The Government has put innovation at the heart of its agenda by appointing a Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary to help grow the economy and generate better, well-paid jobs.

However, with UK public sector organisations expected to entirely digitise their essential services, there’s still work to be done to ensure consistent progress. Only last month the Commons Health and Care select committee published a report on digitising the NHS, claiming that opportunities have been missed to co-create a national digital strategy to bridge the skills gap and to enable the recruitment, retention and growth of the digital, data, technology workforce to meet challenging projected health demands.

Addressing workforce issues is vital to digitising all public services. In the case of the NHS, the select committee found that funding and training provision is not sufficient to ensure the wider health and social workforce has adequate digital skills. It also found that; “Staffing gaps result in an over-reliance on commercial consultancy, which is costly and results in institutional knowledge being lost.”

Driving change through workforce mobility

So how can organisations, in both the public and private sector, make better progress towards achieving their digital objectives in the face of the widening skills gap? We worked with the Productivity Institute to explore how to boost productivity in the public sector and our report ‘Making public sector productivity practical’ uncovered three key drivers:

  1. Adaptive business design.
  2. Innovation and digital transformation.
  3. An agile workforce.

The workforce is a crucial driver, but we know that technologies such as automation are driving the need for different digital skillsets, which means it needs to be agile and mobile enough to adapt. A problem lies in the fact that public sector organisations are struggling to attract from the same talent pools as the likes of Google and Facebook. Those graduating with degrees in technology have been socially conditioned and aspire to work for ‘Big Tech’ companies, which means that public sector organisations can often come up short, even though their need for digital skills is as great.

To boost productivity and achieve greater progress, needs a re-think of how to approach entire workforce planning and to transform from within. Hoping that you can recruit digital talent using traditional methods, while failing to adequately identify and grow internal potential, will just lead to an ever-widening skills gap.

Fortunately, the people who share public sector ethos and values are already working within your organisation or the broader ecosystem. It’s a case of identifying their potential and providing the long-term training within the right environment to help them achieve their best.

This is an approach we are taking as a member of the 15,000 Futures initiative. It is helping to create new digital talent and provide meaningful employment for UK veterans by tapping into their hidden potential and mapping them to a range of high-demand digital roles. The initiative was started by WithYouWithMe which provides aptitude and psychometric testing to match candidates. We found that the typical tenure of veterans in their digital role is an impressive three and a half years which is unheard of in the wider digital sector. The scheme shows that by discovering potential you can create talent, rather than focus on recruiting it.

Helping people to bring the best out of digital

As technology continues to develop many existing roles will change and employees will need to learn to adapt. Gas Safe Register showed that this can be done successfully by transforming how it assesses the quality of its engineers using Obrizum’s AI-powered adaptive learning platform. Previously the company conducted 9,000 in-person fitness-to-practice inspections each year. The new solution enables a significant number of engineers to be inspected via a virtual classroom to prove competency, with AI adapting the questions and learning techniques to better understand the confidence and knowledge of each person. The solution has improved the understanding of the engineer’s risk profile and the follow-up actions required to address these.

To be successful, engineers and inspectors had to change how they work with technology, but this has helped to create better long-term outcomes and significantly reduce operational costs.

Transforming your workforce: where do you start?

Building digital skills takes time, but if you break it down into four clear steps you can start to develop talent throughout your organisation:

  1. Test and understand the potential of your existing workforce through aptitude testing.
  2. Build a picture of the future digital skills your organisation needs and map them to the potential of your people.
  3. Create adaptive learning programmes to rapidly upskill your people.
  4. Focus on the hardest-to-fill roles first.

To understand and rapidly upskill the potential that lies within your organisation is an extremely valuable and rewarding thing to do. You can build the talent for the future by starting right here, right now.


See other useful resources about productivity and the public sector:
Or to learn more about the different approaches you can take to boost productivity within your organisation, download our report:

Written by

Oliver Walter - 400*400

Oliver Walter

Director in the Scaling Partner team, Capita

Oliver is a Director in the Scaling Partner team, Capita’s corporate venture arm that partners with B2B startups and scaleups who have an innovative tech solution that brings value to Capita’s public and private sector clients. Oliver has over 20 years’ experience in sales leadership and growth strategy across technology, outsourcing and learning markets. Oliver is passionate about the role technology and the SME ecosystem can play in solving the skills and efficiency challenges needed for the Public Sector to digitally transform Citizen services.

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