Curiosity@Work Report | Insights by Industry
Key Findings for Government
- Managers in government struggle with issues related to employee morale, retention, engagement and cross-departmental collaboration – as well as challenges related to hiring applicants with necessary technical and interpersonal skills.
- Managers in government recognize the value of curiosity as an intrinsic skill that will continue to become more important for employees to have and a skill that drives real business impact. Compared to the other sectors surveyed, more managers in government consider curiosity to be a highly valuable trait in employees (86% vs. 72% across sectors).
- Curiosity can help address public sector managers’ concerns. Highly valuable benefits of curiosity include more creative thinking (73%), more flexibility (67%), stronger collaboration (63%) and greater efficiency (63%) within the workplace and among employees.
- Managers in government, like those in other sectors, often note concerns related to curiosity and its potential to lead to greater difficulty managing employees or decreasing efficiency. Despite these concerns, a third of managers within the public sector believe employees do not have enough of this trait. This highlights the complexity surrounding the perceived value of curiosity, managers’ willingness to embrace it and the need for guidance on how to foster this trait in employees.
- Half of the managers in government can be categorized as highly curious, higher than managers across other sectors (51% vs. 38% across sectors). It is beneficial for managers to display high workplace curiosity because these managers exhibit greater workplace engagement and motivation and do more to encourage this valuable skill among their direct reports compared to their less curious peers.
Curiosity is an increasingly valuable employee trait across sectors, including government.
Amid the Great Resignation and current hiring frenzy, managers in government are more likely than managers in other sectors to believe curiosity is a very valuable trait in employees (86% vs. 72% across sectors).
Like other sectors, managers in government also:
- Believe curiosity is much more important for employees to have today than it was five years ago (50%).
- Strongly agree curiosity in employees drives real business impact (53%).
- Strongly agree employees who have more curiosity tend to be higher performers (54%).
Managers working in government believe curiosity is a very valuable trait across organizational levels:
- C-suite executives (51%).
- Directors and departmental leaders (57%).
- Midlevel managers (63%).
- Entry-level employees (52%).
When asked in which departments it is especially valuable for employees to have curiosity, public sector managers say:
- Research and development (57%).
- IT (56%).
- Marketing (44%).
Public sector managers, like their counterparts in other sectors, recognize that curiosity is a skill that can address key challenges and concerns.
The top employee challenges managers in government are facing are:
- Cross-collaboration with other teams and departments (58%).
- Keeping employee morale/motivation high (49%).
- Retaining good employees (47%).
- Getting employees to push beyond just basic duties (44%).
Unlike other sectors, fewer managers in government say they find collaboration and employees working as a team to be a current challenge (29% vs. 47% across sectors).
Managers in government recognize the potential benefits of curious employees:
- More creative thinking and solutions (73%).
- More flexibility and adaptability during times of uncertainty (67%).
- Greater efficiency and productivity (63%).
- Stronger collaboration and teamwork (63%).
- Greater diversity of thoughts and perspectives (60%).
- Greater employee engagement and job satisfaction (57%).
Public sector managers are more likely than managers in other sectors to note more creative thinking (73% vs. 62% across sectors) and flexibility and adaptability (67% vs. 56% across sectors) are particularly valuable benefits of curiosity in employees.
Managers in government, like their peers in other sectors, note the interconnectedness of curiosity and data expertise and digital integration.
To succeed in the next three years, managers in the public sector need employees with:
- Technical skills in artificial intelligence (54%) and data analysis (51%).
- Personal attributes like problem solving (63%), collaboration (59%) and communication (57%).
Focusing on the beneficial outcomes of curiosity, public sector managers believe it is valuable for employees to have this trait when:
- Innovating new solutions (63%).
- Tackling complex problems (57%).
- Analyzing data (48%).
- Collaborating cross-functionally (48%).
Managers within government who rate high in curiosity: 
- Use an average of three different data sources in their roles.
- More often use performance metric (63%), employee (61%) and organization financial data (43%).
These more curious managers working in government also indicate they are very advanced in their organization’s integration of digital technology. Overall, about 2 in 5 (39%) managers in government believe their organization’s integration of digital technology is very advanced, compared to a slight increase (43%) among high-curiosity managers in this sector, highlighting how curiosity can help organizations adapt and become more competitive.
Curiosity is integral to workplace success and career advancement – and organizations across sectors, and in government, can do more to foster this trait in a variety of ways.
Compared to most other sectors, managers working in government are less likely to say their organization formally includes curiosity (or similar traits) in:
- Company training and development (60% vs. 71% across sectors).
- Employee performance review criteria (60% vs. 70% across sectors).
- Promotion or advancement decisions (49% vs. 66% across sectors).
Still, like other sectors, many public sector managers say this skill is formally included in their organization’s:
- Corporate mission, vision and values (61%).
- Hiring criteria (58%).
Managers in government, like other sectors, personally consider or encourage curiosity in a variety of ways via:
- Coaching or team development (89%).
- Employee performance reviews (86%).
- Hiring decisions (76%).
- Promotion or advancement decisions (76%).
Across sectors, views toward curiosity are complex. Many managers in government remain hesitant to encourage this trait and struggle with how to identify or develop it.
Public sector managers note they are only somewhat or not equipped to identify curiosity in:
- Job applicants (46%).
- Direct reports (36%).
About a third of managers in government are very concerned about curiosity’s potential to lead to:
- Greater difficulty managing employees (32%).
- Decreased efficiency or productivity (31%).
- Greater difficulty coming to a final decision or taking action (29%).
- Increased risk of errors or bad decisions (26%).
These managers admit they find it challenging to:
- Develop curiosity in employees who don’t naturally have it (49%).
- Connect curiosity to job performance (47%).
- Identify job applicants who have curiosity (44%).
- Communicate the benefits of curiosity to others (40%).
A quarter (26%) of managers in government go as far as to say employees and applicants today have too much curiosity, though more (33%) believe these individuals do not have enough of this trait – highlighting public sector managers’ willingness to foster this trait despite concerns.
More curious managers in the public sector exhibit greater workplace engagement and work to foster this skill among direct reports in several ways.
The Curiosity Index  was used to measure the prevalence of workplace curiosity in managers. Managers working in government can be categorized as:
- High curiosity (most inclined to identify with statements defining a curious nature) (51%).
- Moderate curiosity (31%).
- Low curiosity (least inclined to identify with statements defining a curious nature) (18%).
Compared to other sectors, more managers in government identify as highly curious (51% vs. 38% across sectors).
Highly curious managers in government embrace differing ideas and have a relentless pursuit of knowledge and understanding. They often strongly agree that:
- They do not shy away from the unknown or unfamiliar (91%).
- They work relentlessly to answer complicated questions at work (91%).
Further highlighting the value of curiosity in helping organizations address some of their key challenges when it comes to employee retention and performance, more curious managers within the public sector are likely to:
- Strongly agree they would continue to work for their employer for as long as possible (70%).
- Strongly agree they feel motivated to go above and beyond what their job requires (67%).
- Say their direct reports’ performance is very strong (78%).
The top methods more curious managers working in government use to foster and encourage curiosity are:
- Publicly praising employees who demonstrate curiosity (76%).
- Rewarding curiosity in performance reviews (61%).
- One-on-one coaching or mentoring (59%).
- Allowing use of work time to explore passion projects (57%).
Managers across the curiosity spectrum can be further divided into one of four segments based on how each segment values curiosity in the workplace in various ways.
Public sector managers can be categorized as:
- High-curiosity collaborators (41% of managers in government vs. 35% across sectors). The most curious segment. These managers value collaboration, are teamwork driven and are relentless in finding answers. They do this through listening and valuing co-workers' ideas and continuously seeking opportunities to expand skills but are more hesitant when new challenges present themselves. Focused on curiosity, these managers believe this trait leads to greater efficiency and productivity at work and results in greater job satisfaction.
- Flexibility-driven opinion seekers (29% of managers in government vs. 26% across sectors). These managers embrace challenges, and the possibility of being distressed does not affect their motivation. Curiosity leads to greater flexibility and adaptability during times of uncertainty and can bring more empathy and inclusivity to workplaces. These managers do not believe that curiosity leads to a boost in efficiency or overall team performance.
- Productivity-focused leaders (19% of managers in government vs. 24% across sectors). These managers believe curiosity can lead to stronger collaboration and teamwork and help increase efficiency and productivity in the workplace. They do not, however, believe curiosity drives inclusivity and diversity of thought.
- Anti-curiosity leaders (11% of managers in government vs. 16% across sectors). The smallest segment, these managers do not believe curiosity adds any value to performance or the workplace.
 Base size n=90, results for government are directional.
 Base note: n=46 high-curiosity managers, results are directional.
 The 2021 Curiosity Index: The Curiosity Index score is based on the ratings of eight different attributes related to curiosity in the workplace. The index transforms the attributes’ raw ratings into a 0-100 metric where all the scores are averaged. Managers with a score of 71 or lower ranked “low” in the index; managers with a score ranging from 72 to 83 were categorized as “medium”; and those with a score of 84 or higher were assigned to the “high” category. The thresholds in each category were derived based on the index score distribution and best practices. Questions used in the development of this index were inspired by research conducted by Todd Kashdan and his team on the topic of curiosity in the workplace, “Curiosity has comprehensive benefits in the workplace: Developing and validating a multidimensional workplace curiosity scale in United States and German employees.
 Base note n=46, results are directional.
Given its global value and impact, it is evident that curiosity is an increasingly necessary and crucial skill that employees across levels within government need to develop, as well as a trait that these organizations must foster to remain innovative. Curiosity has the potential to help address some of the biggest organizational challenges identified by public sector managers by fostering increased innovation, efficiency and productivity and addressing challenges related to employee morale and retention – key to mitigating the Great Resignation and hiring challenges that many organizations across sectors are experiencing. Understanding how to identify and cultivate this skill will be essential as competition around hiring and performance continues.
However, knowing how to effectively develop this trait among employees is difficult. Many managers within government admit they struggle with how to develop curiosity in employees who do not have it naturally. Many also find it challenging to connect this skill to areas like job performance and communicate its benefits. Yet, directionally, public sector managers identified as being more curious  in our research show increased motivation and satisfaction in their role and actively work to encourage this trait among their direct reports, further highlighting the importance of fostering this skill. This can be done in multiple ways, such as by rewarding curiosity in performance reviews or publicly praising employees who demonstrate this trait. The case for curiosity is clear. It is now up to organizations within the public sector to further embrace this trait and for managers to continue to incorporate this skill in their employee development efforts or risk falling behind.