How one Scottish Council has developed Digital Champions in the workplace

Published by Digital Unite on

West Lothian Council logo

One of the key parts of West Lothian Council’s Digital Transformation Strategy is enabling and supporting their customers and staff with digital skills. To achieve this strategic aim, the Council developed a Digital Champion programme, supported by Digital Unite’s Digital Champions Network.

At the time of joining the Council had a handful of staff and volunteers who were helping others improve their digital skills. However, as a local authority serving over 175,000 citizens, they needed to do more to accelerate the shift to digital services. With budgets reducing, and service delivery changing, developing a peer-to peer-learning model was a key way of achieving sustainable digital transformation.

Helping staff and residents thrive in the digital age

In this blog post, Karen Cawte, Digital Transformation Manager, explains the Council’s approach to developing their Digital Champion support:

Our starting point was an audit of digital skills amongst staff using SCVO’s Essential Digital Skills Framework toolkit to help frame the questions. We have 8,000 staff and 6,000 of those live in the council area so they are both employees and customers.

The survey received over 1,400 responses and highlighted the two key barriers people are facing which are

  • understanding how to access information and
  • being safe online

It was very interesting to see that people have different views about their digital skills and knowledge at work and at home. In their personal lives our staff feel very competent but that changes when using digital technology to support their work.

Learning more about our Digital Champions

As part of the audit we invited staff to nominate themselves as Digital Champions.

Over 100 people came forward and from that we ran an initial meeting in February 2019 for 50 staff members. Since then we have been working with them to scope out their own role which has helped with the way they are engaging. Many were anxious they didn’t become an extension of our IT helpdesk.

Our Champions also created their own digital profiles which covers who they are, their job and their level of digital skills and interest. This helps us understand what gaps we need to fill with the Digital Champion support. Once they have done this, they get access to the training and support on the Digital Champions Network.

Supporting learning and development

As someone overseeing the project, I have limited resources available to me but through the Digital Champions Network I can easily keep track of our Digital Champions’ progress and impact across the Council.

Using the Digital Champions Network has meant I haven’t had to re-invent the wheel or start gathering resources which has been brilliant

The next step for us is to see how this initiative can reach and engage frontline staff such as bin collectors, school kitchen staff etc, many of whom work part time and are remote from the Council. These are the groups we need to support the most and will possibly need a different approach which we are currently working out.

We are definitely still finding our way with this but recognise that it’s something we can adapt as we go along. It is exciting to see where our Digital Champion support will take us and the signs are very positive so far.