The race is on to recruit and develop the next generation of skilled employees and it’s abundantly clear that today’s young professionals have raised the bar in their pursuit of meaningful, purpose-led, socially conscious careers that allow them to have an impact in driving a future of positive social change.

The digital era and its massive cohort of passionate and socially conscious young workers are dramatically reshaping traditional workplace cultures in many different sectors.

Talented young professionals are looking closely at every potential employer’s ‘brand’ in the job market before making an informed leap to new employment opportunities – typically choosing modern, digitally enabled, socially aware workplaces that align with their expectations, values and aspirations.

In our view, there is no doubt that today’s local organisations will do well to proactively heighten their brand as ‘employers of choice’ in order to keep up with today’s fierce competition for talent.

What should local government agencies do to compete for young talents? Reskilling of current workforces is key. To succeed in a new era of digital connectivity, local organisations will need to focus on developing customer-centric services and capabilities, while also recruiting skilled young professionals who can quickly deliver critical new capabilities, such as data scientists and customer-experience specialists.

Constantly learning, continuously evolving

This is becoming more important amid today’s ongoing war for talented candidates, as millions of skilled workers exit the workforce for retirement, and amid limitations on the mobility of resources across borders. Both new and reskilled employees will need to be fully prepared to work and interact collaboratively with emerging technologies – including automation and robotics – that are being positioned to deliver increasingly personalised and seamless customer experiences.

As KPMG’s 2020 Global HR of the Future report revealed, human resources executives we surveyed agreed that preparing their workforce for automation and artificial intelligence capabilities will be their biggest workplace challenge. Unfortunately, our research also reveals that local government organisations are giving the need for evolved cultures offering employee learning, development and new skills a low priority – despite the increasing importance amid today’s rapid and accelerating changes.

Forrester Consulting and KPMG asked local authorities for their most important investment areas supporting customer strategy over the next year and an “aligned and empowered workforce” came last among eight choices.1  This misalignment between local organisations' priorities and employee expectations will make it harder for local agencies to attract young talents, especially with the private sector slowly but surely shifting their focus to create a workplace that's agile and fosters continuous learning.

Today's employees want an environment where they can fail fast, constantly learn and continue to evolve, bringing greater value to their roles and to the organisation. We believe investment in employee development will be crucial to attracting and retaining staff and forging a culture of continuous development, ultimately enabling employees to focus on more-valuable, customer-focused tasks and services.

Workplace flexibility enhances employee experience

Local authorities exist to support their local communities, and the need to demonstrate a strong sense of purpose that aligns with society’s evolving modern values is essential. This has become a motivating factor for younger workers seeking meaningful work, and we believe progress here can improve the sector’s historically poor record in recruiting and retaining young talent, particularly in today’s critical technology and data-focused roles.

Local authorities will need to get the basics right to attract and retain skilled talent, including investment in modern technology and flexible office environments. The ability to work flexibly, whether at home or in a satellite office, can cut commuting times and more importantly improves work life balance. It can also make jobs more accessible for those with family-care responsibilities. Despite the current technological advances, we are becoming more and more time poor.

Ultimately, while the customer experience is vital today, so is the employee experience. A culture and mindset of flexibility, improvement and purpose means replacing the hierarchical model traditionally used by local authorities in favor of agile decision making and collaborative ways of working.

One way in which local organisations can enable career development and increase flexibility is to make job roles themselves more flexible. Leaders should make it clear that it is everyone’s job to help the organization achieve its desired outcomes, and that teams need to show flexibility in supporting each other as needed to serve customers.

While the government sector’s typically cautious approach is appropriate in work that involves protecting vulnerable individuals, it can discourage innovation and flexibility. Individuals within the workforce can be a significant and valuable resource across teams and processes, however, as discussed in Redesigning services through the ‘eyes of the customer’.

Key takeaways

  • Attracting young talents: A local government organisation's sense of purpose as an employer can be a key differentiator in recruiting and retaining talent, particularly younger people seeking a modern digital workplace culture. Offering greater flexibility will also help attract those with home-care responsibilities.
  • Preparing for a digital focused workplace: Local authorities will also need to support and reskill existing staff for the digital era, including the ability to interact with emerging automation capabilities.
  • The employee experience and the employer brand are important: They act as a differentiator that helps attract talent. Today's young talents are choosing to work where their values matter.

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