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Building the social workforce of tomorrow


September 20, 2022

If you’ve ever needed medical attention, relied on carers to support a family member or sent a child off to their first day of school, it’s likely you’ve felt indebted to the people who provide these services. But while the importance of what our colleague Mary Kate Morley Ryan calls the caring economy is widely acknowledged, it is still substantially under-resourced around the world. That’s a big problem now with socio-economic conditions leading to rising inequality and an uneven distribution of resources, but will become an even bigger problem in the years to come. We’re going to need more people than ever working to support a rapidly growing, increasingly unequal and aging population.

To really get under the skin of this challenge, Accenture recently collaborated with the World Economic Forum (WEF) on a new report: Jobs of Tomorrow. The report highlights a significant and growing shortfall in what it terms social jobs — those in education, healthcare and care. But the good news is that the report also highlights the huge returns — both economic and societal — that investment in these social jobs can deliver. WEF analysis in the US alone shows that a $1.3 trillion investment could result in a $3.1 trillion boost to GDP, as well as creating 10 million new social jobs.

There are clear benefits within reach if governments and public service agencies, working with the private sector and citizens, take action to make the right investments, retain and attract new talent and improve the worker experience in the social sector. In this blog, we use our experience in social services and education to set out three practical steps that we believe every government and agency should consider as they plan for this future.

1. Meet employee needs beyond the pay packet

To make social jobs more attractive for new and existing employees, it’s important for public service employers to address issues such as wages and working conditions. But it’s equally, if not more, crucial that they recognize that these jobs need to be both better and different from how they are today. Employee expectations for those who work in social jobs have changed dramatically.

Accenture research shows that public service employees are looking for much more than a regular pay check. They’re looking to their employers to leave them ‘net better off’. That means supporting them across a spectrum of needs, only one of which is financial. People want a clear sense of purpose – 86% of public sector workers feel their work aligns with the desire to do something meaningful and worthwhile.1 They want to feel that they belong and are supported emotionally, mentally and physically, as well as with skills development and opportunities to advance and realize their full potential. Getting these non-financial needs right will not only provide existing employees with the holistic support they need, it will also be critical in the fight for talent.

Public service leaders must rethink how their organization supports the whole, authentic person in every single role from frontline to back office. Ask the question, what are your people’s needs and how well are they met today?

2. Use technology to deliver better jobs and better care

It’s long been discussed how automation can free up precious time for those in social jobs, enabling them to focus on the most human, impactful and rewarding aspects of their jobs. But it’s becoming increasingly recognized that agencies can also use intelligent technologies to gain trapped insights into matching skills to roles, beyond the abilities of what humans can do alone. And use the same approach to identify where skills augmentation can help employees progress in their careers. The right skills development and support is essential to making existing jobs more fulfilling and to help attract the next generation of talent to public service roles.

New tools for learning and development, such as augmented and virtual reality (VR), can also help those in social jobs to acquire the confidence to operate in challenging situations that would otherwise take years of fieldwork. Accenture’s Metaverse-based VR solution — AVEnueS — is already helping social care workers develop the skills and decision-making capabilities they need to manage potentially distressing scenarios in a safe but highly realistic virtual environment.

Equally vital is making sure that workers across different agencies can access and share information seamlessly to address the ‘whole’ needs of the people they support, subject to data privacy laws. For example, a student struggling to focus in the classroom may be tired because they are also a primary caregiver for a relative at home. Using a data-driven government approach and finding intelligent mechanisms for sharing these kinds of insights between agencies would not only benefit citizens, it would allow employees to focus on the things that make the most difference.

Agencies need to explore how technology can help people to do their jobs better, smarter and in a way that makes them feel valued and valuable. What new skills will they need to make the most of these new technologies?

3. Explore the frontiers of new technologies

Recent Accenture research shows that what citizens really want is simplicity, humanity and security when it comes to interacting with public service agencies – they aren’t looking for agencies to be the next Amazon. Technology, when designed with the end-user in mind, can help to achieve these aims. The needs and capabilities of those who use public services are vast, and what’s most important is getting individuals the right information, at the right time, through the right channel, for them.

That doesn’t mean, however, that there isn’t interest in using new technologies to improve experiences. In fact, our recent Higher Education lens on the Accenture Technology Vision 2022 highlights that 72% of higher education executives are already piloting or using VR capabilities. And when it comes to the Metaverse continuum (a spectrum of digitally enhanced worlds, realities and business models), the opportunities for improving the student experience are endless, from virtual campus tours to AI advisors.

To provide citizens and students with the services they need, agencies need to explore which emerging technologies hold the greatest promise, and make sure their people are properly trained and supported when using them to deliver services. How can you design services that meet the needs of your people and those you serve?

Rewarding work that matters

The demand for social jobs is only trending in one direction. Investment is going to be essential to provide the services and support, from childcare to pensions, that people require to lead fulfilling lives. As public service leaders move to meet this imperative, they need to carefully consider how they can target investments for maximum impact — both for the people they serve and the people they employ.

We’d love to hear from you about how you are already addressing the challenges raised. Please reach out to us to continue the conversation.


Rainer Binder

Global Social Services Lead