Recruiting people into technical digital roles and helping them develop their skills in-post has been a long-standing challenge for Parliament.
We’re not alone in this, and like the Civil Service more broadly, we’ve been working to improve our offer to people in technical roles, helping them to build a career that brings long-term rewards and challenges.
A way to assess skills and identify opportunities
The Parliamentary Digital Careers Toolkit is a new initiative to support the career development of colleagues in technical digital roles in Parliament. There are lots of technical roles in Parliament that aren’t related to IT, so in developing the toolkit we wanted to be clear that it’s for technical roles with a digital or information technology focus, such as software engineering, data analysis or technical architecture.
The toolkit consists of a skills framework, a skills assessment tool, and a learning and development pathway.
The toolkit outlines the roles and skills needed to deliver digital and data services in Parliament. It’s a tool for individuals to plan their careers, but also a way of seeing how their work fits into the organisation’s priorities and key services. Colleagues have access to career pathways and can assess themselves against the skills they need or may benefit from in their current role or a future one.
Rolling out in stages
The toolkit is a work in progress. We’re rolling it out in stages and we’re developing it all the time based on user feedback. The first step has been to focus on technical digital roles in PDS, launching the skills framework and the assessment tool to start.
Learning pathways that people can use to improve their skills will come next, followed by a new pay and reward strategy.
We’re also in the planning stages for rolling out the toolkit to colleagues in similar roles in areas of Parliament outside of PDS.
Encouraging everyone to learn
A big challenge in this work is being clear about the purpose of the toolkit and its benefits. Through the toolkit, everyone is encouraged to learn and be proactive about their own development, not necessarily because we think they should ‘climb the career ladder’.
Our guiding principle is that everyone can improve on something, and that learning a new skill can be personally as well as professionally rewarding.
And learning something ourselves
There have been some rewarding surprises as well. We expected some teams with heavy workloads or non-standard working patterns to be more difficult to engage.
As it turns out, they have been some of the most engaged teams, with large turnouts at kick-off meetings that have led to interesting, challenging discussions. This has helped us improve our approach as we continue the rollout.
Feedback from a manager
Emma Canny, our Interim Head of Software Engineering, has found the toolkit helpful in her role. She recently shared feedback with us on how it has helped her as an individual to understand her own skill gaps, and how it has helped her as a manager.
Emma said: “This is a useful tool to support and structure conversations with the people I manage. It provides the structure to discuss development, progress, and learning opportunities. The toolkit can help to support constructive feedback, too, which is also a healthy part of 1-2-1 conversations."
Plans for the future
Next, we take it to the rest of Parliament! There are several digital roles outside of PDS in the Commons and Lords teams, and we want these colleagues to have access to the tool too.
We will use the data collected so far to do a few things, including to review how the toolkit is working for colleagues and measure the impact it’s having on recruitment and retention. We will also start building out learning pathways.
This is an important part of the toolkit, as it will help colleagues to see what they are working towards and what they need to do to progress or move to a different role, and hopefully empower them to shape the careers they want.
If you are interested in a role with PDS, browse our vacancies.