Do you know what’s going on with your people? It’s a critical question that informs how work gets done in your organization. But it’s also a question that many of the government, higher education and nonprofit institutions that I work with can’t always answer—at least in the ways that help them meet the day-to-day needs of the people doing the work while making informed decisions about the future of the workforce.

The real need for real-time data

These organizations have always needed insight about the workforce to accomplish their mission. What positions are open? Where are the skills gaps? What does it all mean for recruiting? Asking and answering questions like these gets to the “who, what, when, why, and how” of doing the work of the people well. These are fundamentals that we’re talking about here. There’s nothing new about them.

Here’s what is new. The pandemic has created an imperative for real-time data to answer these and other questions that have never been posed before. You need insight not just about how people are working—but about how they’re doing. Where is remote work happening? Who is located in a virus hotspot? Who has been vaccinated? How is the team’s mental well-being? Is burnout a problem?

In our recent study of public service employees, we found that the emotional and purposeful part of their work is what truly drives them. This suggests to me that making well-being a priority in the workplace is not just the right thing to do, it’s helps your people realize their true potential at work.

That’s why understanding the implications of questions about how people are doing is essential. You must be able to access the right data, secure it, and have confidence in its integrity to interpret the data accurately and stand behind your decisions. The sensitivity of this kind of employee data makes this especially key. Employee privacy is at stake in a whole new way. The data must not only be secured from external threat actors, but from internal treats as well.

The pull of the data black hole

Many of the organizations I work with struggle to get a full view of employee data and extract value from it. This makes workforce planning very challenging. It also makes it hard to operate in a truly resilient way, which we all know is so important today. In fact, Gartner has found that organizational disruption is a significant challenge in government compared to other industries. 

The problem is that while everyone wants data, they don’t always want to share it. As a result, the data landscape is highly federated. Few decisionmakers have seamless, integrated access to the data sets they need to make real-time decisions. The image that comes to mind is of a black hole sucking in all the data into its gravitational pull. And in some cases, the struggle isn’t inaccessible workforce data. It’s workforce data that never existed in the first place.

Toward data-driven decisions

The push toward data-driven decision making is critical for reasons I’ve explored here and others too extensive to cover in this short blog. Suffice it to say that data-driven workforce decisions are critical for agencies today.

Addressing this issue takes a collection of actions, tools and even cultural shifts. There needs to be a uniform set of data structures that support the whole organization. These enable the free flow of information—right data to the right people at the right time—within the appropriate privacy and security parameters. Today’s advanced cloud-based platforms enable a new level of data visibility and security for public organizations to understand where their people are—and how to get them where they need to go.

Get the last mile right

I started this blog by asking a critical question about people. It’s only fitting that I end it with a parting thought about people. While technology has an undeniable role in an improved workforce experience for public agencies, it alone cannot solve the problem.

The people using these technology tools need education around how to get the most value from them—how to use data insights and how not to misinterpret them. Change management is everything here. It’s like that last mile in logistics. If it goes awry, the package never makes it to the front door. The same is true here. If people can’t make the most of technology tools, they’ll never get the workforce data insights they need. 

Let’s continue the conversation. Connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn and stay tuned for upcoming blogs.

Ryan Gaetz

Managing Director - Consulting, Accenture Workday Education & Government​ Lead

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