The last year has brought about incredible change in the federal workforce, and it shows no sign of stopping. With a new Director for the Office of Personnel and Management (OPM) confirmed, the next several months will bring new energy and activity to formalizing and standardizing workplace policies, processes, and approaches for the "new normal" of a digital-first government.
The move to telework changed how many people view and even perform their jobs. Before the pandemic, telework was sporadically used throughout government and viewed pretty skeptically. Now that the genie is out of the bottle, it's clear that government can continue to function without people in office buildings from 9am-5pm. As in-person work starts to come back around, the new shift will be in defining and managing a hybrid workforce.
Shared Services in government is nothingnew. The idea began in the 1980s with the consolidation of payroll and some other administrative functions. In the '90s the focus was on creating entities that could provide common business functions across government and, in that effort, become a cost center.
The 2000s saw the rise of the term 'Line of Business' that looked at common business functions across government to identify opportunities to transform, streamline and share. The Obama Administration looked specifically to IT as a shared service, releasing the Federal IT Shared Services Strategy that provided federal agency chief information officers and key stakeholders guidance. This guidance focused on the implementation of shared IT services as a key principle of their efforts to eliminate waste and duplication, with the intention to reinvest in innovative mission systems.
Recently, Market Connections released their 2020 Federal Media and Marketing Study results, providing a look at how the pandemic has shaped the way the federal buyer consumes media. Findings from 2020 can support marketers in short term planning and serve as a basis for longer term thinking about what their marketing strategy should look like.
The biggest long-term change is the location of where people work. Prior to March 2020, only 5% of federal workers were teleworking full time. This number moved as high as 59%, and while it will drop in the future, 27% report they expect to telework full time in the future. Another 46% expect that partial telework will be a regular routine moving forward.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and that is in fact the case with virtual events. The ability to host virtual events has been available for quite some time, but the demand has not been there. With the sudden shutdown of the country due to COVID-19, event planners looked to postpone events but, as the crisis continued, they quickly embraced the online medium to keep some kind of connection to the public they needed to reach.
Virtual events are proving to be more than a stopgap as we work through the response to a public health crisis. It is generally accepted that habits form after 21 days and lifestyle changes cement themselves after 90. Being far beyond 90 days into online meetings and gatherings, we all now accept and even enjoy attending events and learning online. For event planners, virtual events have proven to be an amplifier of their content, often attracting more people than would have attended in person and providing a recorded version of sessions that can be used in other ways throughout the year.
We've written quite a bit about virtual events and webinars. With our new COVID reality, we thought it was an important topic to revisit.
While virtual and online events may be the only option in the short term, event organizers can benefit from a virtual mindset when they approach all events going forward. Integrating a plan to host your event virtually if circumstances demand it should be a mandatory part of the overall planning process. Organizers should have the technology in place so they can easily "turn it on" when needed. Even if the event does go off as planned, live and in-person, consider adding online aspects to increase engagement. The option to create streaming video should become an essential event utility like electricity or WiFi.
While social distancing may have accelerated the acceptance of online events, webinars, in particular, are not a new concept in the federal market. Market Connections' Federal Media & Marketing Study (FMMS) found that three-quarters of federal workers reported watching live webinars during the workday and at least one in five were watching recorded webinars on their own time (weeknights and weekends). Webinars tend to be mainly one-way communication - with a speaker presenting and time for questions at the end. Frequently, the Q&A is not done "live," rather questions are gathered via messaging, vetted, and asked by the host. However, as our collective comfort with platforms like Zoom, WebEx, and Skype grow, future webinars could become more interactive, allowing for video participation and interaction between speakers and participants.