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Building the social workforce for tomorrow

13th Oct 2022
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If you’ve ever found yourself needing medical attention, reliant on carers to support a family member or sent a child off on their first day of school, you probably feel a sense of gratitude to the people providing these important services as part of the caring economy.

However, despite near universal goodwill and appreciation, it is a sad fact that it remains one of the most under-resourced sectors around the world. And with rising inequality, growing populations and increasingly challenging socio-economic conditions, the pressures and expectations on the caring economy will become even greater in the years to come.

To put it bluntly, we are ALL going to need more people than ever working to support these essential services. And the data bears this out – a recent report from Accenture and the World Economic Forum (WEF) found a significant and growing shortfall in what it terms social jobs — those in education, healthcare and care.

Thankfully, there is a recognition within governments and public service agencies of the benefits that will come from making the right investments to retain and attract new talent and improve the worker experience in the social sector. By the report’s  estimates, a $1.3 trillion investment in the US could result in a $3.1 trillion boost to its national GDP, as well as creating 10 million new social jobs. 

So, what are the steps human resource representatives and leadership in public service agencies should take to ensure they plan for this future? 

Think beyond the pay packet

Of course, part of making jobs in the sector more attractive for new and existing employees, is to address issues such as wages and working conditions. But it is equally, if not more, crucial that HR recognize that these jobs need to be both better and different from how they are today. Expectations for those who work in social jobs have changed dramatically and the data shows that they are looking for much more than a regular pay check

Instead, what they desire from their employers is to be ‘net better off.’ That means supporting them across a spectrum of needs, only one of which is financial. People want a clear sense of purpose, they want to feel that they belong and are looking for support; emotionally, mentally and physically, as well as with skills development and opportunities to advance and realize their full potential. Getting these non-financial needs right will not only provide existing employees with the holistic support they need, it will also be critical in the fight for talent. 

Public service leaders and HR teams must rethink how their organization supports the whole, authentic person in every single role from frontline to back office. Ask the question, what are your people’s needs and how well are they met today? 

Use technology to deliver better jobs and better care 

There is now global acceptance of how automation can free up precious time across all walks of life, including for those in social jobs - enabling them to focus on the most human, impactful, and rewarding aspects of their role. But it’s also becoming increasingly recognized that agencies can also use intelligent technologies to gain trapped insights into matching skills to roles, beyond the abilities of what humans can do alone.

This same approach can identify where skills augmentation can help employees progress in their careers. The right skills development and support is essential to making existing jobs more fulfilling and to help attract the next generation of talent to public service roles. In addition, advanced tools for learning and development, such as augmented and virtual reality (VR), can also help those in social jobs to acquire the confidence to operate in challenging situations that would otherwise take years of fieldwork.

Equally vital is making sure that workers across different agencies can access and share information seamlessly to address the ‘whole’ needs of the people they support, subject to data privacy laws. For example, a student struggling to focus in a class may be tired because they are also a primary caregiver for a relative at home. Using a data-driven government approach and finding intelligent mechanisms for sharing these kinds of insights between agencies would not only benefit citizens but would also allow employees to focus on the things that make the most difference.

To provide citizens and workers with the services they need, HR teams need to explore which emerging technologies hold the greatest promise, and make sure their people are professionally trained and supported when using them to deliver services.

Conclusion

The demand for social jobs is only trending in one direction. Investment is going to be essential to provide the services and support, from childcare to pensions, that people require to lead fulfilling lives. As public service leaders move to meet this imperative, they need to work with their HR teams to carefully consider how they can target investments for maximum impact — both for the people they serve and the people they employ.

 

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