Immigration in the Age of #Social: The Empowered Civil Servant

Here is the second blog post on how the use of social media can lead to smarter immigration outcomes. You can find the first blog post here.

I love the discussion of the empowered civil servant. The way I like to think of it is that government has to find a way to operate in a less formal, but still official, way. Empowering civil servants to deal more often and more directly with citizens is definitely part of that formula. Again your authors are @tiffany_wan @abedsali @NickFlorek

The Empowered Civil Servant

What comes to your mind when you hear the term “civil servant?” You might be thinking of a dedicated employee who has chosen a career to serve the country he or she loves. Or, you may think of a bureaucrat that leaves work exactly at 5:00 p.m. Employees are often less productive and less engaged with their work when they have little ownership of results or lack opportunities to execute and improve upon their role. Social media has the ability to potentially transform these issues, allowing many civil servants on many levels to make decisions and have greater ownership in supporting an agency’s mission.

The disruptive technologies of the postdigital enterprise (mobile, social, cloud, and analytics) have allowed individual citizens and consumers to create and demand value across the business network. In the private sector, marketers and public relations departments have learned to use advances in mobile technology and social media to engage with consumers virtually anytime, anywhere. Consumers can pay bills through mobile applications, obtain discounts when “checking-in” places via Foursquare, and provide instant feedback on product satisfaction through Twitter tweets. The public sector has also started to engage citizens through these technologies. The City of Boston’s New Urban Mechanics, for example, has mobile platforms for citizens to report downed power lines, broken stoplights, and other issues that the city must address on a daily basis.[1]

But just as people are empowered as citizens and consumers, they can also be empowered as employees. Businesses have realized the value of empowering their front-line workers and embraced the concept of the empowered employee to drive organizational performance. For example, one large electronics retailer has implemented a program to empower its employees to solve customer care questions via a high-traffic social network.[2] The program itself leverages 3,000 employees to answer customer questions and, in turn, has more than 47,000 followers.[3] The benefits of this kind of solution are twofold: (1) the company reaps marketing benefits while performing customer service and (2) it can utilize the expertise of its broader employee base, not just its call center workers. Other companies have instituted a “bring your own device” to work policy, which allows employees to select and use personally preferred technology.[4] These programs have led to increased morale and given employees a greater sense of autonomy in their positions.[5] These examples show how organizations can achieve results by focusing on the value that human capital brings and how to enhance that value.

The federal government may reap the same rewards by following suit. USCIS employees provide a good case study for how a civil servant may benefit an agency. Due to the nature of the agency’s work, USCIS has a large customer service focus similar to many private sector companies. For instance, USCIS processes millions of benefits applications per year and handles one million calls per month at its National Call Center.[6] Civil servants interact on a daily basis with constituents trying to navigate a complex immigration benefits application process, sometimes resulting in frustrated constituents interacting with a call center process. This may result in application mistakes, creating further resource strains for the agency, and delaying the adjudication process. In response, USCIS might consider a model that allows its employees to help answer constituent questions though social media. Such an approach affords front-line workers the opportunity to communicate useful and detailed information in an efficient manner. Accordingly, there would no longer be a one-on-one interaction with two people on a phone, but rather, a more leveraged interaction between an effective civil servant and a pool of followers on a social network. Experiences and solutions for one customer can be shared with others, both disseminating information to the public quickly and reducing the strain on existing call centers. As in the case of the electronics retailer, customer satisfaction among customers engaging via social networks was higher than ratings among the general population.[7] The immigrant community (particularly the youth population) is already using social media to connect, share experiences, and influence policy. If USCIS can tap into its own nascent network of employees and customers, it too can join the conversation and create a more interactive experience between the government and immigrant communities.

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply