For federal agencies, the pandemic offers opportunities to rethink employee recruitment and technology investments

In the past two years, the federal government accomplished what almost no one thought possible: sending employees to work from home exclusively amid the pandemic. The new, dispersed work environment, though it presented challenges, became a case study for successful transformation within massive institutions. Federal remote work continues to work out so well that the Office of Personnel Management recently issued new guidance on telework and remote operations for agencies in response to the increasing...

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In the past two years, the federal government accomplished what almost no one thought possible: sending employees to work from home exclusively amid the pandemic. The new, dispersed work environment, though it presented challenges, became a case study for successful transformation within massive institutions. Federal remote work continues to work out so well that the Office of Personnel Management recently issued new guidance on telework and remote operations for agencies in response to the increasing interest from — and for — federal workers.

This tremendous shift in the work environment forced government and public sector leaders to overcome the barriers of “how it’s always been done” and anticipate the quick changes that came with abandoning the status quo. This meant not just supporting staff as they moved remote but making smart, rapid investments to ensure mission success.

The pandemic ignited a massive demand for investments in network resources and new technology to support the exodus from traditional office spaces to kitchen tables and spare bedrooms. As a result, many agencies have implemented or increased their cloud computing solutions and adopted SaaS and other applications to allow employees to continue to collaborate with each other as well as access the vital information they need to do their job.

The resulting success stories don’t just shine a light on flexibility that previously didn’t exist or wasn’t known; they emphasize the resilience of federal agencies and staffs and forged leaders throughout the transition.

Now, as we enter the third year of the pandemic, the lines between the new norm and the next norm continue to shift with every passing day. One thing is clear, as leaders continue to manage a remote or hybrid workforce, there are significant opportunities to assess what has been done, where gaps or opportunities continue to exist, and invest in the right technology resources to continue to securely thrive in this environment.

The resulting incentives to invest in emerging technology are just icing on the cake; helping agencies and teams capitalize on innovation that helps get the job done while promoting the concept of thriving at work and at home. In addition, the broad shift to remote work provides the opportunity to open recruiting pools to a wider range of talent and to strengthen training programs for employees.

This is made clear in the Riverbed | Aternity Hybrid Work Global Survey 2021, which revealed that 86% of global public sector leaders will be investing in technology to support a hybrid workforce in the next year. Furthermore, 85% believe a hybrid work model will have a lasting and positive impact on society and the world.

Further tech investments: You can’t protect what you can’t see

As agencies allocate funds toward critical technology investments, visibility solutions are needed now more than ever. Previous investments in cloud and applications have resulted in more complex and dispersed networks, making it harder to gain visibility across platforms and networks and ensure optimization and security. With some 45% of government leaders responding that a cybersecurity breach would be seriously disruptive, there’s no reason for agencies to wait on investing in the right tools to monitor and alert for potential threats and malicious activity. Understanding the types of threats and anomalies to monitor for and knowing the tools available to do the job is crucial for allowing decision-makers to act quickly and respond to network attacks.

Rise in recruitment opportunities

Government is notoriously hard for jobseekers to navigate, with many strict guidelines and regulations that often limit hiring practices. With a workforce shortage and an expanding skills gap, recruiters are working with newfound flexibility within a telework environment. Without the strict requirement that all new employees work fulltime in a physical office, the talent pipeline has swelled significantly, creating new opportunities for employment across the country.

This is a boon for agencies struggling to fill roles; 94% of public sector leaders believe the new work environment will help with recruitment and help them better compete with the private sector. Moreover, flexibility allows for more goals to be achieved in diversity, equity and inclusion and improved access to a wider range of skills.

The pandemic-accelerated pace of modernization makes space for innovation and exploration of emerging technologies, fresh resources and reimagined ways of operating. It’s also a chance for the government to take a leadership role in the implementation and execution of solutions that will benefit missions going forward and their employees overall.

With these technologies in place, it’s critical for agencies to maintain visibility into these new systems and networks to maintain momentum in their progress and empower a hybrid workforce to drive agency missions forward.

Marlin McFate is chief technology officer for the public sector at Riverbed.

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