As the world settles in to the “new normal” of a remote workforce, government agencies are trying to balance productivity, shrinking IT budgets, and the need to serve their constituents. Of course, it’s necessary to have technology in place that checks the tactical boxes for an employee like data and file access, but what about technology that addresses a deeper issue: employee engagement. Employee engagement and productivity go hand-in-hand, so it’s safe to say that ensuring one definitely helps promote the other.
To learn about how this new formula for productivity looks for the growing remote workforce, we sat down with Marcus Mossberger, Senior Director of Industry and Solution Strategy for Infor. Mossberger shared with us poignant takes on the shifting culture of the public sector, the expedited evolution of the cloud, and how they all play into boosting employee productivity in an uncertain time. Here’s what he had to say:
Chelsea Barone: Tell us about some of the biggest challenges you’re hearing from public sector agencies right now as they adjust to working during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marcus Mossberger: The hottest topic right now among public sector experts is remote work and how to not only adjust to the current environment, but also how to transition back into some degree of normalcy when it’s appropriate. Many want to know what that transition will look like. So, a big question is who do we potentially allow to continue working from home once the “all clear” is given? Let’s face it, that “all clear” could be months, if not, years away, so nobody is anticipating an immediate return to “normal,” but I think it’s becoming clear that we need to adapt if we expect society to keep functioning.
There’s been a real challenge for our public sector clients that maybe didn’t have a robust technology infrastructure in place to accommodate this new style of work. More than anything, there’s a cultural element to consider – some organizations just don’t fit that autonomous, independent culture.
But probably the biggest challenge I’m hearing about is maintaining the productivity of our state and local governments when people are working remotely often without the technology, tools, and direction to be successful. Ultimately, it’s about maintaining the health and safety of our workforce, but, at the same time, we need to make sure that agencies can continue to provide mission-critical services.
Barone: What technologies are serving as the backbone for this massive transition to remote work in the public sector?
Mossberger: Zoom and other video conference tools have become critical infrastructure for this country, which is pretty remarkable considering it was never meant to be that way. They had to scale to be able to perform for more users than I think they ever imagined in a very short period of time. You can argue whether or not it’s gone well, with emerging questions around security, but Zoom and Microsoft Teams in particular have just exploded in use.
It’s also obvious that the move to the cloud has gained a lot of traction as a result of this situation. I read a McKinsey report recently that said in the last eight weeks, we’ve seen an acceleration of five years’ worth of technology adoption. This whole crisis has caused us to accelerate the adoption of remote work tools and other technology that previously we were on the fence about, and cloud is a prime example.
Barone: Let’s dig into that. Elaborate on what role the cloud is playing in this transition and its accelerated adoption in the public sector.
Mossberger: Our public sector clients tend to not be on the bleeding edge of technology adoption. What we’re seeing as a result of the pandemic is a recognition that they can’t keep doing what they have been doing. There’s this growing realization that whatever we’ve been doing for the last 20 years is not going to work for the next 20 years. Government agencies are recognizing that they need to be more open to creative, innovative, new ways of performing services. Cloud seems to be the foundation on which you can layer additional innovation. That’s why I think it’s become more critical.
Barone: Do you think this pandemic will reshape IT infrastructure for government agencies? If so, how?
Mossberger: We’re seeing major pushes for standardization in the cloud and a lot more desire for vendor consolidation. Most of our clients, both public and private sector, have disparate systems that they’ve cobbled together over time to meet their mission. Understandably, they want the best-of-breed systems for talent acquisition, or performance management, or whatever the goal is. But it’s not very efficient and it is very cumbersome for their employees. Equally important, budget shortfalls are going to be top-of-mind for a very long time, so there’s an opportunity to save some money in supporting and maintaining a couple of systems versus a dozen or more.
I think IT infrastructure is going to start standardizing more on the cloud and on a few select strategic vendors. There will always be ancillary vendors that provide some specialized service or capability that the big boys don’t, and they can normally get there faster, but that standardization on a foundation like the cloud is going to continue to rise.
Barone: Do any strong examples of remote work productivity in the public sector come to mind?
Mossberger: During a recent webinar, representatives from the City of Boston and the State of Washington both brought up multiple times the challenge of sustaining engagement with a remote workforce and keeping your team productive and efficient. Regular team check-ins are a crucial part of that equation.
It’s safe to say that we all recognize that the traditional annual review is dead. We’ve abandoned it in favor of more frequent, less formal conversations with our employees that we used to have in-person, and now in many cases, we have them remotely.
Especially right now, what we’ve been hearing is that team members are feeling overwhelmed. That separation between work and home life is not as clear as it used to be and it’s leading to burnout. Tools like Infor’s Continuous Performance Engagement allow for employers to keep that intelligence about morale accessible. These very brief check-ins can also capture information that is aggregated for later use when looking at future promotions or position changes. Ultimately, we want to enable the quick and intuitive interactions with people and their managers where they can focus on the conversation and their employee. Let us handle the data.