- Just 7% of government leaders feel their organization has met its digital transformation goals
- Digitalization is being held back by a lack of capabilities and outmoded ways of working
- Struggle to retain existing digital talent is among the top three barriers to delivering better public services
Governments around the world are at risk of failing citizens through lack of digitalization, according to EY research presented in a new report: “How can government workers and technology align to serve future citizens?”. Less than one in ten (7%) government leader respondents believe that their organization has achieved their digital transformation goals; and the momentum for digitalization that built up during the pandemic is in danger of being lost.
The report on the challenges of the digital transformation of the public sector was presented during an event held under the auspices of the Deputy Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digital Policy, on Thursday 6 April at the Filoxenia Conference Center. The event organised by EY included an overview of the Digital State Workforce report findings, global and regional activation examples and success stories and a discussion of the current condition and the future of the public sector in Cyprus.
Philippos Hadjizacharias, Deputy Minister of Research, Innovation and Digital Policy delivered a welcome address. This was followed by a panel discussion with the participation of Irene Piki, Deputy Minister to the President, Dr. Stelios Himonas, Permanent Secretary of the Deputy Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digital Policy, Elena Economidou Azina, Director of Public Administration & Personnel Department, Ministry of Finance, George Tziortzis, Partner, Head of Consulting Services, EY Cyprus, and Panayiotis Thrasyvoulou, Partner, Head of People Advisory Services, EY Cyprus.
The new report indicates that responding government workforces are ill-prepared to capitalize on the enormous potential benefits of digitalization. This includes improving access to digital services; using data analytics to predict when vulnerable people will need more assistance; and increasing efficiency across the board.
Many respondents find themselves constrained by a combination of issues including a lack of digitally aware leaders; a lack of digital and data skills and the training to access them; and an organizational culture that is reactive and uninspiring, hampering the efforts to attract the best digital talent. Coupled with the fact that 38% of Gen Z government worker respondents say they plan to leave their jobs in the next 12 months, governments must also meet the challenge of retaining the digitally literate talent they already possess, as an aging public sector workforce nears retirement.
While several global trends are converging to disrupt governments, these present challenges and also significant opportunities for the digital transformation of the public sector. In order to tackle these issues, the report recommends a framework of four key actions for governments to follow when looking to create a workforce equipped for the future:
- Adopt dynamic workforce planning. Take a longer-term view of capacity and capability needs and creating strategies to access skills.
- Scale digital capabilities. Upskilling or reskill existing employees, sourcing fresh talent and emphasize purposeful careers to rebrand the public sector to make it more attractive.
- Foster digital leadership and culture. Managing digital transformation requires leaders who can challenge the status quo, articulating a compelling vision for change while reassuring and educating employees on a digital mindset.
- Reimagine the employee experience. Create tailored employee experience that treats every worker as a unique individual, offering structured career paths to help workers progress and fulfil their career ambitions.
EY analysis shows that citizens now expect levels of quality, speed and convenience on a par with the private sector, with immediate, seamless access to services through a variety of channels. Citizens expect digital to improve the way they conduct many aspects of their lives – and they expect governments to keep up.
Governments are responding by trying to become more focused on the needs of citizens. According to EY research, 43% of government respondents rank a focus on the customer/citizen experience as one of the top three factors driving successful transformation. This calls for better use of technology and data to understand people’s needs and circumstances, as well as new skills such as user experience research and design.
Employees also want a digital workplace that keeps pace with their personal experience and feel that governments are not doing enough. The 2022 EY Work Reimagined Survey shows 63% of respondents believe extensive or moderate changes are needed to enhance their workplace digital tools and technologies.
Millennials and Gen Z are more likely to favor shorter job tenures and to seek greater purpose and fulfillment, with 63% of Gen Z public sector employee respondents saying they value a clear connection between their job and the overall purpose of the organization above monetary compensation. Meanwhile, people of all ages want a healthier work/life balance. Attracting and retaining younger workers is especially important given that many public workers are approaching retirement (nearly one-third of central government workers in the OECD are over 55) and the 2022 EY Work Reimagined Survey shows that 29% of government worker respondents will likely leave their job in the next 12 months, rising to 38% for those in Gen Z.
Commenting on the report findings, George Tziortzis, Partner, Head of Consulting Services at EY Cyprus, said: “The experience of the pandemic has clearly shown that the digitalisation of the state is the only way forward to upgrade the level of services and improve citizens’ experience, while also reducing costs. To capitalize on this opportunity, we need a change in culture and a digitally aware leadership. More importantly, the state needs to attract and motivate talent with the required skills and sense of purpose. This will allow the public sector to become more efficient, to individualize and target services and to improve the lives of its citizens.”
Panayiotis Thrasyvoulou, Partner, Head of People Advisory Services at EY Cyprus, also commented: “Digitalisation offers a unique opportunity for the state to improve services through harnessing data, deliver a seamless and modern experience to citizens, but also reduce costs and better allocate resources where needed. Our report reveals that progress so far is limited, due to a number of reasons, including a workforce that lacks the necessary digital and data skills, limited training opportunities, an uninspiring organizational culture, and the absence of digitally aware leaders. The event organised by EY presented the opportunity to discuss with government officials our recommendations which will help the state to rise to the challenge and deliver the level of services that citizens and taxpayers have come to expect.”
Download the full report here.