Global public services are at a pivotal moment. The same agencies and departments that are delivering on the public mission of preventing, eradicating, and recovering from the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, have also been under long-term talent stress. Incremental approaches to improving government as an employer cannot withhold the immediate pressures of the pandemic. What comes after the pandemic will be a crucial opportunity for fast-tracking innovations in human capital. That includes building on the innovations arising from working during a crisis, capitalizing on a renewed interest in public service, and anticipating austerity following the economic downturn. These all make every human resource decision that much more important. Accenture’s research comes at a very timely moment to understand the current experience of the public sector workforce.
At a high level, we found that public service was under stress: public service was recommended the least to peers of all sixteen industries evaluated. Many executives pointed to a lack of investment in people development and technologies. Three critical areas for interventions emerged to improve government as a career of choice, including: employer brand, employee experience, and future skills.
Focusing on the theme of employer brand, our surveys found that working in a ‘Purpose’ industry (the prospect of doing meaningful work that makes a positive difference to individuals/the community), differentiates public sector employment for job seekers. And yet, public service workers today are not feeling connected to the sense of mission which attracted them to the work in the first place. Without an understanding of their unique employer brand, public sector agencies will find it even harder to attract talent in high-demand critical skill areas.
There are some clear areas for improvement of the employee experience in public service. These include more flexible work arrangements, including remote work, and personalized career paths. The pandemic lockdowns dislodged many of the traditional barriers to flexible working, with remote work enabled by digital technologies becoming the default. The next step in improving employee experiences is to actively listen to workers’ feedback, formalize coaching experiences, and co-create an individualized worker experience in alignment with workers’ goals.
Top workplace changes in public service
Finally, governments sense that a major skills disruption is underway. In our survey, Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs) identified “Reskilling the Workforce” as the number one priority for the next three years. Intelligent technologies are already beginning to automate and augment public sector employees’ tasks to make meeting the public mission more effective and efficient. Not all jobs will be affected evenly though, so public sector leaders need to start planning now for investments in digitization, automation, and most importantly, training.
Now is the moment for bold transformation of public sector employment. In addition to long-standing labor force pressures, the very dynamic of employee-employer relations has also changed. In sharing this report, we hope that government employers around the world can set their priorities based upon this evidence and emulate the approaches of more mature organizations.
Top career changes in public service