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A global pandemic, civil rights movement, and technological advances have all played a role in changing the way the world looks from even just a year ago. The public needs adept, fearless government leadership made up of those who will embrace the changes in motion and pave the way for others.
The top in-demand skills for government leaders include budgeting, performance appraisals, project management, public health and safety, scheduling, and staff management, according to the Labor Insight tool from Burning Glass. Gina Scutelnicu, PhD, an associate professor and the chairperson of the Department of Public Administration at Pace University, emphasizes the importance of these competencies. In particular, she highlights:
- Budgeting—In local and state public agencies, there is a demand for people who can not only understand and interpret the budget but who can also contribute to formulating it.
- Project management—Anyone in a management role must be able to lead a program. This likely includes completing a strategic plan, assessing and evaluating the program’s progress once it has begun, and improving upon it from one period to the next.
- Data analysis—This is another increasingly valuable skill across most businesses, organizations, and agencies, and the government is no exception with the Open, Public, Electronic and Necessary Government Data Act of 2018 playing a major role. Though not everyone will need to be able to create data dashboards, Scutelnicu stresses that individuals must still know how to be consumers of data. This includes the ability to interpret the data, put it into context, and use the insights drawn to inform decisions. They also need to be able to clearly communicate their findings and any effects to their communities.
- Communication, presentation, and public speaking—Leaders must be able to effectively communicate with and justify their decisions to both their coworkers and citizens. Soft or interpersonal skills will play a key role in how well public leaders communicate. An added challenge in today’s hybrid world is the requirement to do this well in virtual and face-to-face settings.
The government landscape is changing. The COVID-19 pandemic, Black Lives Matter movement, and other recent events have caused changes in day-to-day work and shifts in perspective, leaving people reevaluating their priorities and altering the future of the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. Major developments in government include:
- New roles—The government creates jobs in response to current events. The chief diversity officer position, for example, is opening up in more state and local governments. Additionally, new opportunities are available to assist in the government’s COVID-19 response efforts and the aftermath of the pandemic.
- Flexible work options—We have now seen that telework is possible across many positions and working from home will become permanent for some jobs. For others, working from home at least one day a week will be expected. In all cases, flexible scheduling is another element the government will need to adapt to.
- Government consolidation—Given financial strains, governments will likely look into more mergers to become more regional in nature, eliminating smaller village, town, and city governments.
- More accountability and transparency—Many departments have never been evaluated or assessed. They are now being asked by the state to provide details on how they spend their money and the results of their efforts. Communities are also anxious to know how their tax dollars are being spent.
- Public participation—The general public has a desire to play a more active role in decisions made by the government, and efforts are already underway to make this possible. For example, cities like New York and Chicago are using participatory budgeting, which involves allowing the community, rather than elected representatives, to decide where certain portions of the budget should be applied.
In general, we are moving toward a government that is more accessible and that has more active participation from community residents. As the world evolves, so does the government.
“It is important for leaders not only to have foundational skills, but also to retrain and stay up-to-date with new, emerging competencies required for success. Employees with this expertise will play a key role in the government transformation,” according to Scutelnicu.
Learn more about Pace University’s online MPA program.