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What Will the Government Workforce of 2030 Look Like?

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Bill Brantley
December 12, 2020

The Deloitte Center for Government Insights just released their report, Creating the Government of the Future. It’s a fascinating glimpse into how governments have changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the authors, governments have had to advance the future of government. As the report observes, “From telehealth to telework, virtual courts to virtual education, agile regulation to rapid digitization—rarely in modern history have we seen so many large-scale experiments in government rolled out so quickly and at such a massive scale.”

The report focuses on five domains of government activity to describe how these domains may change. The domains are service delivery, operations, policy and decisionmaking, talent/workforce and regulation and enforcement. This article will focus on the five innovations to the talent/workforce domain. The report authors claim that cloud computing and digital identities will drive talent/workforce innovations.

Talent Cloud

The talent cloud works like cloud computing does today. You may use cloud computing to compose documents in Google Docs or Office 365. If you use many streaming services such as Netflix or Disney+, you are using resources in the cloud. Like cloud computing, the talent cloud gives you access to talent from all around the world. For example, if you need help with Microsoft applications, you can hire a Microsoft expert to work on a quick project using Microsoft applications. Many government agencies such as NASA or the EPA have created talent marketplaces in the cloud. The talent clouds let agencies search for people with specific skills that can work on a short-term basis.

Human-Machine Collaboration

The second talent/workforce innovation is the use of artificial intelligence to augment people’s everyday work. You can see this now as many United States federal agencies adopt Microsoft Teams. When meeting on Teams, I can have the application record the meeting in Microsoft OneNote and create a task list with the corresponding snippet of the recording. Other government agencies are experimenting with chatbots to provide customer service and help to troubleshoot receiving public benefits. And robotic process automation is rapidly being adopted in national, state and local governments.

Just-In-Time Civil Service

The third talent/workforce innovation may seem like the most radical idea. Instead of a long career in government service and often in the same agency, just-in-time civil servants can come from inside or outside of government and serve short periods in government. Just-in-time civil servants could hop back-and-forth from serving in government, then in the private sector, and then back to public service. Of the five talent/workforce innovations, I see this as most problematic because of various conflict-of-interest rules and the ability to obtain security clearances. And many government contractors serve as just-in-time civil servants.

Open Talent Spectrum

The fourth talent/workforce innovation is closely related to the just-in-time civil service innovation. The open talent spectrum includes:

  • Partnership talent: “Employees who are part of joint ventures.”
  • Borrowed talent: “Employees of contractors.”
  • Freelance talent: “Independent, individual contractors.”
  • Open-source talent: “People who don’t work for the government at all but are part of a value chain of services.”

The same objections that may apply to just-in-time civil service may be true of the open talent spectrum. There are examples of partnership talent, borrowed talent and freelance talent. However, in my experience, open-source talent is rare in government work.

Adaptive Workplace

The fifth innovation, adaptive workplace, advocates redesigning systems and processes for an in-office model to reflect the new realities of working from home. Of the five talent/workforce innovations, we see this now thanks to the largest (and unplanned) shift to teleworking for all national, state and local government employees. A year ago, who would have heard of Zoom fatigue, have had to deal with teaching their children while they are completing work tasks and converting whatever free space they have in their home to makeshift video studios? A common remark I have heard across federal agencies is that productivity has stayed the same or even increased as government employees have been working from home.

The Elemental Building Blocks and Drivers of Change for Government Innovation

It is well worth reading the entire report to see how the other four domains of government activity (service delivery, operations, policy and decisionmaking and regulation and enforcement) have been influenced by COVID-19 quarantine. Even if you may disagree with the conclusions developed by the authors, you might want to envision other innovation scenarios based on the report’s elemental building blocks and drivers of change.

For example, think of how two drivers of change, eroding trust and privacy can be affected by the three building blocks of artificial intelligence, digital identity, and blockchain. How would governments use these two change drivers and three building blocks to create regulation and enforcement innovations? You may find new innovations that are vital in the new post-COVID-19 world.

Author: Bill Brantley teaches at the University of Louisville and the University of Maryland. He also works as a Federal employee for the U.S. Navy’s Inspector General Office. All opinions are his own and do not reflect the views of his employers. You can reach him at http://billbrantley.com.

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