Culture & Engagement in the Public Sector

Collaborative Cultures & Leadership get Better Results

Callout 4Collaborative cultures and leadership are people and growth based; and, they create an environment of trust and accountability that gets better long-term results. In the public sector, this is important because it not only influences levels of engagement, job satisfaction and retention, but also influences how government agencies perform and meet the changing needs of their communities.

Public sector leaders face different challenges than in the private sector, including how to deliver public services efficiently in accordance with authorized procedures, often with limited resources. Collaborative cultures and leadership actually make a public sector leader’s job less stressful.

If people are trusted to do what needs to get done, they take more accountability. If they are allowed to best utilize their knowledge, skills and abilities, they will perform at optimal levels. If they are able to work in a way that engages and motivates them, they will provide superior services. If they have leaders who believe in and care about them, they will put forth their best efforts because they are not just doing a job – they care about the job they are doing.

Collaborative cultures and leadership provide open communication, emphasize accessibility, and promote diversity.


Collaborative cultures get team member input and feedback and ask for their suggestions and ideas. This open, honest communication gets the team members more actively engaged and will help to develop stronger mutual trust and respect.


Collaborative leaders let team members know they are there for the team, and that they have their back. They hold themselves accountable to the same standards as the rest of the team. They admit they don’t have all the answers. When leaders reveal themselves as people who are continually working to improve like everyone else, it makes them more genuine and accessible.


No one wants to work with a team of “follow the leader” robots. Collaborative cultures encourage people to be their authentic selves at work, and to express their own thoughts, ideas and perspectives without being judged or criticized. They show people how they, as unique individuals, bring value and are making a positive impact on the team, on the community members, and on their communities.



Changing Times Require Changing Workforce Strategies in the Public Sector

Public sector workplaces have long been process-focused, task-oriented and based on top down leadership. These practices and workplace cultures need to be re-evaluated for today's workforce and require more people-focused, goal-oriented cultures with collaborative teams and leadership and open communication.

Public SectorThose government agencies that have updated their strategies have noticed an increase in engagement and retention; and, they have received positive feedback from their community members. It's important to remember that disengagement and turnover have far-reaching effects, for the people working in the public sector and for the community members.

The Human Resource role has changed dramatically in the public sector, and has become much more strategic. HR knows that getting feedback is essential to developing an effective Workforce Development and Engagement Strategy. Given their role as both employer and employee advocate, it can be difficult for those in HR to get the honest feedback they need to assess the current workplace cultures within the different departments. It can also be difficult for them to analyze the feedback objectively and determine what particular aspects of those cultures should be focused on, and what specific actions should be taken.

Workforce strategies in the public sector must evolve to meet the changing needs of today's workforce, that of future generations, and also the changing needs of the communities they serve.

When feedback is used to take specific actions on those aspects of culture that are most important to the team members, those team members will feel more involved, informed and important. They will see how their individual work is making a difference; and, they will be driven and challenged to find new ways to positively impact their communities.



Use the Power of We

I believe that once again people will be drawn to jobs in the public sector. In the past, government jobs were desirable because of the benefits; but, today people are looking for more. Yes, they want fair compensation and benefits. However, people want the meaning in their work to go beyond compensation. They want work with a strong commitment to community, and they are drawn to jobs with a clear purpose.

People want less bureaucracy in the workplace and more collaboration. Team members want to provide input and suggestions on how they can provide better and more efficient services. They want open communication. They want to be more involved in understanding the community needs and making decisions that will help meet those needs. They want to have an internal sense of community within their workplace, and have a strong connection to the communities they serve.Power Of We 2

Government agencies know they have some work to do. Taxpayers want to know that government leaders are doing everything possible to preserve high quality public services for their communities. As with their constituents, government leaders need to give their team members a voice, listen to what they have to say, and take action.

The key to a great workplace culture is for leaders to work together with their team members and use the power of we.



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Job Burnout is Increasing in the Public Sector

As in the private sector, the public sector is facing large numbers of retiring workers, increased competition to attract and hire good people, and the challenges of engaging and retaining strong multi-generational department teams. At the same time, the people who work in the public sector are expected to continue providing all the services that are so important for the communities and their citizens to maintain their quality of life. This has made jobs in the public sector more stressful and demanding.

Many working in the public sector are at risk for suffering burnout which can result from:
  • Not having any involvement in decisions, which leaves them feeling powerless to make changes that would help those they serve.

  • Restraints in obtaining the necessary resources and training.

  • Feelings of disconnect from the impact they are making.
Burnout and stress can be reduced when:

- People are empowered to make decisions, they have the support they need to achieve specific outcomes, there is open communication, and people are given input into actions affecting their jobs.

- There are clearly defined roles and responsibilities, people have the training and resources needed to do their jobs effectively, and workloads are in line with capabilities.

- People are acknowledged for the unique value they bring to the team, they understand how their individual work is making an impact, and they are able to make the necessary changes and progress that the public sector workplace needs.