Despite the importance of the work, public sector employee engagement remains a challenge. The federal employee engagement score is around 12 points behind the private sector mark. It sits at just 63.4 out of 100.
I worked in the public sector for three years. In that time, I learned that local governments will get blamed for just about everything—even if it’s not their responsibility. At the same time, people also expect them to have an answer for everything.
The role could be difficult, since our hands were often tied because politics (either internal ones or the government itself) got in the way. Still, many of the people I worked with genuinely cared about what they did. They felt motivated to make a difference.
When public sector employee engagement is high, team members are more productive. There are lower levels of absenteeism. Fewer people leave.
And, with tight public budgets, a competitive talent market, a worker shortage, and less space in the public sector to negotiate pay, creating the right working environment is key to saving money and providing more effective services.
So, how do you boost public sector employee engagement?
You may not have control over every decision that affects your employees, but you can share what’s going on with them. This ensures they feel included in the process. Even if a decision came from higher up and is out of your hands.
Give employees the opportunity to share their feelings, too.
Even if they can’t change anything, voicing their emotions helps employees let go of them. That way, they can get on with the tasks that they do have control over.
One of the challenges I faced in my role in the public sector was getting other departments to embrace social media. This was ten years ago, so it was still uncharted territory for a lot of businesses.
Many of my colleagues didn’t understand how it worked and didn’t even use it for their personal lives. So why would they care about it for work?
Some departments were uncomfortable even updating the information on their part of the website.
So I shared the benefits with them. Things like how, if they updated the website now, it would reduce the time they spent on the phone answering the same question over and over. And expanding the information that was there in anticipation of other FAQs.
Over time, those departments that had been dragging their feet started to realize how the website—and social media—could give them more time and make their jobs easier.
Just ensuring that everyone is educated and informed can do wonders for public sector employee engagement.
Technology empowers you to streamline your workflows, communicate better, and cut costs. All of which mean you can provide better services to the people you serve.
It means employees can do their jobs more effectively.
Technological advancements are there to make employees’ lives easier. This is particularly true in industries where employees already feel like they can’t get everything they need to do done each day.
While there’s obviously a lot to consider with new technology, the right tools can significantly increase public sector employee engagement.
When employees work remotely, it can be lonely. It can also get lonely if they work well with their team, but don’t have much to talk to them about beyond work.
Tools like Workrowd are a great way to connect public sector employees with their colleagues from other departments.
In larger organizations, it’s impossible for employees to meet every one of their coworkers in the corridor.
Organizing employee groups is a simple, effective way for them to connect with like-minded employees. Plus, it can improve their sense of belonging in the workplace.
Belonging is crucial in all organizations, but it’s especially important if you want to boost public sector employee engagement.
Ask for feedback
The best way to improve the employee experience is to ask employees how they feel about it. This doesn’t always make for comfortable reading, but it’s a vital part of improving public sector employee engagement.
It shouldn’t be an arbitrary survey that’s sent to HR through people’s managers, though. Employees should feel able to communicate openly, honestly, and directly with HR.
That way, employees won’t feel the need to mince their words. They can be open about any toxic tendencies in their team or from their manager without worrying about someone finding out they said something and it affecting their working relationships.
This fear alone can make employees clam up and feel unable to share their experiences. Resulting in damage to the employee experience, especially if these types of surveys are mandatory. (But illogical.)
Instead, why not send regular, automated feedback surveys?
Ones that are sent on your behalf, where you can then have more time to act on the feedback you receive?
Act on employees’ feedback
It’s one thing to ask for feedback, but you going to all the effort to create surveys, and employees taking time out of their busy days to fill them in, is pointless if no changes are made based on the feedback.
Are there any patterns that emerge from the feedback?
What steps can you take to improve things?
Or if something is going well, what can you do to lean into those successes?
Life in the public sector can be very different from the private sector. Employees—and often management—can have far less control over decisions that are made, and the things they have to do as a result.
To improve public sector employee engagement, make sure team members still have a voice. Build a welcoming culture that listens to employees and supports them.
It’s important to modernize, too. This can take more time in the public sector, where things often move more slowly than in the private sector. Ultimately though, it’s the key to doing more with less as public sector organizations struggle financially.
If you’re ready to boost public sector employee engagement, getting the right tools in place can help. With Workrowd, you can keep employees connected, automate feedback requests, and leverage real-time analytics to take your public sector employee engagement efforts to the next level.