• Video
  • September 28, 2018
  • 3 minutes
  • 3

How to succeed in government: 14 traits the modern civil servant needs

Up to half of civil service jobs are at risk of automation. Here's how to stand out in yours

The future of public sector jobs is shaky. In the US, 47% of civil service jobs are at risk of being automated. In the UK, meanwhile, more than three-quarters of government administration and operations roles — almost a third of the total workforce — are expected to become obsolete by 2030.

It’s become clear that public servants need new skills, but there’s still confusion around what exactly those might be. In this video, Apolitical has rounded up research from governments, the OECD, innovation charity Nesta, Deloitte and our own reporting into 14 key skills and traits the modern public servant needs.

Adopting new skills isn’t just about avoiding getting fired. It’s about seizing new opportunities within the civil service. For example, every public servant and policymaker has biases; the ability to identify and reflect on yours can only benefit your work.

• For more like this, see our government innovation newsfeed.

This needn’t be a daunting list — not every government employee can be expected to embody all of these skills. But they should have some awareness of them to be a part of growing movements for change in the public sector.

These are the skills and traits of the twenty-first century public servant:

1. Data-literate and evidence-driven: Makes sure data and evidence guide policymaking decisions and aren’t an afterthought

2. User-centricity: Designs and builds services with real people in mind and involves them in decision-making

3. Humility: Avoids overconfidence in their own knowledge; is open to different opinions and ideas

4. Prototyping: Is adept at testing new ideas and improving on them incrementally

5. Curiosity: Is proactive in finding new ways of working; continually builds on their skills

6. Storytelling: Has the ability to articulate change in a way that resonates with people and demonstrates the value of new solutions

7. Risk-taking: Is not afraid to deviate from the norm to innovate

8. Collaborative: Has the ability to find common ground, negotiate differences and work with civil servants across different departments

9. Tech-savvy: Understands and keeps up with new technological developments and their potential

10. Flexibility: Is open to change, even when it means overhauling bureaucratic systems

11. Reflective: Has the ability to critically assess their own work; awareness of biases

12. Outcomes-focused: Is motivated by results over process

13. Resilient: Has the ability to experiment, fail and try again

14. Empathy: Understands colleagues’ and citizens’ experiences

(Picture credit: Unsplash/rawpixel)

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