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Tomorrow’s Workforce Is Outside of the (Cubicle) Box

I recently attended the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) conference held in Alexandria, Va. In the State IT Workforce session, I heard about some of the biggest challenges State CIOs and their teams are facing with the government IT workforce, including hiring new talent. Millennials and eventually Generation Z are our future workforce, and they are going to expect a work life or environment that mirrors how they have grown up: technology-led, mobile and flexible.

There are innovations in recruiting and hiring, advances in technology and collaborative culture shifts that are revolutionizing the government workforce. For instance, more and more government workers are enabled to work in the field, closer to constituents who receive services thanks to smart phone penetration and mobile applications. In fact, the penetration of smart phones and growth in the number of governments globally that have moved to digital government continues to increase. Yet, there is still work to be done, especially as we usher in a new generation of workers and many baby boomers inch closer to retirement, which was also recently discussed in the NASCIO survey, “State IT Workforce: Facing Reality with Innovation”. Some of the key takeaways and considerations include:

  1. Take steps to retain intellectual property. After comparing the 2015 survey results to a similar survey published back in 2011, the story is pretty dire: the number of state employees in the retirement zone could be approximately one third of the workforce. That’s a lot of knowledge possibly walking out the door.
  2. Invest in tomorrow’s workforce to backfill retiring employees. Work with colleges and universities to seed internship programs. These programs should include the role and importance of IT and security in government, and the students’ potential impact in these areas.
  3. Use new approaches to recruit talent. Consider placing focus on dedicated IT recruiters, new hiring practices, training and cross-training, sourcing bench talent and new job class creation. In one case, legislation was proposed to move to a “skills-based pay” structure. The survey indicated the top three attributes that attract new IT employees are: benefits packages, job stability and pension/retirement plans.
  4. Be open to new ways of doing things. Tomorrow’s talent pool is chock full of people who want to make an impact and be heard. Like most other organizations, government needs to recognize the talents and ideas of young people to create a culture that is ready to evolve.
  5. Seek external advice. Private sector collaboration and partnerships can help modernize government workforce approaches and close the skills gap. Look for ways to engage with them to identify high tech tools and learning strategies to engage and train today’s workforce.

In closing, published this week was the recent Internet Trends 2015 Report from tech analyst Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers. In it, the Millenials are described as “the largest generation in the workforce this year”, and some of the things they value most are flexible work hours, training and development. The acceleration of State workforce changes will only continue, but the good news is there is no shortage of innovative ways to address the challenges.

About the Author

Vice President, Xerox Public Sector. Lauren leads marketing and business development efforts addressing State and Local public sector audiences, and is a long-time member of NASCIO’s Corporate Leadership Council (CLC).