4 public sector HR trends to watch for in 2022

By Mark Wilfred

Mark Wilfred, Director of Solutions Consulting, Southeast Asia at SAP Concur discusses the next steps for government agencies looking to improve staff satisfaction.

The Covid-19 pandemic story is one of heroic efforts. Selfless public sector staff worked tirelessly to help nations get through the pandemic. But it has taken a toll: government officials are leaving their jobs.

52 per cent of US state and local government workers are considering leaving their jobs, reported the MissionSquare Research Institute. In Singapore, some resignation rates in the public sector reached a 10 year peak at the end of 2021, highlighted Minister-in-charge of the Public Service Chan Chun Sing, according to CNA.

Mark Wilfred, Director of Solutions Consulting, Southeast Asia  at SAP Concur discusses four ways public sector agencies can redesign workplace processes to improve job satisfaction.

1. Genuinely watch out for employees’ welfare

In today’s competitive job market, it is important for employers to make employees feel that the organisation cares for them. Perhaps more so in the public sector, where salaries may not reach the level of the multinational corporations or unicorn start-ups.

Employee benefits common in today’s private sector include:

  • Fitness subsidies – these have become commonplace during the pandemic, as employers try to help staff grappling with physical inactivity and mental health issues.

  • Flexible spending accounts – these give employees the option of spending a fixed amount of money on a range of goods and services to support personal wellbeing and health. Anecdotally, civil servants compare with peers to see if their employers offer this benefit. Those who find out their employer doesn’t may feel short changed.

  • Spot awards – these are used by managers to recognise team members who went beyond their duty to get a job done – e.g., sacrificing a family outing to run an important event on a weekend.

  • Appreciate points – these are for employees to recognise their counterparts for making important contributions outside of their normal responsibilities, for the greater good of the company. These points can be redeemed for vouchers with negotiated vendors to reward these employees.
Public sector agencies should strive to pilot at least some of the above in their packages to employees. And such coverage should include rank and file staff, not just the most senior or those with the highest potential.

2. Effectively facilitate remote work

With remote/hybrid work becoming mainstay, employers hoping to retain their staff need to be seen as supporting such a work model. There are three aspects to this – the right mindset to hybrid work, the provision of infrastructure to support hybrid work, and the enablement of IT services to minimise friction and maximise productivity.

First, the right mindset to hybrid work is about getting employees to come back to office for meaningful collaboration and critical tasks. It is also an opportunity to shift to more sustainable practices (e.g. shifting away from hard copy documents for in-person meetings).

The second relates to measures like reimbursing employees for home office equipment (e.g. chair, desk or technology accessories) to create a conducive and healthy work environment at home.

The third involves giving them appropriate technologies like fast remote access to corporate apps and files, and secured document management systems. Without such services, staff may be forced to travel to the office just to access certain files, and this could cause unnecessary frustration.

3. Strengthen manager-staff communications

Employees must feel comfortable communicating openly with their managers. If not, they are likely to look externally for other career opportunities. There have been many anecdotes of how introverted high performers have their struggles and achievements overlooked by their managers when working remotely, leading them to leave their posts in dissatisfaction.

Public sector organisations may want drive home this point to their managers, and encourage the leaders to engage employees regularly in a structured way conducive for feedback gathering.

4. Minimise distracting, tedious and low-value work

Nothing riles one as much as an ask to do tedious and unproductive work when he/she is intensely focused on a job or rushing to meet a deadline.

Examples include requests to repeatedly fill up forms to claim an expense, or wait on a busy customer hotline to book flights or travel accommodation.

Companies should put in place systems to enable such administrative chores to be automated and simplified. Modern travel and expense technologies can support employees’ well-being while on the road, and render assistance when needed.

They can store important documents like visas and vaccination certificates for instant retrieval and obtain Covid-19 guidance to countries that they are traveling to. All these capabilities boost employee satisfaction by cutting down on the stresses associated with business travel.

And automating travel and expense doesn’t just keep employees happy and improve retention. They also give finance teams and the organisation better insight into spend. Budgeting is improved, controls are tightened, and compliance is more efficiently and effectively attained.

Much remains to be seen about the future of work, but the public sector is already experiencing a shift in the attitudes of public sector staff. To stay ahead of the curve, government agencies can start by simplifying everyday tasks for staff and supporting their personal welfare and development.