Why local authorities should embrace the mindset of millennials

Lindsay James
Lindsay James
By Lindsay James on 15 April 2016
Why local authorities should embrace the mindset of millennials

Generation Y is now entering the workforce – an estimated 75% of the workforce will be millennials by 2025 – and becoming a significant force in our society. For the first time they are making up the same proportion of the voting-age population as baby boomers, but have a very different attitude and expectation towards both national and local government.

Paul Todd, public sector lead at Outsourcery, said; “This generation has been brought up with ready access to technology that builds social networks and collaboration. We have seen world changing movements fuelled by social media networks such as the Arab Spring uprisings at the turn of the decade, the Occupy movement protesting against social and economic inequality across the globe or more localised groups campaigning against their library or community centre closing down. Millennials are as likely to take direct action themselves as ask local or national politicians to resolve things on their behalf.”

In Todd’s view, this generation is fundamentally changing the nature of the relationship between government and the citizen and how we choose to interact with essential government services. This changing contract between citizens and government may be seen to have its roots in the rise of the millennials but it is spreading throughout our society. Local Authorities are at the forefront of reacting to this fundamental and far reaching change as they strive to deliver important services to their communities whilst operating under severe budgetary constraints.

Paul Todd added; “The challenge facing local government is how to best engage this new wave of networked citizens to ensure that they both remain active members of their communities but also have access to council services in a manner that reflects how this new generation lives and chooses to communicate and interact.

The most forward looking local authorities are considering how to re-work the ways citizens engage with services to better meet their citizen’s changing expectations – with a focus on ensuring that services are easy to access and tailored to the convenience of how people live their lives today. The big shift is around ensuring a citizen-centric approach rather than service delivery based around the way the council has chosen to organise itself, with inevitable departmental barriers and communication silos.

Millennials want to access public services in a way that suits them. As with so many other areas of public service the growing expectation of the citizen is that they should be able to access the help and support of the local council 24/7. If they can order their shopping, engage with their bank and collaborate with work colleagues through digital channels, then why shouldn’t they have the same choice and experience when gaining an update on planning permission, reporting a faulty street light or engaging with social services?”

Ease and choice of communication is at the heart of this revolution. The adoption of unified communication solutions such as Skype for Business can play a big part in enabling easy access to information for the public but also offers the opportunity for delivering significant efficiency savings through greater collaboration across local authorities. Skype for Business provides the potential for communication via voice, video, instant messaging or using chat rooms in a manner that mirrors the default communication tools of millennials; who may be increasingly phobic to a conventional phone call let alone having the time or inclination to visit the local council offices.

The use of “presence” within Skype for Business can make for far more efficient communication within a local authority. The “front office” call centre teams can easily identify a specialist to deal with a particular citizen query without having to resort to emails or voicemail messages that all too frequently result in a communication black hole that is frustrating for the citizen and an inefficient waste of time for local authority staff.

The sharing of specialist teams across a number of local authorities and agencies can be greatly enabled by using the “federation” facility within Skype for Business. This allows an organisation to look into another and identify what expertise is readily available without resorting to a formal shared service arrangement that is still seen as an inflexible model to many senior officers. The ability to share team resources and communicate seamlessly can also help to extend service opening hours as team working times can be staggered amongst a cohort of participating local partners but in a way that is invisible to the citizen accessing the service.

Paul Todd concludes: “So looking afresh at unified communications can offer a solution that allows timely access to expert service in a manner of the citizens choosing; with a resulting positive uplift to citizen engagement scores whilst also offering greater efficiency and overall cost savings.

The wide adoption of communications technology across the UK is changing the way we all choose to live our lives and is building and transforming communities. Embracing the mind-set of a millennial really can help local authorities connect with their citizens across all generations to deliver better public services more efficiently.”

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