The pandemic has led to big adjustments in procurement staffing in governments
The COVID-19 crisis has greatly affected government purchasing staffing levels and workloads, says Gianluca Cairo, industry principal, public sector for Ceridian, which offers human capital management software that helps organizations’ workforces adapt and evolve.
“The public procurement space is unique in that it has a blend of front-line workers and back-office employees, so it posed a variety of staffing challenges during COVID,” Cairo tells Co-op Solutions. He adds that at the pandemic’s start, organizations had to transition back-office staff to remote work when they were ill-prepared to do so—resulting in everything from employees having to take paid vacation due to a lack of bandwidth and equipment, to the limitations of 50-year-old legacy IT systems as teams tried to move quickly to serve citizens and other government staffers.
“On the other hand, front line workers were facing an increased risk of illness or being quarantined, making it difficult to keep track of employees’ health and well-being, or manage staffing levels,” Cairo explains. He notes that agency employees are still risking getting sick or being quarantined right now. In addition, the “silver tsunami” of retiring baby boomers was already creating a shortage of needed skills in government purchasing offices. Cairo believes that the skill shortage in public procurement will continue to grow.
He predicts that successful organizations will rapidly transition knowledge to the next generation of workers to ensure business continuity long after the pandemic ends, and that technology can play a role in supporting business continuity in procurement departments. “Technology creates an opportunity for better knowledge management. It enables digitally capturing information so employees can more easily cover each other’s roles.”
Jobs and careers site Glassdoor reports that hiring in government is slower than hiring in private industry. The site reports that the government hiring process can take three to six months to complete. “On the other hand, in the private sector, most industry rock stars can find a new job in as little as two weeks,” say Glassdoor’s analysts. A 2020 report from the federal Office of Personnel Management shows that it took agencies about 98 days, on average, to hire a new employee.
“This lack of agility in filling key government roles can have a significant impact on business continuity, and it can also result in overwork and burnout for the remaining workforce,” Cairo says. He offers a solution in these trying times: “Cooperative procurement contracts, paired with the right online tools can build a culture of continuous learning, and in turn, boost staff efficiency in overworked and understaffed local government procurement departments.”
He adds that mentoring, on-the-job experiential learning and employee collaboration channels are all effective means to ensure continuous learning. “The right technology can facilitate social learning between peers (i.e., employee sharing forums) and also capture institutional knowledge so that the entire organization can access it.”
Cairo’s company, Ceridian, offers Dayforce enterprise HCM software that combines payroll, HR, benefits, talent and workforce management in one cloud application to power the future of work. Cairo recently hosted a webinar with Tom Noorkah, director of financial systems for Columbus, Ohio. They discussed real-world strategies, best practices, and techniques that agencies can apply to help ensure the successful delivery and execution of digital transformation projects.
Yes, cooperative agreements can be a time-saver for procurement teams, says Christine Bilz, government sales leader for Vehicle Service Group (VSG). The firm is a supplier of 13 major vehicle lifting, wheel service, diagnostic and collision repair brands.
In her recent post, “Cooperative Procurement Programs Are Getting More Popular,” Bilz explained: “Government resources are getting tighter, and some agencies don’t have enough personnel with the knowledge and background to understand the complexities of buying needed equipment or products.” She noted that often, purchasing decisions need to be made quickly in order to maintain productivity and keep taxpayers’ dollars at work. “That means there isn’t time for a long, intensive bidding process.”
With the aid of cooperative contracts, government procurement teams can spend more time on succession planning, leadership development, recruiting, hiring, onboarding and other important tasks.
Michael Keating is senior editor for American City & County. Contact him at [email protected].