Public Sector

Civil servants are the key to building trust in government

Governments throughout the world are stepping up efforts to modernize digital services to citizens. For example, in the U.S., executive order 14058 on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government states that the “government must be held accountable for designing and delivering services with a focus on the actual experience of the people whom it is meant to serve” and building trust. This includes not only delivering high-quality services but ensuring that those services and the processes that power them are delivered effectively and efficiently.

To meet the goal of increasing trust in government, significant efforts are being made to improve the experience and meet expectations of citizens.  But what about the people responsible for delivering the services?  Often overlooked is the disparity between how agencies are prioritizing customer experience and employee experience. 

How can the public sector retain its top talent?

The perception among federal employees is that agencies are more focused on delivering engaging customer experiences than employee ones.  According to Forrester Research, only 21% of global government employees say they have a high-quality employee experience, compared with 31% of private-sector employees. In addition to a favorable work/life balance and flexible working conditions, many highly talented individuals choose a career in the public sector because they want to make a difference and serve a higher purpose.  However, to remain competitive in the recruitment and retention of high-quality talent, federal agencies must ensure that the employee experience is optimal. This will serve to deliver better retention rates and bolster trust levels among public servants, too.  

Here are three ways that federal agencies can leverage technology to strengthen employee experience, bolster trust and ensure their continued commitment to serving the greater good.

One: Increase productivity and interagency coordination  

A frustrated employee is likely to have a deleterious impact on the lives of its citizens.  In fact, an Eagle Hill Consulting survey found that 51% of U.S. federal workers believe that the employee experience at their agency directly impacts their ability to serve citizens.  Providing more digital options for citizens including self-service through advanced technology can free up valuable time for employees to spend on higher-level work activities and expedite mundane administrative tasks and paperwork. 

Execution of tasks often include interagency coordination. Records need to transverse multiple offices, often requiring review and approvals by appropriate personnel and departments along the way. This includes ensuring that there is consistent control over accuracy and auditability of data and that data is fully searchable. Agencies must invest in tools that allow information to be shared and delivered expeditiously (including updates to policies and requirements) and communication to be integrated to remove bottlenecks and ensure consistency in process among federal, state and local government agencies. Equally critical is ensuring that public servants have the tools (such as virtual desktops) to work outside of the office or in the confides of their home in a secure and compliant manner. Warfighters and public servants working in the national security arena present unique challenges, as these personnel are often deployed overseas, working unusual hours and/or earning special pay.

Two: Commit to a privacy-first culture

To build trust, employees need to operate collaboratively and productively on back-office activities, while feeling confident that citizens’ personal and sensitive data is protected and managed compliantly.  For federal agencies, the Privacy Act of 1974 establishes a code of fair information practices that govern the collection, maintenance, use and dissemination of information about U.S. citizens or lawful permanent resident aliens that is maintained in its systems of records.  Agency privacy programs were designed to fulfill the requirements of the Privacy Act and to ensure that personal information in the possession of the federal government is properly used and to prevent misuse and improper disclosure or a record without consent. 

Establishing strong information governance and digital records management readily accessible to those employees needed to carry out their service responsibilities while balancing a person’s right to privacy and having this sensitive information safeguarded is key. This includes the protection of stored information and communications being sent over internal or external networks by encryption and an integrated archiving solution for long- term storage, retention management and compliance deletion. It is critical that permissions are restricted to only the appropriate government employees necessary to support the performance of the activities assigned. This involves defining access and privileges uniquely but also to track each worker’s activity within the system with auditability. Advanced security settings can block or mask information relating to citizens’ sensitive data or to restrict users to only have access to specific information or groups.

Three: Demonstrate that personal data is safeguarded

The move to remote work has forced agencies to reevaluate their cybersecurity protections to ensure that sensitive data is adequately protected. Government agencies have been susceptible and vulnerable to cyberattacks. Massive data breaches where hackers have targeted personnel records of government employees have hurt efforts to quell these fears and employee confidence. For example, a massive data breach at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management included highly sensitive data containing information about family members, contacts and psychological information and personal details, and fingerprints. In addition to federal agencies, data breaches have plagued public school districts and colleges and universities. Since 2005, there have been more than 1,851 data breaches in educational institutions with 28,589,864 individual records affected as a result of these breaches. 2020 was one of the biggest years for educational breaches with 2.99 million records impacted in total. 

Insider threats are a top cyber security issue in the public sector, both intentional and accidental. Public sector organizations should institute cyber security awareness training (the U.S. requires all federal employees and contractors to pass a course each year, a good idea for all public sector institutions). Deploying robust enterprise content management and security software is a must to prevent unauthorized users access to sensitive information. Cyberattacks become more sophisticated each year, and it is imperative that both public servants and security technology stay ahead of the bad actors.

As agencies’ employee experiences improve, worker satisfaction will rise. They will be spending more time on strategic, high-level activities that deliver on the mission. Agencies will have a more committed and engaged workforce. By focusing on employee experience, the public sector will be in a strong position to keep their top talent satisfied, improve the public trust, build a culture of privacy and safeguard sensitive information. This information advantage will deliver employee experiences that empower workforces and attract and retain talent, providing the public sector a chance to master modern work.

Learn more about how your agency can achieve an information advantage for employees with OpenText.

— Keith Nelson contributed to this report.

Andy Teichholz

Andy Teichholz is the Sr. Industry Strategist for Compliance and Legal at OpenText. He has over 20 years of experience in the legal and compliance industry as a litigator, in-house counsel, consultant, and technology provider. Andy is focused on helping businesses succeed with digital transformation. In this capacity, he has served as a trusted advisor to customers by leveraging his business acumen, industry experience, and technical knowledge to advise on regulatory compliance, information governance, and data privacy issues as well as support complex litigation and regulatory investigations.

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