In recent years, commercial onboarding solutions have made great strides, but could they be the future of public sector service as well?

According to Buckminster Fuller’s knowledge doubling curve (1982), not only is human knowledge rapidly increasing, but the rate of its growth is increasing as well. According to common estimates, before 1900, knowledge development doubled every 100 years. Today, human knowledge doubles approximately every year, and the pace keeps increasing. The level of expertise required for success in even relatively simple jobs has evolved dramatically.

Together, We Evolve

This expansion of knowledge and the rise in demand have been especially obvious in fields such as marketing and sales, where it is now normal for employers to demand that their employees have an academic background. Contrary to popular belief, this change is not simply a product of academic degree inflation. Technological and scientific advancements have resulted in the development of sophisticated products and services, which, in turn, create the need for advanced advertising, marketing and sales strategies, and customer management systems. In other words, the level of knowledge and competence required of employees in today’s market is higher than ever before.

However, evolution never comes without some collateral damage in the form of those who are left behind. Rising talent demands have created an ever-growing need for an effective onboarding process for employees and even customers. In principle, the bigger the organization and the more complicated the product or service, the greater the need for guidance to encourage users to adopt and then use the system well.

Treating Service as Sales

This phenomenon is far from unique to commercial sales and service. Some of the largest organizations and most complicated systems can be found in the public sector. To be sure, the majority of public sector organizations are not geared toward profit, yet there is plenty to be said for the need to treat service recipients as clients and service providers as salespeople.

In marketing and sales, the importance of service is clear: Better service makes for more satisfied customers, and more satisfied customers generate more business and more revenue. In the public sector, when the service users don’t pay (at least not directly), and the end goal is not profit, the benefits of investing in the best and most updated service systems are a little less clear. In addition, there is often little to no competition from other service providers.

However, the efficiency and user-friendliness of service in nonprofit and public organizations can also have a dramatic impact on their financial stability and security. Guides, troubleshooting databases, and online and telephone support all improve the user experience, but they also facilitate efficiency, which translates into saving time, money and human resources. Since even nonprofit organizations operate on a budget, implementing effective service practices – the kind we expect to find from sales-oriented service – is of great importance.

Leave No One Behind

One of the major challenges nonprofit and public organizations face has to do with long-time employees and their ability and motivation to adopt new technologies and tools, such as advanced customer relationship management and human resource management systems. What makes matters more challenging is the common fear that the new undermines the authority and relevance of the old. Investing in employee training in general and in walkthrough guiding tools in particular serves at least two purposes. First, it sends a message to employees that their organization still invests in them and that professionalism is important. It means that nobody has to be left behind. Second, walkthrough guides help employees adapt to new conditions and to do so independently, with little to no human involvement. Not only does this do away with the potential embarrassment of the learning curve, but it also empowers workers to advance as far as they wish at their own pace.

These onboarding tools give them individual access to whatever support they need, when they need it, even after their initial training is done. To be sure, no amount of training will impose knowledge upon a reluctant employee, but for those who are willing, tools typically used for sales training may, with little adjustments, be a bridge to help experienced but less technologically skilled employees continue contributing to the organization. At the same time, organizations profit from retaining knowledge and experience.