“Inadequate” digital knowledge among frontline council staff

07 June 2017

Eduserve’s Jos Creese says frontline council workers are getting “left behind” on the digital journey”.

Eduserve’s Jos Creese says frontline council workers are getting “left behind” on the digital journey”.

Poor digital literacy among frontline local government workers is holding back change projects, according to a new survey from the Public Sector People Manager’s Association (PPMA) and Eduserv, a not-for-profit provider of IT services to the public sector.

While most respondents agreed digital knowledge had improved across the council, only a minority reported significant improvements. Sixty-six per cent of PPMA members said they needed to go further in developing a plan to improve digital skills in their organisation.

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 as “inadequate”, significantly more than any other employee group. 

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

According to the study, 51 per cent of councils are bridging the skills gaps by using the support of external specialists, 34 per cent have created a dedicated plan to improve digital literacy, and 29 per cent are ensuring that recruitment and performance reviews explicitly reference digital skills.

Jos Creese, principal analyst for the Eduserv Briefing Programme and report author, says 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.

“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,” says Creese.

The Skills for Digital Change report was based on the views of more than 100 public sector workers as well as quantitative research from a selection of 87 senior public sector HR pros.