Global populations are aging, and economies are feeling the impact as private and public sector organisations struggle to manage talent shortages that undermine their workforces and productivity, all while chasing the critical new skills needed for the digital age. Research by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) shows that about 24 percent of central government employees were 55 or older in 2015, while just 18 percent were under 34 and this gap has only grown in the interim. Italy’s government had the highest proportion of employees 55 or older at 45 percent.1

Today’s professionals are raising the bar in their pursuit of meaningful, purpose-led, socially conscious roles and careers that will ideally allow them to have an impact in driving positive social change. Fortunately, governments can meet this emerging workforce’s preference for meaningful and purpose-led work. However, this important value proposition should be augmented by governments and highlighted in future recruitment efforts, proclaiming civil service as a prime environment for young people who truly want to make a difference by enabling social change.

Implementing modern technology will play a crucial role. Governments are challenged by the fact that younger talent with modern technical skills can be deterred by what they perceive as a governmental lack of innovation. Research by KPMG in the US shows that nearly 60 percent of government executives admitted that, compared to the private sector, their agencies now struggle to attract and retain skilled talent for the digital future.2

This will prove critical as governments continue to compete with the private sector for the best and brightest talent; those young people with the passion to move modernisation agendas forward. Beyond heightening their brand as employers of choice in the competition for talent, governments will also need to explore opportunities to engage private-sector professionals who can quickly deliver new skill sets, such as data scientists and customer-experience specialists. Reskilling (learning new skills to perform a different job) and upskilling (learning new skills to expand existing capabilities) of current employees will also be crucial in overcoming talent shortages and enhancing public services.

“In Ukraine, the Civil Service Academy has been recently reorganised. Its regional institutes contribute to a pool of academic universities in the regions. Private universities, such as the Ukrainian Catholic University, have high-quality public administration training programmes, Kyiv-Mohyla Academy has a high-quality school, and there are many MBA programmes that provide knowledge and education in Public Administration. That is, a person who wants to make a career in the civil service has an opportunity for doing this. Our task is to create appropriate conditions to ensure that, upon graduating universities, professionals have proper working conditions, opportunities to realise personal potential, and decent salaries.”

- Oleg Nemchinov, Minister of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine

According to KPMG’s 2020 HR Pulse Survey report 3, building talent through upskilling and reskilling was cited as a key factor in shaping the workforce of the future by 72 percent of human resources executives. It should also be noted that government and public sector organisations, along with educational institutions and hospitality companies, reported the greatest reskilling needs.

Upskilling existing employees, meanwhile, will be a valuable way for governments to retain employees that possess valuable institutional knowledge, years of experience, and an understanding of how government functions. Enhancing their skills will enable them to focus on more valuable tasks and fill positions in highly competitive fields, such as IT and cyber security.

Governments also need to show flexibility in how their workforces, and the diverse roles within them, are organised and dispatched, especially when it comes to managing the shift to remote and hybrid workspaces.

Governments need to take a proactive approach to attracting and retaining next-generation civil servants, deploy important new skills, and reshape workforces to keep pace with the development of digital society and be able to meet its needs. Reskilling and upskilling existing civil servants will be crucial for retaining valued professionals, overcoming talent shortages, and enhancing public services. To build civil services of the future, governments need a combination of experienced employees, those willing to acquire new knowledge and upgrade their skills, and young talents who want to modernise the system.


1 - Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 2017.  Government at a glance 2017

2 - Stark, L., Walker, B., 2021. Modern government: Connected, Powered. Trusted, KPMG LLP.

3 - Greenshields, A., 2020. COVID-19 thrusts HR to the forefront of business productivity, workforce models, and culture mobilization.