Recently, Pega, in conjunction with Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Information Systems Research (MIT CISR), hosted a roundtable to discuss how government leaders are adapting to new conditions and moving towards a new future of work. The discussion titled, “The convergence of people and technology to empower servant leaders,” was moderated by Stephanie Woerner of MIT CISR and included government leaders from the Federal Aviation Administration, Texas Department of Information Resources, California Franchise Tax Board, and Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, along with Pega’s Doug Averill, Vice President, Global Government Industry Markets and Rosetta Carrington Lue, Industry Principal Director for State & Local Government.
The panel discussion centered around how leaders are seeing more opportunities for a digital revolution in the public sector, driven by citizen preferences and virtual workplace needs. Last year’s pandemic accelerated the use of advanced technologies in government, as citizens who are accustomed to fast, easy, one-click, online services looked to experience the same in their interactions with local and national government offices. Simultaneously, many government offices were shuttered for in-person interactions, forcing public agencies to adapt services for remote workers and digital-first channels. And while some government organizations had already begun to move toward better digital services or digital-first services, the push to modernize and digitize increased. These changes are redefining public sector workplaces and services.
There are three common types of government employees: joiners, movers, and leavers. Joiners are passionate about public service and excited to join the cause. Movers are really interested in going above and beyond to advance their cause. Leavers are frustrated and unengaged in their work. In many cases, “leavers” never actually leave their job. Instead, they stay but mentally check out or disengage from their work.
So how do you convert joiners to movers and prevent people from becoming leavers? The panel unanimously agreed that empowering employees is the answer. Empowerment can come in many forms depending on the person and their goals. Things like developing new skills, having access to new technology, and seeing the impact of their work can help people feel more engaged and prevent burnout.
Attracting young people
Empowering employees can also mean taking a look at the overall makeup of the workforce and how technology is used and supported. Leaders might consider diversifying the age of their workforce by focusing efforts on recruiting younger people into government work, who are typically frequent, early adopters of cutting-edge technology. Recruiting younger workers into public service can, in turn, energize the entire workforce and bring new ideas and perspectives to the table.
But governments compete with the private sector for employees. One way to make public sector work more enticing for younger people is to partner with higher education. Offer internships, host events, and help students gain the experience they need to grow. Current employees can also be empowered through educational support and cross-team collaboration. By growing their pool of talent, public sector organizations can help their employees develop targeted skills and create more well-rounded and engaged teams.
Digitizing for the future
Another enticing benefit for new and current employees is access to digital tools. New technological tools and approaches like agile methodologies and artificial intelligence attract tech-savvy people and allow current employees to learn new skills. This adaptation of skills is important to keep up with increasingly fast advances in technology. The use of these technologies in the government sector has already proven successful. For example, Australia’s Intellectual Property agency is using a dynamic platform and agile development environment to help it assess IP Rights applications faster. Similarly, Australia’s tax offices are using AI to automate their work.
Redefining the work environment
The pandemic clearly changed the way we work, causing everyone to adapt to new technology faster than ever before. Remote work, which once seemed far-fetched and inefficient, became a reality for most of us. Now, many don’t want to go back. To move forward, we will have to adapt to this new virtual work environment.
The experts all agreed: If remote work is here to stay, we will have to address the interpersonal concerns involved. How do we encourage networking among new hires remotely? How do we maintain a cohesive culture between in-person and remote hires? How do we keep remote workers engaged? These are the questions leaders everywhere must consider. It will be important to find a balance that allows connection to thrive as we strive to redefine the workplace for the future.
This roundtable was a great opportunity for public service leaders to share their ideas and hear new perspectives on some very timely topics. The discussion showed that many government workers in completely different sectors and positions face similar obstacles and have similar goals for the future. Pega looks forward to hosting more of these events to help facilitate discussion, idea sharing, and thought leadership.