Building digital capability means understanding where we are now, as well as where we need to be in the future
Blog by Yorath Turner, Deputy Director for Digital People, Strategy and Corporate Services.
The digital profession in Scottish Government has grown exponentially since it was formed in 2018; we have increased from 400 to over 1,000 permanent and fixed-term staff. Of course, this growth hasn’t been unexpected; especially when you consider the vast increase in pace and demand for digital transformation across all sectors.
However, given that there is also a huge breadth of disciplines and roles within the profession it does make developing a coherent view of our skills profile that little bit more challenging. Whilst we had a sense of where we had gaps and strengths, thanks to our ongoing workforce planning measures and demand for specific learning developed by the Scottish Digital Academy, we didn’t have a consistent or measurable view of this across the profession.
We knew this something we needed to address, so in the Autumn of 2021 we commenced our first profession-wide project that aimed to gain a granular understanding of our skills strengths and shortfalls.
Already everyone within in the profession had a profile of essential skills aligned to their role, which was detailed within our Capability Framework*, offering the perfect starting point.
Asking people give up time to measure, and report on, their skills can be daunting for some and downright annoying for others. So, before we did anything, we wanted to have an open and honest dialogue with our people to share what we were planning (and more importantly why) and listen to any of their concerns. We did this through a series of drops-ins and focus groups with more than 400 members of the profession, Trades Union and Senior Civil Servants.
The feedback we received from the profession was critical to helping us to shape our plans and target our communications. But we wanted to make absolutely sure that our approach was right before going live, so we initially ran a small pilot with 50 people to test our thinking.
In the build-up to launch day, each member of the profession received guidance and invited to workshops explaining how to self-assess their capability against the against the essential skills required for their roles.
What did we find out?
We had a completion rate of 97 percent. Once each individual’s results were exported for analysis, we were looking at over 46,000 lines of data.
Of course, we needed to be mindful that self-assessment is subjective and responses can be influenced by an individual’s characteristics such as gender, ethnicity, socio-economics, etc., but we were confident that we had a robust overview of our skills levels and development needs.
Encouragingly, we found that there is a high level of leadership capability across the profession, with the highest average rated skills being Problem and Strategic Ownership, Relationship Management and Communication.
We also identified several areas of expertise where large percentages of people exceeded the expected skills levels for their roles. For example, 57 percent of people who need skills in Analysis and Synthesis were high performing in this area. Similarly, 51 percent of those who require Research Skills and 77 percent requiring Problem Solving exceeded expected standards.
While it is reassuring to see where we are doing well, the survey also allowed us to identify where we have a need to support our people to develop. The skills needing development are common across a wide range of roles with a range of seniority included. They are needed across large numbers of roles (usually more than 50) and will need us to implement system wide approaches to development. Some of the key skills we found that need development are in:
- Agile Working
- Penetration Testing
- Operational Management
- Problem Ownership
- Product Ownership
- User focus
- Lifecycle perspective
So what next?
We can now, for the first time, quantify the current capability levels we have at all levels across the profession. As a result, we will be introducing new courses through the Scottish Digital Academy.
This month we will be launching learning pathways for key digital roles and offering a new agile curriculum focussed on:
- Product Vision;
- Scrum; and,
- User Stories and User Mapping.
Business areas will also receive reports with their results, enabling them to plan local learning interventions.
The true measure of our success will be determined in the coming years when we measure progress using future skills surveys, and I look forward to sharing these results as we continue to develop as a profession.