Top tips for public sector success

Nick Offin from Dynabook Northern Europe provides some top tips for the public sector to remain successful and respond to the rising challenges of 2022 and beyond.

Posted 4 August 2022 by Christine Horton

In the war for talent, budget and technological success, the public sector often finds themselves on the losing side. It has always been challenging for the government to attract young and tech-savvy professionals to the fold, raise enough funds to respond to internal and external threats, and instill trust in the general public.

However, amidst all of the disruption of the past two years, the need to do all of these things has become far more pressing. The world is facing enormous challenges in healthcare, economic downturns and climate-related disasters. In the IT world, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted an explosion in cyberattacks as web criminals preyed on people’s fears for lucrative gain. In 2020-21, 40 percent of all these attacks were directed at the public sector. In addition, the shift to remote or hybrid working has often not been easy, particularly with the added pressure of constrained budgets and a rapidly evolving workforce and technology market.

Accelerate digital transformation

Digital transformation in the private sector has clearly outpaced that of the public. Even before the pandemic, a survey of  1,200 government officials spanning over 70 countries found that nearly 70% said their digital transformation capabilities lagged behind the private sectors. In 2021, Accenture reported that 75 percent of public service leaders believed outdated technology was holding them back, despite understanding the importance of better technology architecture for overall success. What’s more, the lack of digital and technology skills is adding fuel to the fire. McKinsey estimates that by 2023, more than 8.6 million people across the EU-28 public sector won’t have the appropriate technology skills for organisational success.

Inaction however, is not an option. Delaying digital transformation will result in missed opportunities, and the technology landscape is changing rapidly. To keep up, the public sector has to be resilient and future-ready, or risk falling even more behind.  

Use the right tools

Employee devices are more than just a means to an end. While the public sector should prioritise open discussions around device expectations with employees, employers ultimately also need to take into account other core devices functional features like mobility, security, reliability and connectivity, in addition to form factor and design. Hybrid working is here to stay, so providing a degree of freedom through end-user devices is vital. For officials on the move in particular, the sector needs to be investing in lightweight and compact, yet powerful and secure devices.

Another thing to consider is regular device refreshes to ensure employees can enjoy the latest technologies, in order to avoid any unwanted disparity between personal and workplace technology.

To future-proof their employee engagement strategy and remain attractive to new and existing talent, it’s vital that the public sector adopts a new model for procuring and provisioning technology, particularly end-user devices, which involves their workforce from the early stages. In an industry where retaining talent is difficult, the stakes are particularly high, because skilled people are a precious commodity. To put it bluntly, they are the faces and voices of public organisations and their productivity propels the public sector forward wherever budgets cannot. In today’s digital era, enabling employees to choose the technology they want to use is one of the most important ways of retaining talent. Indeed, a recent Gensler Workplace Study found that 76 percent of employees say that having a choice of technology would positively impact their performance, while 60 percent also said it would likely affect their job satisfaction. If such a small gesture can have such an enormous impact, the public sector should do more to make this a reality.

Increase agility and adaptability

Strongly related to the importance of digital transformation, is the importance of agility and adaptability to maximise on opportunities. While the public sector is not generally known for its agility due to the nature of its structure and culture, there are steps they can take to mitigate this.

We all know that the public sector does not have the same resources as private, so being flexible can often be the defining factor that ensures they keep pace with an ever-changing technological landscape and growing demand from the citizens they serve. In fact, research by the McKinsey Agile Tribe shows that agile organisations have a 70 percent chance of being in the top quartile of organisational health – one of the best indicators of long-term performance.

The key to achieving agility is through methodical planning, standardised processes and procedures and better communication. This is because, welcoming change and being flexible enough to adjust to it is a key tenet of agility. This can be rough on an industry like the public sector, where plans can span 5-10 years, and making changes based on feedback is uncommon. As the public sector is often also hemmed in by rules and regulations, making the cultural shift towards greater flexibility and innovation can also be a challenge. But it isn’t impossible. Designing organisations with a stable backbone, and layering dynamic elements on top can nurture and eventually dissolve siloes and cross-functional teams. These can range from organisational apps to plug in as new opportunities arise, or establishing task forces that are primed to respond to changes as they happen. Providing employees with more flexible frameworks such as these can go a long way to nurturing their talent, and retaining it in times of crisis.

Outsource where appropriate

The economic advantages of outsourcing can be numerous, but this type of strategy has to applied carefully. With budgets restricted, some public sector organisations may find that they’d benefit from extra staff – but they can’t afford the expense of hiring and supporting more full-time employees. This slows down momentum and limits the transformation needed for organisational success. Outsourcing can be more affordable than building an in-house team, and a great way to gain access to fresh talent while keeping the core of your team focused on internal tasks.

The key advantage of outsourcing is that it means public sector employees can refocus and redirect themselves towards their top priority: serving the people. This is why outsourcing should be assigned to back-office tasks that save time, and allow employees to focus on their jobs and serving the general public.

The public sector is facing enormous challenges, and citizens and businesses alike are looking to their government leaders to help them navigate and emerge stronger from complex problems ranging from the climate crisis, to economic recovery after the pandemic. Staying strong, relevant and able to respond is more crucial than ever. A combination of accelerating technology transformation, using the right hardware, remaining flexible and open to change, and using the right partners to outsource is needed, in order to be able to answer the call to action.

Nick Offin is head of sales, marketing & operations at Dynabook Northern Europe (formerly Toshiba Europe).