Huddle promotes intergovernmental working with Government Skills.
Government Skills aims to improve the delivery of public services by building the skills of people working in government departments, nondepartmental public bodies and the Armed Forces across the United Kingdom. In its day-to-day operations, Government Skills deals with employers across many departments including learning and development specialists and HR practitioners.
The organisation wants to improve collaboration between staff members, partners and stakeholders - people working across government departments and agencies. Seeking an online tool that could act as a file repository, communication and collaboration tool, Government Skills found Huddle. A main reason for needing a collaboration tool was the quick dissemination of information, via an OTS (off the shelf ) tool that worked for both internal and external stakeholders - a set of requirements that Huddle could fill. The organisation is using Huddle for five workspaces with more than 300 users from over 40 different organisations across the government logging in to share information crucial to their job functions.
Government Skills has one primary Huddle workspace that it uses to connect with staff inside the organisation - to share and discuss information and documents. Nicknamed the 'Cuddle,' this workspace is used by approximately 50 staff on a regular basis. It assists staff to disseminate information and provides a way to discuss issues without clogging up email inboxes.
The other three workspaces target learning and development professionals, HR and procurement specialists and the 'Coaches in Government Network'. Each workspace has its own manager who is responsible for keeping the information updated and keeping members up to speed.
"Everything's in one spot, so people naturally want access to it. People find out about it themselves through word of mouth. Request for membership is driven by the need for that instant access."
- Nora Brodian, Communications Manager
Across all four workspaces, there are more than 300 members from at least 40 different organisations across the government.
The primary reason for engaging Huddle was to create an online space that would make it easier to find information and encourage discussion among stakeholders. Government Skills needed a central space where information could be disseminated and feedback sought. It was critical that time wasn't wasted in keeping and accessing this information. It was also critical that this tool worked with both internal and external stakeholders. The main objective was to move projects in learning and development forward, to meet the group's main aims, including policy development.
Following the implementation of Huddle, the group says take-up was slow at first but quickly gained ground as people saw how it improved their work-life balance. "We have experienced a steady increase in users since last summer when we introduced Huddle. We no longer need to promote the workspaces; people find out about them and ask to join so that they can have access to all the information they need. There, they can communicate with other civil servants," said Nora Brodian, Communications Manager at Government Skills.
"The workspace has become essential for our Common Action project, which is all about how departments can work together to address their common skills needs. This can include, for example, sharing information about learning and development contracts or best practice on procurement," said Nora.
The tool is used in different collaboration aspects. Groups communicate via Huddle about things like opportunities and events.
"We use it for recruitment, for advice and for learning about new opportunities. One HR user posted a message asking what assessments and development frameworks other organisations use for entry to the Senior Civil Service, and received prompt responses", Nora continued.
Huddle is all about helping people work better together. It encourages a new way of working and a shift away from using email as the main way of collaborating. With large teams of people Huddle can create efficiencies in finding and sharing information. It is complex enough for secure collaboration, but easy enough for non-technical people to get up and running and to maintain.
In some ways, Huddle has been the catalyst for advancements in Government Skills' way of working. Nora said: "Previously, if someone in a department needed training on something, they'd wait until it was offered in their own department. Now, with Huddle, people can check out when other parts of the government are running that same training and get it done more quickly. It has started to make a difference in interdepartmental working."
Nora speculates how this may help create efficiencies in the organisation, although she notes these intangibles can be hard to measure; "With greater use, as we get more out of Huddle, it might be easier to measure some of the efficiencies it creates."
Nora said that she could envisage it driving other new ways of cross-government working.
"There is a demand to work cross-government. We are now using Huddle to advertise training opportunities to wider groups, so when you start a new training programme it's with a wider view than just your department, and therefore people outside can take advantage of it. It allows us to open opportunities."
Nora points out that with stakeholders asking to join the Huddle workspace, rather than the other way around, it's a strong proof point for the usefulness of the tool. She said: "Everything's in one spot, so people naturally want access to it. People find out about it themselves through word of mouth. Request for membership is driven by the need for that instant access. We could imagine a future where this could be a new way of having meetings."
The 300 members include those working in learning and development, policy development and procurement - those who procure learning and development within government. Coaches, who provide guidance and mentoring and stem from all departments of government, also use it.
"There is a network of coaches who use the tool and they have found this is a way of getting feedback from other coaches in government," said Nora.
Nora sums up the benefits of Huddle: "The main benefits are its immediacy, the fact that it's easy to use, and easy to manage. It meets our purposes of sharing info, sending messages to members and facilitating discussion. Though we don't use all of its functionality yet, we can envisage ways of using it to its fullest extent in future and seeing it become a driver for further cross-government collaboration."