Rajesh Jaluka, Chief Technology Officer, Kyndryl US Public and Federal
Digital technology is now an integral part of our professional and personal lives. While a large majority of innovation and adoption has been led by the private sector, the Infrastructure Investment and Job Act (IIJA) is paving the way for federal, state, and local governments to employ digital technologies to modernize transportation, climate, utilities, construction etc.
At the same time, these technologies are evolving at a pace faster than we can re-skill our workforce, creating a skills gap. The economics of supply and demand are driving up the competition for talent, making it very difficult for government organizations who must compete with the private sector to attract and retain that talent. A comprehensive approach to address this challenge will be crucial for the success of IIJA programs. The state CIOs recognize this and have listed workforce as one of their top priorities: NASCIO State CIO Top 10 Priorities of 2022
Strategies to address the workforce challenges
- Flexible work environment. The forced experiment caused by the pandemic enabled workers to experience the benefits of a flexible work environment including the elimination of non-productive commutes that are not only time consuming but expensive, and the ability to work from any location and spend more time with family. While private sector will be quick to make the policy changes to allow some or full remote working, the government sector needs to offer similar flexibility.
- Reskill workforce. Identify gaps in the skills you need versus the current skills your workforce has. As an example, a cybersecurity risk assessment will help create a baseline understanding of an organization’s comprehensive risk profile. The risk profile will highlight areas where the organization needs to invest. Compare these to the capabilities of your current workforce to determine the gap and re-skilling requirements. Skill building can come through training programs, including degree programs in partnership with post-secondary education institutions.
- Create a pipeline to allow for a regular inflow of fresh workforce talent
- Partner with educators and students at secondary and post-secondary institutions to alter the perception that government technologies trail private sector businesses competing for talent.
- Consider scholarships and internships as they can also enhance the overall attractiveness of employee packages with governmental organizations.
- Embrace the churn. This sentiment was echoed by CIOs during Kyndryl’s Fourth Quarter CIO Expert Exchange. Instead of making an employee’s attrition a stressful experience, invest in a long-term relationship, keeping the door open for them to return.
- Modernize. Outdated infrastructure and systems can have a detrimental effect not just on the citizens you serve, but also your employees’ wellbeing. Ongoing investment in modernization is the foundation for future proofing technology but also critical to keep today’s workforce interested, engaged, and fulfilled with the work they do.
- Digital engagement. A cumbersome workflow, lack of collaboration tools, and layers of bureaucracy can lead to workforce frustration. Invest in modern tools and work practices to create an engaging employee experience.
- Leverage partners. While in-house knowledge workers have better insights to the functions and workflow of an organization, they may not yet have enough cycles with in-depth use cases. External partners have a large and diverse talent pool. Create a culture of sharing and co-creation where the in-house employees gain technical knowledge from the partners. In exchange, the partners gain business knowledge which they can apply, enabling a long-term, win-win partnership founded in trust.
These strategies will help in closing the workforce skills gap, that exists between private and public sectors, and usher us into the digital era.