Digital Paradigm Shifts in Government

Digital disruption is real. It has real implications on today’s work, workers and workplace – and not just in the private sector.

All levels of government across Australia are challenged by siloed structures, bureaucratic processes and complex legacy systems and as such are grappling with how to seize digital opportunities in the way they deliver essential services and manage their workforces.We’ve seen pockets of the government re-think how to embrace digital with major programs underway to transform the way that citizens interact with government and services online. However, on the whole, there is still much to do in order to fundamentally re-define the way the public sector operates in this new digital world in order to keep pace with the rapidly changing landscape.

Key questions:

  • What is the impact of digital on public sector work, the worker and the workplace?
  • How can the public sector build digital capacity; identifying and attracting digital workers (talent) to manage the paradigm shift and embrace digital transformation?

We start by exploring how the work is changing, the evolution of the worker and finally how workplace changes can facilitate the attraction, assembly and retention of digital dream teams.

Digital impact

The work

Today we all have a plethora of digital channels at our fingertips. We are perpetually online looking for more streamlined and effective ways to do business or achieve our day-to-day tasks. Our interactions with government services do not escape these expectations. To meet these expectations government must re-think how it uses digital to drive improved service delivery. Improving digital capability of service delivery in turn creates a fundamental shift in the type of work undertaken to manage the transaction. Transactions that were previously heavily process driven and time intensive are moving to more efficient digital platforms – changing the inherent requirements of the employee and the skills required to manage them.

The worker

The digital era has also changed the worker. To simply ‘keep up’ in today’s digital world, workers must be adaptable, innovative and tech savvy. Workers are constantly challenged to evolve their digital skills. The internet enables learning-oriented, information-hungry digital workers to become a ninja in whatever subject they choose – they can be virtually anyone they want to be.

But this also has a significant impact on what the digital worker is looking to ‘experience’ at work.

The digital worker is seeking flexibility, (in work complexity, type and environment), career progression (in clear mobility pathways), excitement, meaning and an inclusive culture (where they feel a sense of belonging and want to share the organisation’s journey). To appeal to this new digital worker, the government must recognise that success in the digital world is not synonymous with being a young tech whizz kid. The digital worker wants to make rapid impact through bite-sized multidisciplinary team experiences, so re-envisioning the way work is delivered is critical.

The workplace

It is becoming increasingly important for the government to proactively re-imagine how the workplace can better enable the digital work and the digital worker. One approach might be through the lens of organisational structure.

To overcome organisational siloes and structural constraints, some are turning to holacracy.


Holacracy is an alternative organisational structure that sees the replacement of traditional management hierarchies with a set of rules to live by and the freedom to live by them. In a holacratic workplace, all employees are considered leaders and are empowered to make meaningful decisions, guided at all times by the overarching vision.

Another consideration is the type of team structures needed to maximise digital effectiveness. Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends report explores how organisations are, ‘shifting their structures from traditional, functional models toward interconnected, flexible teams in order to become more digital and agile’[1]. These teams are tactically identified to foster collaboration, innovation and to drive improved performance. Looking specifically at the makeup of the digital dream teams the following types of workers can be identified:

  • The Hipster: Is in touch with the customer and creates solutions for them
  • The Hustler: Has the business acumen to make the impossible possible
  • The Hacker: Has the technical skills to challenge the status quo through the development of new products and tools[2]
  • The Humanitarian: Skilled in articulating people’s stories and problems that need to be addressed

Together, these personas have the essential mix of elements needed to enable digital success – the trick is in identifying these personas in your organisation and bringing them together to form your ‘digital dream team’.

Building digital capacity to enable transformation

Bringing focus to digital transformation is important. First understanding the changing nature of the work and therefore the changing requirements and skills of the worker will in turn enable government to adapt the workplace to better meet the needs of the digital worker and support them in successfully delivering digital work.

Considerations for building digital capacity:

For your Hipsters, Hustlers, Hackers, Humanitarians and untapped or dormant talent:

  • Identify your torch bearers and leverage these personas to rally the troops for the digital revolution
  • Identify capability gaps and invest in your existing talent – understand where talent can be built, borrowed or bought
  • Assemble teams that combine tech whiz kids and government expertise
  • Start to break down hierarchy (in moderation) – digital workers are looking for accessible opportunities to make an impact

To recruit new digital workers:

  • Develop Employee Value Propositions targeted at those with the digital skills desired
  • Reinforce the social value, purpose and meaning of public sector work to motivate prospective hires
  • Be creative in developing unique and interesting roles and job descriptions

To retain digital workers:

  • Embrace the concept of the temporary dream team – teams should be set up to achieve short, sharp, focussed outcomes then disband on delivery
  • Understand that digital workers have unique career goals and aspirations that can be nurtured through an inclusive culture

This post was inspired by the latest book from William D. Eggers and Deloitte University Press, ‘Delivering on Digital: The Innovators and Technologies That Are Transforming Government’. Read more.

[1] The ‘Global Human Capital Trends 2016

2 Rei Inamoto, Chief Creative Officer for AKQA at SXSW in 2012 introduced the concept of a ‘hipster, hacker and a hustler’ to describe high-performing digital teams

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