Engaging staff and updating their IT skills has helped with the digital transformation of Salford City Council.
Five years ago, I read bundles of printed committee papers. Now I’ve learnt to use an iPad and read a PDF via email, saving money in time, print and paper. This is just one example of how our Digital Eagles scheme has helped me and the digital transformation of Salford City Council.
With digitalisation rapidly transforming how we live our lives and access services, we faced a huge challenge in upskilling our employees so they could help customers interact with us online and use new digital services. Embracing digital technology was the answer.
Barclays had successfully helped thousands of customers switch to online banking. Would it be willing to help us? Several months later, the first digital partnership between an international bank and local authority was born and our Salford Digital Eagles scheme was set to soar.
It was open to all our staff, regardless of existing skills. They answered in their hundreds and new recruits still join.
In partnership with Barclays, we created a programme to support our ‘eagles’ to develop digital and soft skills to help others. They share learning and skills among themselves and are supported with regular, ongoing training. Combined with the digital transformation of services across the council, there have been many success stories.
These range from dog wardens using Facebook to reunite stray dogs and owners, to customer services who have swapped hundreds of daily phone calls for Twitter to resolve customer queries; and from refuse collectors who helped colleagues learn to access online pay slips to youth workers who use the latest apps to engage with young people.
More than 400 eagles have supported some 3,000 people to be confident online.
Anyone, including councillors, can call on the digital eagles for help, and their skills have proved invaluable during the coronavirus pandemic. Hundreds of employees are now working safely from home and eagles have helped them master Microsoft Teams to continue team meetings and share files.
It was always our plan for eagles to share their skills with the community, by helping family, friends and neighbours, but we wanted to go further and bring 8,000 of the most digitally excluded online.
We partnered with Good Things Foundation, the UK’s leading digital inclusion charity, to launch Digital You (see www.salford.gov.uk/digitalyou) and an army of volunteers. We use trusted faces in trusted places – friendly and helpful volunteers in local libraries, community centres or care homes where people feel comfortable learning new skills.
We’ve helped people Skype and FaceTime family and friends, save money by finding better deals online, and apply for benefits and jobs.
We also won Digital Council of the Year in 2018. Salford pioneered the industrial revolution – now we’re leading the digital revolution.
The LGA’s Digital Inclusion programme
This LGA-funded programme supports 11 councils to work with specific groups of residents to support those who don’t have the skills, confidence or infrastructure to go online. It will expand local government’s set of tools and solutions that aim to greatly improve resident opportunities in a growing digital world.
To find out more, please visit www.local.gov.uk/digital-funded-programmes-and-case-studies