As we approach a month since the first COVID-19 stay-at-home orders were put into place, HR professionals in the public sector are still waiting for the dust to settle from the upending of their daily operations. Transitioning employees to remote working, maintaining critical services to the public, and concerns about layoffs or shuttered departments have all been top of mind as we continue to confront uncharted territory.
Indeed, the most bulletproof HR contingency plans have been tested during this trying time, but perhaps even more so for government bodies and higher education institutions. We recently polled HR professionals across the country to get an idea of how priorities had shifted, how prepared they were, and what they learned. The findings, based on responses we received from 241 organizations, are in our latest report, Research Insights: Public Sector HR Responses to COVID-19.
A majority of respondents (76%) said they felt only somewhat or not very prepared to handle the challenge of teleworking (see figure 1). This highlighted not only how difficult the ensuing weeks and months will be, but also the need for additional planning in the future to facilitate a more seamless transition should an event like this occur again.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the respondents by-and-large prioritized employees’ health as a goal or challenge at 89%, with maintaining essential services (e.g., water and power, police and fire, etc.) for the public being a close second (88%). These two factors (see figure 2) informed much of the way the HR organizations have continued to address COVID-19 even in the face of budget interruptions or projected shortfalls.
These figures paint a partial picture of how public sector human resources have succeeded or struggled in their attempts to navigate the impact of COVID-19 on their workforce. For those taking stock of their own organization’s response, this report provides suggestions and perspectives on how to proceed. For additional data and charts – including the impact on recruitment and hiring, as well as quotes and tips on how to maintain both productivity and morale – download our free professional preparedness report, Research Insights: Public Sector Responses to COVID-19.