How to Attract and Retain Tech Talent in Government Sector

Aging workforce, bureaucratic and hierarchical management models, and dynamic employee preferences – talent shortage and struggle to attract new talent has never been more difficult for the government sector.

High technical debt leads to skills shortages, especially in legacy support areas, which are not attractive to the new generation of the workforce. The lack of talent pipeline planning and succession planning is also now catching up with many government agencies worldwide as the workforce ages. Talented workforce is leaning more towards the private sector for their attractive pay policies, higher rewards, and more attractive employee benefits.

The war for talent is real and the government sector is struggling to find skilled workforce that can advance their digital transformation journey. To respond to these challenges, governments are globally applying eight strategies to win the contest on talent.

  • Accelerate Training and Development Through Academy Programs

Governments are scrambling to upskill and re-skill their civil servants not only to adopt new digital tools but also to support, maintain and use them productively. This means creating academy programs for both civil servants with both digital and nondigital background.

For example, initiate internships and apprenticeship programs, succession programs, knowledge transfer programs, digital academy, among others. Alongside, government CIOs need to consider programs that not only improve digital skills of their workforce, but also improve “digital literacy” of citizens.

  • Test Different Mobility and Flexible Work Models

One of the key learnings from the early days of the pandemic is the need for higher flexibility and mobility in the work environment. Given that so many regional factors around legislation and government structure impact definitions of flexibility, it is hard to identify one single flexible model across borders.

Government CIOs can try models such as shorter work weeks, location agnostic hybrid workplaces, etc. to identify the best fit.

  • Invest in Diversity and Inclusion

The government sector is not spared from the pressure for more diverse, equitable and inclusive environments, governments are increasing their efforts into attracting and retaining untapped talent.

CIOs can include revision of recruitment and hiring process to remove potential bias, creation of tailored programs to hire diverse talent, specific mentorship and sponsorship programs, and include targets for diversity hire – focused on improving the diversity, equity and inclusivity of the workforce.

  • Revise the Employment Value Proposition for Technology

Multigenerational workforce is no longer a private sector specific phenomenon. Expectations of this multigenerational and diverse workforce are evolving rapidly. To respond to these changes, several government entities are rethinking their employment value proposition, reinforcing the meaning of serving society and contributing to a better society.

For example, using EVP to understand employee preference for flexibility and using these metrics to further attract as well as retain talent.

  • Invest in Partnerships and Ecosystems

Explore partnerships with both private and public entities — educational institutions, ministries, departments, agencies, LGAs, and NGOs that can potentially elevate the standard and quality of learning. Government CIOs can use these partnerships to build supporting ecosystems that promote knowledge sharing and collaboration.

  • Reform Human Capital Management Systems

Government organizations need to modernize their legacy HCM systems to compete with the private sector over talent. For example, reforming the pay system, reducing complexity, transforming the background investigation process to improve timelines.

Improving HCM can positively impact employee experience. It has the potential to enable private partnerships which later benefit learning and development of employees.

  • Changes to Job Classification and Wages

Salary is one of the key competing factors between private and public sector roles. The private sector is generally considered a better paying one than the later. However, this is no longer completely true. In order to attract better talent, it is important that the monetary compensation is attractive.

This is not an easy task in the public sector, but those who have been able to work this level have been doing so for specialized and scarce talent in digital and tech.

  • Join Forces and Apply a Whole of Enterprise Approach

As the competition for digital talent rages, governments are realizing that “together they are more”. So, instead of competing for talent individually, they are creating whole enterprise workforce strategies and initiatives to recruit and retain digital/technology professionals for the government.

For example, putting together a centralized platform to communicate their EVP and connect government recruiters with digital talent — a centralized marketplace.

To prepare for the future of work, government CIOs will need to develop a holistic strategy. One that maintains a good balance of flexibility, independence, rapid growth and above all – a human centric approach.

Authored by Gabriela Vogel, Senior Research Director at Gartner

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