Public sector employees continue to do extraordinary work in challenging circumstances. From the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain shortages to soaring inflation and demographic change, government agencies have been tested.  And this disruption has not been slight – a recent report concluded that it has been growing for the last five years, with levels increasing by 200% from 2017 to 2022.

Disruption, by its very nature, means change and it is now an accepted truth that government agencies across the world need to embrace it if they wish to continue in their mission of delivering services to citizens. However, to maximize the impact of this ongoing reinvention department leaders also need to embrace new opportunities to access, create and unlock potential and existing talent.

To succeed in this evolving dynamic, they need people who are motivated and have the right skills to act on the changes to come, particularly in emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and extended reality. Research shows that high-performing organizations enjoyed an 11% productivity boost from effectively combining data, technology and people compared to just 4% for technology and data alone.

So, putting people at the heart of their strategy and empowering Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs) to play a big role in transformation initiatives is key.

CHROs are not only responsible for employees but are also in charge of running human capital management and other HR technology systems. In addition, the recent ecosystem disruption has led to an evolution of the position; spawning a new generation of talent leaders that are now collaborating with their C-suite peers to drive reinvention and innovation. Now operating at the heart of their organization’s reinvention, they view data, technology, and people through both a wide and telescopic lens to bring unseen opportunities for growth into focus.

Despite the rise of this new type of talent leader, just 41% of public sector respondents say their CHROs are exceeding expectations in unlocking the potential of their organization’s people compared to an average of 61% across all industries.

So, what can public service talent leaders do to bridge these gaps, learn from high-performing CHROs and bring the public sector further in line with other areas? There are three key behaviors to apply.

The first is to access and create talent in innovative ways. Using data-led insights, they must develop an understanding of which capabilities their departments need most—and where to both find and attract the people that have them. Prioritizing upskilling achieves this by helping meet growth goals and build infrastructure capable of delivering the right capabilities at the right time across departments. In addition, public sector talent leaders should utilize AI to better understand how bias enters the screening process and use data to transform candidate experiences and discover and support talent within their own organizations.

The second is an ability to connect new dimensions of data, technology, and people to unlock potential; something they are nearly twice as likely to do as effectively as their peers. This means maximizing people-related data by spotting productivity trends, uncovering engagement drivers and applying predictive insights from skills data to proactively meet demand and help their people grow. Public sector talent leaders should also use technology and the existing ecosystem as tools for innovation and boosting employee experiences in the workplace, using them to free up capital and fuel new investments for future growth.

The final goal is to lead department reinvention beyond the HR function. A public sector talent leader’s impact should go far beyond their traditional area – they can become catalysts of enterprise-wide change. Since reinvention must be people-led, they should be able to adapt talent strategy at speed and scale to align with agency needs and strengthen resilience across several areas, including acquisitions, investments, new products and services, branding and social activisim; helping with broader social goals while expanding external partnerships and investments that make an impact in the world.

Across public service, future success requires reinvention today. It all starts with connecting data, technology, and people; but it takes the right skills and environment for those connections to truly matter, both within the company and beyond. Embracing change requires bold leadership — every agency leader should be talking about how to tap into and empower their talent leaders as a growth executives. It starts by holding the mirror up, individually, and collectively.

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