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Building a digital workforce

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NCVO has been running an internal peer to peer digital skills programme since June 2015 to build the skills and confidence of all staff. This case study outlines how the programme was designed and delivered and the impact this is having on NCVO.


In 2014 NCVO launched a new five year organisational strategy in which digital played a key role. We identified the platforms and tools needed to deliver this, however for NCVO to be a more open, networked organisation, we would also need to build the digital capabilities of staff.

We launched our internal digital skills development programme (the Learning Lab) to develop people’s digital skills and confidence. The Learning Lab offers 16 different sessions covering a range of digital tools and approaches relevant to people’s roles and encourages staff to share experiences and expertise through an informal, practical, peer to peer approach. 

The issues we faced

While people at NCVO generally had a good level of digital literacy, some lacked the confidence to try new tools and approaches. Many also lacked the time to attend external training.

We considered using external trainers to deliver sessions, however we felt a peer to peer approach would provide a valuable opportunity for the digital and communications team to develop their presentation, facilitation and communication skills, save time and money, and make digital more approachable to our less digitally confident members of staff.

Using in-house resource meant asking members of the digital and communications team to design, write and deliver content on top of their existing workload. This, and asking members of staff working to full capacity to take time out of their already packed schedules to attend sessions, and then implement what they’ve learnt, presented a potential challenge.

The Learning Lab was designed with all of this in mind:  as an informal, peer to peer learning opportunity, delivered in one hour sessions to small, mixed groups. Sessions are optional and staff could attend as many or as few as they wanted. 

The actions we took

The first six months was spent researching digital literacies, planning and designing the programme. We created our own digital skills framework which identified the behaviours and skills we thought people at NCVO needed in order for us to become a more digitally mature organisation. We identifyed risks and created a plan for how they could be managed, conduced all-staff survey to identify current skills gaps and confidence levels and attitudes toward digital and put together a comms plan.

Internal comms was really important in terms of getting buy-in from people across the organisation. We used team meetings, Yammer, email and posters to generate interest in the programme and explain more about how it would work. We also created a simple wordpress site to collate all information regarding the programme, including more information about each session, online booking, a news section with blog posts and monthly tips, and we came up with key messages and a brand identity to help it stand out from other projects.

Sessions are short, informal and practical where possible. We try to generate group discussion and enoucrage attendess to share examples of their work or challenges. Attendees receive a badge after each session and when they’ve collected six or more badges, they’re added to a leaderboard.

Individuals are required to complete a short evaluation form after each session to provide feedback and briefly demonstrate what they’ve learnt. In November a six month review was completed to check the progress of the programme and identify what was working and what needed improving. In June 2016 we did a 12 month review, looking at the impact the Learning Lab has had on the way people at NCVO work.

Positive outcomes

Between June 2015 and June 2016 we delivered 115 sessions across 16 different topics, ranging from digital publishing to Agile project management. Of people currently working at NCVO, 74% have attended at least one session.

We started receiving great feedback after the first few sessions and generally everyone has been incredibly positive about the Learning Lab.

97% of attendees have learned something new from the session they attended and 95% feel more confident about the subject. 85% of the six month survey respondents could articulate at least one thing they’ve done differently since attending a session.

91% of the 12 month survey respondents said they have gained transferable skills, and 89% said they use digital in their work more since attending Learning Labs.

Staff particularly like the length, delivery, content and tone of the sessions as well as the opportunity to interact with colleagues they may not usually interact with.

We've had three fantastic blog posts from staff who have shared what they've learnt and enjoyed about the Learning Lab.

Negative outcomes

The main reasons for non/low attendance are lack of time, workload pressures, or a feeling that digital is not relevant to their role. These suggest we still have work to do in demonstrating the value and benefits of the programme, however we accept that we won’t engage every single member of staff.

Managing the Learning Lab has been fairly time intensive, and it has put additional pressure on the digital and communications team. However, by investing in people’s digital skills across the organisation, there should eventually be less demands on the digital team.

Lessons learnt

Being agile, open and user-led has been vital to the success of the programme, and gathering feedback continuously has enabled us to review, adapt and improve the programme as it has progressed.

Although people are really enthusiastic about the Learning Lab, we’ve learnt not to assume they will be proactive in finding out information themselves – the easier to find this information the better, and the more you remind them about upcoming sessions, the more likely they’ll be to book themselves onto a session.

As of June 2016 28 members of staff had yet to attend a session and we didn't quite hit our target of 80% of staff attending one or more session in the first 12 months. But we were never going to transform every single member of staff into a digital champion, and I think we’ve done a pretty good job of engaging the remaining 79 people at NCVO.

More information

More organisations are recognising the need to invest in their staff’s digital skills. Based on the approach we’ve taken at NCVO, we have created Building a digital workforce; a free four-part toolkit of editable templates, resources and practical guidance - and a series of bespoke workshops, training and support  - to help organisations plan, design and deliver their own digital skills development programme. Are you thinking of running a similar programme? Download the toolkit today. 


Page last edited Oct 20, 2016

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