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Digital Talent Management Handbook

A comprehensive guide on how government agencies can recruit, hire, onboard, and retain digital talent.

Keeping skills and ideas fresh

Technology evolves at a fast pace, and people are constantly inventing new ways to solve problems. Keeping up with this pace is important — and luckily, your employees are eager to do so as well. When asked why they might leave their current position, professionals cite the ability to learn and grow on the job as being almost twice as important as salary.

Make time for your team to learn and grow as part of their job. This means making time for longer, more time-intensive programs, but it also means baking learning opportunities into everyday work.

Offer opportunities for continual learning

Data from the Office of Personnel Management show that 51% of information technology professionals in the federal government were 50 years of age or older. Combined with a lack of significant training in modern technology, the skills and training of this workforce are several generations out of date.

Even on a shorter timescale, the skills of your technology staff can be outdated in a small number of years.

Plan to offer incentives and opportunities for continuously training your staff. Your staff need to keep up with the pace of change in technology. Offer formal training paired with the opportunities for using those new skills in the workplace.

Technology staff will benefit from the opportunity to learn new languages, tools, and technologies. Everyone should learn human-centered design, product management, and agile project management, among other topics. Digital transformation requires everyone to participate.

High-quality courses are available online from companies like:

Make it easy for staff to attend conferences

Many agencies have a training budget. Make it easy for staff to use this budget to attend industry technology conferences. These conferences provide lots of opportunities to learn from each other’s practical experience.

Some conferences worth attending:

Case study: Peak Academy

Denver’s Peak Academy mission statement reads:

“Peak Academy trains and coaches employees at all levels to improve the way government works. Through innovation, employees do more with less and enhance the Denver city experience.”

Too often, government teams are focused on getting more staff, technology, and money, which are all usually hard to come by in local government. So how do you do more with less?

Brian Elms of Denver’s Peak Academy has an answer — focus on solving a problem, not on increasing resources:

  • Create a language for how to solve a problem. When everyone on the team is talking about a problem in the same way, they have a shared understanding of that problem and can spend more time solving it.
  • Focus resources on the performance indicators that matter most; it’s impossible to tackle every problem at once.
  • Foster collaborative problem solving, bringing voices from across the government into one room to solve a problem.
  • Tie funding to innovative programs. Quantify change in terms of dollars saved to make it easier to allocate budget to training and similar initiatives.
  • Frame the problems from the customer’s perspective. If possible, bring a customer representative into process mapping sessions so that the team understands their point of view.

Some cities are replicating Denver’s success with their own “Peak Academies.” Others are focused on training their innovation teams, or smaller groups focused on more specific problems. Here are some examples:

  • In 2017, Chattanooga, Tennessee started their own Peak Academy with no budget or dedicated staff. They have trained over 100 employees and saved over $100,000.
  • In Miami, the procurement department sent all of their employees to the Miami Innovation Academy and have since streamlined the process for procuring engineering services. They’ve cut out 40% of the forms and at least 30 days of wait time.
  • The City of Durham publishes training resources online so anyone can learn about Lean and other innovative strategies for problem solving.

As more agencies adopt this training mentality, Elms sees that many others hesitate to allocate already overworked resources to set up and implement the program. “You can dip your toe in the water and have some success. But if you jump in, you’ll have tremendous success,” he says.