CASE STUDY

How to Redefine the Public Sector Employee Experience

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics research, the median tenure of public sector employees is 6.5 years. This is several years longer than the median tenure of private-sector employees. It is taken for granted that public sector employees are extremely loyal. Unfortunately, that means we think about their employee experience far less. What would it look like if the public sector employee experience was redefined?

The Importance of Employee Experience

Before we dive into reimagining the public sector, we have to take a few moments to understand employee experience. Employee experience is all about the path that employees take in your organization from candidate to ex-employee.

From the moment you hire an employee, you are creating an experience for them. You are teaching them how to act, solve problems and excel within your organization. It's also an emotional experience. You are hoping that each new hire enjoys working with your organization. You're trying to build a positive experience during every part of the process, from hiring and onboarding to performance reviews and workforce management. This experience extends far past the day they leave your workplace—especially when considering sites like Glassdoor, which have a big impact when your hiring pool is small.

Reimagining the Public Sector Employee Experience

So, how do you reimagine the public sector employee experience? It can be difficult to make changes to your employee's day-to-day experience. However, small changes can lead to big results. So, let's walk through what this might look like by understanding people, place(s), workforce, technology, data, well-being and organization.

People

Managers and colleagues have a huge impact on your employees. There is even a popular saying that people don't leave their job; they leave their managers. Public sector work is all about service. Your employees get to make a difference to your community every day. If redefining people relationships isn't a part of your employee engagement plan, you'll be missing out.

Place(s)

In the last year, the places where we work have shifted a ton due to COVID-19. As a result, many public sector employers have had to reimagine life and safety for their employees. To keep employees safe, go back to the drawing board and make sure that you keep remote work options on the table. You should be able to create more flexibility for your employees, especially right now.

According to our report, Leading Through A Pandemic: The Impact Of COVID-19 On The Public Sector Workforce, employees want to keep remote work options on the table (at least part of the time). 86% of our respondents felt good about working from home, and 85% of our survey respondents wanted to continue working from home at least part-time after it's possible to return to work.

Workforce

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, "about 3 in 4 government workers were age 35 and over, compared with about 3 in 5 private wage and salary workers." The workforce leans older, which HR leaders in the government and public sector must consider when creating an employee experience. Older workers crave stability, and they can be extremely loyal, but you should create an environment that encourages these types of employees to stay and work for your organization.

Technology

As government employees get back to the office, it's important to revisit the technology that public sector workers are exposed to.  Video conference platforms like Zoom, team communication apps like Microsoft Teams and Slack and online collaboration tools like digital whiteboards are essential to running day-to-day practices in the public sector if you move to a hybrid workforce. We should ensure that our teams understand these digital tools and feel comfortable using them when working remotely.

Data

We need data to help understand the health of our workforce and the quality of the employee experience. For example, how engaged are our employees, and what influences their engagement, what is our turnover rate, and who is leaving – and staying, is our hiring producing the talent we need, and is training helping our employees develop their capabilities and their careers? Guessing isn’t good enough. Government needs to consistently collect, analyze – and act on – data.

Well-being

Public sector work is varied. Some jobs require sitting down behind a desk for hours, while others require intense physical exertion daily. It is important to take care of your team's well-being and make sure that their job duties aren't taking a toll on their mental or physical health.

Help your employees with simple resources that can help them cope with their job duties. Teaching lessons on fitness routines, stress techniques, compassion fatigue, de-escalation and keeping a healthy work/life balance can make a huge difference for your team's well-being.

Organization

Many public sector employees are greatly motivated by an organization's mission: its core values and purpose for being. Is your organization communicating its mission effectively?  When redefining your employee experience, it might be time to look at how your employees connect with the organization and what drives your department forward. Make sure that remote employees feel connected to your mission through strategic company-wide and one-on-one communication.

Key Takeaways on Improving the Public Sector Employee Experience

It can feel like a huge undertaking but remember that small changes add up to make a big difference in your workforce experience. Implement these changes slowly, and before you know it, you'll be known as one of the best places to work.

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Bob (Robert) Lavigna

Mr. Lavigna is the Director of the CPS HR Institute for Public Sector Employee Engagement™. Bob is a past Assistant Vice Chancellor and Director of HR for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, published author and national speaker. He has been recognized as a “Public Official of the Year” by Governing magazine, the highest individual achievement awards from IPMA-HR and NASPE, and the SHRM “Master’s Thesis Award.”

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.