Government & Commercial Human Resources: Stagnation during the Digital Awakening

In many ways the world is stuck thinking about and making use of “digital things” by equating them and implementing them to things it knew and understood before the dawn of the Digital Age. In terms of KM (Knowledge Management), File Management is a classic example of one of those “digital things”. With little understanding at the time of the limitations it would put upon its content, the world dutifully created root folders (which even included icons of tiny filing cabinets) and then sub-root folders and then sub-sub-root folders, etc., etc., (represented as manilla folders) until the online system of organization became as untenable as the paper files and filing cabinets it was designed to replace. Desktop computing had not changed anything about file management except the location and size of the problem – no longer was the mess in cabinets holding construction paper folders and paper files, now the mess was digital. But, at least it was smaller.

Another example is the misuse of content management systems. The world of knowledge users, again misunderstanding the efficient purpose of the software system, often save, for example, a spreadsheet file to a directory or library, checking it out to edit, back in to save, and in the process denying others access to the data – just as a paper file removed from a manilla folder makes it unavailable to others in need of its use.

These are small problems, though. A much bigger issue looms involving Human Resources. Like those above, Human Resource departments have hired and assigned personnel to positions where the tasks to be performed often do not fully support those whom they are intended to support.

The advent and dominance in the workplace of desktop computing has revealed a need for the reassignment of “digital duties” across the current workforce, whose existing job descriptions and responsibilities are slanted to the pre-digital age. is the U.S. Department of Labor’s website listing occupations as recognized by the U.S. government. Additionally provided are each position’s Occupational Network Code (to assist occupation information users). Most important of all, Onet provides detailed bulleted lists describing the duties FOR ALL JOBS.

Take, for instance, the occupation “Staff Assistant.” The first 5 of the 32 bullets listed to describe this occupation include these:

  • Answer telephones and give information to callers, take messages, or transfer calls to appropriate individuals.
  • Arrange conference, meeting, or travel reservations for office personnel.
  • Collect and deposit money into accounts, disburse funds from cash accounts to pay bills or invoices, keep records of collections and disbursements, and ensure accounts are balanced.
  • Complete forms in accordance with company procedures.
  • Compose, type, and distribute meeting notes, routine correspondence, or reports, such as presentations or expense, statistical, or monthly reports.

Bullets not listed here are those that involve human resource tasks which most, if not all, staff assistants find themselves performing. These HR tasks involve what are called in some government agencies “PARs”, Personal Action Reports, which support multiple personnel actions from in-and-out processing personnel to managing seating spaces to processing the nightmarish upheaval a newlywed endures when having to change their name. The point is, in government offices, the staff assistant is the local office’s Human Resource Officer. Period.

None of the task bullets, however, pertain to the neglected “digital duties” that are imminently overshadowing the non-digital tasks already mentioned. By virtue of their “Human Resource Officer” title within their local organization, unofficial or not, the staff assistant must be considered for these tasks.

This human resource officer, the staff assistant, must, but does not yet, straddle a line that runs between the tasks recognized for the staff assistant on Onet and those digital tasks that involve personnel.

We, employees need this done to perform OUR work more efficiently!!!

A short list of “digital tasks” for an office’s HR specialist would certainly include:

Management of Local Active Directory Groups – the management of AD involves the placement of individuals into groups (directories) within the AD system. Visibility into these groups is limited, especially for users outside of IT. Typically, even IT techs working outside of the IT or government CIO office must request knowledge of whom the members of AD groups are. A central owner of all an office’s AD groups can, of course, be that limited resource who should have visibility.

It makes sense that those who already have knowledge of Human Resource statuses within an organization at all levels be responsible. This person, of course, is the organizational staff assistant.

Management of Email Distribution Groups – like AD, most government offices are using Microsoft to include MS Exchange. While users can create local distribution lists of their own within their own MS Outlook mailboxes, to establish email distribution lists visible across the enterprise, Exchange server must establish the list.

Once established, visibility and management must once again fall to the human resource officer who has knowledge of personnel movements to other offices, knowledge of those personnel coming and going from the office, as well as an ongoing status of every person in their organization.

Management of File Share Security Groups – until the decision is made to kill shared drives and move to a more metadata-based file management system, we’re stuck with them. These are commonly a sprawling tree structure with poorly-managed security. Protecting them are assigned security groups that come from AD, yet management of the file shares is distributed to the users who create and then protect them. In doing so, users when unable to view inside AD groups add individuals to root security or add groups whose membership they cannot see.

Again, the one role in most government and commercial organizations who should manage this digital duty is the local human resource officer, the staff assistant, for all the reasons discussed.

Management of SharePoint Permissions Groups – for the same reasons as those above, permissions ownership of SharePoint sites (NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH OWNERSHIP OF SITES) should fall to the person who knows the status of an org’s people.

Who other than the staff assistant? But, staff assistants and the digital duties that they should perform are just one case.

Shouldn’t metadata establishment, even at the local office level, be driven by the records management office?

In fact, shouldn’t enterprise file management by handled by the RM office as well?

The mind of those who envision the tasks assigned to many individuals fails to consider the digital tasks that are heaping behind us. Our inability to perform better has something to do with the disorganization of your management. We need you to begin thinking inside the world you require us to work in – the digital world.

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