Government work gives people an opportunity to make a positive difference in the world. And during the pandemic, U.S. federal government workers saw the impact of their work firsthand.
The "2020 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey" from the Office of Personnel Management found that federal workers reached their highest levels of engagement in more than five years during the pandemic. Three in four said their jobs gave them a feeling of personal accomplishment.
Federal agencies will need to harness this energy and engagement to succeed in an uncertain future. Navigating the unexpected challenges the United States will likely face requires agencies to attract and retain top talent—and give workers the tools they need to do their jobs in a disruptive environment. To prepare for an uncertain future, agencies must fill the leadership pipeline, enable virtual teams, and use human resources (HR) data to make more strategic talent decisions.
The cloud can unlock the potential of the federal workforce.
“The post-COVID-19 workforce is definitely a hybrid workforce,” says Kristen Vaughan, managing director of the operations practice at Accenture Federal Services. “One size doesn't fit all.”
The pandemic highlighted the need for federal agencies to build remote working capabilities—and drove employee demand for the option to work from home. As in the private sector, that new flexibility is likely here to stay, and workers now want to know their jobs will offer more flexibility when it comes to where work gets done.
Cloud-based technologies can help government agencies enable remote work while also keeping sensitive information secure. Plus, these tools can help streamline some of the processes that give government work a reputation for being frustrating and inefficient, says Wayne Bobby, vice president for federal at Workday.
“These tools have allowed us to really be productive in a time where a lot of things were fighting against us being productive,” he says.
The short-term fixes federal agencies developed during the pandemic are the key to developing long-term solutions that will keep employees engaged and focused, in both good times and more challenging ones. And the technology that helped agencies navigate the disruption caused by COVID-19 will also help agencies attract and retain the staff required to remain resilient over the long term.
Cloud-based HR systems, for example, help agencies put their best foot forward. From the way applications are accepted to how new employees are onboarded, providing a user-friendly experience gives top prospects a taste of how the agency operates—and how well it has digitized the employee experience.
“Solutions have to be scalable and have the employee at the heart of the experience,” says Vaughan. “It has to be quick and easy.”
Those who work at government agencies are often drawn to the mission of that agency and want to be part of delivering it. That dedication needs to be mirrored back in the form of seeing support from their employer to create a career path, not just a job. The right enterprise management cloud system can help agencies evolve their talent management capabilities to incorporate individual development plans that help people understand the milestones they need to hit to achieve their career goals, and provide the learning opportunities to support growth.
“You're able to collect all this information about people and their career path and what they can provide for you,” says Bobby. “And I think that's what we want to know in terms of understanding the full depth and breadth of that individual as we work with them and give them opportunities to grow.”
Cloud-based management systems can also help agencies get more value from the people they already have on board. Centralizing employee data—and including the skills each person brings to the table—lets leaders make smarter, faster resourcing decisions as needs evolve.
“It's really all about adapting to a dynamically changing environment,” says Vaughan. “And cloud technologies can really help CHROs and HR organizations manage this seamlessly.”
Federal workers reached their highest levels of engagement in more than five years during the pandemic.OPM’s "2020 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey"
But it’s not just about being more responsive. Having a unified view of an agency’s resources, skills, and bandwidth elevates HR to a more strategic role in the organization. The data and analytics capabilities cloud-based systems provide can help agencies both understand their talent needs and become an employer of choice.
“It’s really a game-changer for human capital management,” says Vaughan.
While adopting a new cloud system may seem like a big lift for government agencies that have historically been hesitant to change, or constrained by legacy systems and their unpredictable upgrade costs, the pandemic has opened the door for agencies to accelerate their digital transformation. And leaders shouldn’t let this opportunity pass them by, says Bobby.
“Don't be afraid of change. In fact, embrace it and see what can be done,” he says. “Look at what history has taught us. Some of our greatest achievements have happened during trying times.”
If done right, moving operations to the cloud can unlock the potential of the federal workforce. It empowers employees to manage their careers, benefits, payroll, and more. And it lets HR teams take a more streamlined, strategic, and transparent approach to the HR life cycle, from recruiting and onboarding to performance management and learning development.
“As you look to manage the various functions across HR, agencies need to think about HR transformation and not just a module replacement,” says Vaughan. “You really need to think through, what does this transformation look like? What are the processes that are changing? What are the policies that need to change, and how is my employee impacted? And Workday is designed around user experience, so I think it's really well suited to enable change and make the transformation a lot easier.”
Workday’s deep, cross-sector experience aligns to agencies across the federal government. From delivering healthcare to funding housing to delighting visitors at national parks, Workday’s industry expertise can help agencies advance their strategic goals and serve the citizenry.
“The federal government is basically a collection of all of these activities that happen in the commercial world,” says Bobby. “And Workday has been solving business back-office transformational and modernization issues in the commercial world for over 15 years.”
Working with the right partner also allows agencies to benefit from cloud solutions without getting bogged down in the details. With Workday, agencies can pay one predictable price to gain all the convenience, flexibility, and security cloud management systems can provide.
“It doesn't make sense for federal agencies to concern themselves with the back-office responsibilities of running a data center and all the security that goes with that,” says Bobby. “Let Workday handle that so you can focus on the mission that you have ahead of you.”
Listen to the Workday Podcast episode featuring Kristen Vaughan and Wayne Bobby to learn more about how technology is helping federal agencies address the HR challenges of the future.