Developing staff digital skills: approach & process

This guide by Dr Karin De Wild forms part of the University of Leicester’s One by One project aimed at building digital literacy and confidence in museums. Karin worked with National Museums Scotland for a year, part-time.

This process can support you to identify digital potential and build a digitally literate workforce.

Who is this resource for?

This resource is for museum leaders or anyone in a museum working with colleagues on staff development and HR.

What’s it about?

As work changes, how can people adapt their skill sets to accommodate new demands? Building digital literacies isn’t all about technological skills, but about cultivating a new mind-set. We need people working in our museums who can change, grow and who like to continuously learn new skills. This guide and set of downloadable supporting resources will help you explore and implement processes around these key areas:

  • How to identify digital potential within the museum workforce
  • How to build a digitally literate workforce, one step at a time, and
  • How your museum can support continuous learning and development.

This process enables staff across the organisation to fully engage with digital skills, tools and ways of working so that they can:

  • Grow in their current role
  • Identify development needs for future opportunities.

At the heart of the process is a conversation between line manager and member of staff about where the development of digital skills can support them in their current role. Afterwards a Development Plan will be completed, which will provide insights to where the member of staff would like to develop their digital skills, how this supports delivery of the team’s objectives and any additional learning needs.

Ideally, this process would be integrated with your museum’s appraisal/performance review process.

Cultivating a growing mind-set

In the digital work environment, we increasingly need people who can embrace change and have an ability to learn and grow. Not all museum professionals will believe that they (or their organisation) are able to adapt to the digital work environment. A key facet of developing digital skills and talent is to establish confidence that we can continuously learn new things, in other words to cultivate a ‘growing mind-set’, as defined by Carol S. Dweck in ‘Mindset: The New Psychology of Success‘.

It is important to build a culture in which continuous learning is valued and supported, so that your team will be able to embrace challenges and to continue developing their digital skillset. How to establish this?

Development plans

First, embed personal development plans into your staff development processes. It is important that these development plans for individual staff members are in line with your museum’s strategic goals. Cultivating ongoing conversations around these plans will make it possible for the museum to further develop and respond to new digital developments, one step at a time.

Use our Development Plan Pack as a starting point. The pack contains a set of three templates:

  1. Development form
  2. Meeting preparation form for team members
  3. Meeting preparation form for line managers

The templates are Word documents so you can easily edit and adapt them to your museum’s context.

The following steps make up the full process:

  • Line manager schedules a meeting with team member.
  • Prepare by completing the prep forms for employee and line manager.
  • During the meeting, discuss the team member’s digital professional development.
  • Line manager fills in a Development Plan.
  • The staff member reviews and suggests any additions or edits.
  • The final form is sent on to any relevant senior managers or, if you have one, the HR department.

Formal and informal training

Another key element is that learning extends beyond formal learning programmes. Don’t just train, but also create opportunities to learn. For example, improve your workplace so that is also an inspiring learning environment, encourage your staff to go to conferences, use digital platforms (like Teams) to teach and learn from each other, or organise Communities of Practice. Digital skills are often learned through informal learning. Yet before employees can effectively share learning, you need to allow them to dedicate time to it and they need some form of recognition for their efforts.

  • For more information on Digital Communities of Practice see this guide and case study.


In this world of rapidly technological change, museums need people who continuously like to learn and grow, who are change orientated, innovative and who are open to new ideas. It can be useful to re-evaluate your recruiting criteria and see if it includes the capacity to learn and help others.