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Even before the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic began, there was already a growing gap between the mission objectives of most government organizations and their overall capacity and capabilities with regards to talent. Staffing shortages are unfortunately common, particularly when it comes to key areas like cybersecurity, acquisition management, data scientists, adaptable IT professionals and more.

In a lot of ways, the pandemic has only made things worse now that most organizations suddenly must contend with a shift towards re-skilling and talent development. It should come as no surprise that approximately 44% of government agencies say that talent excellence in a collaborative and innovative culture is one of their top priorities based on their digital transformation vision, their ongoing strategy and their long-term roadmap.

If nothing else, all of this underlines the importance of creating robust learning and development programs as quickly as possible. COVID-19 has elevated to a function that is critical in helping an agency transform culturally to meet their mission.  Evolving the current Learning and development programs to provide continuous learning experiences has become a must have to improve employee engagement and employee capabilities alike.  Agencies are pivoting to cover a range of dimensions including the culture, vision, processes and skills.  COVID-19 has exacerbated many learning and development program roadmaps due to staffing and budgeting shortages and skill gaps.

The Common Challenges with Learning and Development Today

Unfortunately, it's common for development objectives between a government organization and their employees to fall out of alignment, or to not be equally supported by a learning infrastructure that already exists. Many times, organizations fall into the trap of "throwing content" at the problem, which only leads to overwhelm the employee, make navigation needlessly complex, and offer no clear mechanism for feedback that can improve the learning experience.

This creates a negative ripple effect in other ways. Programs that are misaligned with employees' needs often fail to keep pace with wider developments and innovations. If these programs are mandated rather than bespoke, they run the risk of turning employees away from exploring learning and development at the worst possible moment.

This is why, especially now, a new approach to learning and development is needed. One that not only offers a clearer path to skills within the context of the government organization, but one that prioritizes the employee experience at all points.  Improving an agencies learning and development program is one of the best opportunities to help the agency make progress towards their mission objectives.

Break things down:  Setting Clear Learning and Development Objectives

To reap the benefits of a transformed learning and development approach, government organizations will need to invest in programs that will allow them to address a lot of the challenges that already existed while further adapting to a remote learning environment.  In fact, according to SAP's benchmark statistics "46% of CEOs say reskilling and upskilling are the best way to maintain a workforce that can meet their business needs. To ensure that agencies are properly reskilling and upskilling, they need Learning and Development solutions that have robust analytics and reporting,  integration with other talent modules, and are cloud based."

Agencies will need to:

  1. Understand what skillsets, roles, and job types will be critical for your agency in the months and years ahead.

  2. Discover what skill and engagement gaps exist using a data driven approach (experience data from surveys, analytics insights, and the feedback from your departmental leaders) to pivot your approach.

  3. Turn Learning and Development into a central part of the employee experience by delivering quality content that is both personalized and relevant for skills development and personal growth.

Likewise, agencies should be focused on creating a better employee experience for employees who may already have the right skills, engagement and mindset. This is critical not only for recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and to adjust to the "next normal" but also for retention.

In the end, learning and development were always destined to be a central part of the employee experience - it's just that the sudden COVID-19 pandemic has made this need more urgent than ever. Government agencies that can deliver quality content that is both personalized and relevant for skill development and growth will have a hand in developing the public sector workforce for the future in the most effective way possible. Those who don't will continue to deal with skills gaps, labor shortages and other issues that are only going to get worse as time marches on.

Find a more detailed point of view on this topic via this new IDC info brief on Learning Management for the Public Sector