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Public Sector Research: 3 Ways to Solve the Leadership Crisis

February 28, 2017 by Susan Galer

According to a new Oxford Economics study, the only way the public sector can close a looming leadership gap will be through major investments in digital training and technology.

While two-thirds of surveyed executives said senior managers in their organization were ready for digital transformation, only 41 percent of reporting employees said their bosses used technology for competitive advantage. And, it gets worse. Even though surveyed public sector employees were much more likely than any other industry to cite manager quality as a significant job satisfaction driver, only 50 percent said their manager is committed to developing talent, and only 57 percent said their manager is able to inspire and motivate employees.

Source: Oxford Economics Leaders 2020 study: Digital leadership in in Public Sector 2016. Image via SAP.

The results from the SAP SuccessFactors-sponsored study were based on feedback from over 4,100 executives and employees worldwide. Oxford Economics found a direct correlation between high-performing companies – called “Digital Winners” − and specific winning organizational practices and results. I summarized the characteristics of “Digital Winners” industry-wide in a previous blog. The latest whitepaper, “Digital Leadership in Public Sector,” details the findings specific to the government arena. Oxford Economics also incorporated the research data into a benchmarking survey companies can use to compare their performance with “Digital Winners.”

Diversity Falls Short Where It’s Needed Most

Source: Oxford Economics Leaders 2020 study: Digital leadership in in Public Sector 2016. Image via SAP.

Source: Oxford Economics Leaders 2020 study: Digital leadership in in Public Sector 2016. Image via SAP.

Public sector organizations exist to serve the entire population, representing a broad range of citizen interests, making diversity particularly important. However, this study demonstrated just 29 percent of executives said there has been major growth in diversity at the senior leadership and board level, lower than many private-sector industries. North American public sector executives reported the least progress, with only 16 percent saying there had been significant change at the senior level.

Troubling Millennial Disconnect 

Attracting and keeping talent will be particularly critical as public sector employees retire, and millennials and Gen Z workers dominate the ranks. Younger executives in this survey prioritized working for technologically advanced, high-performing organizations. The problem is existing public sector workers were the least likely of any industry group to say their organization helped them stay updated on digital skills, or even use the latest technologies. These same employees are also least likely to cite digital skills and advanced technology usage as drivers of their overall satisfaction.

Research: Public sector requires major investments in digital training and technology to solve leadership crisis

Applying Digital to Government

What’s needed across the public sector is both a culture shift so all employees understand how important digital skills are for success, followed by action to bring these technologies into the organization for effective use. Only then will public sector managers and workers be able to make informed, fast decisions that positively impact the lives of citizens.

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