- 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 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:
1. Adopt dynamic workforce planning. Take a longer-term view of capacity and capability needs and creating strategies to access skills.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
Arnauld Bertrand, EY Global Government Consulting Leader, says:
“During the pandemic we were offered a glimpse of the potential of the digital state and how it could deliver for citizens. Working from home became the norm and more services were moved online. In a post-pandemic world, we must not allow this momentum to be lost. The data shows that governments understand there is more to be done, but there remain many barriers to success.
“To truly embrace a digital government and deliver for citizens we collectively must continue to help build future-fit public sector organizations with digitally aware leaders and a plan for building the right capacity, skills, culture and employee experience. These will need to be encouraged and developed across the public services with new ways of working and new systems. If they don’t, opportunities to improve services through harnessing data and technology will be lost. The chance to individualize and target services will be squandered – and with it the ability to better allocate taxpayer resources and deliver maximum benefits as and where needed. Most concerningly, society’s most vulnerable people will suffer if public services deteriorate due to inadequate capacity or skill levels. It all hinges on getting in the right people with the right skills.”
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.
Shalinder Bakshi, EY Global People Advisory Services Leader, Government & Infrastructure, says:
“The opportunity here is massive and if governments get it right they will be rewarded with a more efficient state, slicker services and most importantly, happier citizens. That being the case, the stakes are high. Governments need to urgently seize the opportunity to reconfigure the workforce to attract, retain and motivate the skilled employees they need. It is also essential that they put human skills at the center of their digital transformation. Data and technology do not get you very far without the buy-in and skills to go alongside them.
“Our framework outlines vital areas for transformation, but it is important to realize that these actions are not linear. They work together holistically – all at once and one at a time. While it is of utmost importance governments make these changes, there are examples of governments a step ahead of their peers, excelling in their digital transformation providing opportunities to learn from their progress.”
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.
Bertrand says: “When it comes to offering a job with purpose, governments are at a distinct advantage; and it is an opportunity they can seize. The job of the public sector is to provide better lives for citizens. In the ongoing quest for talent across all sectors, this is a unique element to civil servant roles, which governments should be putting front and center when it comes to recruitment. However, without using technology to offer a strong work/life balance, a compelling career path and clear pathways to train their workforce to become more technologically literate, they run the risk of failing to retain recruits who want to deliver the best for citizens.”
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