The Department of Health (DoH) will include an assessment of civil servants' digital skills in formal performance reviews by the end of the year.
Part of a broad programme of digital skill-boosting aimed at staff across the department, initiatives also include one-on-one 'master classes' for the most senior civil servants and the introduction of compulsory digital skills sessions during inductions for new employees.
Recently, 70 'digital champions' were recruited from various teams to become advocates of digital delivery and digital strategy and be the 'go-to' person in their team on digital matters. They will each train 10 of their colleagues on basic online skills, Agile working, accessibility and how to apply behavioural insight techniques, from this September. The remainder of staff will be trained next year.
The aim, says Digital Strategy Manager at the Department Jason Caplin, is to allow them to be "let loose on the internet without fear of death or destruction. We're expecting them to help and encourage colleagues to describe new projects in terms of needs, user stories and measurable objectives, before planning what channels they might use", he says.
In the coming months, Caplin and his team will meet with various internal teams, including policymakers, to identify the areas in which they require training such as document collaboration, "automating repetitive processes like using filters in Outlook" and building the confidence to use social networks.
The programme is seeing the digital champions act as beta testers for the Department's websites and their new intranet. "If they see something that could be done better digitally, we want them to tell us, then fix it themselves, and shout from the rooftops about their success", Caplin tells Local Digital.
Champions will contribute feedback on the usability of DoH's Digital Policymaking Toolkit's, a guide intended to help DoH policy officials take advantage of digital tools and techniques. And plans are in place for them to help the Government Digital Service in developing a civil servants' digital skills guide.
'Local Government user needs' is the subject of Local Digital's free event this Friday (28 March) in London, part of the Hot Topic series. Find out more or register.
Read more about the Department of Health's digital skills programme.