Technology: An Important Human Resource
The information contained in this article is not intended as legal advice and may no longer be accurate due to changes in the law. Consult NHMA's legal services or your municipal attorney.
According to Town Administrator Mark Bender, Milford has embraced the use of technology to improve human resources activities. Here is a glimpse at the ways in which Milford is benefitting.
1. Make it a team effort. Bruce Dickerson, the town’s IT Director for over 10 years, has found that his web initiatives have a lot of support as long as the expenditures can be justified. And, in the spirit of teamwork, not all of the web ideas have come from Dickerson. “People come to me if they see or hear about something that they believe will make their lives easier and make them more efficient.” By making it a team effort, municipalities can also encourage staff and volunteers to become more tech savvy. As Bender explains, this is particularly important because there are some positions, such as police officers and planners, that require individuals who are willing and able to use the appropriate technology in order to be effective in the job. As Dickerson puts it, “We don’t necessarily expect them to know everything about the town’s systems when they get here, but we need to know that they will be willing to expend the effort to learn it.”
2. Increase outreach. When searching for a new town administrator, Milford advertised in the local papers and used a variety of online sources such as the New Hampshire Municipal Association (NHMA) classifieds ads and monster.com. This resulted in a number of interested applicants who were not local. Milford received candidates from around the country, but the town couldn’t afford to bring them here. Instead, these candidates interviewed via Skype, a common practice in the private sector.
3. Go paperless: The human resource department has been using computerized records for years. Annual evaluations are completely paperless. The town is getting ready to build on their system by adding a human resource (HR) module to their present system, which will allow further integration and better collection of data.
4. Training without mileage reimbursement. Using technology for education has many benefits. Bender brags that Milford has one of the most “professional” volunteer fire department in the state because of the easy access to online training that allows fire department personnel to get certified in various areas on their own schedule. More and more town departments are regularly participating in online training courses and webinars provided by groups such as NHMA.
5. Recruit through transparency. Bender believes the type and quantity of other volunteers is also impacted by the use of technology. The town communicates through its website and public access television channel, which covers school events, meetings, and sporting events, and public service announcements are made both on the web and the public access channel. Using technology in this way makes the town more accessible and encourages others to get involved.
6. Support volunteers. The town also does its best to support its volunteer committees. Bender cites land use boards as a good example of this. These land use boards appreciate the fact that the town considers Geographic Information Systems (GIS) a “very valuable tool” and works closely with the Nashua Regional Planning Commission to develop the layers of information that will help them do their work.
The trend toward technology in government is not something that Bender thinks is going to be slowing down any time soon, so now is the time to start exploring what it can do for your town or city.
Dean E. Shankle, Jr., Ph. D, is treasurer of NHLoGIN, an affiliate group which has helped government officials and employees from all over New Hampshire collaborate with each other for over 13 years. Mr. Shankle also serves as town administrator in the Town of Hooksett.