Accenture: AI essential to public sector recruitment
The use of emerging technologies is spreading rapidly, and both the public and the private sector are competing fiercely to secure young specialists in this area. With population ageing spawning fears of a loss of knowledge and expertise in the public service arena, the acquisition of personnel well versed in cutting edge emerging technologies is an urgent priority worldwide.
In its recent report Emerging Technologies in Public Service, Accenture highlights that in order to beat private sector organisations in the competition to attract and retain highly skilled younger employees, the public sector needs to adopt emerging technologies such as AI (artificial intelligence), machine learning and biometrics.
Survey of emerging technology adoption in nine countries
In compiling the report, Accenture surveyed 774 IT leaders from public service organisations in a range of fields (including welfare services, policing, the judiciary, taxation, immigration, administration, pensions and social security) in nine countries (Japan, Australia, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Singapore, the UK and the US) about their introduction of emerging technologies (including pilot introduction).
Emerging technologies encompasses the Internet of things (IoT), advanced analytics and predictive modelling, intelligent process automation, video analytics, biometrics, machine learning and natural language processing/generation.
According to the report, the primary objective for many public sector IT departments when implementing emerging technologies is to improve the experience of citizens, customers and also their staff. For example, 48% of respondents deploying advanced analytics and predictive modelling say that improving and supporting the work of employees is their chief objective.
Automation delivered by AI boosts employee satisfaction
We often hear claims that the development of AI and other emerging technologies will result in people losing jobs to AI, but the respondents in the Accenture survey take a more positive view of emerging technology implementation, claiming it will “augment existing roles, rather than replace them”.
Eighty percent of respondents say that the automation of certain simple tasks through machine learning will “free up employees to focus on more critical – and rewarding – activities that are more closely aligned with citizens’ needs”, and that this “will improve the job satisfaction of current employees,” thereby improving retention.
The use of emerging technologies will improve the image of public service agencies, and make their employees ore dedicated. As Norwegian Key Account Manager Karen Marie Schnell says in the report: “It’s much more motivating and interesting for our employees to work in new and efficient ways instead of doing everything paper-based. On the whole, our employees embrace these new ideas and concepts. They see that the outside world is changing, supplying more and better digital services, and expect that we also move in that direction.”
The implementation of cutting edge intelligent technologies will generate new jobs and new skillsets, which will also improve staff retention. Fifty-eight percent of survey respondents say that the introduction of emerging technologies will increase the range of skills their organisation requires.
Introduction of emerging technologies will increase opportunities to acquire new skills
The adoption of intelligent technologies will offer employees the opportunity to learn new skills. Almost 60% of survey respondents say that the successful development of intelligent technology projects will require significant investment in reskilling. Such opportunities will help both attract new high-calibre young employees and retain current highly skilled personnel.
However, people who combine technical skills with the knowledge and understanding of citizens’ needs required in public sector agency roles are an extremely scarce resource, and it takes time to train people up. Consequently, 51% of respondents say their agencies mainly look to hire talent from the private sector when developing intelligent technology projects, with the top three recruitment priorities for public sector agencies being data scientists, software engineers, and digital developers and designers.
The majority – 60% – of respondents are focusing on intelligent process automation technologists. The kind of technologist most required varies from nation to nation, with Finnish and Australian agencies focusing on hiring specialists in biometrics/identity analytics, and Norwegian agencies on natural language processing/generation experts. In Singapore, which is ahead of the field in emerging technology adoption, the priority in hiring is specialists in video analytics (29%), the Internet of Things (21%) and biometrics (21%).
Terry Hemken, Global Managing Director, Accenture Analytics Insights Services for Public Service, says that talented leaders need to learn how to respond flexibly to change to enable their teams to keep up with the march of intelligent technology, and that the aim of providing opportunities to learn new skills is not only to attract young people who are already well versed in such technology but also to retain current high-calibre employees.