National Archives of Australia (NAA) Staff Development Report
The focus of this report is the contextualization of the changes brought about by digital transformation at the National Archives of Australia (NAA), and an environmental scan as it relates to staff capabilities, using the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) method. This is followed by a plan for strategic and operational staff development program and projects, based on the assumptions of the environmental scan, which indicate external and internal drivers of change within our organization.
Developing and retaining staff who co-create a culture of excellence and who are knowledgeable and skilled in their approach to working in an environment that is experiencing changes is a critical focus for NAA. External and internal changes that are brought about by the digital transformation of workplaces create a need for new skills. It is a part of our vision and mission as an organization to ensure our staff are prepared and engaged; “as digital technologies drive global change and innovation, we must transform how we do business to continue to meet the needs and expectations of our clients” (National Archives of Australia, n.d.-a).
NAA was established as an Australian Commonwealth entity under the Archives Act 1983, which requires NAA to provide “leadership in best practice management of the official record of the Commonwealth, and ensures that Australian Government information of enduring significance is secured, preserved and available to government agencies, researchers and the community” (National Archives of Australia, 2020, p. 6). At present, the organization is structured (see Appendix A: Organizational Chart) with five lines of business which is structured to best carry out the necessary reforms, “to enable the digital transformation of the National Archives, to fully deliver on its legislated remit in the digital age, for government and the Australian people” (National Archives of Australia, 2020, p. 12).
At NAA, decisions are guided and aligned by several documents that include the Strategic Plan (National Archives of Australia, n.d.-a), Data Strategy (National Archives of Australia, n.d.-c), Corporate Plan (National Archives of Australia, 2020), Information and Technology Strategic Direction (National Archives of Australia, n.d.-d), and Information Publication Scheme (National Archives of Australia, n.d.-e). We understand from our Strategic Plan that success of NAA’s goal of innovation includes creating international best practice in digital standards, policy, and procedures, as well as increases in the number of staff with digital skills and work functions, and staff satisfaction. Therefore, when making decisions for a staff development program, the outcome of the environmental scan will be aligned with our organizational strategies, plans, goals, values, and mission, referenced in these documents. Our guiding values as an organization can be understood succinctly in The Archives Way (see Appendix B: The Archives Way).
Central to developing and implementing a staff development program is an environmental scan of our external and internal drivers. Systematic strategic planning “takes into account the drivers of change and enables organizations to adapt to meet the challenges of the future and to plan a direction” (Bryson, 2016, p. 19). As evidenced by the aforementioned NAA documents, strategic planning is well established, and provides a road map to develop programs and projects to aid in the development of our staff for the next five years. The stages of strategic development are illustrated (see Appendix C: The Strategic Planning Process), with highlighting that indicates the stages represented in this report.
The environmental scan method used for this report is a SWOT analysis, which is used to align strategy, mission, and values with an understanding about the external and internal forces that impact the organization, and where “external environmental scan and the internal self-analysis merge in the process to provide the focus for developing strategies and converting them into plans, policies, processes, and procedures” (Moran et al., 2018, p. 88). The objective of this SWOT analysis is: to understand what knowledge and skills our staff needs to be successful and assist our organization to meet its future challenges. The ensuing proposal will use the insights from the SWOT analysis to create a program-level staff development plan (see Appendix D: NAA SWOT Analysis).
Staff Development Plan
The priorities that emerge from the SWOT analysis indicate that NAA staff development objectives need to simultaneously address digital capacity in our existing staff, as well as create an organizational culture that encourages recruitment of staff with needed skills, in a competitive marketplace for their skills. Doing more with less in an environment that is experiencing transformational change requires that individuals and the organizational culture have the appropriate mindset to achieve organizational objectives.
Our organizational vision (see Appendix B) is to be a world-leading archive in the digital age. The proposed plan seeks to address both our internal and external drivers of change and to develop the skills, knowledge, and mindset needed at NAA. An internal aspect addresses skills, training, and mindset, and an external aspect addresses talent recruitment and thought leadership. As an organization, we have a strong sense of who we are now and where we want to be, and this plan will strategically help us to get there (Moran et al., 2018, p. 82).
Internally, the staff mindset should be cultivated to help build in them the “capacity to innovate, respond ﬂexibly and adapt to changes arising from the social, technological, economic, environmental, or political situation” (Bryson, 2016, p. 19). In a digital transformation the need for leadership is critical. Within NAA, leadership has already initiated the technology and process changes needed for our digital transformation (National Archives of Australia, n.d.-d), and this plan aims to facilitate and persuade staff to accept and enable these changes.
NAA should be externally regarded as a workplace that is doing digital transformation right, with strong leadership and culture, to entice people with the skills and mindset that our organization needs to achieve our goals. Strategic thinking needs to be applied to projects that can be undertaken to raise awareness in the information and technology communities about both the challenging technical projects at NAA and the strong, supportive culture of the organization.
Both internal and external approaches need a compelling and active communication and event component. The following recommendations will provide detailed operational steps to give action to the plan.
The staff development program will be implemented via projects. A range of projects need to be created that touch upon a range of available levers. As reflected in various change models, the rationale, staff facilitation, and the reinforcement of change benefits from communicating, mobilizing, and evaluating projects (Battilana et al., 2010). Our digital transformation will enable us to deliver our mission in exceptional new ways and the job of leadership is to persuade those who hold resistance to see the benefits of change (Bryson, 2016, p. 124).
Just as staff should be given opportunities to develop skills and knowledge to increase their capacity, so should managers be given guidance to best develop the leadership skills and knowledge to best help the organization’s culture. This can be achieved by creating projects that help leaders to define themselves and project a sense of mastery of their domain. This should be achieved inside and outside of the organization. A common method is to build a “thought leadership” element for managers (Bryson, 2016, p. 124). Managers need to cultivate thought leadership to increase the awareness and perception of NAA’s digital transformation at meet ups, industry or educational settings, and online, particularly social media.
An impact of a changing workplace on staff is a concern about one’s own role in the organization. Ambiguity, conflict, and overload need to give way to autonomy, to make decisions within the context of this changing workplace (Gregersen & Lehman, 2021). A method to empower staff to reach this autonomy is by creating educational pathways for them to better understand their roles, the changing nature of roles, and knowledge they may need to extend themselves into new roles. The implementation of an organization-wide digital education and training course, delivered via the intranet system, is a contained source to provide all the knowledge needed to determine a staff member’s role. Pathways can be created for any number of needed roles within the organization, for example, “problem solver,” “idea person,” “leader,” “data expert,” or “evangelist,” and not necessarily by job function. A series of appropriate courses are contained in each pathway that will lead to not just improved digital capabilities at a task-level, but also at a role-adjustment and emotional-engagement level, all essential for successfully transforming capabilities and mindset (Gregersen & Lehman, 2021). At the end of a pathway, staff should feel more confident and better understand why and how the changes need to be made within our organization, and the confidence to continue to step into role change.
NAA is at a critical moment of many pressures, from the need to digitize materials before they are lost forever, a large digital transformation effort to ensure the mandate of archiving the business of the Australian government, and enormous pressure on the budgets that includes a loss of staff and expertise. For our staff, it is essential that even with headwinds, the organization continues to provide opportunities to grow with us, and that we create a workplace and culture that potential staff are eager to join.
The Archives Way
The Strategic Planning Process
Note: Adapted from Bryson, Jo. Managing information services : An innovative approach, Taylor & Francis Group, 2016. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csuau/detail.action?docid=4512359. The blue step indicates the environmental scan, and the green step indicates the plan for the staff development program found in this report.
Management of Information Agencies
National Archives of Australia (NAA) Staff Development Report created for Management of Information Agencies course in Master of Information Studies at Charles Sturt University.