Time to think differently about talent
Call it the “Gray Wave,” the “Silver Reservoir,” or any other metaphor for Baby Boomers, it’s no secret that a significant number of the workforce is getting older. In the public sector in particular, this is having an impact as over 31% of their current workers are approaching retirement eligibility.
Gen Xers ready to fill that vacuum only make up 44% of public sector workers and Millennials are even less inclined to work for local, state or federal government.
The public sector is facing two primary crises: the need for talent and the accelerating demand for efficiency, both from budgetary constraints as well as from customers.
Fortunately, there is one solution that will address both: technology. But not just any technology: it’s going to take the kind that can close the gap between the old systems and new ones, address increased expectations from customers accustomed to a certain standard of service in the rest of their world, and provide employees with a sense of ownership that reaches beyond digital paper-pushing.
It’s going to take a combination of new technologies, techniques and behaviors.
Interesting jobs and increased efficiency
Budgetary constraints in the public sector have created an environment where teams do what they can with what they have. To increase efficiency, attract and keep younger talent and remain relevant in the public eye, government agencies need to rethink their technology approaches and ways of running their agencies. Mobility, digital workers, data analytics and intelligent automation (IA) are all vital elements that should be included in strategies to address the New World of Work.
Today, so much human capital is spent on administrative work, when it’s actually possible for digital workers to do it. Does that mean replacing the entire human workforce with a digital one? No – it means humans can focus where human interaction and ingenuity is needed. Leave the repetitive, time-consuming, tedious activities to digital workers and allow humans to spend time applying their skills where they are needed, doing projects the machines can’t.
Not only does digital processing make work life more interesting for employees, it also saves money. Those administrative tasks that take so much time? They need to get done, of course, but having digital workers perform them is less expensive. With the right types of automation, agencies can keep the people they have, but get more done and in ways more satisfying for employees and customers. And, new technical roles will also emerge as new opportunities, supported by a digital workforce, are identified. This results in the freedom to imagine new possibilities and the resources to implement them – which is key to attracting today’s mission-driven Millennial workers.
Change Can’t Wait
The proverbial clock was already ticking but if the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed anything, it’s that agencies can’t wait. The organizations that already had some degree of new technology in place were able to focus more on humans transitioning to working from home as automated processes kept running. Many, however, were left scrambling, the technology gaps even more visible than before.
The digital workforce kept working whether their human counterparts were in an office or at home. Humans, however, had to adapt, come up with new ways of working in an accelerated manner. More than ever, it became clear that the New World of Work is one that is constantly evolving, by design and by outside demand. One that needs people to chart that course, set strategy, make rapid decisions based on data and experience, and anticipate and respond to customers’ needs rather than spend most of their time doing repetitious administrative tasks.
Every day, the public sector is losing valuable knowledge and experienced people to retirement and/or more progressive business opportunities. To prepare for the undeniable talent gaps, agencies need to accelerate their adoption of new technologies and behaviors. Gen Xers and Millennials already have the basic technical skills to get started and can quickly adopt new ones. They’re ready. It’s time for public sector agencies to get started. Adaptation can help.