Nov 09 2023

How State CIOs Can Build a More Resilient Workforce

Work models remain fluid for many organizations, so what can agencies do to make sure employees are agile? A new report details strategies to foster a more flexible workforce.

At NASCIO 2023 Midyear, government IT leaders emphasized staff retention, inclusivity and workforce flexibility. The message: To win the war for cyber talent, agencies must accommodate more flexible working arrangements such as hybrid work, as recommended by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers and the National Governors Association. The conversation continued at NASCIO 2023, where state CIOs spoke of lingering issues with recruiting and retaining IT staff.

State CIOs will continue to reckon with this in the coming year. And with so many organizations across industries and sectors moving back to the office in some capacity by 2024, state CIOs may feel more pressured than ever to find the right level of flexibility for their employees.

Essentially, agencies must be agile to address workforce challenges, and at the core of this goal is resilience. The Center for Digital Government, IBM and NASCIO released “Preparing for Future Shocks in State Government,” a report that serves as a roadmap to stronger resilience for state CIOs as they face rapid digital transformation and a rising number of threats.

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Creating a More Resilient Workforce

Successful hybrid work and resilience go hand in hand. The IBM, CDG and NASCIO report notes that part of being a resilient organization today is providing hybrid and remote work opportunities and preparing employees to thrive in those environments.

“State governments will need to build on and advance the systems and processes they put in place during COVID — including hybrid work infrastructure, stronger identity management and portable workloads — to better prepare for inevitable future disruptions,” the report states.

Another key component is making workforces themselves more resilient so that they’re better suited to a hybrid work environment. One way to do this is by “cultivating the future workforce” through cross-training opportunities so that all employees are more versatile. This makes it easier for state CIOs to move workers between agencies when needs arise. 

What’s more, as Kansas CISO and interim CTO Jeff Maxon notes in the report, state CIOs can make workforces even more agile by standardizing IT position titles to more easily identify individuals with cross-functional skills.

A Wider Talent Pool Creates Stronger Teams

The report demonstrates that state CIOs are being more flexible about the skill requirements of certain positions. Instead of demanding a laundry list of technical skills, the report explains that states such as Nevada are focusing more on intangible qualifications.

Additionally, some state CIOs are working with other public entities to connect with young talent earlier and more often. The result? In Nebraska, the report notes, 47 percent of the state’s application development workforce came from one local community college. Nebraska CIO Ed Toner also explains that his mindset has changed when it comes to filling positions, which has boosted workforce resilience.

“We don’t hire for positions, we hire people. We put them in positions they are interested in, then we allow them — and I think this is where we get a lot of resiliency — to switch roles. If a job opens, they can apply for it and do something totally different,” he says in the report.

DISCOVER: Agencies are embracing modern workspace management for distributed workforces.

Why Culture Matters for an Agile Workplace

Learning from failure is a major component of building resilience. But if organizations don’t give employees room to fail, they won’t take risks and try new things. The report notes that many CIOs work to create safe spaces for their employees to experiment with new technologies without fear.

As Massachusetts CIO Jason Snyder explains in the report, “We’re trying to reduce the hierarchy, flatten the organization and give everyone a voice Open discussion of problems encourages our teams to participate creatively in solutions.”

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