William Eichler 28 April 2017

Front line staff ‘left behind’ on digital journey, report finds

A ‘digital knowledge deficit’ among front line staff is holding back the effectiveness of change programmes in local authorities, new research reveals.

A joint report by Eduserv, a not-for-profit provider of IT services to the public sector, and the Public Sector People Manager’s Association (PPMA) has found four in ten HR leaders rate digital knowledge of front line staff ‘inadequate’.

However, the report – entitled Skills for digital change -- also found the digital literacy of senior managers had widely improved.

Although 61% of PPMA members surveyed said that 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 reported digital knowledge had improved among the corporate management team (78%), finance (68%), HR (67%)and IT teams (81%) across the council but only a minority reported ‘significant improvements’.

While a lack of digital literacy at all employee levels was reported to hold back digital change programmes, the issue was most marked among front line staff with 85% of HR leaders saying it held their organisation back.

‘This 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,’ said Jos Creese, principal analyst for the Eduserv Briefing Programme and author of the report.

‘Digital is about people more than technology so it is vital that councils put their HR teams at the heart of planning, working with IT and digital teams to ensure the right skills and knowledge are in place to ensure digital change projects succeed.’

Sue Evans, President of the PPMA said: ‘While it is important that HR teams take steps to build digital capability for employees, digital practice in leading councils shows the value of changing expectations of all employees to become digitally competent and to become digitally self-sufficient.

‘It is clear that senior leaders in councils need to work closely with HR teams to create a digitally aware culture which will support and sustain their future efforts to deliver a new generation of public services.’

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