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IT department workforce development training positions Seattle as digital service innovator

IT Department

Seattle, WA

With a staff of over 700, Seattle's IT department found itself in a common predicament: staff were not being creatively nor technically challenged in their roles. To foster innovation and increase employee retention, the department adopted a upskilling platform designed to close IT skill gaps.

Topics Covered

Process Improvement
Workforce & Education

Funding

General Fund/Existing Public Funds

Project Status

Operational since 2022

Gov Champion

Chief Technology Officer

Problem Addressed

Seattle's IT department struggled to retain staff, as it lacked an environment where creativity and skill development were championed.

Responsible for fulfilling all of the city of Seattle's tech needs from public safety to internal HR platforms, the city's IT department has over 700 full-time employees, with additional contractors and part-time staff. The department has a simple but bold goal: to provide best-in-class digital service delivery for the city of Seattle. The city's Chief Technology Officer, Saad Bashir, knows that to be best-in-class, staff need to build best-in-class skills.

The technology field attracts curious, creative learners and Seattle's IT department staff is no exception. Unfortunately, public sector work doesn't always allow creatives to exercise their full potential, often requiring them to work on small-scope, predetermined projects. Because the organization had been slow to innovate, there was limited emphasis on staff training. If Seattle's IT staff learned new skills, the city didn't have projects to utilize their employees' modern skillsets.

The city was concerned about cost and couldn't afford to send all employees to training conferences, so more often than not, employees didn't attend at all. Furthermore, the city feared tech giants might poach their employees once they acquired new skills. These new skills also could extend beyond employees' job descriptions, warranting little immediate need for development. And if employees learned these new skills, how were they going to apply them if the department wasn't fostering innovation at the same rate?

But Bashir, wasn't afraid of his employees being taken by local tech giants; in fact, he said it was a rather good problem to have. If anything, it validated the value of the city's tech department. He wanted his IT department to actively compete with local governments across the country in providing top-tier tech services. To implement this, it was crucial to develop a new approach to skill development.

Solutions Used

The department adopted Pluralsight's Skills platform that provides customized technical skill training for each employee.

Many employees were hesitant to learn skills not described in their job description, but Bashir emphasized how important it was to look 3 to 5 years in the future. By working on projects and building skills outside of their roles, employees are exposed to a broader set of skills. This allows the department to find employees within their ranks to work on new, innovative projects rather than outsourcing external candidates.

Bashir emphasized that training and skill development should be part of the role for Seattle IT department employees. As the COVID-19 pandemic shifted operations to remote, many staff shifted their work schedules to remote work, which created more downtime for staff and offered greater opportunity for learning at their own speeds, rather than at in-person conferences or workshops. With Pluralsight, employees only spent time working on projects and skills the platform identified as lacking. It additionally opened the door to more than just IT employees to develop their skills, with tech becoming prevalent across all facets of the organization.

Because IT employees found themselves at different stages in their tech development, the department developed a 'Digital Tiger Team'. The team enables advanced staff to apply their learned skillsets to up-and-coming problems and position the city as a digital service champion.

Outcomes

1

Because staff started learning new skills beyond their job descriptions, the department can now find innovative solutions internally, while saving on costs to hire and train outside talent

2

Improved training with targeted skills and decreased repetition via Pluralsight's AI/machine learning, which provides a baseline skills inventory and personalized training for each employee

3

Staff even outside the IT department are prioritizing learning new technical skills with training as part of the job description

4

More adaptable workforce of innovators/entrepreneurs, eager to use their new skills on growing government projects

Lessons Learned

1

Developing a future-focused team with enablement and support encourages folks to pursue new projects and apply newly acquired skills for innovating the department.

Who Should Consider

Government departments looking for a flexible, personalized way to develop their staff's technical skills.

Last Updated

Mar 21st, 2022

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