Online HR solution improves council efficiency

Strategic HR Review

ISSN: 1475-4398

Article publication date: 18 April 2008



Simpson, D. (2008), "Online HR solution improves council efficiency", Strategic HR Review, Vol. 7 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Online HR solution improves council efficiency

Article Type: e-HR From: Strategic HR Review, Volume 7, Issue 3.

How technology is changing the way HR works

Dale Simpson is based at Hastings Borough Council.

Hastings Borough Council is a UK public sector body providing local services to an area in the south of England. Over the past three years, it has transformed all aspects of its HR function by implementing an online HR and payroll solution from Midland HR, a UK-based provider of HR management software and services.

Prior to implementing the online “Trent” system, the council’s HR systems were predominantly paper-based. Most of the HR and payroll processes were undertaken manually and all requests for information were handled by a central HR department. By using Trent, the 575 employees of the council now benefit from self-service, which gives them improved access to information and reports and increased responsibility for managing personal details, leave requests and training. The 12-strong HR, payroll and training department has improved and standardized processes, which has reduced the time spent on administration and led to efficiency gains in several areas.

Making the transition to an online solution

A few years back, the council evaluated its organizational requirements and as a result decided to migrate towards an intranet-based system where staff could have direct input and access to their details. In searching for a solution, it decided to look for a provider that it could trust and with which it could form a long-term relationship. Other selection criteria included having adequate training and support in place and a solution that was flexible enough to accommodate the casual staff that the council employs over the holiday months. A key functional requirement was the ability to produce a variety of reports quickly and easily.

Midland HR and its Trent system met these requirements and in October 2004 Hastings Borough Council implemented the core HR, payroll and absence management modules. Since then it has added the recruitment and training modules, culminating with the introduction of self-service for employees and managers in October 2006. The solution is hosted and managed in-house and MidlandHR provides training, maintenance and helpdesk support.

It is integrated with Business Objects, which was implemented at the same time as Trent, allowing us to produce any custom written ad hoc queries report in addition to those of Trent. We currently have the functionality to produce 140 different reports for various ad hoc queries. This results in a straightforward reporting facility, with managers able to access a large library of standard reports from within the people manager module. They include many variables and can be exported to other applications and also customized by users to suit their own information needs. Detailed absence reports are used to help manage sickness, while staff breakdown and performance indicator reports help ensure that the council complies with UK government targets and several internal reports are used to manage and monitor recruitment, training and payroll.

Paperless solution saves time and money

Implementing Trent involved a transition of HR activities from a paper-based system to an online solution. For example, training is now organized and run using Trent, replacing the paper training schedule that was used before. This enables the HR department to accurately manage the cost of individual courses and budget effectively, as well as pinpointing reasons why employees are not attending certain training sessions. The responsibility for setting up training courses is also now shared between HR, personnel and the IT department and managers can authorize and book courses or suggest suitable training for staff working under them.

Using the same self-service function, managers and employees can view their personal details and pay slips online, request holiday leave and input and manage absence and flexible working. Employee self-service took only three months to implement and workers access the system from their own PC.

As a public sector organization, the council needs to be able to accept job applications through all channels, so recruitment is not managed completely online. However, the system is fully automated to generate the necessary documents such as application packs, interview lists and letters of invitation, and once data is captured at the recruitment stage it is used for payroll and HR administration. Information about new starters also goes directly to their manager, the HR department and the IT department, saving time, reducing duplication, minimizing errors and making sure that those who need to be are informed.

Improvements all round

The standardization of payroll and HR activity across the Borough has resulted in enhanced efficiency, time savings and a reduction in cost, which helps the council in meeting Gershon efficiency targets, the efficiency targets that were set following a review by Sir Peter Gershon of public sector efficiency in the UK in 2004. It is estimated that the system has resulted in significant savings to the council as their increasingly efficient working methods have proven successful.

The online system means that all data is recorded and held centrally, providing a complete view of the workforce. For example, government absenteeism and performance indicator reports are now almost 100 percent accurate. In addition, Hastings Borough Council has a greater quantity and quality of data at hand, some of which can be accessed directly by managers at the point of contact, rather than being requested by email or telephone. This provides better management information, which in turn leads to better running of the organization and an improved way of working.

Moving forward, the council aims to use more of Trent’s automatic functions and workflow, linking in to its email and calendar system to further integrate with its existing solutions and software. There are also plans to introduce online time and expenses input and authorization functions and to further develop web-based recruitment.

About the author

Dale Simpson is management information officer at Hastings Borough Council. He has been with Hastings Borough Council for the past four and a half years and is responsible for running and managing the internal HR systems. He also provides statistics reports and performance related information for all personnel within the council. Before joining Hastings Borough Council, Simpson was an IT manager for a London law firm. Dale Simpson can be contacted at:

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