Critical Read

Survey reveals feds' digital divide

Shutterstock image: digital technology.

What: "2015 Federal Leaders Digital Insights," a report by the National Academy of Public Administration and ICF International.

Why: The report finds that federal employees aren’t overly impressed with the way their agencies are doing digital. But that doesn’t mean they don’t support bringing more technology into their offices and incorporating it into how they work.

Three-quarters of respondents said they would be more productive if their agency improved access to information through digital technology. About-one third said their agency’s adoption of digital technology has had a positive impact on retaining and recruiting staff.

Jeff Neal, senior vice president at ICF, said this is especially true when it comes to recruiting college graduates and younger professionals.

"A lot of people ask, particularly when you do college recruiting, is what kind of technology is used in the job," Neal told FCW. "If you don’t have a good answer for that, it can hurt your recruiting."

The same seems not to apply, however, for retaining employees, Neal said.

"Once people get into a job, technology doesn't necessarily serve as an incentive to stay," Neal said. "But lack of good technology can be an irritant, causing people to be less satisfied with their job."

And some look longingly at the private sector.

Only 15 percent of respondents said the federal government is in step with the private sector in making new technologies available to employees; 40 percent said their agency dedicates appropriate resources to leverage digital technology.

Training was another area of weakness pointed out in the survey, according to Neal. Only about one-third of people surveyed said the workforce was adequately trained to use the technology they have.

"When agencies have to cut a few dollars from their budget, the first place you go is cutting training," Neal said. "They assume they're going to deploy a system that won’t require a lot of training."

Overall, Neal said, the survey results are positive, and didn’t reveal any issues that agencies are powerless to fix.

"It tells you that agencies that are proactive and want to make improvements right now can do that today," he said. "They don’t need to go to Congress and ask for money, they can start doing things today."

Verbatim: "A significantly larger percentage of SES (47.7%) indicated that digital technology harmed work/life balance compared to GS1-GS13 (22.7%)."

Report: Read the full report here.

About the Author

Colby Hochmuth is a former staff writer for FCW.

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