by Suma Nallapati

IT Innovations in the Public Sector: Navigating Turbulence

Feb 09, 20153 mins

Attracting talent to government can be a turbulent challenge. Innovation is the key to a smoother and more enjoyable ride.

Talent compass pointing to the most highly skilled jobs hiring
Credit: Thinkstock

Have you ever been on a flight with endless turbulence? The rocking and rolling can be a bit unnerving. IT innovation in the public sector is very similar. The turbulence can be due to many things–a restrictive budget or disparate, legacy systems that no longer keep pace with work flow, or a workforce challenged by workload and relatively low salaries.

My job as Colorado’s CIO is to innovate through the turbulence, and innovate not only from a technology standpoint  but a “people” and “politics” perspective as well. In this first blog I want to address how we have been innovating at the State of Colorado to ensure we are hiring and keeping the best IT workforce our money can buy.

In my case, I drew heavily on my network. Nearly 20 years in the private sector had paid off in trusted relationships. I filled my roster with positive people of action. The reason these hires are so important is because state government does not have the same salary to offer as the private sector. Therefore your employees are joining the team for other reasons. In some cases it’s because they are familiar with leadership style. People took steep pay cuts to join my team, but they did so because of those trusted relationships that thrived in the private sector.  In other situations, employees are drawn to the state by the idea of serving the public. And in still other cases it is a choice of lifestyle… a life lived in a thriving city with mountains and outdoor adventures at arm’s reach.

My Human Resource team is now focused on some of our unique selling points — living near the Rockies, the ability to work in various locations, the opportunity to work on IT projects that impact millions of Coloradans. All of these ingredients make us a very compelling place to work. So we are innovating ways to market these qualities to the audience that counts. We use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to reach out with highlighted positions every week.

The truth of the matter is that turbulence never stops for IT. As a leader in the public sector, it is my responsibility to keep us on course and to send the clear message that we as a team can navigate the challenges.  

As the potential for IT talent keeps growing, we have resolved to find the best of the best. We at the State of Colorado are resolved to extend an invitation, however unconventional, to those talents already blossoming in high schools and universities. Sometimes it’s through school outreach showcasing our applications developers or our Google team. We show the impact of providing impactful information during natural disasters, or what it means to provide seamless access to food, cash and health benefits. We show them how we make a difference.  Other times it’s offering up an opportunity to innovate government solutions at the grass roots level through partnerships with Google, other states, our own Secretary of State. These events to innovate are a potent calling card — that has the potential to bring solutions and employment opportunities that will serve the citizens of Colorado.

Are you experiencing turbulence in the public sector? Take the opportunity to breathe deep and enjoy the ride. It’s one of the most thrilling business experiences you will ever have.  And innovation is key.