Managing a high-performance IT workforce

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COMMENTARY | Public sector leaders must adapt their workforce management strategies to keep pace with technological advancements and market shifts.

In the rapidly evolving world of information technology, public sector agencies face unique challenges in managing a high-performance IT workforce. Like their counterparts in the private sector, they must contend with labor market dynamics but also navigate additional hurdles such as budget constraints, stringent regulations and increased scrutiny. To stay competitive and effective, it’s essential for public sector leaders to adapt their workforce management strategies to keep pace with technological advancements and market shifts. This necessitates a frequent and critical decision-making process regarding whether to invest in new or existing workers.

A standout example of adapting to these challenges is the U.S. Department of the Interior’s implementation of a program that led to a staggering 14,000% increase in the use of skills assessments for hiring, without extending the hiring timeline. This approach is expected to reduce hiring times and optimize the skill base in the long run.

The key to managing the public sector workforce effectively is to reassess and lead the current skill base proactively. Public sector workforces naturally gravitate towards areas of highest priority, expanding their capacity where it’s needed most. This growth can eventually limit performance, however, as it forces a larger share of the workforce to focus on existing competencies, making it difficult to integrate new skills without significant attrition and hiring cycles.

To enhance workforce performance, public sector leaders should:

  • Foster coordination and collaboration by partnering with the private sector to expand the talent pool, share expertise, and utilize intergovernmental partnerships to improve specialization and service delivery. For example, Texas’ Shared Technology Services have significantly accelerated service delivery and reduced costs.

  • Modernize hiring processes to attract tech-savvy talent and reduce hiring times. Initiatives like Trusted Workforce 2.0 have streamlined the transition to digital applications, significantly cutting down the time to fill technical positions, as seen in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in 2023.

  • Invest in the professional development of the current workforce by providing continuous learning opportunities, addressing skill mismatches through education and training, and balancing insourcing with internal apprenticeships and rotational programs to equip workers with future-critical skills.

Navigating IT workforce management in the public sector involves a careful blend of traditional and innovative strategies to meet the unique challenges of government employment. Strategic planning, enhanced recruitment processes, prioritization of employee development and cultivation of a flexible, innovative workplace culture are essential. By focusing on these areas, public sector leaders can effectively manage and advance their IT workforce, improving service delivery and ensuring that public agencies keep pace in the fast-changing technology landscape.

This is the second of a three-part series of articles on the future of public sector information technology acquisition and management from Forrester. The first article, Overcoming technical debt and accelerating modernization, is available here.

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