Transforming a Workforce: User-Friendly Technology Should be a Top Priority

Unless agencies continue to modernize and make digital transformation a priority, meeting the expectations of constituents and employees will become increasingly difficult.
Michael Galello, Kronos | February 19, 2019 AT 1:30 PM
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When the public sector deploys a new technology, it does so to reach a specific set of goals. These goals are often to improve services, increase capacity, or streamline operations. And while these goals are all priorities, it is equally important that agencies also consider the importance of fostering a tech-friendly work environment and investing in their people-resources as one of its most valuable assets.

Consumer technology is advancing at a rapid rate. There are devices in people’s homes that can tell them the weather forecast, book dinner reservations, and control the lights all through the sound of their voice. In contrast, many technologies in people’s workplaces are unintuitive and do not meet their expectations. Looking at some statistics from The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated can help identify the changes that need to take place to improve the employee experience and make these employees’ jobs easier.

According to a recent workforce engagement study from The Workforce Institute:

  • Nearly half of employees (48 percent) surveyed worldwide wish their workplace technology performed just like their personal technology. Fewer than one in five (18 percent) do not want their workplace technology and personal technology to function similarly.
  • For U.S. industries, 55% of the employees in state and local government feel strongly that outdated processes and technology makes their job more difficult. This was the highest percentage out of all industries surveyed.

Unemployment in the United States is at an all-time low, and retaining top talent is harder for organizations than ever. One important differentiator for retaining and recruiting top talent is creating positive digital changes that emphasize a positive employee workplace experience. There is an undeniable demand for improved technologies from the workforce. The International Data Corporation’s (IDC) recent Digital Transformation (DX) Executive Sentiment Survey of 157 public sector decision makers “indicates that digitally transforming their organization is a priority for 100% of public sector responders. And 59% of respondents indicate that their agency executives are facing pressure/significant pressure to execute a DX strategy.”

Other surveys have reached this same conclusion. In 2018, the Center for State and Local Government Excellence (SLGE) - in coordination with the International Public Management Association for Human Resources (IPMA-HR) and the National Association of State Personnel Executives (NASPE) teamed up to survey public sector leaders and created the State and Local Government Workforce: 2018 Data and 10 Year Trends report. The survey question of interest is: “Looking ahead, which workforce issues are important to your organization?” Employee Engagement, Employee Morale, and Recruitment all came in at the top with around 80% of respondents choosing those.

These surveys confirm that one of the top organizational priorities for State and Local agencies continues to be the desire to provide the highest level of service possible to their employees and community. IDC states that “Each year, constituent expectations continue to rise, and state and local agencies must adapt, improve capacity, rapidly deliver business value, and measure outcomes for their services.” Government employees have similar expectations as those held by the community members, so agencies must continue to focus on finding and deploying solutions that empower their employees and ultimately create new efficiencies in their jobs.

To better meet the needs of their constituents, agencies must continue to focus on their employees. A 2016 Gallup Study found evidence of the link between employee engagement and their performance. An engaged employee is at least 17 percent more productive than their disengaged counterpart. On top of that, they receive 10% higher customer-satisfaction scores. A 10 percent jump in constituent satisfaction and an almost 20-percent increase in employee productivity makes the focus on employee engagement very appealing.

In his call to action around employee engagement, Robert Lavigna, a director of CPD HR Consulting Institute, notes that “decades of research have proven that high engagement can drive high performance. This can then drive citizen satisfaction and confidence in government. When government employees believe that the people they serve have confidence in the work they do, these public servants are more likely to be engaged — A virtuous cycle. This is why employee engagement is not just another management fad. It’s about performance and service delivery.”

It’s not a surprise that the Gallup study went on to note that actively disengaged employees are at a high risk for turnover. The same SLGE & IPMA-HR study referenced earlier found that recruitment is a focus for public sector leaders. The same way that agencies are focusing on recruiting the best-possible candidates, they should also be focused on retaining them by keeping engagement and job-satisfaction levels high. It’s been shown that using better technology is a good way to keep employee satisfaction and engagement at higher levels. That increased engagement will result in citizens receiving a higher level of service.

Unless agencies continue to modernize and make the digital transformation a priority, meeting the expectations of constituents and employees will become increasingly difficult.