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 organizations will do well to proactively heighten their brand as ‘employers of choice’ in order to keep up with today’s fierce competition for talent. This will demand reskilling of current workforces for success in a new era of digital, 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.

This is becoming more important amid today’s ongoing war for talent, 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 personalized 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 organizations 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

The aim should be a culture of continuous improvement where staff can fail fast, learn and evolve, bringing greater value to their roles and to the organization. We believe investment in employee development will be crucial to attracting and retaining staff and forging a culture of continuous learning, ultimately enabling employees to focus on more-valuable, customer-focused tasks and services.

A new sense of ‘purpose’ is essential

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. It can also make jobs more accessible for those with family-care responsibilities. Staff also need opportunities to develop their careers.

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 organizations 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

  • A local government organization'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.
  • 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 and can act as a differentiator that helps attract talent.


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A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of KPMG, November 2020