Elevating Your Digital Workforce: A View from Central Government

In brief: 

  • In the public sector, where resources can be limited but needs are often great, it's critical to reimagine the way to secure top talent to keep up with today's digital demands and pace of change.  
  • One sure-fire way to make an impact with existing and potential employees is to offer meaningful opportunities for career growth. This can be done by reorganising your structure according to similar skills and capabilities. 
  • As you reshape your organisational structure by profession, you must prioritise change management and get laser clear on the skills your workforce needs to create maximum value.

Organisations across industries must find innovative ways to attract and retain top talent, but the challenge is particularly acute in the public sector where, globally, governments are facing increased demands and heightened risk along with limited resources. One way to attract and retain top talent is to ensure that career progression opportunities are clear and available to all employees.

We’ve worked recently with central government clients in the U.K. to reshape their structure by profession—in essence, by grouping roles with similar skills and capabilities. This offers better learning opportunities, enables the sharing of best practices, and improves career opportunities. It also promotes a greater strategic focus and fosters collaboration, enabling leaders to effectively prioritise work and resources.

Digital, Data, and Technology (DDaT) professions in particular offer significant potential in these areas; the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic have shown that digital must be “front and centre” of governments’ priorities to meet the needs of the people they serve. From IT operations management and engineering to technical development roles and more, a few key steps can help governments mature and strengthen their DDaT workforce:

Create a matrix structure by profession to increase collaboration and value delivered

Teamwork requires collaboration, which makes eliminating siloes an important part of developing an effective team. Moving to a matrix structure, with people grouped by skills into capabilities within the overall profession, can help enable this. A matrix structure allows issues, blockers, and decisions to reach the right team within the organisation more efficiently. It also encourages civil servants to take more accountability, which in turn increases motivation across the workforce.

Consider creating multidisciplinary teams aligned to products, services, or outcomes. This approach can help ensure successful delivery against departmental strategic priorities while giving civil servants the opportunity to gain exposure across multiple priorities, maximising their development and growth.

Each profession should be led by a Head of Profession who is responsible for building a thriving community. Working within a matrix structure, the Head of Profession can help drive strong partnerships across government directorates, which is pivotal to collaborative delivery against strategic objectives.

Integrate change management and leadership alignment into your approach from the start

Change management should be a focus throughout organisational design and implementation, not an afterthought. Without this end-to-end focus, it will be difficult to garner support and buy-in from all levels of the organisation. Maximise value through your operating model with three main change-led focuses:

  • Leadership alignment: An organisation’s operating model provides a clear, efficient path to achieving its strategy. Ensure that cross-functional leaders are involved in the design from the outset and are aligned on the strategic direction of the operating model. Doing so will accelerate adoption of new ways of working and drive innovation.
  • An as-is assessment: Identifying existing successes and blockers with the current model offers insight that can inform your key priorities and illuminate opportunities for improvement. Consider leveraging interviews, focus groups, and workshops; the overarching aim is to mitigate obstacles before you implement the operating model.
  • Co-creation: Middle managers often feel the biggest day-to-day impacts of organisational change because they are expected to take new direction from the leadership team, translate that direction, and embed the changes within their teams. Solicit cross-functional input from these middle managers and Heads of Profession to draw out insights that could otherwise go undiscovered. This will help fuel adoption and embed long-lasting cultural change across the organisation.

Define the DDaT skills needed in the future

Maturing government professions also requires identifying the current and future DDaT skills that will help you meet your departmental objectives. Clearly defined skills are key to recruiting and retaining workers with the right expertise. These defined skills will form the basis of your DDaT capability framework, which in turn provides a foundation for three key strategic approaches:

  • Strategic workforce planning: Defining required DDaT skills is the first step in identifying opportunities to optimise and enhance your professions for the future. Forecasting future workforce demand will enable you to identify gaps between your current and desired workforce and inform practical steps to create a “future-fit” workforce that is value-driven.
  • A capability-based pay approach: A DDaT capability framework that is accessible and understood by all enables a transparent and equal approach to rewarding DDaT professionals as they develop technical and digital capabilities. Incentivising and rewarding DDaT skills development helps reduce the reliance on interim labour, attrition rates, and organisational knowledge loss.
  • Career development propositions: Clearly defined DDaT skills directly inform key growth and development tools, such as career paths that show both vertical and horizontal progression opportunities as well as continuous professional development (CPD) resources that help people proactively manage their learning and growth.

By creating a matrix structure, integrating change management and leadership alignment from the outset, and clearly defining DDaT skills, governments can position themselves to keep pace with the demands of digital delivery and transformation by creating a more mature, stronger workforce.

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