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Managing For the Future

Captain Kirk was never afraid to fly into a nebula. But alone, he wasn’t able to do it. He needed a crew that believed in him, too.

In this world, the future is a nebula. “We don’t know what the next election cycle will bring, what the next presidential cycle will bring — what the world will bring,” said Kevin Brooks, Field Chief Technology Officer and Executive Strategist for Defense and National Security at ServiceNow, a workflow automation platform.

“You need to have a crew that will fly into that nebula with you and be comfortable operating and able to adjust at the same speed that you are adjusting to.” That’s why it’s critical to determine how you can best manage, lead and plan for the workforce of the future. Here are a few ways.

Prepare Your Future Talent Now

No matter how hard you try, you can’t predict the future. But there are ways to prepare your workforce for it. Here’s the advice Brooks offered.

Upskill and retain current employees. In this unpredictable world, it’s imperative that your workforce can adapt. Staff should be able to learn new skills throughout their careers.

  • Provide a modern learning platform so they can meet their development goals.
  • Automate repetitive tasks to allow more time learning and doing meaningful work.

Attract new talent. The fight for talent is real, especially when you’re competing with the private

  • First, understand your specific labor market, and second, provide modern tools for mission accomplishment.
  • If you provide the best tools for your workforce to do a good job, mission-driven outcomes and motivation can be attractive draws for potential employees.

Beware of burnout. Employees are feeling overwhelmed and overworked.

  • Proactively seek feedback on how your employees are doing through digital surveys and other check-ins.
  • Elevate the work experience through modern tools to make employees feel fulfilled. When they can do meaningful work and feel they make a difference instead of running up against bureaucratic walls, they are more motivated and less likely to burn out.

Take Hybrid Seriously

Mel Kepler, coach and facilitator at LMI, a government consulting firm, highlighted four ways your agency can set up hybrid work successfully.

Acknowledge that it is difficult. “You’re not crazy. Hybrid [work] really is harder,” Kepler said. A hybrid setting can be more challenging than fully in-person or fully virtual environments because it requires using multiple modalities to keep people connected. Recognizing the challenge is a good first step.

Prioritize virtual employee connections. It’s easier to engage people who are in a room together than those who are tuning in through a computer. Their input can get lost in the moment. Make an intentional effort to ensure that you can hear your virtual team members and they can hear you.

Have an agenda for meetings. It’s more important than ever to set an agenda and action items for meetings. “Technique trumps tools every time,” Kepler said. A good process, such as a well run meeting, has more impact than the savvy tech solution you use.

Rest to reconnect with the mission. Whether you’re remote, in person or both, you can get burned out and lose connection with the purpose. The best way to reconnect is through rest. “You have to recharge yourself,” Kepler said. “You can’t pour from an empty cup. Or, if you are fonder of airlines, please put on your own oxygen mask before assisting the people around you. You can’t connect with your team, you can’t connect to your purpose if you are burned to the ground.”

Leave Technology Myths in the Past

Your agency doesn’t benefit from believing myths about technology modernization. “The more you perpetuate that you can’t do certain things, the more that the employees or constituents start to believe it,” said Shonte Eldridge, Senior Director of State and Local Government Strategy and Solutions at DocuSign, an e-signature solutions provider. Here’s how to bust some myths.

“We don’t have enough money.” > Partner, plan and prioritize.

  • Partner: See if you can split the cost with other agencies or departments that want to achieve similar results with modernization.
  • Plan: Not everything has to be done tomorrow. Plan what you can do and how you can save, so that,
    eventually, you have the resources when you need them.
  • Prioritize: Focus on changes and technologies that will have the most impact on your agency.

“We don’t have enough time.” > Ask for help.

  • Splitting the labor of modernization may give you all the time you need. You may be surprised. Eldridge did this recently, with some templates she needed to write. She asked if anyone wanted to help, and 15 people signed up. There are people who want a new opportunity and want to assist.

“Our employees won’t adopt it.” > Explain the “why.”

  • One of the top reasons staff don’t adopt new technology is because they don’t understand why they should. When you don’t explain the purpose behind modernization, employees can be fearful, reluctant or simply uninterested. Articulate the purpose, how it will improve their jobs and, even better, include them in the modernization process to get their buy-in.

“It takes too long.” > Be agile.

  • With legacy technology, mainframes and paper processes, the outcomes you want from modernization sometimes can take years. But not if you do things incrementally. If you modernize in an Agile fashion, where you build on quick wins, you can start to see results within weeks.

“Change is too difficult.” > Rely on industry partners.

  • Yes, change can be difficult. “When you’ve been living on a mainframe for 30 years, or having paper processes for even longer, change is sometimes going to be hard,” Eldridge said. “But this is where you can rely on your private-sector partners, such as DocuSign.” Industry partners have the expertise you may not have on staff yet. And they also can share lessons learned from working with other agencies so that you can build a better foundation for modernization success.

This article first appeared in our e-book, “4 Ways to Help Your Workforce Embrace New Tech. Download it to learn about the other three ways.

Photo by Pixabay

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