Over the past decade or so, technology has crept into nearly every facet of our lives. People buy everything from groceries to mattresses online, business and social networking is digital, and almost every mundane task can be made easier with an app. In recent years, the rate of technological advancement and its ubiquity has grown even further, and citizens are increasingly expecting more convenient, digital experiences from healthcare, work, and even public services.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and accelerated the pace of that transformation even further. It is well established that public sector organizations are laggards on the tech adoption curve compared to other industries. At a time when the need for public services is at an all-time high, low technology adoption has resulted in many public sector employees and organizations being unable to work at their full capacity.
It’s time to start exploring how technology can support the public sector workforce, both during the current crisis and beyond.
Three technology imperatives to transform the public sector workforce
1. Improve operational efficiency through technology
In times of crisis, we depend on public sector organizations to deliver. It might be tempting for leaders to shelve technology upgrades at a time when high stimulus spending is already straining budgets, however, ignoring the need for digital transformation could put public sector organizations at risk of not being able to deliver the level of service needed. It’s not about avoiding the spend for the sake of austerity; rather, it’s about ensuring the ROI on every dollar spent benefits – and can be shown to benefit – citizens.
Taking a data-driven approach to workforce management will help leaders identify wasted time, money, and resources, translating into measurable, positive impacts on citizens as managers can more efficiently align resources to in-demand services. It will also help managers understand the costs associated with overtime and absenteeism, as well as the causes, so that these issues can be corrected. These insights will help organizations refocus the workforce onto higher-value outcomes for citizens, instead of lower-value tasks – and report on those benefits more transparently.
The right technology can also help to automate manual processes to reduce the administrative burden on managers, so they can focus on developing and engaging the workforce to improve service delivery. An added benefit to automation is that it can help organizations better manage compliance with union rules and the complex, ever-changing regulations that govern the workforce. This will reduce the burden on HR teams, allowing them to focus on recruitment, retention, and reskilling.
And self-serve technology tools can help empower workers both during and after the pandemic, while allowing managers to skip tasks like processing employee requests and focus on higher-value strategic work. Self-serve tools for ongoing training personalized to employees’ roles can also result in improved security practices to help safeguard sensitive personal data and classified information.
2. Expand business continuity planning for the long haul
The public sector is unique in that it has a blend of front-line workers and back-office employees, posing a variety of different challenges to business continuity during a crisis. On the one hand, organizations had to transition back-office staff to remote work when they were ill-prepared to do so – resulting in everything from employees having to take paid vacation due to a lack of bandwidth and equipment, to the limitations of 50-year-old legacy systems on moving quickly to serve citizens. On the other hand, front line workers were facing an increased risk of illness or being quarantined, making it difficult to keep track of employees’ health and well-being, or manage staffing levels.
Technology can support business continuity in several ways. It creates an opportunity for better knowledge management – digitally capturing information so employees can more easily cover each other’s roles – and succession planning. Not only is there a risk of employees getting sick or being quarantined right now, the so-called “Silver Tsunami” of retiring baby boomers was already creating a labor shortage in the sector and will continue to do so. Organizations will need to be able to rapidly transition knowledge to the next generation of workers to ensure business continuity long after the pandemic ends.
3. Hire and retain a next-gen workforce
The pandemic has accelerated the need to usher in the next generation of the workforce. The skills that have the most value were already changing prior to the crisis, and there is a new emphasis on adaptability and resilience, which the pandemic has made even more important. At the same time, the increased role of technology in society, along with the move toward automating lower-value tasks for operational efficiency, is increasing the level of technology skill needed in the public sector workforce.
While the public sector has struggled to attract younger talent due to high competition from the private sector prior to the pandemic, there is an opportunity to change the younger generations' perceptions of being a civil servant - right now. Organizations can take this opportunity to embrace technology, transition to more flexible working models (location, hours), and inspire younger workers to serve their communities. Building a truly tech-driven workplace would give employees the best of all worlds – job security, good salaries, deep value, and flexibility – greatly strengthening its appeal and ability to compete for top talent.
Introducing a learning platform can also help improve attraction and engagement for millennial and Gen Z employees who want to keep their skills sharp and grow their careers. Learning platforms allow for a personalized learning experience that suits a multi-generational workforce, and can be tied to performance, succession planning, and organizational goals to drive career development and help close the skills gap.
A new era for public sector
I have spent half of my career in the public sector, and believe this pandemic has underscored the criticality of public sector organizations in our lives. After all, it is the public sector that has kept our nation working during this unprecedented time. However, more disruption awaits on the horizon, and uncertainty has become our new normal. As such, the importance of modernizing the public sector to enable faster crisis response delivered by the best talent available – whether in an office or from their homes – has never been more apparent.
About Ceridian in the Public Sector
Ceridian. Makes Work Life Better™.
Ceridian HCM Holding Inc. (“Ceridian” or the “Company”) (NYSE:CDAY) (TSX:CDAY) is a global human capital management software company. Dayforce, our flagship cloud HCM platform, provides human resources, payroll, benefits, workforce management, and talent management functionality. Our platform is used by the public sector to optimize the management of the entire employee lifecycle, including attracting, engaging, paying, deploying, and developing people. Ceridian has solutions to help public sector organizations of all sizes to create efficiencies, adapt to regulatory change, and ultimately deliver better outcomes.
Visit our public sector website for more information. Read Serving the Future: Building a Next-Gen Public Sector Workforce or follow us @Ceridian.
Gianluca Cairo is Industry Principal, Public Sector at Ceridian. Previously, he was Chief of Staff to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement. Prior to returning to the public sector, Gianluca was VP, Operations at ARGUS Software, responsible for the $25M Global Maintenance Renewal business and strategic global backoffice operations. He has over 12 years of senior leadership experience in operations, strategic planning and public affairs.
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