Building a digital workforce

According to the Lloyds Bank UK Business Digital Index, 58% of charities lack basic digital skills. Despite this research showing that digitally mature charities are more than twice as likely to see an increase in funding, only 23% of UK charities are investing in improving their employees’ digital skills.

At NCVO we’re proud to be building a digital workforce. We’ve been running the Learning Lab, our digital skills programme, since June 2015. We’ve engaged 70% of our current staff with 95% saying they feel more confident after attending a session, and we’re approaching our 100th session.

We’ve learnt a lot along the way, and I’m excited to share this, and our new free toolkit, Building a digital workforce, with you. This has been created to help organisations improve their employees’ skills and confidence, to create a more digital culture, and help close that skills gap.

Platforms or people?

With more focus on new technology to deliver digital projects, many charities are achieving great things through adopting more agile, user-led, innovative approaches. But what about behaviour and culture within your organisation?

Technology doesn’t really work without knowledge, and knowledge comes from people. There’s not much point in overhauling your platforms and processes if you’re not willing to invest the time in showing people how and why to use them.

Removing the digital silo

Part of the digital transformation process requires a shift from the more traditional centralised model, where digital skills and responsibilities predominantly sit within the digital team, to a hub and spoke model, where digital expertise is distributed more evenly across teams. This isn’t as simple as redistributing the digital team. It requires a culture change where people are not only equipped with the skills to use digital more effectively and efficiently, but feel confident to apply these skills.

Confidence first, skills second

People learn by doing. But without confidence, they probably won’t start doing. Our Learning Lab isn’t trying to turn everyone in the organisation into digital specialists – we don’t need 100 coders, SEO experts or data analysts. What we’re trying to achieve is building people’s confidence so they feel encouraged to experiment, curious to try new ways of working, and supported to learn by doing.

A peer to peer approach

External training can fill skills gaps and provide key specialist support, but peer to peer learning can do this and more. It creates a nurturing environment. By celebrating the talent and knowledge of staff, you’re giving those delivering sessions an opportunity to build their own skills and confidence as well as their colleagues.

According to CIMA peer to peer learning increases motivation and depth of understanding. It can also be more cost and time effective as it facilitates continued learning (the trainer remains a colleague) and allows you to tailor content to meet the specific needs of your organisation’s structure, culture and strategy.

We can help

I’ve been fortunate that a large part of my role at NCVO has focused on designing and running the Learning Lab. I’ve had time to think strategically and plan a structured programme that can be managed in a sustainable way. However I think back to my previous role, in a medium sized charity where I was one of two members of the digital team. We had the skills and knowledge to train colleagues, however we didn’t have the time to research, plan, consider, design, pilot and deliver.

This is why we’ve created Building a digital workforce – a four-part toolkit of editable templates, resources and practical guidance; and a series of bespoke workshops, training and support – to help you plan, design and deliver you own internal skills development programme. I really hope this will save you time, money and help you build your own digital workforce.


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Helen Ridgway was NCVO’s online engagement manager. Helen has worked in the voluntary sector since 2006, including roles at Muscular Dystrophy Campaign and St Mungo’s.

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