Voices from Accenture Public Service

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Historically states had an enticing offer to prospective employees. Opportunities to contribute to the public good, job security, great benefits and a good pension were enough to attract talent. These days, however, many states can no longer make all those promises—and many are struggling to find and keep the top talent they need.

Adding to the challenge, the nature of work is changing in fundamental ways. Automation is reshaping how tasks are completed and redefining the knowledge and skills needed in a world of human-machine collaboration. Accenture research has shown that in the face of these changes, private sector leaders are taking clear steps to rework their approach to employee recruitment, development and management.

Are states keeping pace?

The answer appears to be no according to a recent study by the National Association of State Chief Administrators (NASCA) in collaboration with Accenture and NEOGOV and with help from the National Association of State Procurement Executives (NASPE). Consider, for example, that twice as many private-sector CXOs as state leaders (42 percent vs. 21 percent) reported that they have already begun redesigning jobs.

The findings suggest that private sector entities are attracting talent by preparing for a future focused on exciting new roles supported by automation. But for the most part, states are still trying to entice new employees using old-fashioned job titles, non-market-relevant pay scales and bureaucratic jargon.

Indeed, public service is a noble profession. But that ideal is not enough. Having worked in state government, I understand the reasons why governments may lag the private sector, especially when it comes to a game-changer like human-machine collaboration. But this research suggests that in the battle for talent, the gap between the private and public sectors is becoming too large.

States need to make a bold leap—in their thinking and their actions—to reimagine their workforces. Our report, Job One: Reimagine Today’s State Government Workforce identifies two key ways states can make that leap and shares examples of states making real progress in reshaping recruiting and transforming employee experience. In upcoming posts, I’ll take a closer look at the recommendations. Until then, share your thoughts about how government can close the gap and win the battle for talent.

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