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Goal 3: Build data expertise and transform how the VPS works

This section explores the problem statement: Government risks falling behind other sectors in its ability to deliver services that meet citizen expectations with 3 proposed responses and suggested actions.

Problem: Government risks falling behind other sectors in its ability to deliver services that meet citizen expectations

Building workforce capability is among the most complex challenges the public sector faces. But it is crucial to ensuring the VPS keeps up with rising citizen expectations.

Our efforts so far have proven the most successful workforce initiatives are those led from within VPS agencies themselves. For instance, VCDI supported the Performance and Evaluation Division at the Department of Education and Training to roll out a successful program of professional development, new ways of working, and service excellence. Similar approaches have succeeded in other VPS agencies.

The lesson is that a workforce will only mature where there is organisational appetite for change. Expertise is not enough – it is about changing how people work.

Obtaining that buy-in starts with building awareness and literacy at the executive level about the need for change. VPS agencies then need targeted support to plan and build their data-driven workforce. Finally, the VPS needs to be more creative about how it sources capability and organises to solve problems.

Response 1: Build executive data awareness and literacy

While other sectors are flattening structures and devolving authority, public sector organisations remain hierarchical. Workforce change hinges on building awareness and literacy among executives.

VPS agencies have identified executive data literacy as one of their biggest workforce challenges. Further, a recent report by the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner expressly called out the need to increase executive data literacy through targeted programs. (Source: Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner, 2019, Disclosure of myki travel information.)

Executive data literacy is about understanding the ways data and analytics can solve business problems, the role of leaders in data governance and investment decisions, and the capabilities leaders need under them to be data-driven. Best practice involves differing methods for different learning preferences, case-based tuition connected to real problems, and modular learning to allow incremental professional development. (Source: Dalhousie University, 2015, Best Practices for Data Literacy Education Knowledge Synthesis Report.)

Actions

A Co-design the requirements for an executive data literacy program with willing VPS agencies, and source appropriate providers to deliver it.

B Ensure the program can be adapted for the specific needs and problems of other VPS agencies.

C Grow the existing pool of free learning and development resources for leaders and teams to build their own skills.

Response 2: Develop the right workforce for a data-driven VPS

VPS agencies face common challenges in planning and building a data-driven workforce.

Agencies often struggle to know what expertise they already have, partly because there is no common way to describe the VPS data workforce. Once agencies establish a baseline, they need to define their ideal data workforce profile and develop or recruit people to fill identified gaps.

Effort is required to retain skilled staff. Often, data experts report their talents are under-used or wasted on low-level tasks. This is not only an underuse of VPS talent, but it creates a retention risk. Individuals need to feel the work they are doing matches their skills and interests. They also need to feel challenged and see desirable career pathways in the public sector.

Actions, in partnership with one or more VPS agencies

A Refine definitions for role types that will be used to understand the VPS data workforce, map these to skills and tasks, and align levels of expertise to job grades.

B Develop an evidence-based methodology for identifying the current and desired data workforce.

C Design career and development pathways, and attraction and recruitment strategies.

D Refine the approaches and develop a playbook for use by VPS agencies.

Response 3: Embed more creative ways of organising to solve problems

Changing expectations of government and increasingly competitive labour markets for data specialists mean that VPS agencies need new ways to access expertise and deploy resources.

The Victorian Data Partnerships initiative is building a network of public, private and research organisations to collaborate with the VPS on data analytics projects. This model will be extended.

Several successful examples of innovative approaches to forming and orchestrating teams will also be extended. These include paired development, and multi-disciplinary or multi-agency problem-based approaches.

Finally, agencies sometimes need highly specialised, infrequently demanded skill sets. It is impractical and wasteful to recruit for such short-burst needs. The VPS needs fast and
cost-efficient approaches to sourcing these skills, without resorting to costly consulting firms.

Actions

A Extend the Victorian Data Partnerships program to drive collaborations with industry and research organisations.

B Advise VPS agencies interested in flexible team formation.

C Develop guidance for short-term, rapid sourcing of highly specialised skills that contribute to data-driven outcomes.

Reviewed 13 February 2020

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