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Case Study: Training colleagues to become digitally savvy

In recognition of a changing digital environment, Barclays UK aimed to support colleagues to become the ‘most digitally savvy and inclusive workforce in the UK’ as well as ensuring that customers and communities were not ‘left behind’. What started as an internally focused reskilling programme has since become an internationally renowned training platform and online resource tool for thousands.

Barclays Bank PLC
Date 2017
Region South West
Size 1,000+ employees
Sector Banking

fully trained Digital Eagles

of UK staff on Digital Wings training

organisations now using Digital Wings

target of registered users

The need for digital skills in the banking sector was vital

From 2014 onwards, it was clear banking customer needs were changing – more people than ever before were requesting help with online banking, which local branch colleagues at the time not were equipped to provide support on.

In response to this, Barclays made the bold commitment to support their colleagues to become the most digitally savvy and inclusive workforce in the UK’ and ensure customers and communities were not ‘left behind’ by this new digital age.

Explaining the initial rationale, Steve Lowe, Academy Programme Manager at Barclays UK said ‘As a bank, we have moved very much to digital services and solutions. The typical role of a cashier behind a desk has been migrated out. The problem was that our colleagues didn’t necessarily have all the right knowledge or the confidence to advise customers’.

Skilling up colleagues was the first priority

Barclays was driven by a recognition that a knowledgeable and confident workforce would be better equipped to help educate and support their customers to do the same. As a first step, the Digital Eagles were born – local champions within Barclays tasked with advocating digital skills within the workforce. According to Steve, ‘Digital Eagles were established to reach out to customers and colleagues and educate them as experts in all things digital’.

However it was clear that a more sustainable method of training was required in order to reach all colleagues in need. ‘One of the challenges was really the scope – we have 20,000 frontline colleagues who all need some sort of level of upskilling. So we created a programme called Digital Wings for colleagues to upskill and do so in their own time’, Steve said.

Digital Wings is a tailored, City & Guilds accredited online learning course, teaching colleagues new competencies around digitisation and the internet. The training is constantly evaluated and updated to reflect changing skills needs and to future proof the programme.  Most recently, this has meant the development of new modules on cyber security and even coding.  

Take up amongst colleagues has been extensive and continues to grow. There are currently 18,000 Digital Eagles and 55,000 learners within Barclays, which means that just over a third of the whole UK workforce is currently signed up to the Digital Wings online course.

‘One of the challenges was really the scope – we have 20,000 frontline colleagues who all need some sort of level of up skilling. So we created a programme called Digital Wings for colleagues to up skill and do so in their own time.’

Steve Lowe, Academy Programme Manager at Barclays UK

Big plans for the future of the programme

At Barclays UK, its massive transformational purpose over the past few years has led it to being known as ‘the Digital Bank’. This unique programme addressed a real skills need at the right time, which is why it has achieved such mass take up internally and externally, with the likes of Google, Microsoft and the BBC all now sponsors of the programme.

Summing up the training’s aim, Steve said: ‘It is about moving all of your colleagues and your customers through significant change, building confidence and enthusiasm as you progress.’

Through the white labelling of their technology, the training has the potential to reach a much wider audience, however Barclays remains focused on the internal benefit of the programme and the opportunities it can provide to Barclays’ employees. ‘It’s about making sure we are delivering a rewarding experience and keeping colleagues engaged and developed which is ultimately good for our customers,’ said Steve. However, with a commitment of 17,000 new registrations this year and an overall target of reaching one million registered users, plans for the future of the programme are as ambitious as ever.

Spreading their wings

With the initiative an obvious success internally, in 2015, Barclays launched it externally to share best practice amongst other businesses and the public. On expanding the programme, Steve said ‘Externally it’s always been seen as a shared growth initiative as part of our citizenship agenda = hearing back from customers first hand, they were also looking for something like this’.

With the training addressing everything from keeping safe online to providing general digital awareness, the content was not necessarily Barclays specific and could therefore be used to support thousands of people with improving their digital skills.  The programme has been particularly valuable to small businesses. ‘We work with other organisations with a similar need to upskill their colleagues but don’t necessarily have the resources or know how to set something up like this,’ said Steve. ‘So we have made it completely adoptable by other organisations’.

Today 180 organisations and approximately 45,000 external users are using this training in some shape or form, across all sectors from large corporates, to charities and the public sector. ‘We have recently white labelled as well which means we are allowing them to have their own branded platform so it really resonates within their own local organisation’ said Steve.

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