Poor digital literacy affecting public sector

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Most senior public sector HR leaders think a lack of skills is affecting their organisation

Poor digital literacy among frontline workers is holding back change projects, according to a survey of local government HR leaders conducted by Eduserv and the Public Sector People Managers' Association (PPMA).

The Skills for Digital Change report interviewed 87 senior public sector HR leaders, and found that more than four-fifths (85%) believed a lack of such skills is affecting their organisation.

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

Around half (51%) of councils said they are bridging digital skills gaps by using the support of external specialists, while 34% had created a dedicated plan to improve digital literacy. Three in 10 (29%) reported that they are ensuring recruitment and performance reviews explicitly reference digital skills.

Sue Evans, president of the PPMA, said senior council leaders should work with HR teams to help solve the issue.

“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 digitally self-sufficient,” she said.

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

Jos Creese, principal analyst for the Eduserv Briefing Programme and author of the report, said HR should be at “the heart of planning” digital skills development.

“This research shows that although councils are taking significant steps to improve digital skills across their organisations, those responsible for delivering services on the frontline are getting left behind in terms of understanding and adoption,” he said.

"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.”

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