With a widening skills gap, ever shrinking budgets and the Great Resignation in full swing, the public sector faces many challenges in the coming months, versatility could be the answer
As we approach the end of winter, public sector departments are considering what the future holds in terms of staffing and resourcing plans. Of all these obstacles, for many in the public sector, the biggest one to overcome is limited access to necessary digital tools. This, combined with the growing skills shortage, leads to an incredibly difficult work environment. There simply aren’t enough people with the right skills or the tools to operate effectively. But what can organizations realistically do to make up for this shortfall?
Turning to versatility as a solution
Multiskilling – the practice of training employees to perform a number of different tasks – is a concept that has been around for some time and has certainly been brought up in relation to the resource gaps faced by companies and local governments. The idea has many benefits, including allowing institutions to streamline their processes, refocus training budgets, and create employees who can take on multiple roles when sick.
However, to date, thought leadership discussions surrounding versatility have focused too much on organizational impact and not enough on the individual employee. This has created unnecessary stigma around the subject, when in reality the benefits of this practice are far more widespread than just an employer’s bottom line.
There is a huge opportunity in 2022 to redefine what versatility means and what it can truly deliver. Organizations that take a fresh look at this area will be better prepared with the right tools to overcome potential digital skills shortages.
Current and Future Issues Facing Local Governments
Constantly having to operate despite underfunding and staffing issues, one of the sectors that can make the most of a versatile workforce is local government.
With government budgets remaining so tight, one of the main problems this causes is the lack of access to appropriate technology for their employees. Without entrenched communication tools and platforms such as Zoom or Google Hangouts, coordinating an efficient workforce in our digital age can become a near impossible task. Also, it is rare for UK public sector employees to use up-to-date software and hardware, such as tablets and add-on software.
However, even with these problems, local authorities still face increasing demand for their services. The need to maximize existing capacity has never been greater. Thus, it is becoming increasingly important to provide workers with the skills and tools necessary to carry out their tasks.
This is where versatility can be incredibly beneficial and can get right to the heart of this matter. Improving staff skills allows institutions to reduce budgets, while increasing services and end-user satisfaction, all without having to hire expensive new employees. Instead, existing employees are trained to report — or maybe even fix — other issues themselves. By removing barriers between jobs, communication throughout the organization can become more efficient and streamlined.
This, in turn, creates a better overall experience for the general public. With more employees able to handle or advise on multiple issues beyond their primary responsibilities, the likelihood of a quick resolution increases. For example, if waste collectors are trained to monitor and report road maintenance issues (eg potholes), a council can dispatch a repair crew much more quickly.
Keeping up with the digital age
When looking to implement versatility into any workforce, like almost any new work model or innovation, the key is to use the correct and up-to-date technology. Providing and training staff on enterprise mobile devices and solutions is essential to staying connected to work and informed of developments. For example, government employees who can use their phones to report incidents or update work reports, help foster a more streamlined work process.
Benefits of Versatility
Traditionally, multiskilling has been considered a controversial topic because it is usually positioned in a way that makes employees feel like they will be overworked and will need to learn multiple skills in addition to their current skills. But, as we have shown, it need not be so. And with the right approach, versatility can benefit many groups of people:
General public: Being at the receiving end of local government services, it is very important that any new initiative has a positive impact on the general public. Versatility allows governments to streamline services and improve communication across all subsectors, improving the overall customer experience. It also creates more available government officials with the knowledge and skills to help in a given situation.
Employees: One of the biggest benefits of improving the digital skills of a workforce is that it makes it easier for employees to access and log information, allowing them to focus on their work and to get away from the bureaucracy. Additionally, by adding to their skills, employees not only benefit from a streamlined way of working, which helps improve job performance, but the increased training can also contribute to future employment opportunities as they arise. as their career progresses.
Employers: Finally, and most often acknowledged, employers can benefit immensely from creating a versatile workforce. For local governments, this allows them to tackle a host of challenges facing the sector, including lack of funds, understaffed teams and efficiency issues. Basically, it can also help boost the reputation of local governments. Being represented by a multi-capable staff helps promote a positive reputation for being smart, responsive and efficient.
There is no doubt that versatility has many advantages and many of them are well known, especially when it comes to results. However, as we continue to sail into 2022, perhaps one goal should be to redefine what the practice can truly mean for everyone involved – not just the community, but the employee as well.
Director General of the Public Sector