The other day I was sitting in my home office, getting ready to jump onto a Zoom meeting when I got a text from a friend of mine in the public sector. This friend was asking if I had a spare laptop that could run Windows 10, as she was currently sharing a laptop with her coworker and both needed to work from home during the pandemic. This scenario – and other similar challenges I’ve heard or read about during the COVID-19 situation – further underscores the need for public sector organizations to accelerate their digital transformation for the modern age.
As tech adoption in the public sector is low compared to other industries, many agencies will be facing significant workforce challenges during the pandemic. At a time where the need for public services is at an all-time high, many public sector employees are likely unable to work at their full capacity, or, worse, are forced to go into the office, despite shelter-in-place mandates, to access the tools needed for their jobs.
Now is a great time to start exploring how technology can support the public sector workforce, both during the current crisis and beyond. To this end, I’ve compiled some resources and tips to help organizations take action today, and start planning for the future.
Many public sector organizations are navigating a quick transition to mass remote work, while simultaneously seeing increased demand for service from citizens. Leaders will need to balance delivering on the needs of citizens with ensuring their own employees are set up for success and able to cope with the additional stress they’re under.
Here are a few steps you can take right now to care for your workforce and enable their best work to support citizens:
The COVID-19 pandemic has created constantly changing conditions. The public sector has many front-line workers who are playing an essential role in community safety and economic support, and leaders need access to accurate, up-to-date information to monitor their safety and ensure continuity of service to citizens. A tool like Dayforce Employee Safety Monitoring can help organizations track employees who are working from home, or performing critical functions at the office or on-site, and communicate with speed and accuracy.
Public sector agencies should work quickly to enhance the technology available to support remote work, as not all will have this set up. Security will also be of paramount importance and should be considered when selecting and implementing new technologies. Additionally, you’ll need to train and prepare your workforce to use the technology successfully, while advising them on how to collaborate successfully through remote work. Some agencies will also need to revisit existing policies on remote work to facilitate the change.
Connecting the workforce through technology is just one part of the equation when it comes to successfully working remotely. Organizations also need to consider the emotional toll the workforce is facing and put practices in place at the manager and leadership level to support employees’ engagement and emotional well-being. Public sector organizations that have more traditional workplace structures may also want to consider relaxing scheduling protocols to give employees more flexibility during this difficult time.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the public sector are sure to last far beyond the acute stage we’re in today. Unprecedented stimulus spending means there will be increased pressure on public sector organizations to do even more with even less budget than before. Rather than pushing back digital workforce transformation, the time is now to prioritize it. Adopting new technologies can help organizations become more efficient and effective in how they serve citizens.
Here are a few ways that public sector leaders can leverage technology to prepare for the future of work – and to be ready for the next time a crisis hits:
One of the major ways public sector organizations can improve workforce efficiency is to start making decisions based on real data. Access to the right data arms leaders and managers with deep insights into organizational efficiency, progress toward goals, and productivity. Having this information helps managers make cost-effective labor decisions, while also supporting business continuity planning. Data paves the way for agility and forward-looking leadership, which is critical not only in times of crisis, but in navigating the rapid pace of change in the world today.
Leaner times call for a reorganization of labor away from repetitive, lower-value tasks and onto delivering better outcomes for citizens. Technology systems that automate work help organizations focus on their core mandates – and that includes automating people processes. Workforce management technology helps managers spend less time on scheduling and processing employee requests, for example, and more time on coaching and career development. Recruitment tools help HR teams focus on the best candidates and get them in the door faster, while technology-enabled employee onboarding drives faster productivity in new hires. The result is a more qualified, more efficient workforce that is ready to serve the needs of citizens.
Technology tools that enable and encourage workforce communication, collaboration, and information sharing are important during times of stability, as well as during a crisis. Creating a digital setting for this type of workforce interaction means that collaboration can continue regardless of where employees are physically. It can also become an important channel for knowledge transfer between employees, which will be necessary to support business continuity as large numbers of the public sector workforce is at or reaching retirement age.
The importance of public sector organizations is accentuated in times of crisis: whether it is a teacher who is now teaching a class of students through their laptop or a food inspector who continues to protect the food supply chain, the public sector steps up. More than ever before, we must support additional technology investment in the public sector to ensure our public institutions become technology leaders, not laggards. These investments are not a “nice to have” but are critical to ensuring public sector organizations continue to deliver high-value outcomes for citizens.