PUBLICATION: ITWeb, August 13, 2010

The government is employing more people. A lot more people. Recent figures released by Mike Schussler, the chief executive of Economists.co.za, show that while employment in the private sector contracted by about 2.9 percent since 2006, jobs in the government sector grew by 13.6 percent. As a result, 20 percent of the workforce is now employed by the government, and 24 percent by the broader public sector. In fact, Schussler points out that government wages now absorb more than 12 percent of gross domestic product – one of the highest ratios in the world.

While we acknowledge that all employment growth is positive for the country, we can’t help wondering at the net gains of efficiencies these new appointments have delivered. One must also ask just how the government departments are managing their burgeoning human capital.

In any organisation, efficiencies are key factors when judging success. The profit demands of a private company keep the recruitment decisions based solely on efficiencies. But this is no less important to a government who is now staring down the barrel of the 2015 Millennium Goals, not to mention local government elections next year.

There is no doubt that our public sector managers are going to have their hands full managing all the new staff, ensuring that service delivery expectations of the public are met.

However, there is hope. By automating many of the daily HR processes through integrated human capital management software, managers around the world are freeing up valuable HR minds to focus on strategy rather than admin.

But coaxing out efficiencies requires insight into how an organisation operates. And this can only be achieved if that data is readily accessible, easy to understand – and relevant.

In our experience, we have seen public sector organisations miss out on many opportunities to improve efficiencies simply because they are not aware of trends within the workforce. Quite simply, there can be no meaningful decisions if there is insufficient data to work with. This can only be rectified if the correct systems are put in place that deliver the right information, to the right people, at the right time – what is needed is intelligent leadership willing to implement intelligent software.

We are aware that it is always easier to criticise than to compliment, but in the midst of another public sector strike, our public sector managers will have to urgently examine how they can better manage their growing (and vocal) workforce.