The assessment considered four key dimensions – their use of technology, the requirement to develop new skills, their working environment and how they engaged with their team and managers. The countries included in the study were France, Germany, UK, the Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and Ireland, using information captured from online surveys of representative sample groups over the summer period 2020.
An analysis of the data indicates a general high degree of similarity in terms of the experiences and views of public servants in different countries, with variances depending on the demographics of the respondents and the sector in which they are working. Overall, respondents remain resilient, mobilized, and ready for the new ways of work.
Key findings across the four dimensions of the survey include the following results.
A hunger and need to acquire new skills
- Skills is unanimously cited as the key dimension to improve service quality, ahead of technology, management and the working environment. 70 percent of public servants say the Covid-19 crisis has necessitated the development of new skills; 66 percent confirm that they will need new skills in the next 3 years (rising to 75 percent for those aged 18 to 30).
- Changes in process and operations was the most frequently cited driver of new skills requirements; the use of technology was cited as the second priority, followed by the need to complete new tasks or projects.
- Public servants working in the security/emergency sector are most likely to want to change role in the next three years (49 percent) compared to only 40 percent of those working in the education sector.
A desire for technology to improve service delivery
- Public servants see technology as an opportunity, enabling them to be more effective. They expect greater automation to save time on low-value tasks.
- They are aware of the gap between the potential of current cutting-edge technologies and the reality of their technical environment (“just give me a decent computer and a network that works!”).
- Almost 40 percent of public servants said that their IT had hindered their ability to respond to Covid-19 with the concern expressed particularly strongly by those under 40.
A call for more effective management and collaboration
- For more than two-thirds of respondents, the quality of service delivery could increase with improved management of the teams and stronger managerial competencies.
- Public servants across all sectors expect better communication, collaboration and planning of activities alongside increased consideration of wellbeing at work from their manager.
A need for support to make a success of remote working
- The unplanned introduction of remote working has highlighted the need for a better allocation of tasks and management of priorities for successful remote collaboration. Overall public servants’ views on remote working are positive – more than 60 percent of public servants indicate that service quality can be maintained with a remote model (20 percent think service delivery can in fact be improved) and more than half want to continue to work remotely. The success of the hybrid model (split between working remotely and in the office) relies on an effective allocation of tasks and careful planning of those activities carried out face-to-face rather than remotely.
- Views within the education sector on remote working are more mixed. Teachers accustomed to their normal roles in their physical classrooms have had to readjust to a radically different distance learning model. Only 40 percent of them want to continue to work remotely, a similar share to the health sector (where operating on site is often essential), while this figure rises to 60 percent for those in local and central government administrative roles.