Skip to content

Character Matters: Attitudes, Behaviours and Values in the Museums Sector Workforce


Museums in the UK have undergone major change in the past 10 years, from reduced funding streams and the development of new business models, to changing approaches to audience engagement and participation. It is likely that the next 10 years will continue to see rapid change across the sector from how museums operate to how they engage with audiences. It is crucial that the museum sector is well prepared to adapt to and respond to these changes and pressures. The museum workforce will face a growing need to adapt and develop new skills, knowledge and ways of working in order to meet the needs of the organisations and audiences they serve.

Drawing on a series of interviews, consultations and analysis of over 2000 online survey responses this research examines the skills, knowledge, attitudes and behaviours currently held by the museum workforce. This research, the first of its kind, provides a comprehensive snapshot of the UK museum workforce (including volunteers) and will provide a baseline for measures of progress. This research also suggests future skills and attitudes needed within the workforce to ensure the resilience and success of the museums in the next 10 years.


  • There is new emphasis towards a more diverse, flexible workforce that can bring new skills, energy and ideas into and across the sector. Employers are looking for “T-shaped” people who can combine a specialism with a broad range of other skills and knowledge.
  • There is an acknowledged need for improved collaboration in terms of sharing resources, knowledge and ideas in order to support future visions for the sector.
  • The priority skills gaps that were identified reflect the overall drive towards improved museum resilience. These skills include a wide range of business and management skills to support income diversification, embedding digital skills across all organisational levels and better leadership skills across organisations and/ or at all levels within organisations.
  • A number of key “personal qualities” emerged as priorities for the workforce, such as conscientiousness, optimism, motivation, self efficacy, persistence, curiosity, creativity and the ability and willingness to learn and collaborate.
  • Retaining and protecting specialist knowledge and heritage-specific skills, while broadening roles and encouraging collaboration across specialisms, is a significant challenge for the future.
  • Over 70 per cent of the workforce is engaged in training and CPD, most of it initiated by themselves. However, training is rarely targeted to the needs of the individual and the individual organisation. The most common form of CPD reported is attendance at conferences. Training and CPD is also dominated by heritage-specific training, with much lower rates of business or management training reported.

Download the Full Report, Executive Summary and Delivery Plan

Download Character Matters full report (PDF, 1MB) Download Character Matters executive summary (PDF, 142KB) Download Character_Matters_delivery_plan (PDF, 147KB)
Published September 2016
Research Conducted By BOP Consulting and the Museum Consultancy
Research Funded By Arts Council England and Museums Galleries Scotland