Investing in people, with a focus on public-sector IT professionals

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Investing in people, with a focus on public-sector IT professionals

Why investing in people, and especially public-sector IT professionals, will benefit your workforce and wider society, as explained by Sascha Giese

Managing department budgets is as much an art as an accounting exercise. Getting your numbers wrong could lead to a financial shortfall that could lead to no end of departmental angst in the last months of the financial year

Get it right, on the other hand, and you have the prospect of a little extra left in the kitty — savings made from prudent spending and savings on software licences, for example — that could be spent on some much-needed extras. The question is, how best to spend these extra funds?

For those working in public sector IT, the answer is often — more tech. But I would argue that another more pressing area is often overlooked yet could deliver real benefits. And it involves investing in people.

After all, as organisations continue to push ahead with their digital transformation projects, the need for talent and expertise has never been greater. And yet attracting talent to the public sector — and retaining staff — has never been more difficult. That is why public sector IT leaders should consider putting more of their current budgets — including any budgetary surplus — into recruitment and skills training.

Investing in people is a ‘no brainer’

Even if it is solely targeted at those already working in the public sector, it could go a long way to stem the ‘brain drain’ that can hollow out departments.

Indeed, public sector leaders push against an open door when it comes to increasing skills. One of the six mission statements published in the government’s digital and data 2022-25 roadmap focuses on building digital skills at scale.

It’s a recognition at the highest level that the government needs the best digital, data, and technology specialists available to build and maintain world-class digital services.

“It’s not only people who work in digital, data, and technology teams who need great digital skills, however,” it says. “All civil servants need to build their digital and data skills to work more efficiently and effectively, for example, by using data to design new policies or using new technology to work with colleagues based in other locations.”

There’s little doubt that money spent in this area — either directly on upskilling IT professionals or those civil servants who would benefit from a greater understanding of how tech works — would pay considerable dividends.

Flexible working is increasingly attractive to new hires

While this is better suited to those who already work in the public sector, what about those mulling a career working on next-generation government IT projects? One way to attract new talent is by offering such perks as flexible working.

Again, departmental leaders who think this might help recruit and retain talent can take a leaf out of the government’s own book after it recently announced plans to give millions of UK workers the legal right to request flexible working on day one of employment.

As the government makes clear, flexible working doesn’t just mean a combination of working from home and in the office — it can mean employees making use of job-sharing, flexitime, and working compressed, annualised, or staggered hours.

If nothing else, it shows a commitment to flexible working and how it can help employees balance their work and home life, especially those with obligations or responsibilities such as caring for children or vulnerable people.

And if the public sector is to offer more flexible working conditions, it should be backed with a recruitment marketing campaign to encourage people to work for the public sector.

Working in the public sector is a chance to give something back to society

After all, with all the dials on the economic dashboard currently warning of tough times ahead, it may prompt some IT professionals working in the private sector to consider working in the public sector until things blow over. Who knows, it may even be just the kickstart some IT professionals need to give their careers a change in direction.

It’s clear that post-pandemic, many IT professionals have re-evaluated what’s important to them regarding work and job satisfaction, with signs that some want to give something back to their community.

Working on government projects gives IT professionals a chance to impact the delivery of public services in rewarding areas such as health or education.

When it comes to public sector IT, there is no shortage of opportunity. The key is to make the jobs attractive both to new talent and those already working within the sector. The key is to promote the public sector as a rewarding place to work. The key is to invest in people.

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