The 3 Most Common Themes in Public Sector Policy Changes for 2021

by John Calderon on April 05, 2021

Despite a semblance of normalcy on the horizon, the effects of the pandemic will have a significant impact on how local government agencies are run in the future, especially for human resources departments. Government HR leaders have been forced to meet challenges they never had before, in ways they may have never thought possible -- like enabling remote work, designing touchless work spaces, and migrating manual processes to the cloud.

To get a better understanding of the most drastic changes currently transpiring, NEOGOV surveyed hundreds of government HR leaders to see what new policies have either already been enacted or are coming down the pike. Here are the three biggest themes affecting local and county government HR policies:

1. Improved flexibility

"Flexibility" was a key phrase in many of our survey respondents' planned changes for 2021, particularly surrounding work from home policies and paid sick leave. Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, government workforces were forced to become more nimble around remote working and time off for health reasons -- and rose to the occasion.

As a result, over a quarter of respondents said implementing technology to manage remote employees was of top concern for even more streamlined processes. Many agencies have shared that moving forward (long after the pandemic is behind us), they will offer permanent remote and/or hybrid positions knowing now that it's possible to achieve productivity even when people aren't in the office.

To prevent the spread of illnesses, government agencies were advised by the CDC to minimize "contagious presenteeism" (aka coming to work sick) by offering adequate paid sick leave, which is likely to stay in place.

2. Enhanced diversity initiatives

The upheaval following the killing of George Floyd renewed the focus on social justice in the United States and served as a reminder that there are still deep societal inequities that exist. Accordingly, government HR leaders said that ramping up diversity initiatives by introducing more objective hiring practices and providing sensitivity training were the top priority for 2021.

Particularly, agencies plan to leverage tools for blinding applications (removing personally identifiable information) to improve the chances of diverse candidates making it to the interview stage, and using scoring rubrics to help reduce bias that disproportionately impacts the percentage of women and people of color who receive government employment offers.

3. Reducing paper processes

As many as 85% of business processes rely on paper forms, according to Gartner. In the world of COVID-19, paperwork is not only cumbersome, easy to lose, and poses privacy risks, but is also potentially dangerous from a social distancing standpoint.

Moving HR forms and processes to a digital platform is a modernization initiative that's been a long time coming, with the events of the past year finally giving many agencies the push they needed to get started. Additionally, the capabilities of employee self-service are an added bonus, with one survey respondent remarking "We are increasing access to tools to support more self-sufficiency on HR related information.”

Want to learn even more about the other public sector policy changes being made by government HR leaders this year? Download our eBook, 5 Significant Policy Changes Public Sector HR Leaders are Making in 2021.

John Calderon

John Calderon is the Content Strategist at NEOGOV. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from University of California, Los Angeles and has spent over a decade creating content as a marketing professional and journalist. Contact John: jcalderon@neogov.net