The future of work is changing, and government agencies are right in the thick of it. “Workforce,” or people, has been at the top of the list for a few years now. In a previous post, we looked at NASCIO’s 2022 State CIO top priorities list, which didn’t include costs and budgeting for the first time in over a decade. Workforce is number seven on this year’s list, but the entire list reflects that the where, why, and how of work are changing rapidly. Here, we’ll look at the trends shaping the future of work in government.
Accelerated Use of Artificial Intelligence and Automation to Augment Human Productivity
First, let’s get something out of the way: machines will not replace humans. However, they will ultimately take over many tedious, repetitive, or otherwise burdensome tasks, freeing people for higher-value work. Artificial Intelligence (AI) can analyze extensive data to reveal relationships and make inferences and predictions beyond our human abilities.
The human-machine pairing will take several forms, all based on maximizing productivity and taking advantage of people’s unique talents and problem-solving abilities.
- Amplify: Machines augment human work via tools such as predictive analytics.
- Steer: Machines provide adaptive learning to help people gain the knowledge needed to solve problems.
- Partner: Humans and machines work together to identify and solve problems through process mining.
- Parse: Work is broken up into tasks; some are handled by Business Process Automation (BPA), while others require human judgment and expertise.
- Assist: Machines take over routine or previously manual processes via Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and chatbots.
Over the years, all workers will put in fewer hours as time becomes more important than money. Automation will take over some roles and tasks, but people won’t want to work as much. We help agencies prepare for this future with AI, machine learning (ML), process mining, and other tools in a combination known as hyperautomation.
Employee Expectations: Careers, Locations, Motivations, Relationships, and Development
Many news articles have covered what’s being called the “Silver Tsunami,” the current and future waves of retiring Baby Boomers. On top of it, we now are experiencing the “Great Resignation.” While older Americans are leaving the workforce altogether, younger generations — driven by the pandemic, global unrest, and changing ideas about careers and the nature of work — are quitting full-time positions in search of roles with work-life balance, professional needs, and personal growth.
Millennials and Generation Z
The needs and perspectives of Millennials (45% of the workforce by 2024) and Generation Z will drive big changes. The good news is that these tech-savvy workers will be comfortable in the role of “the human in the loop” for the five person-machine pairing scenarios that we described above.
As we noted in our white paper titled “The Future of Work in Government,” these two generations have some distinct differences:
- Millennials seek flexibility and balance. They want to work for inclusive organizations that emphasize leadership ethics. Millennials also want to maximize their skill development via continuing education and switching roles (and employers).
- Generation Z seeks job security and growth. Having grown up digitally, they seek interpersonal relationships. Gen Z is also more motivated by their desire to create change in areas such as social and environmental issues.
Both groups expect to change companies and roles several times to pursue satisfaction beyond basic remuneration. And the ability to work remotely at this point is a given. Everyone wants that option! Employers that provide opportunities for skills enhancement, cross-training, and personal development will be able to hire the best talent and create the strongest, most diverse, and most engaged talent pool.
How Jobs and Work Are Defined
This trend is a natural outcome of the first two if you think about it. As AI, BPA, and RPA become commonplace, and as the employee-employer relationship evolves, so must our definitions of work and expectations of who does it. Traditional occupations will be parsed into tasks and subtasks to solve problems and drive innovation.
In the Federal government, contractors already outnumber feds by 2.6 to 1. In the future, agencies will still have full-time employees. Still, those individuals will be specialists aligned to the organization’s high-level mission or are public-facing and interacting with citizens.
The day-to-day business is accomplished by a wide range of blended resources and talent, including:
- Permanent full-time employees (mission-critical staff)
- Full-time and part-time contractors (management and team leaders, customer-facing roles)
- Digital labor (AI and automation)
- Ecosystem partners (nonprofits, businesses, labs)
- Government ventures (incubators, tech accelerators)
- Gig workers (hired for specific, one-off projects or based on seasonal demand)
- Micro workers (people working on individual tasks or subtasks)
- Crowd workers (crowd-sourced challenges with rewards for solutions)
There are a lot of moving parts to manage, but the benefits of a collaborative workforce include:
- Increased efficiency and productivity as people take on the work that best fits their skills and expertise.
- Less need for expensive office space.
- Workers use their electricity and computing equipment.
- Automation and AI handle the work that humans can’t or don’t want to perform.
- Government becomes the recipient of tech transfers through public-private partnerships. Example: The Department of Energy’s SunShot Catalyst Program
While some aspects of this collaborative workforce are still years away, agencies are updating their hiring and onboarding processes today because virtual and hybrid work is here to stay.
Fewer people seek full-time employment or long-term commitments, and employees are near, far, and robotic. As a result, the concerns of Human Resources will shift from evaluating benefits providers to managing pooled interagency talent and rapidly selecting the best worker from a cloud-based inventory of available workers.
Government agencies will increasingly share resources, both offsite and onsite. It might sound strange today, but let’s look at a quick example:
A state DHEC (Department of Health and Environmental Control) might regularly need the services of a graphic designer for a few hours each month, while a DDS (Disability Determination Services) in the same region keeps a full-time illustrator busy at a satellite location. There’s no reason for this worker to drive across town and no need for DHEC to search for another graphic artist. The designer simply needs the ability to log into a different infrastructure to perform the work securely.
But what about all those other resources like micro workers and gig workers? They’ll be managed by a cloud-based talent pool, with their work output and quality evaluated by a rating system similar to TripAdvisor or Amazon. In addition, human resource management (HRM) systems will include gamification to keep digital-native workers engaged, where task-based and gig workers gain access to educational resources and entertainment as they complete assignments.
“Instead of endeavoring to predict the future, governments can choose to create a flexible workforce that can quickly adapt to future work requirements. To accomplish this, the government can learn from a game-changing concept in the technology world: cloud computing. Major organizations and small startups increase their flexibility by sharing storage space, information, and resources in a “cloud,” allowing them to scale resources up and down quickly. Why not apply the cloud model to people?”
Services like our Managed Cloud provide a secure, scalable, and efficient way to empower employees to work from anywhere with the latest automation toolset.
New Jobs, New Skills, and the Talent Gap
Do you remember when there was a video store employing multiple salesclerks in almost every town, and the role of cybersecurity expert sounded like something out of a Sci-Fi thriller? Cybersecurity is one of the fields with the most significant demand and unfilled positions, and VHS technicians are as lonely as the Maytag repair guy. As we move forward and integrate technology into our work and everyday lives, it’s only natural that new needs will create new jobs. World Economic Forum, ZDNet, and other organizations have explored future jobs. Let’s look at a handful of them:
- Human-Machine Teaming Manager: An extension of the robotics technician role, these specialists will help with training development, IT setup, and HR processes.
- Algorithm Bias Auditor: This role will help ensure that predictive algorithms don’t make faulty conclusions based on skewed training and testing datasets from hiring decisions to actuarial data used in insurance and finance.
- Cyber Calamity Forecaster: Cyberattacks will grow in number and sophistication from individual hackers to collaborative groups (ex. Conti). Forecasters will need skills in computer programming, geopolitics, and social sciences to predict attacks and their potential outcomes.
- Weather Modification Police: As technologies are developed to counter climate change, it’s easy to envision these tools in the hands of bad actors. These specialists would merge law enforcement and meteorological expertise.
- Narrowcaster: A narrowcaster will be a specialist in sending specific, targeted content to a small audience. Narrowcasters will likely be a shared resource for local and state governments where agencies serve similar demographics.
The common theme for all five of these future jobs is the confluence of big data, AI, and human judgment.
The Talent Gap
As we noted in a previous blog post about the skills gap, more than 1 billion people worldwide will need new skills by 2030.
Earlier, we talked about how the next generations of workers have grown up with computers and are comfortable with technology. Here’s the flipside:
To prepare for the future, agencies must provide the ability for younger workers to build their “soft skills” while also providing training on specific tools and technologies. In addition to in-person meetings and team-building tactics, learning to create automation is an excellent way for employees to practice soft skills. Creating automation allows employees to build tools that take care of repetitive tasks such as online aid applications, funds distribution processes, and chatbots for customer support.
While no one can predict the future, we prepare you for the challenges of a truly digital workplace so you can take full advantage of all the cost savings, efficiencies, and, most importantly, the ability to serve your citizens better. Therefore, it is essential to assess and prepare for the future of work now as federal modernization funds are available for this exact purpose.
On June 5, 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics issued a report showing that state and local government employment fell by 571,000 jobs in May and 964,000 in April — a two-month total of 1.535 million public sector jobs lost. Accordingly, the only way to hedge against the talent shortage and the skills gap is to augment your staffing approach and deploy automation across your enterprise.