Survey points to digital skills gap in civil service

Sopra Steria points to four in 10 government employees saying their training had not been sufficient to keep up with digitisation

Most civil servants are enthusiastic about the digitisation of services, but also worried about a skills gap which is forcing them to find their own solutions, according to a new report by digital transformation specialist Sopra Steria.

Finger on computer keyboardThe company has published the results of a survey of almost 4,500 civil servants, focused on the impact of digital transformation across central government since the first survey three years ago. 88% said digital was changing the way they work and 64% feel it had benefited their jobs; but they also pointed to a need for better training and leadership.

While 35% said their digital skills training had increased, up from 18% in 2016, 43% said it had not been sufficient, a figure that has grown steadily since the survey began.

This has led 36% to self-directed study in their own time, and 44% to say that informal sharing of best practice is their primary means of building the skills.

Along with this were worrying signs that 8% had received the training as part of their formal induction and 29% said they had not been given any of that needed for their roles.

The areas where the skills gap was seen to be the most acute were in development and service design, both identified by 44% of respondents.

More to be done

Phlip Craig, government sector strategy director at Sopra Steria, said: “It’s encouraging to see that despite both internal and external pressures, enthusiasm for digital transformation in government services is so resilient.

“This ‘report card’ is promising, but also reveals how much there remains to be done. We know that UK citizens want better, more integrated and intuitive digital services from their governments. Putting the needs and expectations of these users first must remain fundamental to the plan for delivery, which means taking all necessary steps to develop needed skills and bring in the right expertise from elsewhere in the market.

“Effective strategies for transforming government revolve around strong political and managerial leadership and robust governance.

“Our survey is being released just as a new government is being formed, one whose first tasks will be ensuring it has an effective strategy to address major reforms presented by an EU exit.”

Other findings from the survey included only 45% of respondents using data analytics to understand user needs and experiences, only 61% feeling their organisations had a good understanding of user needs, and 20% seeing a lack of resources as among the main barriers to change.

Image by Andy Smith, CC BY-SA 2.0 through flickr