President Biden’s $6.9 trillion budget proposal for FY24 reaffirms the administration’s commitment to the first priority of the President’s Management Agenda — strengthening and empowering the federal workforce. To compete with the private sector for talent amid nationwide staffing shortages, the budget and the PMA encourage federal agencies to simplify hiring processes, create more diverse early-career pipelines and offer additional flexibility and benefits.

With federal employee satisfaction at a historic low, 30% of the federal workforce poised to retire in the next five years, and just 7% of federal workers under 30 years old, it’s evident that there is an employee experience crisis in the federal government. Compounding this issue is the fact that the average time to hire for government agencies is 98 days.

The American people rely upon the dedicated efforts of government employees for critical services such as healthcare, housing, transportation and national security. The reciprocal relationship between positive EX and improved citizen experience (CX) is apparent, and therefore we must equip federal workers with the best possible tools to deliver on the government mission. Each citizen’s engagement with a federal institution is an opportunity to build trust in government — which has steadily declined for the past two decades — and ultimately bolster faith in the foundational principles of American democracy.

Tangible improvements to EX should be founded in a holistic approach that supports public servants throughout their entire career. From recruitment to retirement, the federal government should be using 21st-century resources to foster the best possible employee experiences.

Recruitment, hiring and onboarding

The initial phase of end-to-end EX begins well before the employee’s first day. As explained by the PMA, a core aspect of strengthening and empowering the federal workforce is to “attract and hire the most qualified employees, who reflect the diversity of our country, in the right roles across the federal government.”

To recruit and onboard a diverse pool of talented candidates, federal agencies must modernize their hiring practices. Agencies should seek to expand their digital reach, build brand awareness, and develop inclusive site experiences to maximize their pool of potential applicants. In particular, many young folks report that they are unaware of available government job opportunities.

To fill open positions that have specific requirements, agencies can attract relevant applicants by targeting talent across various digital channels. With modern IT solutions, personalized experiences can be delivered across all devices, which keeps candidates engaged and informed. Time-to-hire should also be a critical priority for agencies to reduce the risk of losing applicants to other, faster opportunities.

Agencies can accelerate the hiring process by utilizing advanced digital tools and automation for administrative tasks like scheduled communications, document generation and digital signatures. Beyond the value of time savings, effective onboarding processes can improve new hire retention by up to 82%. Once the right candidate is welcomed into their new role, it’s imperative to support their professional development and success.

Retention and empowerment

Retention and empowerment are key strategic objectives of the PMA and are echoed in the FY24 budget proposal. The administration recognizes the importance of ensuring federal employees are engaged and heard, with opportunities to learn and thrive throughout their careers.

Government organizations can capitalize on available technology to better support their workforce. Agencies can boost employee engagement by implementing an intranet to keep employees informed and ensure the information they need is easily accessible. The intranet can also be customized based on the employee’s geographic location, role and job function to ensure it’s as relevant and useful as possible for each individual.

Agencies can also leverage modern digital tools to enable collaboration among employees and enhance performance. Automation solutions that reduce the administrative burden on federal workers not only increase productivity and enhance citizen service, but also improve employee satisfaction and retention rates.

Another efficient way to elevate EX is to provide ample professional development opportunities and avenues for advancement. Employees can receive personalized career planning, training content and role recommendations based on their goals. And after a prosperous career, it inevitably comes time for off-boarding.

Retirement and life-long relationships

To ensure employees who have dedicated years to public service are well supported as they transition out of their government career, it’s critical to make retirement resources easily accessible and the off-boarding process as efficient as possible. Digitizing and automating necessary paperwork can save time for employees and retirees alike while keeping all parties informed.

Seamless off-boarding experiences promote positive life-long relationships. This last impression for employees may influence their likelihood to recommend federal jobs to their network and can affect the overall public perception of government careers. In this way, the employee experience is cyclical rather than linear.

Modern IT solutions have boundless potential to revolutionize the federal employee experience. However, each agency and its personnel have unique needs and requirements. To optimize the value of digital transformation, agencies should consult trusted government partners to identify the ideal implementation plan.

While EX is undoubtedly an urgent issue, any upgrades must be made strategically and intentionally to maximize value. As noted by Veronica Hinton, OPM’s principal deputy associate director for Employee Services, federal agencies often struggle with “really taking time to do the needed strategic workforce planning.” She also stresses that investments in IT should also be as agile as possible to ensure resilience in the future.

With intentional and informed decision making, IT modernization initiatives among federal agencies can drastically improve EX, which will translate to a marked improvement in CX. Public servants deserve comprehensive support, and the American public deserves exceptional service — luckily, the two objectives can both be achieved by harnessing the power of 21st-century technology.

Tanya Chowdhury is Public Sector Engagement Manager, Digital Strategy Group, at Adobe. James Hanson is Head of Industry Strategy, Public Sector Digital Experience, at Adobe

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This article is an Op-Ed and the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you would like to respond, or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please email C4ISRNET and Federal Times Senior Managing Editor Cary O’Reilly.

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