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How to cut staff costs in the public sector

Ways to reduce employment costs without cutting staff

Perhaps the toughest decisions that are made in the current public sector ‘do less with more’ culture concern staffing.

Make no mistake: the public sector payroll is shrinking dramatically, and it will continue to do so. According to the ONS, 270,000 public sector job cuts were made in 2011 — almost a 7% cut to the workforce. Among those affected included 30,000 NHS staff and 71,000 people working in education, so the axe is falling in even the most politically sensitive areas.

Prospects for many public sector workers continue to look uncertain. Earlier this year, the Office for Budget Responsibility revised the number of public sector jobs it believes will have been cut between 2011 and 2017 from 710,000 to 730,000.

Against this backdrop, public sector managers are increasingly on the lookout for ways of reducing staffing costs while keeping job losses to a minimum.

Some of the measures public sector managers are taking include cutting staff benefits and encouraging full-time staff to accept part-time roles or job-shares.

These approaches are important, but the managers who are retaining the most staff in the teeth of budget cuts are the ones who foster more flexible and efficient ways of working.

Supporting flexible working

While people are understandably reluctant to take a pay cut, they are often open to the idea of working from home.

This brings you benefits in terms of reduced overheads — fewer employees sharing a building costs less and can even lead to your organisation needing fewer buildings, allowing you to generate income from the sale or rental of premises.

You’ll also find that — managed well — staff are more efficient when they work flexibly. Because they’re not in the office, they have fewer distractions and they are more likely to restrict meetings to the minimum needed.

Flexible working also brings employees benefits and boosts morale, especially if they have young families, want to cut down on commuting or they prefer to balance office commitments with home working.

However, while there is no shortage of reasons for introducing flexible working, there are some obstacles. These are the main ones:

  • Teams working apart — communication can be difficult when teams are based in several different locations.
  • Goal setting and project management — when individuals work alone from home, it can be harder to track progress and keep them on target
  • Travelling costs — if teams can’t communicate efficiently while working in different locations, travelling costs can creep up as face-to-face meetings become necessary 
  • Security — routinely sharing sensitive data via email can be a security risk.

It’s worth noting that these problems also occur when staff work in different offices or towns, or they travel frequently as a requirement of their role.

Cutting staff costs with online collaboration
One way to keep these disadvantages to a minimum is to use online collaboration software. By providing all staff with a secure workspace that is accessible via any browser and an internet connection, you can deliver these benefits:

  • Tools to manage goals and measure progress — teams can have access to the same calendars, task lists and reminders
  • Productive working that cuts travel — because team members can collaborate on documents and discuss progress within their workspace from any location, essential face-to-face meetings are kept to a minimum
  • Secure workspaces — accessing files from a secure online environment eradicates security problems associated with email attachments and firewall blocking
  • Centralised project management — wherever team members are based, easy-to-use project management functions allow workspaces to be accessed from anywhere, — bringing clear communication and collaboration to the heart of every project.

So if you want to deliver lower staffing costs and deliver higher productivity – for remote and office-based staff alike – it’s worthwhile investigating what online collaboration can do for you. As a starting point, you will find our free online guide particularly helpful. You can Download our Free Guide below.

Coming up next: Developing shared services

Can’t wait? Download our free guide below – Doing more with less: 8 key issues faced by public sector managers — and how to solve them.

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