HR powers country push for electronic services

HR has played a key role in making Surrey County Council the first of its
kind to have 100 per cent of suitable services available electronically.

Central government requires all local authorities to make as many services
as possible available to the public through the internet and telephone by the
end of 2005.

HR has been central in achieving these wide-ranging changes, which the
council believes will have a huge impact on a workforce of 24,500 based in 50
different locations.

The council is now able to offer more than 900 processes electronically,
including the ability for customers to apply for services, pay for goods and
services or make bookings for council resources.

HR had extensive communication with staff about the changes through face-to-face
briefings, team meetings, update letters, e-mails and news posted on an
intranet site.

The department also engaged with the trade unions and consulted with the
different services about their location, desk ratio and office needs.

Graham White, head of HR, said the new system would engage the workforce and
allow ever-greater flexibility and work-life balance. He hopes the programme
will save the council £26m in the long-term.

"Flexible working allows staff to feel in control of their relationship
with their employer," he said. "We don’t fully understand where
streamlining our offices will end, but it will engage employees in a whole new
psychological contract."

White also hopes that by engaging employees, the council will both limit the
‘continued haemorrhaging of good talent to London’, and put the council in the
best possible position to mitigate the risk of loss when it does occur.

By Michael Millar

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