Government Customer and Workforce Engagement

One of the largest challenges for government these days is accommodating the four – or five – generations of their workforce and their customers. Each generation has their own preferences in terms of how they want to engage with government and what their expectations are of the agencies. Our session at PegaWORLD included panelists that spoke about this unique challenge from very different perspectives and included the USDA, the State of Maine, Texas County & District Retirement System, and our distinguished government partner, Accenture Federal Services.

The generations we focused on during the session were the veterans (1930s-1945), baby boomers (1946-1964), Gen X (1965-1980) and Gen Y (1981-2000), also called millennials. As you would expect, the polling of our government audience showed that with both the government workforce and customer make-up, veterans are on the way out, and millennials are on the way in, (the current percentage is primarily a mix of baby boomers and gen x, with baby boomers being the majority in both categories). An 2011 article from Forbes says, “Most of us recognize that Millennials are the new generation of employees with very different workforce behaviors who not just familiar with collaboration tools but expect their work environment to allow or even encourage them to use these tools. In four years Millennials will account for nearly half the employees in the world.” Our polls show that we’re not there yet, but millennials are definitely on the rise.

This is the first time in American history where we have had four generations of workforce working side by side. If you don’t think generations make a difference, consider the following from FDU magazine in 2005: “When asked to recall how and where Kennedy died, the Veterans and Baby Boomers would say gunshots in Dallas, Texas; Generation X remembers a plane crash near Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.; and Generation Y might say, ‘Kennedy who?’” These generational differences need to be taken into consideration by government as they attempt to successfully service all of their constituents.

When we talk about customer service in the private sector, it typically applies to having a high-quality experience as a customer as a result of a company supplying us a good or service. A high-quality experience typically means one that quickly identifies our needs and offers a quick resolution. In more recent times, customer service has expanded in the private sector to include a seamless experience over any channel, which we as a customer wish to engage with the company on. But, what do we mean by customer service in the public sector? The panel explored four areas of this: 1) increased transparency, 2) encouraging people to use data with immediate feedback, 3) engaging people on their own terms, and 4) allowing people to bypass government and self-service. When polled, a clear majority of the audience identified the ability to engage people on their own terms as the single most important aspect of customer service in the public sector.

From the outside (citizen) perspective looking in, government’s goal is to have the semblance of “one government” – or a no “wrong door” approach. But in order for that to happen, government has to find a way to view their customers as “one citizen” – or have a holistic view across all programs and services for a specific customer, first and foremost. For years, everyone has been talking about “breaking down the silos” in government – for exactly this purpose. Now, with the era of digital government – it seems highly unlikely that government will be able to deliver on the promise of digital without first doing exactly this.


NEW Download the Agile Government: The Digital Government Imperative eBook and explore how to gain the level of agility required to achieve true government transformation.