With the popularity of applications like Uber and platforms like Netflix, digitally enabled public service is becoming a base-level expectation of citizens for their government. Citizens’ expectations are higher than ever, and they want immediate responses, ease of interaction with government agencies as well as operational efficiency. Technology is also changing the way government is recruiting, training and retaining the federal workforce. At a recent Skillsoft event, Perspectives 2018, numerous experts discussed common challenges of implementing a successful digital transformation and how agencies can leverage the latest technologies to build the federal workforce of the future.
Aspects of a Successful Transformation
Today, the government has numerous opportunities to rethink a lot of processes. “[In government] change is the only constant,” Domnic Delmolino, Chief Technology Officer for Accenture Federal Services said. “Now, the change waves are faster and shorter than they’ve ever been.” The increasing pace of change matches recent innovations in technology, evolving expectations of employees and citizens, and an influx of new and younger employees.
This expert panel explored a few aspects of a successful digital transformation:
- John Wagner, Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner, US Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security
- Mika Cross, Federal Workplace Expert
- Dominic Delmolino, Chief Technology Officer, Accenture Federal Services
- Mark McMillan, Partner and founding leader of digital and value assurance practices, McKinsey
Top Digital Transformation Priorities
- Testing: Wagner highlighted the importance of rigorous testing when implementing a new process. “We need to be relentlessly self-critical,” he stressed. “We have to be flexible, but also obsessive over data and measurements. How are you tracking it to make sure that what you’re doing is successful? And what tweaks do you make to ensure corrections along the way?”
- Communication: “You have to meet people where they are,” Delmolino advised. “Some will transform at different paces and others may not be ready yet.” Delmolino says that having a communication plan in place within the agency is critical to ensure a smooth digital transformation. “Agencies need to share what works and what doesn’t work in a safe and supportive way.”
- Ability to take on numerous tasks: McMillan noted that digital transformation is a long and continuous process that may seem never-ending due to its multi-faceted nature. “Progress is achievable, but it means that you are fighting a battle on many different fronts,” he explained. “As you build momentum, you can take on each of the roadblocks and barriers one at a time and recognize that you may not solve it all perfectly.”
The Role of Employees in Digital Transformation
Government employees and applicants are changing, and agencies are beginning to see an influx of people who are excited about innovation. “There are a limited number of people who can implement digital technology, but we have seen an increase in the people that are capable of learning,” Delmolino said.
According to Cross, both older and younger generations have the appetite to refresh their skills and round out competencies. “We’re noting a trend that people are embracing the value of becoming data scientists,” Cross said. “There’s a huge appetite to use data to increase efficacy of public service delivery.”
In order to capitalize on the potential of these types of employees, agencies need to invest more in the workforce. “Agencies forget to turn things inward and forget to include employees that have to be a part of digital transformation in order to affect long-term change. They need to be a part of it and have a voice,” Cross said.
Cross explained that agencies should invest in the application and interviewing process in order to ensure that candidates are capable of learning and adjusting in the face of digital transformation. “Getting the right kind of hires in the door is extremely important. To do that, there has to be investment into candidate assessment, realistic job previews and opportunities for candidates with potential,” Cross said. If the skills are assessed early on, employee training and development processes can progress toward enhanced productivity.”
The Role of Technology in Training
In an interview with GovLoop, Dan Caporale, Chairman and Founder of Hire our Heroes (a staffing firm dedicated to veterans) discussed how he used digital services to create an organization that offers career services to veterans. The idea for the organization came along when Caporale struggled to find job opportunities with his skillset after leaving the military.
“The government didn’t give the deserved attention to veterans after they left service,” Caporale said. “The idea behind Hire our Heroes was that if we could help position veterans for success, we were already achieving our mission. The idea is to shape, mold and mentor veterans through education.”
Hire our Heroes offers career-based training and education through Percipio- an online platform that offers access to free audio books and online courses. Hire our Heroes hosts 10 to 15 career tracks that lead veterans through certifications and training for in-demand skills related to cybersecurity and government. Veterans also have unlimited, free access to the programs and trainings at any time. “You can access trainings from every device, it’s basically like having a classroom in your pocket,” Caporale explained. “Veterans appreciate the ease of use, accessibility and content provided.”
Hire Our Heroes hosts a veteran job board on their website that links veterans to new opportunities. According to Caporale, the newly trained veterans are able to help government fill the digital skills gap. “We see a lot of interest in entering the IT space,” Caporale said. “Veterans make good employees because they always embrace continuous learning. They always have a mindset of exploring bigger and better things.”
Ultimately, staying ahead of the wave of digital transformation will require innovating thinking, the right technology investments and new ways of training and recruiting the future federal workforce. But through the right learning and talent platforms, federal government can continue to deliver, and even exceed expectations for both citizens and employees.
I have always felt that education is the foundation for success, especially in government.