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Digital transformation of government: Addressing talent gaps and the needs of an inclusive workforce

The Government of Canada has prioritized digitization of processes and services for more than a decade since the release of Improving Canada’s Digital Advantage in 2010 in response to citizen demands, accountability frameworks, and the need to do more with less.

The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically accelerated this process and sharpened the focus on the need to attract talent as well as to reskill and upskill the existing work force. This report reviews the current challenges and recommends a path forward.

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Key Takeaways

To support a highly skilled and diverse workforce, the Government of Canada needs to:

Improve

talent mobility across departments and roles.

Accelerate

time-to-skills productivity through alternative pathways such as Work-Integrated Learning

Activate

a culture of innovation

An extensive literature review and consultations with a host of experts active in the Government of Canada talent ecosystem revealed three pillars — access, build, and enable — as key areas by which the government will achieve digital transformation. These pillars address three key challenges that limit the Government of Canada’s potential to access skills and talent, especially when it comes to recruiting and retaining talent from underrepresented groups. Specifically, we need to challenge three main orthodoxies or assumptions:

1 – Credentials trump skills, skills trump potential.

Rigid candidate requirements eliminate high potential talent from the candidate pool and stifle access to talent.

2 – Employees must complete traditional education to obtain necessary skills.

Traditional education practices are the primary format for existing upskilling and reskilling initiatives but prevent the government from building skills and capabilities rapidly and effectively through alternate pathways.

3 – Some talent management structures which limit access to talent are highly resistant to change

Job classification and competition rules can make it difficult to enable existing talent, meaning that people with the right skills may not be able to use them.

This report:

Proposes a framework with three key categories of skills needed by the Government of Canada as (1) digital skills, (2) transformation skills, and (3) socioemotional skills.

Explores the three orthodoxies or assumptions that impede progress and stifle innovation.

Frames recommendations to advance an innovation mindset, leverage experiential and work-integrated learning, support faster time to market, and promote continuous improvement while advancing diversity and inclusion.

Identifies a set of principles for solutions to fill skills gaps that leverages collaborations across the skills and employment ecosystem among educators, non-profit organizations, system integrators/advisers, solution providers, and influencers.

Proposes how the Government of Canada can build a long-lasting digital transformation skills solution that 1) identifies and assesses the current universe of skills and capabilities available within the ecosystem, 2) determines skill and capabilities required for achieving the Government of Canada’s strategic transformation requirements, and 3) activates new opportunities to access, build, and enable those skills and capabilities over time.

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