National Association of
Counties * Washington, D.C.
Vol. 32, No. 2
* February 7, 2000
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In my grandfathers lifetime, about half of the American workforce was
involved in agriculture. That percentage is down to about three percent
today. During most of my fathers lifetime, the economy shifted to a mass
production industrial base, where it remained. According to one study,
during the lifetimes of my daughters, only about three percent of the
workforce will be involved in the manufacture of the goods and services
used by the rest of us.
The economy has shifted again to service industries and to information
industries. We are in a world of E-commerce, Internet use and an era where
binary code, not English or Spanish or Chinese, is the most frequent form
These changes have arrived seemingly overnight
and they challenge everyone in Public Administration to look for ways to
harness these technologies for the publics good. This will include public
access to government files and information, online bill paying and
question and answer exchanges with public officials, online job
application and testing, employee training and a great deal
The HR Doctor sees another trend ahead. That is, the adopting
of the industry approach called Customized or Individualized Mass
Production to meet government needs.
This is a technique to meet
specific customer needs while maintaining the efficiencies of existing
mass production capabilities. We can now custom design our computers by
calling any number of manufacturers who will "build the computer for you."
The custom-built model, however, is not made in the small workshop of
skilled artisan, it is made on an assembly line where workers have the
capability to add or subtract components based on customer needs.
The "have it your way" model maintains a foundation of
consistency, adherence to standards and efficiency while meeting and often
exceeding, customer expectations. That combination is also a great goal
for government services as well as for high-tech manufacturing.
human resources, the approach can be demonstrated by having an HR staff
member "out stationed" at a major client facility with an assignment to
make HR work for the managers. The individual customers see HR onsite,
readily available, and producing responsive answers to their questions.
The HR staff has new and exciting challenges and the satisfaction of
delivering services tailored to meet the needs of the user
The convenience of online application and testing is
obvious to candidates who can apply from any where on the planet at the
time of their choosing, while giving the agency greater access to a larger
Employee information access online for benefits,
payroll questions, retirement benefit calculations and organizational
training programs opens new avenues to convenience, family involvement,
and strengthening the employment relationship.
services have traditionally involved citizens driving to some governmental
office, parking and waiting in line to pay a bill, receive a license or an
auto tag, or get information about a requirement or service. Citizens of
the 21st Century County are in for a treat by being able to do these often
annoying chores from their own homes in a way more convenient than ever.
Add to the mix the importance of telecommuting for a growing
segment of employees, and the opening up of government services through
increased contact hours and records availability and the result can be the
same for government services as it is for successful high-tech
manufacturers. Customer needs and expectations are met or exceeded, while
at the same time, the standards, efficiencies and record keeping of
government of agencies is maintained. Not a bad trade-off citizens
benefit, government employees benefit and the organization better fulfills
its basic mission: to serve the public with high efficiency and high
This look ahead at the future of government service
delivery must be tempered, however, with a very strong built-in avoidance
of the technological temptation of turning us all into "robot bureaucrats"
or telephone answering machines.
The HR Doctor wrote about this
risk an article published Sept. 13, 1999, titled "Dont take the human out
of communication." How well we maintain our position on the "balance beam"
between technology and humanity will be the real mark of success in a 21st
Best wishes and visit the "HR Doctor" at http://www.hrdr.net/.
(If you have questions for the "HR Doctor," e-mail him
Rosenberg is the Human Resources director for Broward County,
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