During November, ServiceNow has been travelling the world hosting its first World Forum events since the COVID-19 pandemic. World Forum brings together ServiceNow customers and provides a space for them to listen to and learn from one another, and ultimately figure out how to overcome the biggest challenges organizations face.
Of course, many of the current largest challenges relate to the workplace – for instance, how can organizations thrive in the ‘Great Resignation’? What is the key to successful transformation? What is the best approach to identifying and closing skills gaps?
UNLEASH had the pleasure of attending the London iteration of World Forum and sitting down with HR leaders to discuss some of these challenges and the solutions they have implemented in response.
DEFRA and L&D
Public sector organizations have slightly different talent challenges to the private sector – they cannot hike salaries and easily introduce new benefits in response to high attrition rates, so they need to lean into learning and development.
At the ServiceNow World Forum, UNLEASH sat down with the Gary Kinsella, head of end user support at the UK’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), to find out more.
Kinsella sees DEFRA as a great employer. “They invested a lot of effort in developing me, and my skills” – he shares that originally he had trained to be a chef, but he joined the National Rivers Authority (now the Environment Agency) in the early 1990s and learnt on the job. Later, he started managing teams and moved into the IT space.
This isn’t just Kinsella’s experience however. Across DEFRA and the wider UK government ecosystem, “there are plenty of opportunities to develop yourself as an individual. There is a lot of encouragement given to employees to identify what path they want to go down”.
Managers create a development plan to ensure employees have to “right skills to be able to progress within the organization”.
This helps with retention and “brand loyalty” – the idea is “if you invest the time and effort in your staff, hopefully they will return that investment [by] staying with the department” – instead of moving elsewhere in the public sector or joining the private sector, adds Kinsella.
Enter ServiceNow’s NextGen program
A core element of DEFRA’s L&D strategy is tapping into ServiceNow’s NextGen program. Kinsella explains that NextGen is a long-term, intensive accredited program that reskills individuals in the realm of IT and digital, particularly around ServiceNow products. DEFRA relies on ServiceNow for all of its HR and digital needs, and has done so for four years.
Kinsella notes: “The key thing for me with the NextGen program is that recruiting individuals skilled in ServiceNow is really difficult, particularly in the public sector.” Tech skills are in high-demand, but in shortage – so DEFRA is competing with the tech giants of the world.
Ultimately, NextGen helps DEFRA close its digital skills gaps. “Next Gen provides exposure to really talented individuals that have a base understanding of the ServiceNow product…Then we can develop that even further” when they starting working at DEFRA by upskilling them and helping them to progress along their chosen career path. This feeds back into retention.
Kinsella brought Diana Tomova, an employee in his team who participated in the NextGen program, to ServiceNow’s London World Forum. Tomova shares with UNLEASH that NextGen didn’t just help her acquire IT skills, it has transformed her career development opportunities.
ServiceNow provided a mentor, as well as contact with academics at universities, which ensures that Tomova and her NextGen peers are “ready for the world of IT generally”, as well as highly skilled in the ServiceNow ecosystem.
Now working at DEFRA, Tomova is applying those skills to the real world every day. “I have the opportunity to learn on a day-to-day [basis] and to perfect myself” – she has been given a “helping hand” and is grateful for the opportunities to ”see the fruits of this labor”.
Tomova is now participating in an Level 6 apprenticeship over the next three years; at the end she will have a BSc in digital and technology solutions and is hoping to become a data analyst. DEFRA gives her a day a week off to do the course.
“The courses are aimed at providing a wider understanding of IT solutions that the individuals can use to consolidate on the job training and experience as their careers progress,” explains Kinsella.
Building social mobility
Another aim of NextGen for ServiceNow is it ensures that individuals from underserved communities have the ability to upskill and reskill in the skills of the future, and therefore have sustainable future careers.
It’s an innovative way to approach the talent and skills crisis, while driving equal (and better) career opportunities to all.
This social mobility aspect of NextGen is a real passion area for Kinsella. “The NextGen program has allowed me to…go slightly off piste with recruitment” (with the approval of the Civil Service Commission) and ensure DEFRA is hiring people from a range of backgrounds. “The NextGen program enables me to try and start to address” social mobility, as does a partnership with the Prince’s Trust.
There are “opportunities that people from a background like mine probably don’t even know exist, and they may not even think that a job at the civil service is accessible to them”. It’s time to address that.
Particularly in this challenging labor market, “everyone is looking at who’s the most experienced individual, but talent is not just about experience, it is about the individual and what the individual brings to the role”. This goes full circle to DEFRA’s skills gaps and the focus on L&D.
Values, purpose and retention
For Kinsella and Tomova, L&D is not the only reason why they think DEFRA is a great place to work.
Tomova shares that values are crucial in retention.
“It’s not just about the nature of job, but it’s also [about] values that align with yours; that’s extremely important. With ServiceNow skills, you would be able to work in many companies, but are you going to find the right places that align with your values?”
For her, DEFRA was a great fit because of her personal passion for the environment. “I am a nature lover” so this is a real dream job for her.
Kinsella adds that Tomova has been a great hire for the DEFRA because “she has a keenness to work in IT, a passion for the environment reflected in her personal values. It was clear that she would be a good fit for the team”.
Kinsella adds: “From my perspective, DEFRA meets a lot of the values I have as an individual around sustainability, and protecting the environment.” He adds that the flexibility DEFRA and the wider UK civil service provides is great – it means he doesn’t need to live in London to work for the department.
Ultimately, these focuses on L&D, purpose, flexibility and sustainability will stand DEFRA in good stead in the ‘Great Resignation’. Research shows that organizations that focus on career mobility, flexibility, purpose and values (particularly around the environment and inclusion).
But Kinsella is clear that losing people is a natural part of the world of work. “Different individuals are driven differently” – and the economic situation is causing people to make radical decisions about their careers.
“People will be looking to make sure that they’re in the most secure place. I understand that. We’ve just go to work [to support] our colleagues in whatever direction they choose to take”, concludes Kinsella.
The International Festival of HR is back! Discover amazing speakers at UNLEASH America on 26-27 April 2023.
Sign up to the UNLEASH Newsletter
Get the Editor’s picks of the week delivered straight to your inbox!