It’s time to treat the federal workforce better

It's important to ensure employees feel valued and supported during a time of mass movement in the labor market.

It's important to ensure employees feel valued and supported during a time of mass movement in the labor market. Maskot / Getty Images

Reducing employee burnout will help agencies retain the employees they need to advance their mission.

The harsh reality of the Great Resignation is that if you don’t give your employees the tools they need to succeed, they’re going to pick up and go elsewhere. The 2021 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey revealed that federal employee engagement and satisfaction fell 4.5 points from 2020. Now more than ever, making sure the public sector workforce feels valued and supported is critical during this time of mass movement in the labor market. 

Valuing employees isn’t a new concept, but the fear of burnout is. Remote and hybrid workplaces have shifted the 8-hour work day in the office into an “always-on,” work-from-everywhere environment. Among government employees—many of whom served on the front lines of the COVID pandemic—65% report feeling burned-out. The pandemic increased demand for government services, straining the workforce as employees tried to meet the needs of their fellow citizens while experiencing an unprecedented upheaval in their own lives. 

The reality is that burnout has a significant and negative impact on the customers a worn-down workforce is looking to serve. The pandemic has completely transformed the dynamic between employers and their workforce, bringing forth a focus on wellness to advance the mission of their business. 

Promoting wellness within your workforce ensures that your mission will be carried out in an efficient and effective manner. At a time when 50% of the public believes that the pandemic made the government less resilient, it's time for a change in how we treat the public sector’s greatest asset: the workforce.

Prioritize Employees’ Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing

Unsurprisingly, 91% of employees say that their employer should care about their emotional wellbeing. By taking care of your employees’ mental health, you are not only improving their quality of life, but also helping them bring their best selves to work. 

From a productivity standpoint, if your employees aren’t doing well, your business can’t thrive. In the public sector, the government cannot afford for services to slip through the cracks, as people depend on government agencies for everything from fighting fires, to unemployment insurance, to obtaining health care services, or even in getting a passport. 

To improve the resilience of our government, our public sector employees need to feel supported outside of their work schedule, so that they can bring their A-game to work, without burning out.  

Use Digital Transformation as an Opportunity to Enhance the Employee Experience

Imagine your job is to process applications for business licenses, and you spend half the day opening envelopes and transferring data from handwritten forms to a computer database, rather than reviewing those applications to ensure they meet the criteria or answering unique questions from applicants. Automating that data entry step would allow you to focus on the tasks only you can do, and help you do them faster. 

At its core, digital transformation is the application of technology to reduce burdensome administrative tasks, and make work more efficient. Emerging technologies reduce the friction and hassle that plagues the government workforce, and in turn, can boost morale. Automation and AI are game changers for productivity by increasing efficiency without increasing workload. 

Creating a smoother employee experience contributes to overall job satisfaction. Survey data shows that employees in the public sector rank their workplace experience 8 points lower than the private sector average, at 69% and 77% respectively. Simple changes, such as implementing digital solutions, can improve the workplace experience, leading to increases in productivity and overall job satisfaction. 

Traditionally, the public sector has been slow to implement changes to its workflow, leading to decreased productivity, low job satisfaction, and ultimately burnout. In order to foster a positive work environment, you have to take care of your employees and give them the tools to succeed both inside and outside of work. 

In order to revitalize an increasingly burdened public sector workforce, government leaders must provide holistic employee support by prioritizing their workforce’s mental health and emotional wellbeing, in addition to taking advantage of digital transformation to simplify repetitive tasks and allow employees to focus on the work that matters most. Now that’s an approach that will help employees thrive, better serve constituents, and achieve the agency mission. 

Sean Kennedy is vice president and general manager of health and life sciences, strategy and solutions at Salesforce. He is a 25-year veteran of the health IT space, holding previous roles at the Massachusetts eHealth Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital and the United States Army.

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