The fed gov needs Workforce Identity — three reasons why

Serving in public service puts you on the front lines of digital bad actors and cyber attacks. For this reason, the call to upskill, expand, and diversify the government’s workforce can be seen all over our social feeds this Cybersecurity Awareness Month. The Biden Administration considers this concept the most fundamental building block for addressing today’s complex threat environment. Yet, to really effect change at scale, the current assumptions and investments around the government workforce could use some disruption and require some wrecking—and that seems to be happening. That is to say, according to Deloitte’s 2023 government trends report, walls [are] coming down.”

Where do these walls reside? They exist in the silos and bottlenecks within public sector agencies, as well as between the public and private sectors. These walls slow down the innovation needed to address the “constantly shifting needs of employees, citizens, and oversight bodies, along with rolling talent shortages.”

In this blog, I’ll highlight three current workforce trends and how Identity is critical for government agencies to survive and thrive in our digital economy.

Trend One: Worker mobility

Increasingly, government agencies are turning to rotational assignments, exchanges, fellowships, or “tours of duty” models to fill talent gaps. These preset terms help frontline staff take on work that matches their interests and bring in skilled talent from outside of government.

These assignments foster government tech advancements, and the employee on/off-boarding experience should mirror that. Temporary employees shouldn’t have to wait to access the apps they need to get their work done, and, once they leave or change positions, former employees should not retain access to department systems.

Identity’s role 

The need for seamless and secure access between users and apps has become critical for the recruitment efforts of an aging government workforce. With an increasing number of people eligible to retire today, the government hopes to attract younger workers. This year’s one-stop shop for prospective interns is a clear example. When considering a career in public service, ease of use will be expected by this new cohort. So, with improvements like automated provision and deprovision policies, agencies can enhance their access controls.

In addition to recruiting initiatives and fast-track onboarding experiences, Identity and access management is also critical on an individual’s last day of public employment. For IT teams, it helps to recuperate software licenses and, more importantly, prevent hacks from still-active accounts.

Trend Two: Collaboration that spans boundaries

While there’s a push to move government employees back into the office, some pandemic-era practices will remain. One example is the incentive to collaborate beyond agency walls. When viewed as a mission priority, collaboration helps scale the public sector’s external-facing services, like how the government-to-business partnership between TSA and Staples scales precheck and passport services. Collaboration between different agencies and levels of government also scales public services, most notably the collective work across 36 government agencies and 500 study participants across 34 states and territories to select the nine life experience projects.

This whole-of-government approach involves extensive research, which means data sharing scenarios are being considered. For example, as part of the discovery phase for ‘facing a financial shock’ life experience, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is evaluating if they can reuse income data from health and human services programs while upholding privacy protections under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Identity’s role 

Proper distribution of data or access to needed systems can be held up by outdated authentication processes. By taking advantage of scalable, future-ready tools, like Single Sign On (SSO), agency collaborators have a seamless experience accessing partner systems—without the workarounds of a separate username and password or ‘borrowed’ credentials. IT teams can also rely on no-code solutions to grant membership to a specific user group for a limited time or create Office 365 guest accounts to rapidly onboard partners, all at scale and without the extra work.

Trend Three: Skills-based hiring

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management is working on a policy for federal agencies to adopt skills-based hiring practices. Eschewing the traditional credential requirements to get into government, it’s an innovative approach to connect government agencies with untapped talent. This approach helps two-fold. For one, it works to match needed skills for short-to-medium term projects with the skill sets of interested talent, no matter their formal background. But it also serves to remove barriers to employment experienced by historically under-represented groups.

Identity’s role

With a focus on finding and developing the best cybersecurity talent, Okta recently launched a workforce development initiative. With an eye toward providing equitable access to thriving careers in technology, the initiative includes a $1.6M philanthropic fund. For organizations around the globe, it supports tech career opportunities for women, people of color, veterans, and other job seekers from underrepresented communities. Secondly, the initiative provides 5,000 educational grants to professionals looking to make a career transition to cybersecurity. With a focus on those recently let go from tech careers, veterans, and military spouses, these individuals are resourced to grow their Okta skills.

As federal employees and agencies continue to embrace innovative ways of working to deliver their missions, Identity helps to prevent interruptions and create a strong cybersecurity posture.

Interested in learning more? Check out the Okta public sector page. Also, in honor of Cybersecurity month, read through our Okta federal zero trust page to learn the solutions you need to optimize your Zero Trust strategy.