The pandemic has left a lasting legacy across workforces, shaking up traditional working norms and accelerating digital transformation across private and public sectors. New and emerging technologies play an important part in post-pandemic recovery, from novel digital public services to new ways of working within government – from data gathering and analysis to automating routine business functions in Finance and HR.
When it comes to public sector digital transformation, we are at a crucial point, with the decisions made now shaping society in the long term. Importantly, the drive towards end to end back office and front office business processes has the power to transform how the public sector’s greatest resource – its people – is supported to thrive in this new paradigm. When recruitment and retention are an increasing challenge, we explore how technology can shape a new public sector experience for its people.
1 – Start by listening
Investing in digital infrastructure supports agile working, better information sharing and data-driven decision making. This is important when employee engagement and retention remain key challenges for many public sector organisations. Our research into how public sector workers are embracing the hybrid working dynamic, shows that staff feel more engaged when they are listened to and their needs considered. It is therefore essential that public sector leaders have insight into the reality of their workers’ experiences.
Investing in Experience Management technologies can help bridge insights when leveraging sentiment data that captures employee concerns and identify issues that need to be addressed with operational and business process data. Using data insights, HR and business leaders can deeply understand the workforce, their needs and respond quickly to issues, demonstrating listening and response. This also enables leaders and managers to better communicate to prospecting talent in the marketplace as to why they should choose to work at their organisation.
2 – Supporting employee wellbeing
Similarly, work/life harmony is crucial for employee wellbeing. However, with remote and hybrid working here to stay, public sector leaders must establish effective mechanisms for understanding and maintaining employee wellbeing even when working at a distance. Technology can provide a much-needed window on the state of the workforce’s wellbeing.
By investing in data analytics and digital solutions that empower public sector leaders to understand their workforce better, it is possible to target support and interventions where necessary. For example, establishing clear data benchmarks allows management to make changes like adjusting staffing levels, training workers for new skills and assessing their talents and interests.
Digital solutions can also make it easier to identify which employees are most at risk of issues such as fatigue, burnout or stress, providing insight that can help managers intervene early, redistribute work and reward employees for going above and beyond.
3 – Collaboration made easy
Over the pandemic digital tools have become the bedrock of public sector working. In fact, our survey found 70 percent of public sector workers said digital collaboration tools had a positive impact on their performance. However, as the number of digital tools increases, the complexity of managing multiple collaboration platforms can pose operational challenges that undermine productivity. Now, more than ever, public sector organisations must focus on streamlining digital collaboration so that employees are supported to work together seamlessly, reducing administrative burden and providing new opportunities for flexible working models.
For example, organisations can consider creating a single digital workplace platform that combines multiple work applications into one environment by seamlessly connecting applications from different vendors. This enables employees to access all collaboration tools from a single touch point, with personalised tools that support them to do their best work.
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Further, by integrating AI capabilities into work collaboration apps teams can benefit from intelligent filtering of information and personalised recommendations that can improve work performance.
4 – Continuous learning in the digital age
Over nine in ten employees say they would stay longer in a position where the organisation was invested in career development. Employees are motivated by meaningful work that provides growth opportunities. Technology can support organisations to build rewarding cultures that emphasise continuous learning. At a time of flux, with roles changing and technology playing a larger part in all work areas, upskilling and reskilling employees can make it easier to transfer talent across different departments to meet emerging HR needs.
It is essential that employees have easy access to learning and development opportunities that match their needs. Using data insights, it is possible to provide personalised opportunities for employee development and growth, and to match this with the needs of the business through an opportunity marketplace. Supporting learning can include digital tools to encourage remote training and development. It can also include knowledge sharing through digital collaboration to maximise employee engagement and productivity and strengthen human connection.
Downturn, recession and recruitment freezes; why now?
The public sector would be nothing without the dedicated people that deliver vital services every day. Coming out of the pandemic, there are new challenges for this workforce. Rising inflation has pushed the UK economy into a downturn and with the spectre of recession, public sector services and their employees will undoubtedly feel the impact. In fact, the UK government has announced a freeze on recruitment to reduce the number of civil servants by 20 percent.
Fewer resources and reduced capacity will have a knock-on effect on those employed in the public sector, who have already reported a significant drop in their mental health during the pandemic.
Within this landscape, it is all the more important that the public sector has the right people to help steer through turbulent times. Seeking ways to ensure staff feel motivated and supported is essential, not only to ensure retention of experienced staff but, as the University of Warwick found, if staff feel happy and motivated, they are much more likely to deliver better services.
While the public sector cannot directly compete with the private sector’s competitive renumeration, it can focus on providing seamless, connected and collaborative employee experiences. It can also provide the one competitive differentiator that the private sector can’t offer, and that is purpose, the purpose to serve and support us citizens in our greatest need, and at the same time providing employees with fulfilling and enriched career opportunities. Investing in workplace transformation demonstrates the true value of this essential workforce, with today’s digital technologies opening the door to an elevated experience across the public sector.
Satpal Biant is head of public services, SAP UK&I