Transforming State Government Workforce Is Critical to Improving Public Sector Adaptability and Response to Pandemic, According to Report From NASCA, NEOGOV and Accenture
Key Areas for Workforce Management Improvement Include Succession Planning, Training and Performance Management
State government workforces are being challenged by the pandemic to become more agile and adaptable and need greater focus on the fundamentals of strategic workforce management, according to a new report from the National Association of State Chief Administrators in collaboration with Accenture and NEOGOV.
The new report, JOB ONE 2020: Transforming State Government’s Workforce for Tomorrow, adds to 2019 research by NASCA, NEOGOV and Accenture on the skills gap. It provides examples from states that are already putting plans into motion to address rising workforce challenges and the uncertainties around recovery and future operating conditions. It also offers guidance for state leaders seeking to build more agile workforces and organizations and improve program outcomes.
“The pandemic has changed the nature of how we work, and it’s making state chief administrators rethink how we deploy our workforce, and how job roles will change in the future,” said Daniel Kim, NASCA President and Director of the California Department of General Services. “Now, workforce planning is pivotal to any public policy conversation we have. NASCA is shaping the national conversation on how state governments can attract talent and will help states prepare for the future of work by leveraging our greatest asset – our people.”
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Strategic workforce and succession planning, training and performance management are highlighted in the report as essential areas of focus for improving public sector adaptability and longer-term viability to thrive and meet employee and citizen expectations. However, the report reveals several challenges that could significantly impact whether many states are positioned to undertake what will be needed. Drawing on NEOGOV survey findings from February of 2020, the report identifies lack of workforce management “ownership” as a concern, with only one-fifth of respondents saying their agency centrally manages succession plans. Additionally concerning, the same survey found only 13% of surveyed state and local government employees and 7% of human resource directors agreed that training is “a good use of their time.” Less than half of respondents (48%) were satisfied with their organization’s support for advancing employees’ careers.
“So much of the data in this report is eye-opening. We have helped a number of states implement technology that helps them scale the upskilling of their workforce as well as improve their employees’ performance and advance their careers, but in compiling this research, we learned that many other states appear to be way behind,” said Shane Evangelist, CEO of NEOGOV.
The report includes best practice examples from states. Louisiana in 2016 undertook a planning effort that revealed key competencies for supervisors and launched efforts to build those competencies. Pennsylvania developed a retirement prediction model, to support the proactive development of succession plans. Tennessee has developed a statewide employee learning curriculum, a Leadership Academy and instituted a mentorship program.
“Building, attracting and supporting needed skills and talent for public service are among the most important things state government leaders can do,” said Ryan Oakes, who leads Accenture’s global public sector practice. “It is crucial to get the fundamentals right, and so we have focused on essential, basic guidance to help create a dynamic for advancing workforce capabilities at this critical time.”
According to the report, priorities for systematic improvement that have risen in importance during the pandemic and economic downturn and demand greater attention in many states should include:
Establishing workforce planning accountability – to define a clear line of responsibility and support management collaboration and deliberate consideration and follow-through on initiatives.
Redefining how work and services are delivered – to improve offerings, processes and delivery models while addressing challenges of attracting, developing and retaining needed skills and talents.
Prioritizing training, re-skilling and up-skilling – technological advances and the shift to remote working are opening opportunities to reimagine and reinvent training, offering new skills assessments and customization of in-classroom, on-the-job and virtual classroom training experiences to better address strategic workforce agendas, learning styles and individual needs.
Advancing organizational priorities with meaningful performance evaluations – to address employee productivity and expectations, and advance organization-wide workforce capabilities. Using performance evaluation to elevate employee aspirations and opportunities remains a key to-do for many states struggling to build workforce capabilities to meet new and emerging challenges.
Information and insights were drawn from a focus group conducted at the NASCA 2019 national conference and a working session at the NASCA 2020 virtual conference. Data cited is from a survey of 753 city, county and state government employees and 63 HR directors conducted by NEOGOV from December 2019 to February 2020. In-depth interviews with seven state and local government officials were conducted from November of 2019 to July of 2020.