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The Top 4 Workforce Innovations of the COVID-19 Era

Interested in a brief overview of the top government innovations from 2020? Download GovLoop’s innovation quick-tips resource to explore the latest trends, or download the full report for more information.

People Adjust to Rapid Shifts

COVID-19 has many government employees working under immense constraints. There’s the looming pressure of budget cuts, particularly for state and local workforces, coupled with the reality or threat of furloughs. Add to that public demands for new and existing services, with social distancing requirements prompting the need for more online offerings.

It has never been more critical to ensure that government workforces are staffed and skilled to ensure minimal disruption to agency objectives. COVID-19 has challenged agencies to innovate, pivot and scale at an unprecedented speed and to reimagine new ways of working.

We’ve highlighted a few of those innovations below:

1. Prioritize data-driven hiring

NASA is one of a growing number of agencies that increasingly relies on behavioral data to find the most suitable job candidates.

“It is part of our larger effort to do whole person assessments,” said James Illingworth, Personnel Psychologist at NASA. “We’re so technical that there’s a tendency to focus on just those technical skills.”

Understanding a candidate’s behavioral traits, commitment to serve, decision-making abilities, and empathy doesn’t always shine through on traditional job applications. But agencies such as NASA are revising assessments and making data available in real time to make more strategic hiring decisions.

2. Maximize temporary rotational opportunities

Following surging demands for medical professionals and critical expertise to support the coronavirus response, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) expanded its temporary rotational opportunities to match current federal employees with agencies and offices that had immediate needs.

“The COVID-19 Surge Response Program will allow agencies to quickly realign their workforce, so they can better accomplish their mission for the American people,” Acting OPM Director Michael Rigas said in March 2020. “Dedicated civil servants will be able to go to one place and apply for a mission-critical position to support the public during this national emergency.”

3. Form training partnerships

What began as a city reskilling program in San Francisco aimed at redeploying civil servants to work as contact tracers and case investigators, evolved into a statewide effort to limit the impacts of COVID-19.

The University of California San Francisco (UCSF) developed the online program and trained 240 people in three weeks. Trainees included city librarians, assessors and attorneys impacted by the COVID-19 lockdown.

In May 2020, the university and the California Department of Public Health joined forces to launch the workforce training and technical assistance program statewide, with the goal of training thousands of individuals in contact tracing, case investigation and administration.

4. Streamline hiring for job seekers and agencies

In April 2020, the federal government launched a hiring pilot to attract more customer experience (CX) professionals to its ranks.

It was initially a small use case that widened to include multiple agencies after many shared their challenges in recruiting talent. This work led to the creation of a “CX strategist” position.

Using the set criteria, a panel of experts convened to review the best candidates for participating agencies.

The results: More than 800 applicants applied for 30 new positions at more than a dozen agencies. The panel reviewed, interviewed and selected a cohort of CX strategist candidates in six weeks.


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