“All great changes are preceded by chaos,” wrote Indian-American author Deepak Chopra. This is especially true today, as a global pandemic was succeeded by great technological innovations.

Governments had to gather their bearings, pivot quickly, and use technology to come up with new services. This has highlighted the need for a tech-savvy, agile civil service.

Rudy Abrahams, Vice President & Head of SAP SuccessFactors Southeast Asia, discusses how governments can build an innovative and digitally-enabled civil service.

Innovative, agile civil servants

A tech-savvy workforce is needed for governments to thrive in today’s digital world, Abrahams says. Governments across the world have recognised this need and embarked on training programmes for civil servants, he observes.

The UK’s Government Digital Service Academy, for instance, provides courses to train civil servants on how to create digital services. Topics include the basics of AI in government, and how digital transformation projects can be supported and governed.

Malaysia has also embarked on a nationwide public sector ICT training plan. Its National Institute of Public Administration is one of the agencies leading the charge, offering software testing and IT courses for interested civil servants.

Soft skills such as agility and resilience have also become more important in today’s uncertain world, Abrahams says. Civil servants need to be able to “quickly adjust their course as government needs evolve”.

SAP works with governments to help them monitor civil servants’ performance, Abrahams says. It helps managers provide accurate and meaningful feedback for employees to create a “high-performing culture”.

Create a culture of continuous learning

It’s also crucial to embrace a culture of continuous learning, Abrahams notes. With the drastic changes to the way we work today, governments must ensure civil servants’ skillsets are constantly refreshed.

“The most important skill in the future will be the ability to continuously learn, and to have a civil service that’s ready to adapt,” said Peter Pogačar, Director General of Slovenia’s Public Sector Directorate, at last year’s Global Government Summit.

The SAP SuccessFactors Learning platform helps improve employee skills and create a culture of continuous learning, Abrahams says. Employees can access e-learning content with their phones, and filter content according to their career goals. It also allows employers to analyse competency gaps, and recommends next steps.

Data-driven employee experiences

Governments must create the “right conditions for innovation”, notes Abrahams. That means agencies need to be able to identify problems, translate ideas into projects, and expand successful ones quickly.

Data is crucial in this effort, he adds. It can help to identify bottlenecks so processes can be improved, for instance.

The SuccessFactors platform integrates data from HR, financial, and third-party systems. Management teams can then make decisions based on data, and dig deeper into topics like diversity, engagement, and turnover rates.

With the shift to remote working, it’s also crucial to understand what civil servants need and boost their morale, Abrahams says.

SAP’s Experience Management tool collects operational data such as revenues, and experience data such as employee sentiment. Analysing these two together helps HR teams understand what the gaps are, and implement programmes to enhance employee wellbeing.

There is no blueprint for the future – governments must be prepared to steer through uncertainty and stay on their toes. A tech-savvy and agile civil service will be crucial in this effort.

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