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Digital knowledge deficit among frontline staff holds back change

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The majority of local government HR leaders say poor digital literacy among frontline workers is holding back change projects, according to new research.

The Skills for Digital Change report, by Eduserv and the Public Sector People Managers’ Association, found councils must take further steps to address the digital skills deficit among those responsible for delivering services.

More consistency needed

Although 61% of PPMA members surveyed said digital skills had improved in the last year, 66% said they needed to go further in developing a plan to improve digital skills in their organisation.

HR leaders said digital knowledge had improved among the corporate management team (78%), finance (68%), HR (67%) and IT teams (81%) across the council but only minority reported significant improvements.

Four in ten HR leaders said there had been no change in the digital skills of frontline workers and a similar number rated digital literacy of this employee group “inadequate”, significantly more than any other employee group.

While a lack of digital literacy at all employee levels was said to hold back digital change programmes, the issue was most marked among frontline staff, with 85% of HR leaders saying a skills gap in this group held their organisation back.

Around half (51%) of councils are bridging digital skills gaps by using the support of external specialists, while 34% have created a dedicated plan to improve digital literacy and 29% are ensuring recruitment and performance reviews explicitly reference digital skills.

Frontline skills matter most

The research shows that although councils are taking significant steps to improve digital skills across their organisations, those responsible for delivering services on the front line are getting left behind on the digital journey in terms of understanding and adoption.

The findings also suggest councils need to do more to ensure HR teams are at the heart of planning around digital change, working with IT and digital teams to ensure the right skills and knowledge are in place to ensure digital change projects succeed.

But although it is important that HR teams take steps to build digital capability for employees, contributors to the research said councils should set the expectation that all employees not only become digitally competent and but also become digitally self-sufficient.


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