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Where Will Government Be In The Next Twenty Years?

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

By Bill Brantley
April 16, 2018

Some recent reports have had me thinking about the transformation of local, state and the federal government in the United States. In February, I had written about the International Public Management Association for Human Resources’ (IPMA-HR) 2017 report on reinventing the government human resources office. Over two months later, two new reports mention transforming the government HR function as part of the broader strategy of changing government for the digital future.

The 2018 President’s Management Agenda

Released in March, the President’s Management Agenda sets out the goals for reforming government during the Trump administration. There are eleven “Priority Areas for Transformation” that range from “improving customer experience with federal services” to “improv[ing] transfer of federally-funded technologies from lab-to-market.” There are three “key drivers of transformation” to achieve success in the eleven priority areas. The first two key drivers are technology-based (“IT Modernization” and “Data, Accountability and Transparency”) while the third driver concentrates on improving the federal workforce.

The report focuses on the third driver by displaying the “Strategic Workforce Management” model on page 19. The first part of the model is about improved employee performance management and engagement. The second part of the model advocates reskilling and redeploying human capital resources while the third part promises to implement hiring reform. Underneath the three parts are “continuous learning” through “innovation, research and pilot projects.”

The State Policy Road Map

Deloitte’s Center for Government Insights released the State Policy Road Map in February 2018. The State Policy Road Map is a rich report that ambitiously attempts to chart the future for state governments. The report has four sections: “Government Reform,” “Delivering Essential Services,” “Future State” and “Improving Quality of Life.” Like the President’s Management Agenda, the key drivers for transformation involve incorporating new digital technologies and artificial intelligence automation with improving the state government workforce.

In the section of the report describing how to modernize the state workforce, the authors argue that it is not the public workers at fault. Rather, the problem is in the systems that recruit, hire, train, develop and assist the state workers. Not surprisingly, the public-sector lags behind the private sector in human resources (HR) practices and technology. What is surprising is how much the public-sector lags behind in modern HR practices and technology; especially for most states. Some of the improvement suggestions from Deloitte are to implement their “govcloud” concept, develop a digital HR platform to “enhance the employee’s experience,” and use digital workflows to augment the work experience.

2018 Global Human Capital Trends

Although this third report is not geared specifically to the public sector (although some public sector organizations were included in 11,070 executives surveyed), the Deloitte 2018 Global Human Capital Trends are a great set of indicators of where HR technologies and practices are going. The overall conclusion from the report is the rise of the “social organization.” Social organizations are essentially organizations in which profit is balanced with being a good corporate citizen. Internally, social organizations promote a high-level of collaboration among business units while increasing the empowerment of employees. The evolution of the social organization can be seen in the list of the ten trends:

  1. Teams are leading teams up and down the organization.
  2. The workforce ecosystem of employees, contractors, freelancers and other alternative-arrangement workers.
  3. Personalized, agile and holistic rewards systems.
  4. New career pathways that transition from the career model to “experiences.”
  5. Working with older workers while incorporating millennials and Generation Z workers.
  6. Increasing corporate efforts to have positive social impacts.
  7. Focusing more on employees’ well-being programs.
  8. Dramatically increasing the use of artificial intelligence, robotics and automation in the workplace.
  9. The rise of the hyper-connected workplace.
  10. The ethical challenges of workforce analytics.

So, Where Is Government Going In The Next Twenty Years?

Various people such as Abraham Lincoln and Peter Drucker have been attributed as the author of the quote, “the best way to predict the future is to create it.” No matter who said it, the idea is a valid method for dealing with future uncertainty. As the three reports demonstrate, current and future advances in technology will have profound impacts on society, the workplace and government. The debate is still ongoing over whether artificial intelligence, robotics and automation will doom millions of workers to unemployment or open new opportunities beyond today’s routine and unfulfilling low-wage jobs. These technologies are being rapidly assimilated into the workplace.

The challenge for government HR is recruiting, hire, train and develop a public sector workforce that can meet the challenges of the new societal realities and work effectively in government agencies that will have changed significantly twenty years from now.


Author: Bill Brantley teaches at the University of Maryland (College Park) and the University of Louisville. He also works as a Federal employee for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. All opinions are his own and do not reflect the opinions of his employers. You can reach him at http://billbrantley.com.

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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