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How an enhanced employee experience can help the public sector be an equal competitor in the war for talent

As leading indicators show record increases in attrition, Ceridian's Gianluca Cairo dives into the importance of EX to the public sector's talent acquisition efforts

There are undeniable benefits in working in public sector.  In addition to steady work hours, job security, work/life balance, fantastic benefits, competitive pay, employees are doing a job that is serving the public good.  At the outset of the pandemic, while so many sectors of our economy were shutting down, the public sector stepped up to continue delivering high valued services to all of us.  Today’s top talent want purpose in their work – and the public sector provides no better avenue to doing work that makes a meaningful impact.

Yet, when many think of the experience of public sector work, it often conjures images of paneled cubicles where heavily bureaucratic and less appealing work is underway. In an already tight labor market, and an intensified war for talent where even the top brands struggle to recruit, the public sector needs to change this image.

Add into the equation what’s been termed ‘The Great Resignation’: In today’s work economy, there are a record number of Americans quitting their jobs – and the public sector is certainly no exception. According to the September Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLT) Survey by the Bureau for Labor Statistics, the number of quits increased to 4.4 million – a series high – rising in a number of sectors, including state and local government.

So what can the public sector do to address both attracting and retaining top talent?

Organizations across all industries, including public sector, need to strongly embrace the importance of the employee experience. Gartner defines employee experience as “the way in which employees internalize and interpret the interactions they have with their organization, as well as the context that underlies those interactions”. These interactions include everything from the onboarding and pay experience, to an organization’s approach to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. If employees are met with friction in navigating the organization, or don’t see themselves represented in the leadership ranks, the quality of their experience as an employee takes a hit, and leads to lower engagement and productivity, and eventually attrition.

And according to Ceridian’s recent Future of Work Report, this is not lost on leadership. 72% of decision makers globally see the employee experience is a high priority or essential. The same survey revealed that 42% of executives offer or plan to offer workplace flexibility beyond remote work – such as flexible hours – in the next two years. This is a critical piece of the employee experience, especially coming out of the pandemic where many organizations were forced into more flexible modes of work.

But to deliver these experiences means investing in intelligent workforce technologies. Indeed, the onset of COVID-19 accelerated the rate of technology adoption amongst most workforces. 42% of survey respondents shared that the pandemic gave their digital transformation efforts a boost, and 79% agreed that overall digital maturity increased over the last year. And – more specifically – 67% of respondents invested in human capital management infrastructure this year.

This is the key to modernizing the workforce and driving experiences that both attract the right talent and keep them in the ranks long term. The right workforce and HCM technology is no longer a nice to have – it's essential to delivering modern employee experiences and cultures that can adapt quickly to change.

And If the pandemic showed us anything, it’s the need for organizations to be agile. This especially applies to the public sector, as the public relied heavily on government services and information during the pandemic. With the right technologies in place, government workers are able to act quickly in the face of disruption (hello COVID-19) and thrive in their own workplaces while keeping the public safe.

The post-pandemic era is driving a need for more flexible work structures and environments. Undoubtedly, workforce technologies help facilitate agility, therefore allowing employee experience to evolve as the company, and the world, changes. From a technology perspective, the public sector’s goal should be to design a comprehensive system that guides employees through their day-to-day lives using a consistent interface and approach.

If the public sector wants to compete for the same talent as leading technology companies, they must be listening to the trends of the new world of work – listen to what talent wants, embed deeper culture and employee experience into the workforce, and leverage the latest technology to bring everything together. Remember, changes that we thought were impossible for the public sector, have manifested themselves in 18 short months.  This is a proof point that with strong leadership and will, the public sector can change.  This change will help attract top talent so that organizations can continue to deliver high quality services.  

Gianluca is Industry Principal, Public Sector at Ceridian, a global human capital management software company. 

Ceridian HCM Holding Inc. is a global human capital management software company. Dayforce, our flagship cloud HCM platform, provides human resources, payroll, benefits, workforce management, and talent management functionality.