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Governments Struggle to Create a More Engaged Workforce

A new report from Forrester finds governments lack an employee experience that fosters a productive and resilient workforce. How the public sector responds during COVID could change the worker dynamic, however.

Hands of work team, working together
To get employees who are productive, resilient and proud of their jobs, organizations need to provide them with a good employee experience. But, globally, many government agencies still struggle with achieving this high level of employee experience, according to a new report from Forrester, a market research firm.

Yes, Government EX Can Get Better! studied federal, state and local government workers from eight different countries to better understand how government can create more engaged employees.

It found that although government and private companies have the same employee experience (EX) drivers, government agencies lack the ability to properly empower, inspire and enable their employees. Approximately 70 percent of private-sector employees felt that they knew what was important and that they had the support to do it; that they believed in the agency'core values and having a voice; and that they had the technology and resources necessary to complete important work. On average, just 64 percent of government workers reported similar insights.  

Without the ability to empower, inspire and enable their employees, government agencies have a higher proportion of disengaged workers, which directly impacts the agency’s success. The Forrester report found that, when compared to disengaged employees, engaged government workers are more productive, more resilient and prouder of the work that they do.

Zoe Manzanetti

(Forrester Research: Yes, Government EX Can Get Better!, 2020)

On a global scale, just 21 percent of government workers reported having a high-quality work experience while 31 percent of private-sector employees ranked their experiences highly. This low-quality government worker experience results in sub-optimal levels of engagement: only 19 percent of government employees are highly engaged, while 27 percent are disengaged. Those levels swap when compared to private-sector workers.

Low levels of EX also inhibit future success for an organization: only 35 percent and 32 percent of local and national government workers, respectively, would be willing to recommend their agency’s services to friends or family. More than half of private-sector employees would recommend their company’s services.

Zoe Manzanetti

(Forrester Research: Yes, Government EX Can Get Better!, 2020)

Low levels of EX also inhibit recruitment. At a national level, only 37 percent of government employees reported that they would recommend a job at their agency to a friend or family member, as compared to the 49 percent of employees from private-sector jobs.

But EX is a dynamic measure and Forrester’s report also outlines five ways to improve employee experience: set policies that acknowledge their workers’ humanities; ensure that employees have the correct and sufficient technologies so that they may work remotely; remove barriers and inefficiencies that impede customer and employee success; recognize and reward their employees’ successes; and establish a coaching or mentorship program to develop employees’ skills.

Zoe Manzanetti

(Forrester Research: Yes, Government EX Can Get Better!, 2020)

In some ways, COVID-19 has led to improvements in EX. In March, many government agencies encouraged employees to work remotely and, to do so, they were required to ensure that all employees had the necessary technology to properly do their jobs.  

But even after the coronavirus pandemic subsides and government workers return to offices, agencies will have to continue fostering high levels of EX. Agencies will have to continue to support and enable their employees’ humanities, design programs to enrich employee relationships, and establish mentorship and professional development opportunities if they want to become an employer of choice.

Zoe is the digital editor for Governing.
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