Most Government Orgs Fail to Meet Digital Transformation Objectives, Report Finds

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The report argued that governments should center digital efforts on workforce skills and enhancing citizens’ experiences. 

Government organizations must center digital transformation efforts on people—both citizens and government workers—according to an Ernst & Young report released earlier this week. 

According to the report, only 7% of surveyed government leaders said their organization achieved its digital transformation objectives. The report found that government workforces face several challenges for their digital transformations:

  • A lack of “digitally aware leaders who can reimagine the citizen experience” and change the transformation plan. 
  • Workforce actions that are “reactive, uncoordinated and disconnected from the digital transformation strategy.” 
  • Digital and data skills that fall under IT specialists, but should be skills every employee learns.
  • Outdated skills development and recruitment processes;
  • A “reactive and risk-averse” work environment when it should be “dynamic and innovative” causing challenges to attracting the best talent. 
  • Employee experience that is not designed for fulfilling, rewarding jobs or that doesn’t create a sense of purpose.

“The rapid shift to digitalization during the COVID-19 pandemic gave a tantalizing glimpse of just what is possible when governments empower their workforces to experiment with bold new approaches. But there’s a danger that this momentum will stall if the public sector simply lapses back into old ways of working, which are too often burdened by excess bureaucracy, hierarchical career structures, rigid job descriptions and limited training,” the report stated.

Governments need to focus on developing a digitally-skilled workforce, the report found. According to EY, this requires competent leaders and reconfiguring the workforce design, capacity, skills, way of working, culture and experience. 

The report identified several trends disrupting government workforces, such as the new hybrid work environment—with 77% of government or public sector workers wanting to work at least two days from home—the fast pace of technology disruption, people’s changing expectations, shifting worker demographics and attitudes and evolving skill needs based on adapting work environments.

Specifically, the report stated that, by 2024, 43% of public sector task hours will be performed by machines. As machines work more, “technology is more likely to replace specific tasks than entire jobs, augmenting the work that people do,” so workers need to develop skills to adapt to this changing environment. Therefore, 40% of key skills of public sector workers will need to change in the next five years. 

Top tech-related skills currently required by government organizations include: data and analytics, cloud, cybersecurity and privacy, internet of things and artificial intelligence and machine learning. However, needed emerging skills include: leadership and social influence; complex problem-solving; analytical thinking and innovation; active learning and learning strategies; critical thinking; resilience; tech design and programming; and tech use, monitoring and control, among other things. 

According to the report, “If governments do not urgently set about reconfiguring the workforce, they will find themselves without the skilled employees they need. Opportunities to improve services through harnessing data and technology will be lost.”

The report pointed to the U.S.’s Presidential Innovations Fellow program as a good example of reimagining the public sector workforce. 

The report found that 43% of government respondents listed focusing on the customer and citizen experience as one of the top three factors for successful transformation, and 63% of government employees surveyed stated that changes are necessary to improve their workplace digital tools and technologies. 

Respondents found the needs of citizens difficult to track (37%), lacked the data and technology to adequately measure those needs (37%) and didn’t have the technology to create innovative services on their own (32%).

The report recommended that governments examine future workforce needs and find agile ways to deploy talent; work to cultivate current employee talent and attract new talent; create an environment that encourages workers to “work smarter, use data insights and embrace innovation”; and make a tailored and purposeful employee experience with different career opportunities for workers. 

The report is based on several studies performed by EY including the 2022 EY Work Reimagined Survey, the EY 2022 Tech Horizon Survey and the EY and University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School Transformation Leadership: Humans@Center research survey. In total more than 3,900 people were surveyed from these reports. EY also interviewed 18 government leaders across eight countries for this report.