The public sector is one of the most resilient, dedicated and needed workforces in the world. But the wave of resignations in the private sector, which left millions of jobs unfilled and organizations from talent-strapped sectors, has also begun to affect the public sector. And that puts public sector IT at risk.
What happens when state, federal, and local government employees leave during the big resignation? Institutional knowledge goes with them, and without the right safeguards, services and processes can collapse. Innovation can stagnate as projects lose leadership, morale can deteriorate, and even well-oiled institutions can fall into disorganization.
But as ransomware attacks increase and become more sophisticated – a “Major National Security Challenge” as President Biden said recently, a new set of threats is emerging. Talent shortages in IT introduce real cybersecurity risks. With over two decades of experience in public sector IT, I see the challenges looming, but they are not insurmountable.
Addressing the Biggest Risks the Great Resignation Has Caused in Public Sector IT
The pandemic has not been a security tipping point for most public sector organizations. In my daily conversations with my peers and based on my own experience, IT managers have kept security at the forefront. But multi-year strategies and implementations are now under threat.
If you’re a public sector leader and you’re feeling the talent gap, you don’t want to see progress toward improving security lockdowns because leadership and expertise are lost. Here’s my take on the biggest talent challenges unfolding in 2022, and some tips on how to tackle them.
● Resignations threaten complex security projects. Public sector security projects can take years – tenders alone can take months and funding is always uncertain. These projects need teams that can lead them from start to finish, and the loss of institutional knowledge can be devastating if a senior IT manager steps down. So what do you do if your organization’s IT security plans are hampered by a loss of leadership? Take a step back. Assess the type of talent and skills that will be needed to complete the project and consider engaging an IT service provider partner to fill the gap on a temporary or permanent basis. And do it quickly – COVID-19 aid has helped many public sector agencies accelerate digital projects, but these funds are also time-sensitive. Lost time on security projects could mean lost funding, which most organizations simply cannot afford.
● Training and details fall through the cracks when resignations happen. A single click on the wrong phishing email can throw even the largest organization into chaos, no matter how sophisticated their security apparatus. Employee training and education is essential but often overlooked when there is a lack of staff or leadership. As with ongoing safety projects, training efforts should not be interrupted. Partners and consultants can provide the talent and resources needed to continue training, allowing you to focus instead on hiring efforts to fill this position permanently. Additionally, IT talent shortages can lead to abandonment of non-digital practices. If you have experienced quits, determine if your physical security practices are still in order. With empty offices and government equipment on the ground, there’s more chance than ever of information falling into the wrong hands.
● Some employees want benefits that the public sector struggles to provide. Let’s face it, public sector jobs, especially IT jobs that can be tied to mainframes and physical operations centers, aren’t as flexible as they could be. Although the pandemic has made remote work possible for many employees, public sector IT employees may not enjoy the same flexibility as workers in other sectors. Days off may not be as negotiable, public sector salaries may not compete with those in the private sector, and bureaucracy may hamper the rapid progress of IT projects. In response, many have dipped in relief funds paying bonuses and raises for deserving employees, and others, like the CIA, rebranded with a new look and culture trying to attract talent. It’s also important to lead by example – remind teams why they chose public service and encourage leaders to show their mission through their actions.
The Great Resignation is a threat to critical IT enhancements that protect public sector organizations from cyberattacks. We will see more IT service providers strategically engaged by the public sector to meet training needs and specialized IT roles in 2022, allowing leaders to devote more time and energy to the important work of governance, oversight and management of critical programs for the communities they have been called upon to serve. While these challenges are daunting, I am confident that the public sector will not only rise to the occasion, but become stronger and more resilient.
Prior to Ensono, Johnson was chief operating officer for the Georgia Technology Authority (GTA) where he worked closely with various state agencies and service provider partners to identify, recommend, develop, implement and support cost-effective technology solutions that adhere to the statewide enterprise. standards and meet future business needs. Under Dean’s leadership, the State of Georgia has partnered with market-leading private sector technology companies to provide IT infrastructure and managed network services to state agencies. The partnership, known as the Georgia Enterprise Technology Services (GETS) program, has strengthened security, modernized infrastructure and networks, improved reliability and increased transparency in the state’s IT enterprise. The GETS program has saved the State of Georgia more than $400 million in IT expenses since the services launched in 2009.