How the Public Sector Can Build on Opportunities Presented by COVID-19

The pandemic has presented extraordinary challenges to all organizations. These challenges were particularly tough for public sector organizations, which are vital in serving and supporting our society. But with great changes come great opportunities for progress and improvement. What silver lining can government employers glean from the past two years as they consider the future of public sector work? And how have public sector workplaces changed for the better since COVID-19 started?

COVID-19's Impact on the Public Sector

Since the onset of the pandemic, public sector organizations have had to pivot to keep their employees safe. The best organizations have stepped up to lead their employees through the current pandemic. For example, public sector organizations have shifted working styles to meet the public and their employees where they are. As a result, many courtrooms went virtual, employers stocked up on PPE to protect citizen-facing roles and some states gave additional funds to public sector employees on the front lines.

All of these additional benefits have created a renewed passion for public sector work. For example, many employees have begun to notice the improved tenure that comes with public sector work. That tenure has continued, even in some of the most aggressive parts of the pandemic. As we look toward the future, we have to think about where the public sector will stand on issues like increasing benefits and returning to the office.

Using COVID-19 Silver Linings to Develop Stronger Workplaces

The pandemic has given each of us a lot to consider. Work should have meaning and public sector work provides a lot of positive benefits in that regard. Public sector employers should come together to look at the monetary benefits of public sector work to continue to develop strong workplaces.

Here are a few things employers can do:

Improving Flexibility at Work

The public sector took several strides forward when it came to flexibility at work during the pandemic. How can organizations ensure that they don't take two steps forward and three steps back? You can start by taking stock of the positions you are in charge of. What can you do remotely? Who needs to come into the office and how often? Is there a world where hybrid options might make more sense? Public sector employees need to address these issues to stay competitive with private sector employers who often feel more comfortable staying remote.

Taking a Look at Pay Structures and Loyalty

If you've been following the news lately, you've probably heard a great deal about the "Great Resignation." In August 2021 alone, a record 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs. Many employees stayed put during the earlier part of the pandemic, but as COVID-19 becomes an endemic, employees are working up the courage to leave their jobs to search for other opportunities.

How can public sector employers stop this movement before it impacts their organization? Start by working with local, state and federal organizations to see how you can reward loyalty and improve pay structures.

Finding Creative Solutions for Future Workplace Issues

As we look to the future, there are a couple of issues that we have to consider. Building creative plans to deal with these issues now can have a profound impact on public sector employees. To improve employee tenure at public sector organizations, employers must be forward-thinking.

Upskilling and Public Sector Automation

As the pandemic shifts, a meaningful conversation has emerged around what can be automated and how public sector workers play into a new automation-rich world. Upskilling — or the act of teaching employees new and interesting skills within their department or field — is another increasingly important topic of discussion within professional development spaces as employees prepare for a world where organizations might not need their current skillset.

As you consider what life will look like post-pandemic, it's time to take a good look at current organization learning plans. How are you preparing your team for a new work reality?

Future Pandemics and Health Concerns at Work

Lastly, this year has taught us that unprecedented doesn't mean unlikely. We all thought the pandemic would quickly end. Instead, COVID-19 has been ever-present in our lives since 2020. As we find creative solutions to address today's pandemic, future health concerns that impact the way we work should also be top of mind.

What lessons can you take from how your organization handled the current pandemic? What do you want to do differently next time? Preparation is the key to long-term success.

Key Takeaways

COVID has changed the way we work across all sectors. The pandemic has taught us decades' worth of valuable work lessons in just 20 months. As a public sector employer, it's important to make sure the lessons learned during this time aren't forgotten as the pandemic becomes an endemic. By reflecting on the silver linings unearthed over the past two years and using those lessons to develop stronger and more forward-thinking workplaces, you will enhance your organization over time and do your part to improve public sector work as a whole.

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About CPS HR Consulting

CPS HR Consulting is a self-supporting public agency providing a full range of integrated HR solutions to government and nonprofit clients across the country.  Our strategic approach to increasing the effectiveness of human resources results in improved organizational performance for our clients.  We have a deep expertise and unmatched perspective in guiding our clients in the areas of organizational strategy, recruitment and selection, classification and compensation, and training and development.