Digital Transformation in Government

My name is Miles Walters, and I am a Part-Time MBA student at Boston College. I am working on obtaining my second master’s degree because, honestly, I love school and student loan debt too much. All jokes aside, I received my first graduate degree in Public Administration from Northeastern University and hope to continue honing my skills as a manager and business leader after completing the MBA program.

Like many of us, Covid-19 disrupted much of our lives and in our place of work. At the height of the pandemic, many employers had to embrace telework to maintain productivity to continue delivering services to customers. Today, workers are demanding to telework full-time to have a better work-life balance in the post-pandemic.

Most companies in the private and non-profit sectors are already offered this perk to employees, except today, workers may only have to come into the office twice a month. However, the magnitude of the sudden shift to a digital and socially distant environment took government institutions by storm. Similar to that Wizard of Oz analogy from the textbook.

As a Diversity and Inclusion Manager for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, my agency oversees all HR operations and diversity and inclusion initiatives across the state (impacting about 42,000 employees). Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, I have witnessed the ups and downs of digitalizing government resources and services.  

To put in perspective, before the pandemic, less than 5% of Commonwealth employees took advantage of teleworking. Although numerous factors can explain the low participation rate, a few primary reasons include comfort in the status quo, an aging workforce, and the unequal distribution of technology across the state. The latter involves many variables, such as the funding of an agency and the given needs of constituents. In other words, it’s above my pay grade.

However, encouraging employees in government to be more adaptable to digitizing our systems and processes is still an uphill battle. When I first came to state government, I remember my colleagues using a typewriter to communicate with a vulnerable population. I wish I was kidding. Although it’s gotten a lot better since then, and fortunately, that typewriter is somewhere catching dust in the office somewhere. My next hope is that it will find its way into an antique shop where the proceeds can go toward a new coffee machine for the office.

The second factor of concern is our aging workforce. It’s no secret that government workers tend to be older, but more than 60% of Commonwealth employees are over the age of 40. Luckily, many workers, not just senior employees, benefit from teleworking and find it more productive working from home. However, governments need to ensure that all employees, not just the digitally savvy, are adequately trained as the technology rollout continues across the state while not revert back to the status quo. Likewise, a shift in the organizational culture most likely will need to occur, which starts at the highest levels of government.

Therefore, I hope to learn how to transform and scale digital assets across government institutions and empower organizations to move away from the status quo and adopt technology as a solution. Finally, I am looking forward to learning from my classmates, the professor, and guest speakers on how to meet this objective  

4 comments

  1. Awesome piece. A topic to consider along the lines of what you’ve written is the social ramifications occurring as a direct result of teleworking. Although some folks are benefitting from the work from home time, people are forgetting how to talk to one another, act in public, dress in public, and let’s not forget staying active and eating healthy. These are vivid topics overlooked often simply because productivity increases in the workplace whilst at home, but the tradeoffs are much larger than getting more work done. Government workers are another topic, and I would love to exchange discourse some time to get the discussion started. I most definitely lost my mind laughing at the use of typewriters!:)

  2. I found the statistic that more than 60% of Commonwealth employees are over the age of 40 to be fascinating. Massachusetts is one of the leading states in the tech sector, and is best place in the world for biotech. Obviously, young and talented workers are drawn to the high salaries and prestige of these industries, but at the same time, it is unfortunately to hear the Commonwealth doesn’t have much young talent among its ranks.

    I hope that the Commonwealth is heavily investing in digital technology (I’m choosing to ignore your typewriter comment haha) as I believe it’s critical in advancing our communities. Young and old need to be digitally savvy in order to rise themselves up among the financial and social ranks. If the Commonwealth begins to heavily invest in digital solutions internally and externally, it may be able to attract young talent from the numerous top colleges within its borders.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Great post! It is interesting to see how things are changing in a slow-adapting industry such as the government. I also find fascinating the fact that over 60% of Mass employees are over the age of 40. This makes me think that the state needs to attract a younger workforce to compensate for the aging employees within. Maybe with an increased number of younger employees, things would change more rapidly than they have been until now?

  4. Hi Miles I enjoyed reading your blog, especially because its regarding a topic I hadn’t previously considered. I expect that like many other government jobs the longer the tenure the better the benefits. Similar to the other comments above, I’m curious what strategies the State is using to attract a younger workforce? Does your team or department ever collaborate with other States to share best practices?

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