Future of Work and Work of the Future in Government

Much has been written about the future of work and the work of the future by several think tanks and consultancies over the past several years. More scenarios are being developed in the wake of Covid-19. The macro forces at work include:

Societal and Work

We are “always on” and always connected with ready access to information; everything is personal…and technology is everywhere. As consumers, we demand great customer service, both from a convenience and timely response perspective. We expect this from the government agencies we interact with be it the DMV, the IRS, or Parks and Recreation. In government, the workforce is aging and Millennial and GenZ generations have shown less interest in public service. 

There is a talent shortage which must be addressed quickly as the demand for public services in the age of Covid-19 is creating stress and burnout on front-line government workers. Recruiting practices will need to be re-designed and on-boarding has already been disrupted by Covid. Government agencies will need to improve the value proposition and channel the younger workforce’s desire for work that is purposeful. Training and life-long learning will need to be re-designed to keep new hires engaged. Agencies will need to re-think the performance management and rewards and recognition systems to enable the building of a more agile, adaptable organization. Most government HR structures are antiquated and previous attempts to instill a modern performance culture were not as successful. And technology deployed by agencies at state, county and national levels needs to be modernized to mesh with demands of younger workers (e.g., single sign on, cloud, etc.) seeking the promise of technology empowerment. New approaches to fill talent gaps may include using digital labor, greater collaboration internally and externally, leveraging gig workers, and establishing public – private partnerships. 

Technology

The power and capacity of recent technological advances will ramp up into the future. More and more data will be generated as citizen and public services become more digitized-enabled. Governments must think about how they will use and protect data. Automation, AI, advanced cognitive technologies (including machine learning and neural networks) will likely impact not only how work gets done, but the nature of the work itself. 

Automation can and will lead to job displacement. McKinsey estimates that 5% of all jobs can be completely automated while in another 60% of jobs, 30% of activities could be automated. Automation and digitization will lead to complex transitions and will require sound change management. For most industries, the jobs most likely to be displaced include those in office support (e.g. secretaries and administrative assistants have already been displaced in many agencies), food services, transportation and logistics, customer services, bookkeeping, and para-legal work.

While technology will displace it will also create new jobs in high demand fields as healthcare, information security, data science, and cyber tech. McKinsey also estimates 9% of the jobs in 2030 don’t exist yet…jobs such as AI Ethics Evaluator, Robot Trainer, Virtual Assistant Coordinator, Cybersecurity Ecosystem Designer. Technologies including robotic process automation, virtual and augmented reality continue to re-define work processes and tasks, drive new value for citizens and, perhaps, new organizational models. As a “recovering geographer,” I was also taken aback by geographical variations on the impacts of these changes. McKinsey suggests that 60% of job growth will be in 25 metropolitan areas. So with this in mind, policy will need to be re-thought.

Political and Regulatory

Political change always brings forward new agendas. And for many government employees change is hard and they are resistant to it. Much of the current President’s Management Agenda has not proceeded at the pace envisioned. The new evidence-based policy act is changing how agencies think about the impacts and value of the rollout of new policy. Initiated in the Obama administration, the new policy is aimed at making sure the impacts are understood prior to full rollout. Other regulatory changes will likely occur and agency leaders along with the rank and file need to become more resilient to handle the changes. In short, they must become more adaptable; more agile.

Organizational Design Decisions

Based on these sets of factors at play, agencies must rethink strategy, they must decide where to invest, redesign workflow, forecast talent needs and training, and consider the impact on the local communities…all strong reasons for participating in our program and learning the process of how to build an agile government agency.

About the Author  

James Stockmal is a member of the instruction team for the “Mastering Agile Organizational Design Certification” Program. He is the owner of SK Partners, an independent management consultancy licensed in Washington, D.C. with over 30 years of experience in designing and developing organizations across a wide spectrum of industries including banking, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and consultancies. Jim is the immediate Past President of the Association for Strategic Planning.

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Developed in collaboration with the George Washington University’s Center for Excellence in Public Leadership located in the College of Professional Studies, the “Mastering Agile Organizational Design Certification” gives professionals the tools to push their organizations to be more agile, adaptive and responsive.

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NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of The George Washington University’s Center for Excellence in Public Leadership.
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James Stockmal (SK Partners)