tweaks would be required going forward. It was important to take staff on a journey and raise awareness as to how they could self-serve and interact differently with HR in the future. A culture change was needed to enable the HR Department to operate at full capacity. Some progress had already been made – previously 800 staff members had been receiving paper payslips – this number had now reduced to 30.


Members enquired how this culture change could be achieved more quickly and effectively. Councillors were informed that HR were engaging with CMT, and the message was being filtered down from the top. Changes were being introduced in the way HR engaged with managers; it was important for the HR team to advise managers how things should be done and support them through the process. Lean and operational excellence was striven for in order to reduce waste.


Councillors sought clarification in respect of turnover figures and what was being done to retain staff and explore why people left the Council. It was confirmed that attrition was currently 14% which was not considered too bad. An exit questionnaire was being re-introduced to establish reasons for leaving. ‘Stay’ interviews were also proposed to ascertain what motivated people to stay in their jobs.  Open conversations with employees were important and managers should not shy away from having those conversations. An employee engagement survey would be completed in 2023 to obtain staff feedback.


Members noted that, in the corporate world, HR tended to be more proactive than reactive. They sought clarification regarding employee incentives and mediation in Hillingdon. In response to this, the Committee heard that, in the Council, HR attempted to resolve issues in the workplace by informal means using work-based mediators.


The importance of giving managers the skills and confidence to manage employees who were underperforming was noted although it was recognised that these were difficult and uncomfortable conversations.


With regards to recruitment, Members enquired how the Council ensured it recruited good-quality candidates. It was acknowledged that recruitment was a challenge, particularly when recruiting staff in the areas of social work, planning and the trades. Changes to recruitment processes were required as the current system was administration heavy. Attempts were being made to move to talent acquisition via the likes of LinkedIn and the importance of recruiting good staff with the right skillset was being highlighted to managers. Members were informed that the Council had some way to go in terms of proactive data analysis around annual leave, contracted hours and support for staff.


In response to Members’ questions regarding temporary and permanent staff, it was noted that some temps and casual staff preferred not to have permanent contracts. The option of flexible contracts would be explored further.


Attention was drawn to the scope for home-grown talent recognising that many members of staff had progressed and moved to different departments within the Council. There were good examples of staff who had progressed from junior to senior roles and it was important to celebrate these success stories. Members heard that apprenticeship programmes were being explored as were graduate and internship programmes.


It was noted that the Select Committee hoped to look at HR as a review topic in the future.


RESOLVED: That the Finance and Corporate Services Select Committee noted the contents of the report and provided comments to officers as appropriate.

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