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Top 10 Skills For Government Workers In 2012

Around this time, various IT and professional web sites list what they consider the top skills for the coming year. It’s interesting to look back and see what skills stay on the lists, what skills fall off the list, and the new skills that appear. I haven’t seen such a list for government workers so I thought I would start a discussion by crowdsourcing the GovLoop community for ideas. Here are my recommendations (in no particular order):

  1. Microstyle – Given the prevalence of social networking tools such as Twitter, being able to write succinctly but clearly has become more important in the government workplace.
  2. Digital Presentations – PowerPoint is still the number one presentation tool but Prezi and videocasting are quickly gaining as alternatives to the “death by bullet points” presentations.
  3. Accessibility – Every government worker should have a good understanding of Section 508 and how to make their documents/presentations accessible.
  4. Project Management – Most modern government work is a project and even though an employee may not become a project manager the odds are that they will be on a project team. Knowing basic project management skills can greatly help to advance your career.
  5. HTML5 and CSS3 – Even if you are not a developer, many government leaders (including New York Mayor Bloomberg) are learning to program. Learn HTML5 and CSS3 to develop mobile-friendly web sites and to use the new EPUB3 format for electronic documents.
  6. Adaptive Case Management – This is an emerging method of processing work built around the natural work processes of knowledge workers.
  7. Design Thinking – Several obituaries have been written for design thinking but I believe that this is the best method for dealing with wicked problems.
  8. Collaboration – Being able to work with others to effectively solve problems has been a much-needed skill in the past and it will continue to be so in the future.
  9. Customer Engagement – Even if your customers are other employees, being able to deliver good customer service and understand customer needs will make you a standout employee.
  10. Continuous Self-Learning – The best employees realize that their skills have a shelf-life and are constantly teaching themselves new skills.

What do you recommend as the top 10 skills for government workers in 2012?

Disclaimer: All opinions are mine and do not reflect the opinions of my employers or any organizations I belong to and should not be construed as such.

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Andy Lowenthal

Nice list, Bill. I think you’re spot on with #1 micro style — and not just for Twitter! Emails ought to convey the point in as few words as possible. Also, the right blend of project mgmt and tech skills should be career-boosters for any government employee.

I would only add coaching as a high-demand skill for 2012 (and that includes how to coach one’s boss!) Not an easy one to master, but invaluable for mitigating project risk.

Paul Zurawski

#2 is the worst offender – most gov’t presentations are less than engaging. Google and follow Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 Rules for Powerpoint: 10 slides, 20 minutes, font size 30+.

When you just read the bullet points to me, you insult me by thinking I can’t read; and that i can’t read faster than you speak. The result is I’m done reading the slide and I am losing interest in the material.

Paul Wolf

Great list. These additions are implied in some of your items but perhaps stated a little differently:

How to sell your ideas

How to lead organizational change

How to build a network of contacts

Amanda Parker

I love this list, especially #2! I did my first Prezi for a class assignment and had the opportunity to share it with GAO during my internship. I do hope it catches on…

I’d also like to add as a skill for government workers, taking “Collaboration” to the next level with improved coalition building and conflict management. Maybe that’s a goal for 2013???

Terrence (Terry) Hill

Nice list! The beauty of this list is that “there is an app for that.” I’m going to check out Prezi at home. I think that all of these skills can be enhanced by using readily available, often free, applications (e.g. Google+ Hangouts, Online Learning, Project Management systems, accessibility for disabled, and twitter-speak). The tools that we all need to succeed in the information age are apps and our toolbox is our smart phone or tablet devices.

Dannielle Blumenthal

Great list. One skill I would add:

Stop thinking like the traditional mental model of a “government employee” – break free and think fresh about everything. No matter how long you’ve been part of the system. Change is not only coming, it’s here and it will only start moving faster and faster.

Julie Whalen

This is a great list and I hear this all day long at lynda.com when chatting with my clients and prospects. Many have found that using our online library prepares Government workers to build skills in most of these categories. What is everyone doing to prepare your teams/workers/employees to hone their skills in these areas?

Avatar photo Bill Brantley

@ Danielle – Great idea! What do you call this skill and how does the government employee learn to break free and think fresh?

Avatar photo Bill Brantley

Thanks to everyone for their kind comments! To be honest, I was expecting more disagreements with the list but I certainly appreciate the additions.

Dannielle Blumenthal

@Bill – probably the skill is “unlearning,” if there is such a thing. Or possibly even “deprogramming.” It is amazing how angry people can get when you threaten to undermine everything they thought (were told) was true.

Kathryn Troutman

I know this is old school, but Public Speaking is still a great skill to keep up-to-date and refresh. A class in public speaking can help you with a PPT presentation, project leadership or selling a program. In my fedres writing classes, I think that communications skills are still challenging for government employees.

Ashley Fuchs

I think HTML5 and CSS3 are really important (maybe I’m biased) for all employees in government. If you’re not keen on getting into programming then work on your writing for the web skills. I have this feeling that soon all gov employees will be responsible for content on their intranet or public facing website if not already.

I would also add documentation to this list. If all employees are essentially project managers then they should be creating useful documentation for the projects they are working on. Otherwise the knowledge leaves when they leave. This is especially true for IT departments. System users don’t have time to (or don’t like to) fiddle around with technology to figure it out. Clear documentation can free up support resources faster, increase productivity overall and most importantly empower staff.

Joe Flood

Microstyle is a brilliant idea. With texting and Twitter, all of us will be writing less in the future. We’ll need to pack more meaning in fewer words – and be clear about what we’re trying to communicate. That’s a challenge!

Jeffrey C. Ady

“Think before you speak”…social psychologists have called this “self-monitoring” [and a personality attribute, not a skill, interestingly] for some forty years now, but for those in public service this is a critical skill.

Camille Roberts

Great list, Bill! The comments from everyone are fantastic too! I would add writing and engagement to the list. Email is still the #1 social network. I don’t see writing going away any time soon. I would also be interested to know the top 7-10 “technologies” people use the most every day in their jobs, including software, hardware, and mobile devices. Thank you for compiling this list. Great post!

Chelsey Hibbard

Nice list! I really like #3 (Accessibility) – I think that is too often overlooked. In conjuction with that, I don’t believe Prezi (#2) is Section 508 compliant. Or at least it wasn’t last time I researched it (about 6 months ago). Maybe they’ve added new capabilities but I would urge people to verfy that it is (or is not) compliant before using Prezi.

John Sim

What a great list, thanks Bill. Here’s an output that combines the skills from #1, #2, and #5: infographics. I think the fed sector could benefit from learning how to make, use, and deploy infographics to convey large amounts of data and prove how results are being met.

And here’s a new skill to add to the list: disruptive innovation.