- Performance management. Agencies are acknowledging that today’s workforce needs demand new performance management processes. Since the shift began to remote- and hybrid-work models, agencies in countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia, Denmark, and the United Arab Emirates have released guidance, toolkits, and training resources for managing remote or hybrid teams.26 Agencies can also look toward innovative private sector models; for instance, to better support distributed teams, Adobe uses “check-in” dashboards for employees and supervisors to manage performance, goals, and development.27
Performance evaluation should also consider how individuals build skills and apply them to create value. Again, the private sector offers potential models: Google’s performance management process aims to balance skills and outcomes, encouraging employees to work with their managers to determine and document their “priorities” for their own development and identify specific learning opportunities based on these priorities to act on over future quarters.28
- Career paths and progression. With fluidity changing traditional systems and org charts, government agencies—like any employer—could give workers a way to understand how to move to various roles in the organization and beyond. What might career progression look like for them in a new workforce plan? How can people grow into specific roles and fields?
The US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency developed an interactive tool aimed at helping employees explore work roles, illustrating 52 work roles and five distinct skill communities. By reviewing roles’ common and distinct aspects, users can quickly identify which knowledge, skills, and abilities they would need to acquire to qualify—and they can get a clear sense of how positions interact, and how to move between them.29
The Government Lab of Argentina’s Design Academy is likewise focused on directly connecting skills development and career progression. Looking to develop a flexible, data-fluent public sector, the agency educated more than 15,000 public servants in its first three years. Employees are given the opportunity to attend classes, events, or lectures and study subjects from prototyping to agile methods to data visualization,30 with an economy of credits incentivizing participation. Each worker earns anywhere from two points for attending a lecture to 100 for an in-depth class—and must earn 60 points annually to qualify for promotion.31 By offering and tracking education in soft and hard skills, Argentina’s program is designed as a skills-based approach that can adapt to challenges.
Building a collaboration mindset
Government is increasingly faced with the task of addressing cross-sector challenges such as climate change, public health, cybersecurity, and homelessness. Collaborating and coordinating efforts across and beyond government can be a critical part of this.
Government workforces should be adept at building cross-sector collaborations, making connections with different levels of government, and increasing public value by catalyzing action across organizations. To develop this competency in their workforce, governments are focusing on skills development, creating incentives to collaborate, and building structures, platforms, and systems for formal and informal collaboration.
- Honing the collaboration skill set. Research from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has explored the key skills needed for collaborating through networks. They found that public officials should have a cadre of strong horizontal leaders with a mix of skills, including trust-building, systems thinking, interpersonal, consensus-building, creative problem-solving, and effective communication.32 In a similar vein, in a Deloitte survey of senior US federal executives, respondents said that strategic thinking, developing trustworthy relationships, and creating a culture of collaboration are the top three skills needed to achieve effective cross-sector collaborations.33
- Developing platforms and exchanges for building connections. It is critical for public officials to connect, discuss, and collaborate with each other and external stakeholders on cross-sector challenges. A wide range of digital platforms can help government agencies reach a wider swath of expertise within and outside government. The Canadian federal government employs a series of digital platforms, called GCTools, to allow public officials to collaborate, network, and access relevant content.34 The platforms include GCcollab for collaboration and coordination between and within agencies and GCpedia for knowledge-sharing between federal government employees.35
- Rewarding collaborative behavior. Rewarding and recognizing collaborative behavior can help encourage it within the public sector workforce. For example, the UK Civil Service Awards acknowledge excellence in public service under multiple categories. The One Civil Service Award recognizes collaboration across jurisdictional boundaries and levels of government, while the Productive Partnerships Award recognizes teams that build and maintain strong partnerships with other public sector entities, the private sector, and nonprofits.36
Organizations and the environments they operate in are constantly changing. Government agencies should continue their ongoing shift toward fluidity, working to tap employee capabilities through skills-based workforce structures. As more agencies move in this direction, agency HR leaders should consider the following actions:
Go deeper with your skills-based approach to talent. While skills-based hiring is a good start, agencies can benefit from embedding the skills focus in other areas, such as:
- Reorganizing work as a dynamic portfolio of tasks to be done or problems to be solved
- Understanding and using the existing talent policies and authorizations available, which could help further a skill-based approach
- Thinking of public sector workers as individuals, each with unique abilities to make contributions and a portfolio of skills and capabilities that match the work
- Using skills, rather than jobs, to make decisions about work and the workforce—from who performs what work to hiring to performance management to rewards
- Building a “skills hub”—an engine of skills data, technology, and governance to power these decisions
- Using “skills analytics” to understand future skill gaps and identify strategies to close them
Create specialized roles and tracks in government around collaboration. Incentives such as funding, data, and recognition can help drive collaboration, but agencies should also make it a part of career-growth discussions. Building specialized roles that focus on collaboration or making collaboration skills a core element of the professional development of public sector workers can be a powerful tool for affecting mindset change.
Embed diversity, equity, and inclusion into all talent processes. Whether it’s a hybrid-work policy or changes to a performance management process, make sure that the change supports—rather than inadvertently impedes—greater workforce diversity and inclusion. For example, skills-based hiring and the use of apprenticeships can help attract more diverse candidates to occupations: More than one-fifth of the 420 firefighters that the US Forest Service recruited through its apprenticeship program were women, while underrepresented racial and ethnic groups comprised nearly half.37 Another data set to consider is measures of a worker’s potential, e.g., factors like drive, empathy, and conceptual thinking. These pieces of data, alongside skills, can help organizations identify talent with high potential, offsetting the risk that a focus on skills systemically disadvantages those that have had less access to education.