Employees as customers: Reimagining the employee experience in government
As governments look to build a workforce able to tackle the tough, interconnected challenges of the 21st century, strengthening the government employee experience is particularly critical. By treating employees as customers, agencies have the chance to improve both the employee experience and their own ability to execute their mission.
Like customers, today’s workforce has greater awareness of and access to other opportunities, driving employers to rethink how they develop or maintain a competitive position in today’s talent market. The prevailing view of talent management resembles a supply chain, with an on-ramp for hires and an off-ramp for retirees—and the tools to support this life cycle tend to reflect the ideas found in manufacturing: standardization and scale. But just as consumer products have evolved from using mass marketing and “push” advertising, organizations today are moving beyond a “one-size-fits-all” approach to their workforce.
A more differentiated and holistic approach, however, may require overhauling how organizations manage people today. Traditional HR solutions are structured around programs or processes to administer pay/benefits, source and train workers, manage work, or limit risk in the workplace—and making them better has emphasized scaling “leading practices” for similar functions. But, as companies’ recent focus on culture and engagement suggests, realizing the full potential of the workforce may require more cross-cutting, holistic solutions tailored to a specific business context or outcome. As Laszlo Bock, head of Google’s People Operations, notes: “We all have our opinions and case studies, but there is precious little scientific certainty around how to build great work environments, cultivate high-performing teams, maximize productivity, or enhance happiness.”
Most organizations today have established processes to identify the tools or strategies to win in an evolving environment—but seldom apply the same precision to harnessing the talent they need to deploy these strategies. To be able to generate great ideas and translate them into action, government requires employees who care deeply about achieving the goals of their organization—and make the decision to join, contribute, improve, and recommit. If they are neither enabled nor supported by their organization, or if they feel leadership is oblivious to their—and customers’—needs, employee engagement can deteriorate.