Two-thirds of public servants require new skills in next three years

30 December 2020 4 min. read

Around seven-in-ten public servants across Europe believe they can maintain or improve the standards of their service via remote work, according to a new study. However, UK workers are concerned that without improved training and adaptive management, they will struggle to realise the potential of the new technology they are working with.

The lockdown brought in to fight the Covid-19 pandemic saw companies become more reliant on decentralised digital operation systems than ever before. This has been especially true of public services, which have had to move online to meet citizens’ needs for healthcare, social services, education and security as well as businesses’ need for financial support.

The pandemic has acted as a catalyst for public service leaders and managers to accelerate the adoption of new ways of working and digitalisation, improving the experience both of public servants and the citizens they serve and protect. At the same time, there is still lots of room for improvement, according to the results of a new survey from BearingPoint.

How would you judge the service that you are able to offer citizens/business with people working remotely during the Covid-19 crisis?

The consulting firm polled the experiences of 3,500 public servants in France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK working in health and social protection, education, emergency services and local/central government – and found that while the pandemic has seen a major increase in the uptake of digital processes, basic improvements in management and training will be needed to make the most of the changes.

Optimism around digitised services in the pandemic varied from sector to sector, with one-quarter of emergency workers expecting they could offer an improved service, and 41% saying they could offer a similar level of service, while in contrast only 19% of those in education felt they could offer an improved service, and only 33% thinking they could maintain the level of service provided. Overall, however, BearingPoint found that almost 70% of public servants working in the government sector consider they could maintain or improve service quality through remote delivery.

According to those polled, the vast majority of respondents in all eight countries agreed their role will require many new skills in the next three years, with 66% of those in the UK saying so – only behind Ireland on 74% and Italy on 79%. With Civil Servants in the UK having previously been found to be overlooked when it comes to digital training – to the extent they have taken the matter into their own hands – the fact that two-thirds of public staff now believe they will need upskilling by the end of 2023 suggests Britain’s Government will need to drastically up its game with regards to helping its staff adjust to increasingly digitised work.

We could deliver better public services with improvements in management of the team

At the same time, management of teams has yet to adjust to the digital work of public services during lockdown. Over two thirds of public servants across all countries believe that better management could improve the delivery of public services, including 62% of those polled in the UK.

According to BearingPoint, public sector organisations could best address this by investing more in training and developing their managers to be able to set better personal and team objectives, proactively listening to their employees’ well-being needs, and coaching them to perform better. Meanwhile, performance measurement needs to shift, including priority areas of recognition for employees, and employee well-being.

The researchers stated, “In this period of change to working patterns, staying safe and managing the stress/anxiety of the Covid-19 situation has been the main concern for public servants. As the pandemic continues it will be critically important for managers to continue to prioritise the well-being of their team.”