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Civil Service

This blog post was published under the 2010-2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Publication of the Civil Service Talent Action Plan

Sir Jeremy Heywood
Sir Jeremy Heywood

I am delighted that in my first week as Head of the Civil Service we are publishing the Civil Service Talent Action Plan which confirms our aspiration to be one of the most meritocratic, open and fair organisations in the country, fully reflective of the society we serve. I know I speak for all my Permanent Secretary colleagues in saying that this is one of the most important documents and policies we have published in the Civil Service in recent years.

A great deal has been done over the last decade to enhance the diversity of the Civil Service.  More than half of you reading this email are women, nearly 10% are from a minority ethnic background and over 8% of you have told us you have a disability.  I have seen for myself some of the fantastic work underway to identify and develop talented staff from minority backgrounds to help them succeed in the Civil Service.

Take the Minority Ethnic Talent Association (META) scheme, which develops some of the most talented staff from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds with the aim of helping them to reach the Senior Civil Service (SCS).  I have mentored one participant for several years, coaching and supporting her to achieve her goals. I am confident that many of the META participants and graduates are Civil Service leaders of the future.
At the most senior level across the Civil Service women are responsible for the justice system, tax collection and overseeing the NHS - to name just a few.  Throughout the Civil Service, women are taking on some of the most challenging jobs – from leading major operational organisations, running our professions, and advising the Prime Minister. Many of my own closest advisers are women, including the Head of the Cabinet Office's Economic and Domestic Secretariat, the Head of Propriety and Ethics and the Head of my Private Office. These are all key jobs at the heart of the Cabinet Office.

I am proud that the Civil Service has been recognised and celebrated by many outside organisations for our achievements. Stonewall rated 10 Civil Service organisations in their latest employee equality index, with the Home Office coming 5th. We had 4 organisations shortlisted in the Race for Opportunity Awards, including HMRC for Developing BME Talent. And we had 10 organisations nominated in the Gender Opportunity Now awards. This shows that the Civil Service really is making progress.
But we know we have more to do if the Civil Service is to be a top performing organisation in this key area. The first independent report we received as we were putting the overall plan together - from Hay Consulting - focused on gender issues in the Civil Service. This had some really challenging observations about the barriers that women working in the Civil Service believe are stopping them from achieving their full potential. It is an important report and one we need to take seriously. Our next steps will be to conduct research into the experiences of those who declare disabilities, those who are from a minority-ethnic background, and those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. This Plan is not designed to sit on a shelf.  We start implementing it from today, and will regularly update it as new data and research comes to light.

As a first step the plan we are publishing today sets out some concrete and practical actions the Civil Service can take - for example the introduction of leading-edge terms and conditions for shared parental leave and ending, except by exception, all male interview panels.

The Civil Service needs to ensure that it is attracting and retaining the most talented individuals from all walks of life.  I want to see all of our hard-working, committed and talented staff succeeding, removing any actual, perceived or unconscious barriers that currently prevent this despite all the good intentions.

There is always a danger that those of us in leadership roles are drawn to people who look like us, think like us and come from backgrounds similar to ours – and this can often inhibit interview panels or progress within a workplace. There are simple ways we can start to tackle this, even through recognising when our biases are holding back our own potential.  We can all take action to address this and Civil Service Learning has some excellent unconscious bias training that can help us personally tackle some of the underlying reasons that can become a barrier to creating fair and open work environments.

The Talent Action Plan sets out the action we’ll be taking to make sure our diverse talent can succeed across the Civil Service, from extending our Apprenticeship Scheme to encouraging greater take up of shared parental leave; from ensuring all leaders of the Civil Service are mentoring staff from under-represented groups to making diversity and inclusion part of any formal induction process.  Right across the Civil Service, whatever your role and whatever your grade, you can get involved and make a difference to the Civil Service.  Above all Permanent Secretaries and other leaders are committed to giving a strong lead in creating a culture where anyone is able to flourish.

Simon Fraser, Permanent Secretary of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, will lead on the issues for the Civil Service Board and has played a key role over recent weeks in helping to put this plan in place under Bob Kerslake's leadership.

I know there are plenty of inspirational stories out there where we are really succeeding in delivering a more open and fair Civil Service and we need to share them so we can learn from each other and duplicate best practice. The upcoming Civil Service Diversity and Equality Awards are one way in which we can celebrate our most exceptional achievements.

This plan will continue to evolve as we implement it, but for that to happen we need your input. Please use the comment section to share success or let us know if we are missing anything.


9 September: Sir Simon Fraser, Permanent Secretary of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Civil Service Diversity Champion, replied to some of your comments - read his reply

16 September: Oliver Robbins, Director General Civil Service, replied to some of the comments below - read his reply

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  1. Comment by James posted on

    I'm white male civil servant.

    Within my team I mange 12 front line staff whom are majority Asian women. Within my unit I have 4 fellow line managers who are also majority Asian (albeit men) and our unit is headed up by a black woman. I know of less than 15 white males staff within our unit of 60 as a whole.

    I don't understand how programmes like the Positive Action Pathway (or should it be called Positive Discrimination Action Pathway) benefit our area where White British males are a absolute minority and excluded because of something we cant change. Where is our discriminating boosting scheme?

    I would love someone to takes schemes like this to court for discrimination

    • Replies to James>

      Comment by T posted on

      James - I think it's a bit of a stretch to say the CS discriminates against White males...look at the SCS...c'mon!

  2. Comment by Billy D posted on

    So I am white, hetrosexual, male, working class and didn't attend a posh school. Run for the hills!

    Great to see more largely middle class women from the same posh backgrounds getting promoted to senior rank. Fantastic to see more wealth being polarised in fewer households.

  3. Comment by Andrea posted on

    It is very sad for me (a long standing Civil Servant) to read all these comments and see the degree of bitterness out there. It does beg the question, why do we stay? For me there are 3 reasons:
    1, Flexitime
    2. Leave allowance
    3. I don't have to live in London.
    These are all big pluses. It is a pity though that these advantages, (due to our current culture), sometimes work against promotion prospects. If you embrace them you may well be considered not sufficiently dedicated. I believe that the majority of senior managers, still believe that the very best Civil Servants (those worthy of promotion),work very long hours regardless, don't take much leave and are prepared to move to London. Until we can change this mindset, there will be lots of folk who will continue to hit the promotion ceiling. A step in the right direction would be to make all jobs available as 'national' by exception.

  4. Comment by PJ posted on

    To be successful at senior levels you need to spend all your time at work (start early, leave late) and not care about your family or life outside work This stops women particularly (but also a lot of talented men) applying for senior positions. You also need to care about results ( inparticular saving money) and not people and are rewarded for achieving this if all those who work for you are miserable and stressed
    I am a part-time woman who was promoted on merit (and in competition with full-time male employees) by an all male (senior civil service) interview panel. (so far so good), however I am discrimiated against under the relative assessment performance management scheme as i am delivering a full time job (as done by my predecessor) in part-time hours and therefore have no time to take on the sexy little projects so loved by the moderation panel and that put you in the high performing category. Doing the job you were employed to do no longer has any value.

  5. Comment by Winston Smith posted on

    If diversity is required by the CS then why is the PMR system demanding that we all become happy clappy sheeple that ask only how high when told to jump?

  6. Comment by S Newton posted on

    I feel deprived that in 24 years in the Civil Service I have never had a All male Panel for interview!

    I support the initiative however there is a need as has already been stated to ensure that the white male employees below SCS level don't feel excluded in this iniative/Plan. Learning and development (including leadership at all levels) needs to be available everyone. It should be learning that suits the identified needs of the the specific individual. The Civil Service needs to move away from the one size fits all dump it on the website learning experience method we currently encounter in 2014.

    Hopefully the planned freeing up of the current lockdown of Departmental IT infrastructure will enable civil servants to access free learning experiences/courses via You Tube/Social Network/Open University etc.

  7. Comment by Mrs G Warburton posted on

    I have read the fast stream and emerging talent pages within DWP and being a woman and disabled there is nothing on here for me, there is no mention of how you progress if you have a disability other than pointing to a scheme that is on CSL which is only open to AO_EO at the moment at nothing after that, although i have been told further schemes are being developed for HEO and above but progress seems really slow and nowhere going to make some of the promises in this link.....I have yet to see the talent management grid, and where i am on it, but the guidance doesnt infer that any preference is given to you if you have a disability despite performing well with this disability - please please dont just right words, take action.

    • Replies to Mrs G Warburton>

      Comment by Susie posted on

      Hi, the applications for positive action pathway ho/seo with potential to progress are now open. I am currently on the officer level development programme and have achieved promotion to ho. I recommend it as it has shown me real methods of overcoming barriers in relation to my disability.

  8. Comment by Claire Johnson posted on

    I have experienced barriers on my return from Maternity Leave. I have always been proactive in trying to improve myself and have always gone the extra mile. However, on my return from Maternity Leave, i had to start from the bottom again, as whilst i was off i was forgotten about and moved to 3 different teams in the week prior to my return. My new manager stated she couldn't support an application for the Talent Programme or anyother programme as she didn't know what my potential was! Despite having the top mark for each end of year report, i had to start from scratch to 'prove' myself yet again. I'm due to go on maternity leave again in the new year, and my fear is that the same thing will happen again. I shouldn't be penalised for having children. Any career development I want, i have to start again to achieve when i return from Maternity Leave, which simply isn't fair.

  9. Comment by Dave posted on

    Line managers have too much power in the talent management process in the Civil Service and often have their own idea of what talent looks like. It is also frustrating to see that emphasis always seems to be on the young graduates or fast trackers and little emphasis is placed on experience gained outside the Civil Service, which is wasteful and demoralising for those with skills gained elsewhere.

    Mobility is often a barrier. Many people would love to progress but not at the expense of the work/life balance or moving locations. In this day and age Civil Servants should be able to work from anywhere in the UK, including from home and fulfil a role as if they were in London. The Civil Service needs to pick up the pace and change attitudes to flexible working if it wants to attract and retain talent and get the best people into roles regardless of where they live.

  10. Comment by Pete Pitman posted on

    "We have recently commissioned further research to understand the experiences of people with disabilities, from minority ethnic backgrounds and in the LGB&T communities."
    Why don't you save money by asking people who work in CS to describe their own experiences?

    Also, there's been no mention of the recruitment freeze that this government introduced the moment they took office. This stopped many recent recruits in their promotion tracks.

  11. Comment by G Scase posted on

    Surely one of the biggest barriers to career progression is location of opportunities. The vast majority of advertised posts at G7 and above are in London. However, I would query whether many of these posts need to be there. The Scottish referendum brought out opinions from other parts of the UK that too much wealth and opportunity is centred unnecessarily in London. There have been many attempts in the past to persuade civil service departments to move posts out of the capital but they largely failed. Perhaps now is the time for change.

  12. Comment by Oliver Robbins, Director General, Civil Service posted on

    I posted last week to thank you all for the comments and thoughts so far on the Talent Action Plan, and explain a bit more about what we are doing to make sure it brings real practical change.

    Further to my previous post, I wanted to respond to those of you who’ve posed a reasonable challenge that the Talent Action Plan focuses too much on the issues facing women, at the expense of tackling issues facing other underrepresented groups in the Civil Service.

    You might have seen the report from the Hay Group we published the same time as the Talent Action Plan. This report, Women in Whitehall, set out a clear evidence base of the issues talented women face when trying to progress in the Civil Service. Some of the issues the report raises are challenging and it is important that we respond to these properly, that’s why we have focussed on women at this stage.

    But it’s also clear that many of the barriers the report identifies are also experienced by others. And as a result, the actions we set out to address these obstacles will help all represented groups, not just women. For example, additional support for networking and mentoring should help talented people, whatever their background, build connections and get support and advice on their career development. Our commitment to publish a leadership statement will give us a chance to set out the behaviours we expect of our leaders, and we’ll be consulting widely on this shortly. And giving permanent secretaries personal responsibility for promoting talent in their organisations will mean that the senior leadership of the Civil Service is held accountable for encouraging greater diversity of our workforce.

    Still, we know we need to know more about the specific barriers people from other underrepresented groups face. We have recently commissioned further research to understand the experiences of people with disabilities, from minority ethnic backgrounds and in the LGB&T communities. We will publish this research once it is complete, and we will update the Action Plan in response. If you want to get involved, I would encourage you to contact the diversity champions in your department or post your thoughts here and we’ll do our best to take them on board.

    • Replies to Oliver Robbins, Director General, Civil Service>

      Comment by mka posted on

      Mr Robbins, one of the barriers identified by bame candidates is the ability of line managers clicking a link on an automated email stating a member of staff is not suitable for promotion. Development programmes as a result do not require line manager endorsement. As part of this plan, can the ability of line managers to do this in relation to job applications be removed assome managers could declare someone ununsuitable as a result of some form of bias.

      • Replies to mka>

        Comment by RSVP posted on

        MKA's point is well made. The labour market in any other industry doesn't require line manager endorsement prior to application for career progression. The Civil Service should be seen as an sector, not a single organisation.

        Why is this model not a good idea? Some additional reasons drawn from economics: 1) Incentives - managers could give poor information either for reasons of team turnover and workload or a desire to hold on to good staff; 2) Dunning Kruger effect - incompetent managers would not be able to give useful information on competence; 3) chilling effect - staff giving a signal they are looking for a way out could change the internal opportunities offered to them.

    • Replies to Oliver Robbins, Director General, Civil Service>

      Comment by mka posted on

      We cannot stop people being prejudiced and discriminating. What we need is to remove the facilities available that could help them discriminate.

      • Replies to mka>

        Comment by Andy posted on

        I support MKA's pont and add that Civil Service Leaders should now concentrate on "equipping" staff. Vision and policy ought to speak of positive change and continous development for all. In this regard META, BAME may not be the best vehicle to take us forward, they fuel a perception of division as evidence in comments here. Good for awareness but internally these networks are not immune from fissures and subgrouping bias. In my case I progressed steadily from AO grade to technical G7 in 2007. To "equip" Leaders should (a) promote, reward and assure competency and disciplne in aspirants ( b) review, overhaul and change pre- application uncertainty- Independent panel with limited and peripheral line-manager involvement (c) publish monthly or quarterly statistics to dispel concerns that selection & appointment process is skewed- transparency.

  13. Comment by sham posted on

    I have been in the Civil Service for years and attended various programmes but do I get anywhere, not really. I feel I am representative token at meetings, talent development programmes to add to the statistics this a feeling I have never had in my life and this why I understand how other disadvantaged people feel. In the past comments have really stated what people really feel about one.

  14. Comment by Oliver Robbins, Director General, Civil Service posted on

    I lead the team in the Cabinet Office which pulled the Plan together, and will support Simon Fraser as Diversity Champion and Jeremy Heywood as Head of the Civil Service in implementing it. I’ve been reading all the comments over the last week, and so first of all: thank you. It is immensely reassuring that the Civil Service cares so much about its own health and talent. It is an important strength of the Service that so many of you have responded with ideas and comments.

    It will not be possible to respond to every single thought and view expressed. However, some cross-Civil Service themes and questions have emerged:

    How will we know whether anything has changed, especially without new targets for the representation of different groups?

    The Plan is currently gender-centric – what about tackling obstacles experienced by minority ethnic, disabled and LGB&T colleagues?
    What about discrimination of other sorts – by age, for instance, or against those who do not fall into any of the underrepresented groups?
    And there are questions about some of the issues around gender – especially the 4.9% SCS pay gap, and a fear that ending all-male shortlists and panels will lead to tokenism.

    My plan over the next few days is to respond to each of these themes. There are not always “right answers” to questions people have raised, so the aim of these posts is not to close down debate, but to explain further what we are trying to do.

    So, let me start with perhaps the biggest issue, especially for those of you who felt the Plan is broadly along the right lines: how will we make sure it drives change and measure this? Some of you are concerned that without new targets, the Plan will not bite. But we wanted to lay out a plan that is informed by evidence about the obstacles people face, and focuses on removing those barriers to truly meritocratic recruitment and appointment. That is why this is a plan that focuses on practical steps – from shared parental leave and improving mentoring opportunities, to focusing hard on defining and then holding ourselves to account for great leadership across the Service.

    We are fortunate to have a good deal of information about people’s experiences in the Civil Service, especially thanks to the annual People Survey. Used intelligently, the Survey can tell us a great deal about how open and inclusive our organisations are, and how that is changing over time. But we are also trying to deepen our evidence about the obstacles preventing talented people from a variety of backgrounds progressing, and will be conducting more research, updating our Plan in response.

    I have committed to Jeremy and Simon that we will make progress on implementing the Plan, and as the Plan says, we will be transparent about this progress, including a full report a year from now.

    • Replies to Oliver Robbins, Director General, Civil Service>

      Comment by Steph B posted on

      After reading the comments, the biggest issue to me seems to be around levels of pay. Any chance we'll get a response on that, too?

  15. Comment by Tabu posted on

    It is so disappointing to see that so many educated people in the Civil service are just not able to endure the minority issue being addressed through talent action plan. It is because of the selfishness of people that minorities who have got the potential because of their disability or being from ethnic minority group can not progress. It’s this mind set that needs to change.
    The manager has a lot of influence on individual’s development and promotion and if you are from an ethnic minority or disabled, there you go! And who would know better than me because when I was wrongly marked on quality and I took it to my manager, forget about supporting me, he in fact colluded in it.
    I then had to show it to the quality team who proved it to my manager that it was wrongly marked and my manager and the lady who marked me never even bothered to apologise to me, not only for targeting me and harassing me but also they had put me through a lot of stress which my department will never be accountable for. Where would you expect individuals to take help from when people have colluded in putting you down and above all your manager who should have been a support and rather somebody fairer.
    They have left a scar of injustice and discrimination on me. It’s a very small example that I have given here. The monopoly of managers definitely needs to be addressed as it causes issues that never reach the table.

  16. Comment by Solomon posted on

    Will there ever be a positive action?

    In 2008 the CS published Promoting Equality, Valuing Diversity A Strategy for the Civil Service.

    Now in 2014, the CS has changed the title and published Talent Action Plan: Removing the barriers to success.

    In 5 years’ time, I will watch out for the new title, still with no positive action taken.

    What the CS needs to do is to ask all Govt Agencies & Depts to submit their Equality data and appoint Equality Champions given them a deadline of 5th of Dec 2014 to implement this action plan.

    This at least would be a good start.

  17. Comment by Anon posted on

    I really welcome these measures and what sounds like a genuine attempt from senior leadership to engage on these issue. I am however sceptical of the impact it will truly have on those who feel disadvantaged becuase of aspects of themselves they cannot change. A prime example is those with disabilities. There are good policies already in place, however I know first hand that these are not met on a daily basis and the reality on the ground is that complaints regarding treatment of those with disabilities are not engaged with in any meaningful way. I therefore welcome an evolution of the policy and a renewed emphasis and engagement on these areas but I encourage all involved to consider how they are going to ensure they are fully implemented on the ground.

  18. Comment by John posted on

    I have been very disappointed with the civil service's response to a recent job application that I made. I missed out on a minimum criteria because of my disability, but instead, I actually exceeded it. As the civil service resourcing automated processes uses the minimum criteria to sift applicants, I was rejected. Even though I submitted a disability statement alongside my application. Although I have been in touch with a Director and a Deputy Director at Civil Service Resourcing, it is clear that neither have a grasp of the Equality Act legislation. Indeed, one of them thought that reasonable adjustments only apply to practical objects. With such a lack of understanding and willingness to reply constructively at that level, we have no hope.

  19. Comment by Buster Friendly posted on

    Never mind the cosy SCS network, those of us outside the gates of the ivory towers have little opportunity for any sort of meaningful career development. I am not talking about worthless CSL online courses, but something I have never encountered in fifteen years- a genuine opportunity to practically demonstrate ability at the next grade and have it recorded for future reference. The only time I could demonstrate my ability was due to my LM's unexpected ill-health, which required me to manage the work of a team of six for several months. That was by a complete accident nine years ago; since then, nothing- the experience I gained was utterly wasted. Since then, I find myself stuck on the bottom of the pay band without hope of change, my pay frozen whilst everything costs more and more, with opportunities taken away due to staff shortages and facing the prospect of being unable to afford to travel to work in the near future.

  20. Comment by Anon posted on

    Absolutely astounded to read N Ali's blog dated 09/09/14 and can only say that I am less than surprised. Once again reaffirms my view that the CS is and has been in the dark ages for some time and would not recognise talent if it came up and hit it smack in the face. How can someone on N Ali's clear ability and competence be deemed to be a needs improving? This shows how flawed the apppraisal system is and yet there is not one senior leader i have heard say anyting in opposition to it. This smacks of conspiracy to me and again laminates my view that it (PMR) is there simply as an axe with which to reduce the headcount within the CS and thereby achieve the staffing targets that are no doubt ingrained in their (Senior leaders) respective PMR's and the ministers they report to too I suspect. CS should be giving staff such as N Ali an MBE not a NFI. They should be rewarding such staff not discouraging or demoralising them with performance markings which clearly do not reflect their true abilities or work they have put in to achieve the goals and targets set by their peers, not punished for an error which is nothing to do with their actual abailities. I mean a missing PDP?? Really? In the famous words of John McEnroe - you cannot be serious?? Seems in this climate that exists in the CS you can. What a crying shame. Finally, a big kudos to N Ali for still having a positive outlook even if it is outside of the CS.

  21. Comment by Jon posted on

    This topic seems to be a real can of worms. Personally I hope it turns into a Pandora’s Box that cannot be closed again.
    There are so many diverse comments and experiences in this thread it is difficult to know which to single out as examples.

    The general point seems to be that recognising talent isn’t just about under representation of women, those with ethnic minority backgrounds, with disabilities or are LGB&T. It is the fact that the Civil Service, by its nature, rewards people who fit nicely into boxes.

    The Civil Service makes a lot of noise about promoting change, about encouraging people to participate but the management chain, from poorly trained and experienced lower management to out of touch mandarins at the top, only recognise people like themselves.

    This is also true of organisations like Google. They recognise people like themselves. The difference being the people at the top in Google are people who can bring about change, who think outside the box and are able to give others the freedom to do the same.

    How many Civil Service line managers think outside the box?

    So much within the Civil Service relies on an individuals relationship with their line manager, from PAR’s to reward schemes, to the opportunity to take development training, or to get experience within Core Competencies to seek promotion.

    Realistically, within the Civil Service, there are only two ways to progress; by promotion through fair and open competition, or by a scheme such as Fast Track.
    Of these, the first demands that you prove that you fit into the boxes by demonstrating Core Competencies, and the second trains you to fit into the boxes.

    I recognise that the Core Competencies are designed to be fair as practical, and that no system will work for everyone, but the demand to fit into the box (or alternatively, jump through the hoop) and the way this is perceived by the recruiter cannot be fair.
    “Play the game” is a common phrase about the process.

    The training for recruiters is minimal at a 1½ day course. There is no way that anyone is competent to interview at the end of this course, even with the recommendation to go away and be an observer for a while.
    Recruiters simply do not have the breadth of experience to understand what a candidate can bring to their business area, or the incentive to tease the best out of the interviewee.
    However you look at it, each interviewer will have a different approach, whether it is differences in training, experience or personal approach. It is impossible that a post seeker will go to any two interviews and be questioned and evaluated the same in each.

    I have suggested in the past that a team of skilled interviewers is created to make the whole process fairer, but also to ensure that Talent is spotted and promoted, whether in under represented groups or not. The response was this would require a change of policy at the very top.
    I’ve also suggested that the Civil Service looks at ways of identifying talent that thinks outside the box and have used the term “intrapreneur”, a term that sounds an oxymoron within such a vast organisation.

    If the Civil Service thinks it will cure all its ills now that Unconscious Bias is Mandatory Training it is sadly mistaken. While the course does recognise affinity bias and the halo effect the course itself doesn’t recognise box-fitting as a specific unconscious bias.

    The examples used in interviews highlight the problem. Can you realistically expect every interviewer to be an expert on the basis of minimal? Is the Civil Service expecting too much that any manager is an SME in everything just because they are a line manager?

    And, as far as the Unconscious Bias course goes, at the danger of not conforming and not fitting in the box, or being a smart Alec and upsetting the management, can I suggest that running away from the tiger in the given scenario it is probably the worst thing to do. Tigers have evolved to chase prey, and running away is likely to trigger their hunting instinct. In addition, observations in areas where there have been attack on humans indicate that tigers are less likely to attack when they see a face. From this research villagers now wear masks on the back of their heads to fool tigers. “Stand your ground” might be the better option.

  22. Comment by Mark posted on

    Talent = Natural aptitude or skill.
    Politics = Activities aimed at improving someone’s status or increasing power within an organization.

    How are your objectives drafted?

    The correct answer is, of course, talent = politics.

    Or that's how the SCS has interpreted 'skills' that are required for promotion within the CS.

    Staff who do try to do their best, learn their job and generally act in an efficient, cost saving manor are instantly penalised as that is not their objective.

    As an example, I work on a helpdesk; my PMR objective is to reply to emails/phone calls within a set time. No mention of helping anywhere in my objectives nor is there a time limit for resolving a query.

    Therefore if I spend 3 hours on the phone helping, say, 8 people, talking them through their problem to resolution, and my colleague, with the same objective, simply sends a standard response to 20 callers who is the most talented - me, for spending time helping people, or my colleague who has simply met their objective, but not actually helped anyone?

    In the SCS world my colleague would be called the most talented and would therefore get promotion, on the grounds they have met or exceeded their objective, but not actually done the job in hand which is to help.

    As for myself, I get called up for a disciplinary for not complying with my objective and replying to too few callers.

    Until we get a realistic objective setting system that gives people a chance to shine and show they can do their best, learn their job and generally act in an efficient manor, the CS will never harvest the best people - as previous comments have said, knowledge and experience count for nothing in the modern CS.

  23. Comment by Joanna posted on

    The email I received linking to this blog stated that HMRC wanted to 'remain one of the best employers in the country, ensuring we’re attracting and retaining the most talented individuals from all walks of life.' I am afraid that from my lowly position it is hard to see how HMRC can make any claim to be one of the best employers in the country. Although the blog focuses primarily on diversity and equality conditions for all staff remain poor. Morale in my area is rock bottom and staff survey results suggest this is replicated across the department. Reductions in pensions and new contracts providing disincentives for applying for promotions do not help, nor does 'Building Our Future' with it's key message roughly translated as 'please leave now so we don't have to fire you later'.

  24. Comment by Buster Friendly posted on

    Of course, there's no greater motivation to apply for promotion than geting kicked in the face by having one and a half days' leave taken away, allied to being stuck on the bottom of the pay band forever without any hope of reaching higher.

  25. Comment by woman posted on

    I'm supportive of the action plan, but feel it is too little too late for me. Having had two maternity leaves over the last 5 years at a relatively senior levl, I have felt severely let down by the support and development / Career planning on offer to me on return to work. In short there hasn't been any. no keeping in touch days, no offer of support on return, In fact the reverse, steered away from posts that offer career progression as not working fulltime and my development or career plans have not ever been mentioned as being a valid consideration. I have ended up feeling signficantly disadvantaged on both occasions for taking maternity leave in tems of my career progression prospects. It is a shame to let talented women feel like this.

  26. Comment by Anon posted on

    Completely agree with the vast majority of whats been said in particular the comments made by Sam and Linsey. I have been with the service for 28 years now and worked in various departments from DMB (Collection as it was known then) for 15 years and then as an employer compliance officer for 6-7 years and insolvency caseworker for 2 years. I have been on more training programs and most recently TPQ's than I care to remember and have a vast range of experience in compliance areas mainly but also in mentoring, coaching and can safely say that this program like so many before it and no doubt many more after it is nothing short of tokenism. In my personal experience I have not been encouraged to apply for jobs in any area and feel less than valued for all the contribution i have made to the organsiation which I joined straight from college (yes I know more fool me). But the thing that annoys me most is this notion of the best people for the right jobs. How can a system which relies on written competency based applications and an appraisal system which is the most unfair, unbalanced, hugely divisive, hugely demoralising and anything but equitable, possibly be the foundation on which an organisation underpins its so called talents on? How can it be expected to truly put the best people in the right jobs? Any system which is as flawed as ours is cannot be the basis on which to get cream to rise to the top, cannot be the basis on which to truly build an organisation which not only values its members but positively encourages and actively promotes progression across all genders, class, race, religion or otherwise. I have been stuck in my grade for around 13 years now and do not feel valued in any shape or form so how can i be motivated to do the job? Where is the incentive? I have a huge range of skills and competencies which could be utilised in a much more productive and meaningful manner but which are unfortunately thwarted by a bureaucratically driven ethos where unless your face fits or you have that rare talent of writing a load of mumbo jumbo in your applications using the STAR approach and all that nonsense then you will become inconsequential and meaningless to the organisation. I used to think that the CS would recognise my many talents and nurture them to their advantage but having recentky left an extremely technical investigative role which was a role way above my grade I would add, I became wholly disillusioned and stressed out by the fact that despite all my efforts I was getting no credit whatsoever for the work I was doing and decided to move into a more mundane and less stressful role. So all that investment the organisation put in sending me on god knows how many training courses over the last 28 years not least employer compliance to advanced level and insolvency to advanced level are now wasted as i am doing something a 12 year old could do with minimal training. Why you may well ask? Because this employer is hopeless at recognising talent let alone actually pushing it forward into the most appropriate roles and for my part I simply do not have the time or the inclination to fill out tenuous applications which are all too often tokenistic in themselves as the job goes to someone already earmarked for the role, all too often internally, or is preferred to those on reserve lists or on surplus status.

  27. Comment by DENNIS posted on

    I regret to say that I have heard all of these promises to improve things throughout my 35 years in the Civil Service and they have all amounted to just talk. I think that things have actually become worse because of the greater emphasis on the annual staff reporting system when this is actually the main barrier to success. The majority of managers I have worked for in my career have been poor managers and have either used the annual appraisal system for the wrong purpose or did not do it correctly. Very few did the 6 monthly review and many of my reports either personality assessments or were based on unfortunate events which occurred within the last few weeks or days leading up to the drafting of the report. If something unfortunate happened then it would end up in the report and would dominate the report to indicate it was a persistent issue. No one is interested if you complain, the stance was you are bound to say that anyway. If the Civil Service is serious about removing barriers then getting rid of the staff reporting system should be the top priority as in my experience is doesn't paint a true picture of a person's work but tells more about the author than the person being reported on. If the annual staff reporting system were such a great tool for assessing promotion potential then the MoD would not have so many poor line managers and there would not have been such high incidences of bullying that occurred in the past (I say in the past as I haven't seen any recent figures - Perhaps its not being monitored anymore). I think that ASR should be used only as a tool for discussion between staff and line managers to determine where things went wrong and to improve things, if necessary etc. It should not be used to assess a person's career potential or to block access to promotion interviews as the interviews themselves can determine a candidates suitability, and any shortfalls can be overcome by training. This is apparent because candidates being recruited from outside the MoD/Civil Service don't have staff reports yet the MoD is happy to recruit these based on their interview results only and pay them more than internal staff.

    • Replies to DENNIS>

      Comment by Anonymous for the moment posted on

      When a member of staff in the Civil service applies for promotion via the online service, their line manager gets an automated email stating that the applicant has said they are not under any kind of formal action and that if the line manager knows any different they should reply via a link. This is perfectly fine. However, further down that email, it says something like - if this person is applying for promotion, are they suitable for the grade they are applying for - The line manager can click on the link to make a negative comment only - which is certain to get the candidate sifted out. this is where it is unfair. If a line manager makes a comment, they have to discuss it with the applicant. If this discussion does not take place, the applicant will never know that a comment has been made and the recruiting department will never be able to establish neither that the discussion took place nor that it had not. they can only assume that it has. this is unfair. Say I have a staff member who wishes to apply for promotion and is female. Unknown to anyone in the world, let's say, I have a personal belief that women should never progress. My female member of staff tells me that they wish to apply for a certain post at a higher grade. I say it is fine. They apply and I get that automated email. Nothing stops me from clicking the link and stating that I consider the applicant unsuitable for various "professional" reasons that can never be checked out when in reality I am doing this because she is a woman and this is the reason why I consider she should not be promoted. There is no safeguard from this for the applicant or anyone. My eyes are open and I see many people declared unsuitable for promotion by their line managers. this destroys a person's chances of progression and destroys them internally. Some line managers just ignore the automated email so their staff can always go for promotion. Some line managers always act on it out of either a sense that they should or out of vindictiveness. We are paid for by the tax payer, not a private investor. This should not happen. My suggestion is that this link/facility allowing line managers to comment on suitability be eliminated. I understand that when a sift takes place, the sifters are given the answers to questions from the applicant on the form but no personal details so that anything that can be a point to discriminate on by the sifter is not available to the sifters so they can make a decision based on application content only. this is good. However, when a line manager comments on suitability, they know the candidate and could be making the comments based on bias or historic negative experience with the member of staff. please can this facility be eliminated. Please can I have a reply to this from someone from the cabinet office or civil service resourcing. Please remove the ability of the line manager to ruin the career prospects of their staff that they dislike. There are many reasons why this facility is unfair:
      line manager may be incapable of determining suitability
      line manager may not want you to get promotion because they don't like you, your race etc
      line manager ay be on temp promotion and may be applying for the same job and does not want you to be considered
      performance in current role is not an indicator of suitability for another role
      Should line managers have the right to stop people trying to earn a bit more?

  28. Comment by G Rattray posted on

    What about other forms of discrimination? Several times I have experiencd a lack of opportunities because I am in the 'wrong Directorate of the Dept'. I am a qualified and skilled professional. But I was inadvertantly moved out of that field following a restructure and I can't move into that field because people are manage moved internally within that Group and so very rarely are vacancies advertised. Meanwhile my current Group don't recognise my qualifications and I'm having to pay my own CPD fees which the dept has otherwise always paid.
    And what about discriminatin based on location, if you are not in London you don't have the same opportuities, many jobs in my Department are supposedly available to apply for if you are outside London, but in reality the job is London based. It's false opportunity. There is a culture that work can only be done in London.

  29. Comment by Jon Arnold posted on

    I hope that the implimentation of this plan is a genuine attempt to reform the Civil Service. However I do not believe it will work until the old attitudes of the Civil Service is changed. I am on my departments Disability group but have found that is really just a way of saying we listen, but in realality nothing happens. My experience is that of discrimination, bullying and harrasment of disabled staff and a complete lack of honesty. As part of this plan a way of raising a grievence (in relation to discrimination) outside of the department needs to be incorporated to try to improve honesty and fairness.

  30. Comment by Peter Evans posted on

    I do not agree that we should focus on some groups. Diversity as stated in the HMRC website, is about recognising that we are indiividuals. It should also be remembered that people do not belong to one group. Men and women are not two groups but a multitude of groups.

    To eradicate discrimination we need to move away from the group culture which caused the discrimination in the first place. People should be assessed on their indiviudal abilities and personalities, not judged either favourably or unfavourably by others of the same group.

    By focussing on groups we are left int the cul-de-sac of sexism and racism.

  31. Comment by Ian posted on

    I agree totally with amy and others' sentiments on a lack of support for disabled staff. Having been told in a number of jobs that I should be working at the next grade I finally gave up applying for promotion 5 years ago as I realised that my disability would not allow me to portray my competencies on an even keel with other applicants. If I was lucky enough to be called to interview I was not able to reflect my true abilities in the 40 minutes allowed due - in my opinion - to my disability. I am dyslexic which means in my daily working environment I have to work hard to manage my disability and still achieve the high expectations I expect to achive. However I am not able to demonstarte this fully within the limitations of the interview environment and cannot currently expect a panel to take account of what is a hidden disability that most will find difficult to understand and may indicate a limitation in percieved ability work in the next grade. As a result I continue to work above expectations in a lower grade than I am capable of doing and demotivated as a result. Please give more recognition to performance in the workplace and reduce barriers for disabled staff progression so that they can be fairly compared with their peers in the daily work place. Ideally remove the interview as the deciding factor and rely more on a portfolio of skills which an individual can build over time. In the private sector the interview would be the final hurdle of an internal recruitment process having recognised performance and competence already but we use the interview as the first and only hurdle and excludes any performance that has gone before.

  32. Comment by Rob G. posted on

    All fantastic contributions. Restores my faith that actually there are still decent well balanced people within our department. Biggest contradiction of all is this - Every staff member is encouraged to target a developmental objectives(s) for each year of their employment. How is it then that on completion of promotion applications competencies are restricted to achievements weighted in the last two years? This renders the most experienced and loyal employees less valuable than the 'bear pit' types driven to promotions and personal gain by pyschopathic tendencies. The advent of unprofessional interview panels applying variable markings to identical competency statements renders the whole process dubious and flawed to put it mildly. Applications for senior posts should be sifted outside of each region to prevent favoured individuals being mentored and on some instances interviewed by their sponsors.

  33. Comment by Simon Fraser, Civil Service Diversity Champion posted on

    Thanks for all these comments on Jeremy’s blog. Taken overall they reveal a lot of hope that this plan will help us move ahead towards making the Civil Service a high performing organisation that supports different people with different skills and backgrounds. But also a lot of scepticism about whether we really mean it or are able to achieve it. That’s a fair challenge. I never thought that publishing a plan or strategy was an end in itself, but it is an important platform to allow us to get on and do things in the areas we have identified. And while I absolutely agree that appointments and promotions must be on the basis of merit, it is clear that some we need to focus more effort on the needs of some groups of people to make sure that everyone can progress in the civil service, and make their full contribution.

    • Replies to Simon Fraser, Civil Service Diversity Champion>

      Comment by mka posted on

      I think it's really important that line managers do not have the opportunity to make comments about unsuitability when people are applying for promotion. This can cause people to lose out due to bias. Sifters should be left to do the sifting. So, can the facility to make a comment on suitability be removed for line managers. That would remove a barrier. A lot of development programmes do not need manager endorsementbecause a lot of BAME staff have said this is a barrier to ddevelopment and progression ie if your manager doesn't like you, you won't get endorsed.

  34. Comment by ABZ posted on

    I work in HMRC and there is a lot of discrimination. Forget about positive discrimination, if people were treated on equal basis that would have solved the problems.
    The problem is with the mind set of people. I work twice the times harder than my colleagues but have never received a word of appreciation and even when I give outstanding performance which the management cant fail to notice but they never seem to appreciate and at the end of year they try and fit you in the must improve category ignoring all your hard work. It’s never addressed.
    I think you need to set up a unit where people can forward their complains about discrimination so that you are aware of the issues and develop a strategy to resolve those issues.
    More substantial steps need to be taken as it might seem trivial but if you have a 30% work force whose facing discrimination and feels targeted you will never have a progressing organisation and people will also tend to isolate and not be able to give their 100% outputs.

  35. Comment by Patricia Wilson posted on

    The action plan states the civil service will take into account experience in outside industry, yet the current policy excludes experience prior to 5 years ago. For example, I was previously a regional finance manager yet if I applied for a role as an ccount manager within HMRC that experience would not be considered, therefore any recruitment panel would be unable to take that expereince into account when considering my application. I therefore believe that the policy on only assessing the previous five years of employment history is a barrier to realising the potential of existing staff.

    I also believe that barriers may exist based on grade and talent is not best matched to ability and experience under current practice. I previously worked beside an AO who is a qualified lawyer, albeit with a disability, whose potential is not being realised. Another band O I have worked beside also works as a technical author and proof reader in outside industry during the day and works for HMRC in the evening, this person would be ideally suited to writing HMRC guidance.

  36. Comment by Donna Walker posted on

    In HMRC the there are a lot of 'talent programmes' which will either lead to promotion or develop competences to enable future promotion. However, they require attendance on a full-time basis and are often impractical for those of us returning to work after time out having/raising children. I am lucky to have the ability to work flexibly on a part-time contract that fits around my childcare requirements. It would be nice to see programmes, such as BDDP (Business Driven Development Programme) which operate on a 1 or 2 year timescale, being adapted to be run over a longer perios to accommodate the needs of part-time staff. A similar barrier exists when applying for promotion through advertised jobs. The job holder is often looking for a full-time applicant.

  37. Comment by Richard posted on

    I don't have time to read all of these comments but make one simple observation. Never mind the race/gender/sexual equality arguments, this plan seems to be all about opportunity for younf people leaving university ("a doubling of the Faststream places available to school leavers in 2015-16"). What about those of us who have given 20 or 30 years service already? We have experience, and because of the changes to pension age we still have at least 10 more years to work before we reach pension age. If the Faststream programme is 4 years that still leaves 6 years at least of service. Like somebody else has already said, just because we are middle aged don't write us off. That is why the Civil Service in general has such a poor engagement score.

  38. Comment by Mark Stacey posted on

    Sounds good, but I've heard it all before : " Positive about Disablity " was knocking around on Inland Revenue envelopes and letters for several years but failed to deliver much if anything to the legion of lost talent processing forms and giving out pencils.

  39. Comment by anon posted on

    I dont fully agree with statements that women have more opportunities, I am a mother to young children and as such I am unable to apply for fast track scheme as it would mean I would have to more than likely move away from my family for several months and also increase to full time. So how is this addressing equality in the workplace?

  40. Comment by Trevor posted on

    There is much talk about the promotion system being "open and transparent" but it's impossible to take blogs such as this seriously. Recently a colleague has been promoted without the vacancy even being advertised - she was promoted from a reserve list that was created for a totally different vacancy . When managers can do this sort of thing it makes an absolute mockery of any talk about openess, fairness, merit, etc.

  41. Comment by Stuart Holttum posted on

    I find it ironic that a cornerstone of the plan is "the introduction of leading-edge terms and conditions" when in most Departments T&Cs are being slashed. The removal of the ability to bank leave in HMRC, for example, will directly impact on the very minorities that the Plan intends to help.

    I note also that the trumpeted "Shared Parental Leave" will only be of use to couples where BOTH parents work for the Civil Service. Given that the service is dramatically shrinking, this small group will inevitably become even smaller, and so the policy will in fact benefit very few people.

    The plan also talks about more apprentices, intended to be progress over 20-30 years to the top of the Civil Service. This in a context where (in HMRC) most senior managers are brought in from outside industry. Perhaps someone could explain why a bright and able candidate should choose to progress slowly through a shrinking civil service with below-average pay scale, when they will apparently have more chance of a top job if they instead work in outside industry - with better pay rates all the way up, to boot?

    But perhaps the most dispiriting thing is that the goal is that "within a year" there will be a strategy published that will then begin to start making the best use of staff. So what the heck has been happening over the past couple decades, with all the research and information gained previously? And why - in an organisation that wants to be world class - is it acceptable that it can take up to a year to think about things before the beginnings of any action?

    If there were TRULY the will for change, then we would have seen the strategy in place months back - or, if all information gathered to this point was useless, a concerted effort to implement change within months. Instead, we get a promise that "in around a fortieth of your working life, we may be ready to start recognising talent" - hardly the stuff that will raise the morale of those the Plan claims to help.

    Sadly, this seems to be the perpetual way the Civil Service operates. Take a few months to devise a plan, then research it over another few months, then implement a system (like PMR) that everywhere else junked long ago. There seems a perpetual desire to go slow and remain behind the times, rather than any REAL will to make changes for the better - as the lengthy spate of union-bashing amply demonstrates.

  42. Comment by N Ali posted on

    Here we go again…..another ‘glossy’ attempt to show CS values diversity.
    I have been at CS over 23 years and resorted to ‘developing’ myself externally due to the barriers faced by the so called ‘disadvantaged’.
    My list of achievements include a postgraduate certificate in Criminal Law, Legal Practice Course and Professional Linguistic qualifications in five languages and dialects.
    In addition to part-time CS work I work freelance as a Legal Representative, Professional Interpreter and Translator, Civil Investigator, Cultural Expert and until recently volunteered at CAB.
    Last year I completed a CS Spring School Project, I developed and delivered presentations on Unconscious Bias to SMT and FLMs etc etc.
    There are no qualms regarding my work, attendance or behaviour.
    The peers rewarded me with a ‘needs improving’ marking in a final PMR meeting for an absence of PDP on my file.
    The ‘pathetic’ appeals system ignored the procedural error of not informing me of this prior to final PMR.
    By the way, I would like to add I am blessed to be an Ethnic Minority Woman and life rocks outside the CS.
    Ladies and gentlemen, I rest my case.

  43. Comment by Mark posted on

    I'm with Lindsay above. Most of us are just striving to stay out of debt and this employer of ours has done precious little to help in that respect. My wages have lagged behind inflation for at least a decade. If MPs take 9% as recommended I'm going to throw my toys out of the pram!

  44. Comment by Paula posted on

    As a working mother, the biggest barrier to my progression is the old view that you need to be in the office. Access to true mobile devices (laptop versus my useless BB), would give me the flexibility to contribute more, deliver more. Yet have I been able to get a business case! There is no business benefit to me doing this. What a backwards viewpoint! Having to pick up the kids from school means effectively my day is over - if only my department would feel I'm worth investing in for the price of a laptop or tablet!

  45. Comment by Sarah Adcock posted on

    I fall into the woman returning from maternity leave category of the Action Plan. The maternity package is fantastic, second to none, the issues i have are related to the treatment of women on maternity leave. On taking my leave i was asked to return my laptop, security pass and was completely wiped from the IT system. Some of which i understand for security reasons, others, not so much. My HR contact gave me an extranet site as the place to keep up with key changes in the Department during my absense, i left in February 2013, and the site was not updated at all in the 11 months i was away. I found out about important changes to my pension, the pay award and T&Cs through a friend on Facebook. To find roles on my return I had to contact a colleague in my old team to reorder me a laptop and email address, arrange a time to come and collect it and then job hunt, all with very limited support. As in turns out my line manager helped me secure a very stretching role, exactly what i was after, and we were able to negotiate a flexible working pattern that suited my needs but also the business needs. The feeling of being completely disregarded while on maternity leave, wont leave me though, there has to be a better way to treat people.

  46. Comment by Amy posted on

    I am disappointed at the lack of focus on disabled people in the document. Over and over again statements on diversity seem to manage to miss out on disability. People seem to think that ever since the introduction of the DDA there is no longer any disability discrimination. The experiences of disabled civil servants and the comparative performance markings tell a different story. Departments fail to implement reasonable adjustments in such a way as to enable disabled staff to work to their full potential - even in talent schemes aimed at disabled people. The push to give up leased properties in place of (older, less accessible, often heritage) Crown estate also causes problems for those of us with mobility impairments, working counter to any claims that the civil service truly values diversity.

  47. Comment by John posted on

    Totally agree with Sam (8/9/14)
    In the interests of transparency would be interested to see how many disabled staff were marked as "must improve" across the country.
    PMR is not fit for purpose- Please see the hundreds of comments on your Predecessor's blog.

  48. Comment by Sam posted on

    " Our aspiration to be one of the most meritocratic, open and fair organisations in the country" is a complete pipe dream. Never going to happen. The civil service is getting worse not better. Greater politicisation of the civil service = worse terms for staff, poorer employment practices and greater discrimination for any minority.

    I work for HMRC and there is discrimination. For proof the % of disabled who got marked "needs improved" was considerably greater than the average. I have no confidence in anything Sir Jeremy says because we all know the current performance appraisal system is inherently unfair but nothing will be done because it is the will of our political masters. If they can't get the reporting system right what chance any of the rest of it? What surprises me is that anyone believes this is anything more than a way to throw more money at private consultants that tell the leaders the blimming obvious.

    • Replies to Sam>

      Comment by John posted on

      Sir Jeremy, Actions speak louder than words. If you really do believe in diversity, equality etc, you might care to ask HMRC Excom why in HMRC it has been necessary for the ARC Union to lodge equal pay claims for 34 women members with the Employment Tribunal. When ARC win, which I believe they will, you may wish to revisist all the platitudes you have written.

    • Replies to Sam>

      Comment by Peter Evans posted on

      I agree. The majority of civil servants are women not men. I do not feel that I am better represented than female civil servants. To be represented is for someone to speak up for you and more people speak up in defence of women than they do with men.

      Anyway, diversity is about recognising that we are individuals and that we should look beyond the group of the person and not stereotype people by their group.

      • Replies to Peter Evans>

        Comment by Dawn posted on

        Women may hold the majority of posts across the CS as a whole, but they are in the minority in MOD and a couple of other departments. Having attended a number of events aimed at giving women the skills to succeed in the workplace, it is advice that is applicable to everyone, male or female, BAME or white, irrespective of sexuality or disability. It boils down to being master of your brief, seizing opportunities, and looking out for development opportunities. It won't be delivered to you on a plate - you have to try to make it happen! I fully appreciate that managers can act as blockers, which is very short sighted of them in my view. My advice - keep pressing, keep wearing them down, and enlist the support of higher managers. Good luck!

    • Replies to Sam>

      Comment by Dave posted on

      hear hear! We spend months building effective teams only for the wheels to come off at appraisal time due to Francis Maude's ill thought through pet policy on appraisal.

  49. Comment by David posted on

    It should be born in mind that positive discrimination for those from a minority ethnic group is negative discrimintation for the majority.

  50. Comment by Linsey posted on

    Oh fabulous! What a great idea! This has never been tried before. Meanwhile, staff on the frontline of DWP (and other depts) face staff cuts and shortages, IT which works only sporadically, stress, pressure and wages which haven't increased in line with inflation for around 15 years. These airy fairy schemes, which generally only pay lip service to perceived issues, only serve to futher inflame hard working, long suffering staff. Not once in my 25 years in the dept has anyone ever asked what my previous experience or qualifications were and certainly have never asked of any skills, ongoing learning or experience I may have acheived. We are only "bums in seats" as it were. Frankly, I feel that I am nothing more than a number and a poorly treated, underpaid number at that.

  51. Comment by Karen posted on

    We are all encouraged to take opportunities to develop ourselves by joining talent programmes or taking qualifications. However there seems to be a distinct lack of aftercare. Once the programme is finished or qualification achieved the support stops. I achieved a professional qualiication funded by DWP but the opportunity to consolidate the learning or join the professional network is not forthcoming. Isn't this a little short sighted or even a waste of money

  52. Comment by Claire posted on

    The factors raised in the Talent Action Plan are at a high level and are very easy to measure and show improvements, but what is more of an issue for me and many of my colleagues occurs before interview panels etc,. The biggest barrier to me in seeking promotion is the location of many of the senior positions in particular grade 6 & SCS1 graded jobs and above. Outside of the DWP it is rare to see SCS1 positions being based in Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool etc. The Civil Service pay rates, even at SCS1 level, with a starting salary of £60k is insufficient to allow candidates who are based outside of London, in areas such as the Midlands or the north west, to either relocate or afford to commute. Unless the civil service offers financial or practical support to candidates outside of London or be willing for such posts to be based outside of London then the perceived imbalance at a senior level will be perpetuated.

  53. Comment by Andrew posted on

    How on earth did anyone not spot the obvious implication of not allowing "all-male" shortlists and panels instead of "single-sex" shortlists and panels?

    What if no woman even applies for the post?

    What if no woman applies who can honestly be said to hae the requisite experience?

    What happens if one woman makes it onto the shortlist and she withdraws before interview?

  54. Comment by Graham Cook posted on

    I think the real obstacle is that the concept of promoting the best person is just too simple and therefore suspect........and you still cannot please everyone.

    However,things tend to go in circles and one day someone will come up with this new idea that:

    - you promote by ability regardless of where people are from, and because you are going by what they are capable of and aiming for equal treatment for all you can reduce the risk of an existing group just picking the people that fit in with them, or who "look right" as a manager.

    Also maybe the idea that Management doesnt lose face by discussing the idea with the staff.

  55. Comment by Diana Nelmes posted on

    Thank you for the Civil Service Reform News. Sorry to disagree with you but you are not retaining your most talented individuals because it all boils down to your post code. I come from Gloucester tax office where there is a wealth of talent and because we are not deemed big enough we are to be closed, so when you mention gender, ethnicity, sexuality or disability you should also mention postcode.

  56. Comment by Mike Jones posted on

    The plan includes proposals to "boost support" for women returningfrom maternity leave. I think this is a good thinng. Howeever, following the introduction on additional statutory paternity leave in April,2011 there are increasing number of men returning to the workplace following up to six months away from work caring for children. They can face the same challenges on their return to work as women returning from maternity leave might. Support should be strengthened for both groups.

  57. Comment by Alan Walsh posted on

    I agree with David Briggs. Let's end positive discrimination once and for all. Until this happens the Civil Service cannot and should not claim to be an equal opportunites employer. Everyone knows that certain groups get treated favourably over others but nobody stands up to it or even admits it. I experience this when I put in a request to have time off at Christmas because as a Christian I like to spend time both at home and in Church. Each year I get told that I may not get what I request as it depends on what leave I had the previous year. Yet nobody would dare say to a Muslim that they cannot have time off for Ramadan, Eid and other religious festivals because they fear the potential backlash. This is a bit like George Orwell's famous book, Animal Farm and the saying: "all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others."

  58. Comment by Anon posted on

    As a fifty-something female who has tried to broaden her skills while in a technical/professional role, I offer the following thoughts from my own experience:
    - appoint and promote on merit, not just those who spout the latest management theory and business-school jargon.
    - listen to those who have different or challenging opinions; they usually speak from experience and knowledge (and often because they care). Organisations where everyone has to be "on message" both do themselves a disservice but also run the risk of errors if they do not take account of critical views and rigorously challenge their policies and assumptions.
    - appoint leaders with real people skills - it improves staff motivation. Too many seem to be management school clones and how many really know how their organisation works from the bottom up? I have helped in the post room when they were short staffed - you learn an awful lot from conversations "on the floor".
    - new blood is certainly necessary - but not to the exclusion of all that has gone before; the trick is of course the balance between the two.
    - offer meaningful development and opportunities at all grades to those who want them; not everyone is, or wants to be, a leader. Equality of opportunity, not quota-driven equality.
    - if aspiring to a more unified Civil Service and brand image (Gov.UK is an example), then please grasp the nettle of pay and conditions - disparaties are still causing problems and are a barrier to cross-departmental moves which could be beneficial for staff development.

  59. Comment by Kerry Bottomley posted on

    We still have a great deal of work to do in respect of equality across the body. Specifically in my experience we need to recognise disabilities that can't be seen. I applaud and encourage the efforts we make to ensure members of staff with physical disabilities are integrated into the workplace and it's only right that they should. After all they deserve the same respect, and opportunities afforded to able bodied employees. However there are a population of civil servants who have mental health issues across a broad spectrum from anxiety, depression to specific disorders and yet there is still so much work needed to recognise such conditions and support our staff through them. Unfortunately there is still an attitude of "pull yourself together and get on with it;" which is probably the absolute worst thing you can say to someone who is suffering with a mental health disability. Often these conditions are short term and with the right support and encouragement an individual can recover very well. But with the poor attitude afforded by some colleagues and management the lack of understanding can often make recovery worse. My experience in the main is because people don't understand the condition, and so its about education which must start at senior management level. If we can at least educate and change opinions then one can only hope that a more proactive attitude towards mental health disabilities will spread like a "brush fire" throughout the civil service. Every employee should feel valued and included within the Civil Service and Equality has a huge part to play in this.

    • Replies to Kerry Bottomley>

      Comment by Daniel posted on

      Unfortunately I have to agree with this, after a period of time off suffering with depression -although I did get support from my line management- ATOS had nothing to say but and I quoute "I don't see why shouldn't be back at work." No matter how I described how I was feeling this was the standard response along with "don't you think you've had long enough?!"

  60. Comment by John James posted on

    Have you considered age.We are not all old fuddy-duddys. Some of us are able and could perform a useful role as mentors, trainers or doing a good job. I do not see why when we get to a certain age we are thrown on the scrap heap some of us are active!

  61. Comment by Kevin posted on

    My 12 years experience in HMRC suggests that it is a very good employer when it comes to discrimination. I have not seen any evidence of it relating to any of the areas suggested and other areas such as Age and Relation Status.
    I find it regretable that the Equality does not term "Relationship Status" as a protected status and instead uses the discrimatory "Married".
    One area HMRC needs to improve on is "bullying" and tackling this problem which can lead or be due to percieved discrimination.
    The initiative is good! If carried out correctly

  62. Comment by Daniel posted on

    We live in a wonderfully diverse society where we can all learn so much from and bring together the best aspects of these cultures to benfit us all. I love the fact that we above the vast majority of other nations around the world can truly boast this and that we are as a service are a flagship for diversity, however I can't help but feel that as a 25 year old, hetrosexual, non BME, male that I am somewhat under represented and overlooked. How about nurturing up and coming talent disregarding all factors but the talent itself?

  63. Comment by Terence posted on

    If you want talent to be the basis of promotion then you should introduce a proper process for deciding who is fit for promotion. In my office they simply use "paper boards" which only allow the use of 250 words and are marked on the basis of how many buzzwords the person crams into their 250 words and allows plenty of scope for managerial favouritism.

  64. Comment by Darren Tickle posted on

    This is all very well but does nothing to resolve the ineqiuality in pay between Departments, and between staff within those Departments thanks to the ridiculous pay policies since 2006 (note both Lab and Con/Dem as bad as each other). The current refusal to progress staff up pay scales whilst imposing 1% across the board rises has not only descriminated against staff new to a grade by not progressing them up pay scales (that we get told no longer exist), but has then widened that differential between min and max of scale. This is completely unacceptable and unfair to the point now where someone coasting on max gets more of a rise than someone busting a gut on min (EoY bonuses included). You can chirp on all you want about diversity this and that but there is a fundamental flaw in pay policy that is completely unfair and descrimanatory. Until that is addressed I say Rhubarb to this article.

  65. Comment by Anon posted on

    The civil service has been my first full time job. Now,I read Sir Jeremy's proposals with a mixture of hope and doubt. I have received no decent pay increase since I began working; I am still, five years in, on the same grade doing much the same job. My only options to prevent me losing money while progressing is to either jump a pay grade (unlikely, given the CS's rigid hierarchy and recruitment procedures) or obtain a promotion with allowances (which would require more unsociable hours and/or weekend work, which I would like to do far less of in order to achieve a better work-life balance that I currently lack). The longer I work in the CS the more I consider the private sector, where I could be more likely to progress both in terms of pay and promotion. How those on the lowest pay manage I have no idea. I certainly couldn't and would likely be priced out of not only London, but my job.

    For all the changes that need to be made in order to not only attract but retain talent, I feel there is little room for flexibility in order for this to happen. Fair and open competition is one thing, but why not push talented invidivuals to assist them in obtaining their goals? As someone else mentioned, the application process is merely an art form. Write the correct thing in the correct way and you're halfway there.

    It also makes no sense to allow staff to stagnate for years as (some other have commented) it seems a waste of talent and a waste of resources when surely there should be efforts to maximise both. Personally I don't like applying for civil service vacancies as most of the time I require to input my manager's contact details. If I were to apply for a private sector job I could do so without this requirement.

    Lastly, there is surely still evidence of gendered organisational culture. While I don't agree with everything that is being said by all commentors, their words should be seriously considered, along with potential solutions. A report by Hay Consulting is a start, but it us the civil servants and our experiences that are the key to real, long-term change.

    If I am still sitting at the same grade in six months, I will regretfully be forced to re-hink my career as a civil servant. I see too many other talented individuals who would be better off elsewhere, where their talent is developed.

    Amy Farrah-Fowler (good choice of name...) makes a great argument about leadership = success. A fine example of how traits associated with masculinity are seen as being the solution, when talent should cover all basis, not merely management/leadership. The civil service competencies are slightly more balanced (teamwork, communication) yet the process of promotion is so inflexible that it makes no difference anyway.

  66. Comment by David Smith posted on

    Although I had 6 grade 'c' o levels maths was not one of them. I was in the process of gaining the GCSE maths qualification prior to joining the HA. Upon joining the HA My immediate manager was very supportive but required support from the next manager in line relating to authorising study leave as per the Staff Hand book and leave required to take my final exam. The managers reply was it is not relevant to (my) current role. Colleagues supported me in covering for my absence and changing shifts with me. Progression can only happen if people are supported in gaining qualifications to be able to apply for roles within the organisation.

  67. Comment by CT posted on

    leaders and SCS management have no purpose unless they have people to lead and manage! Alas everyone cannot become a leader or senior manager, no matter what protected characteristic they have.
    "ensuring all leaders of the Civil Service are mentoring staff from under-represented groups"
    Through positive discrimenation a white, a-sexual, protestant, middle-age, married male with no recognized disability or gender reassignment plan is effectively a minority! but with no protection from the equality act 2010.
    So after a lenthgy service you reside on a low pay spine (no pay progression), are overlooked for promotion, bereft of coaching / mentoring. Unlucky
    Let us long for the day protected groups become the norm. then the rest might just become recognised! Too much to ask Mr Heywood?
    No response is expected

  68. Comment by Tony posted on

    I'm all for equality of opportunity when it comes to progressing one's career, but categorising people into disadvantaged groups does nothing to address the fundament flaws of the competency-based selection system. Looking properly at what candidates have actually done, what they can do, and taking into account the views of their colleagues and managers, would be a much fairer way of recruiting and promoting than asking them to "perform" in front of a set of complete strangers. Currently the Civil Service promotes people who are good at doing competency-based interviews rather than people who necessarily have the right skills for the job and most interviewing amounts to little more than making superficial judgments based on appearance. The poor feedback provided after such interviews makes this abundantly clear.

  69. Comment by Allison Voden posted on

    I actually think the best way to ensure fairness would not be to end all male interview boards but to end family friendly boards where you are offered opportunities and advancements due to your family connections within the organisation. I see experienced staff passed over time and time again in favour of relatives of management and feel this is never addressed. I have seen talented and visionary staff members ground down by the unfairness and restriction of opportunities available when your ' face does not fit'. It is sometimes not just down to the wrong sex, race or religion but down to who your facebook friends are.

  70. Comment by Alan Dennis posted on

    In the recent past previous Equality and Diversity strategies and action plans have fully and positively engaged the Civil Service Trade unions. Regrettably in this case there has not been anywhere near the same level of engagement in fact you could argue there has been none. Could you provide an absolute assurance that as part of the ongoing development of this strategy/action plan, and associated activities the TUs will be actively engaged so that we can positively work jointly to meet shared aims?

  71. Comment by SM posted on

    Has there been any effort to benchmark departments' performance on diversity metrics against each other?

  72. Comment by Dave posted on

    The best thing which could possibly be done to improve team morale and promote talent would be to scrap the divisive and unbalanced performance management "quota" system. I and many others are seriously considering leaving the civil service due to its influence. Private industry has already abandoned forced/guided ranking in favour if immediate reward/sanction schemes . Can our new Head stand up to "Maude's Madness"?

  73. Comment by David Nicholas posted on

    A worthwhile initiative (as most initiatives are) but rather than worrying about all-male selection panels we would make far more progress if selection panels were drawn from a different part of the business, both geographically and in organisational terms, from where the post is located. I believe there is still a culture of the 'preferred' candidate in existence and this would be one step to remove undue influence on panels

  74. Comment by Keith Harley posted on

    Once again it appears that the same groups are identified. Anything that is being considered to end inequality must be encouraged but why is always the same groups? Age is never, apparently considered. When I first considered joining the Civil Service, I was told that being in my mid-twenties, I was too old to be considered for anything other than the menial Band A or B grades. Now (a few) years later, I did join, as only as a mere Band B, but again age appears to be a barrier. My previous experiences and qualifications seem to amount for nothing. Only those of the younger age brackets are to be considered. Why not those with a wealth of experience from a variety of backgrounds and working situations? All experience is valuable especially so when it can be cross-related to our activities within the DWP. I thought that discrimination on grounds of age was meant to be unlawful. Therefore, shouldn't the DWP show that it is trying to uphold this. With the increased age for retirement, us "oldies" still have more to give too.

  75. Comment by M Ahmed posted on

    I think the point here is that ethnic minority, women and disability groups are not getting the job (or indeed progressing further in the CS) when they ARE clearly the best candidate of those interviewed, due to an unconscious bias that exist. For example, perhaps a woman is *slightly* better than the man at interview, but a man of course will not run the risk of becoming pregnant and mean you have to pay the additional monies in maternity leave alongside trying to find suitable cover for 12 months - if the thought comes to the interviewer(s) mind then they may choose the man for the job. Similarly, the additional costs the Dept may incur for accomodating someone disabled may sway a decision where there is only '1 point' between the candidates, or the thought that ethnic minorities are more likely to use all their annual leave for religious holiday's, family weddings and so forth. Those of you who feel that what Sir Jeremy is trying to promote is 'positive discrimination' I think are misinterpreting the situation. The best people should get the job, Talent Management I think is more about ensuring that unconscious bias doesn't interfere.

  76. Comment by JOHN posted on

    'In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act'

    I also began to read this blog and saw the exhortation that the Civil Service should be one of the 'most meritocratic, open and fair organisations in the country'. I then read the article, and it was clearly focusing on raising percentages of sections of society within different spheres of management. If that is the case, it should be stated openly, but please do not say that this is by definition 'meritocratic', because it is not.

    One thing the Civil Service is definitely not good at is talent scouting. Unfortunately, it is often the 'opinionated, pushy' people who put themselves forward, instead of those who may be more capable at doing the work. What the Civil Service should be doing is actively encourage managers to identify capable people. To be frank, a lot of time is wasted considering applications for jobs from people who are clearly not qualified for a role, but apply just in case noone else does. What we need to do is assess performance properly, and ask ourself this question. Are our current selection processes identifying capable people? Discuss

  77. Comment by James Mc Erlean posted on

    Looking at the overall issue there is a trap that may possibly be overlooked. In any move to balance out the male / female / sexual orientated / race problem. Will society accept that people who are not up to the job be given positions in order to try to quieten down those that want a completly balanced service. Sometimes we have to step back and no matter how laudable our wishes or expectations we have to accept that we may fall short of what we strive for.

  78. Comment by Mark posted on

    Here's an idea, how about giving the job to the most suitable candidate?

  79. Comment by Ann Emery posted on

    Whilst I applaud initiatives that help stamp out inequality the report itself was self- congratulatory in respect of the gains that had been made. It makes no mention of work done by Civil Service unions and their actions in fighting for individual rights over too many years. Prejudice against those who can help to bring about positive change is also alive and well. Francis Maude’s actions in “union bashing” find their way down into departmental hierarchy and decision making processes. Wouldn’t it be better to build positive relationships with all those who would like to see equality for all?

    • Replies to Ann Emery>

      Comment by Chris posted on

      Removing the barriers to success is easier said than done. GRO/HMPO has a amber warning for bullying and harrasement. GRO still have incidents were managers discrection is used to stop a minority of people who have the talent and desireto suceed but are always 'PUT in their PLACE'.
      Lets focus he problems at ground level and ask senoir managers to take a look at the real workplace problems. One example : End of year reviews, a number of individuals marked down from TOP 20 to Mid range as managers said that their behaviour or one incident cost a top mark. This came as a surprise to most, as no indication of behaviour given prior to end of year review. No evidence offered after the review and staff members forced to start a grievance to question the judgement.

  80. Comment by SB posted on

    Whilst I applaud for all the new initiatives that are being drawn up and published, I would as an individual who has worked in the Civil Service, of BAME background over 21 years be cautious. To me it seems like another PR exercise. When I started in the Civil Service, fresh out of university wanting to move on in the department, very career orientated, always willing to put best foot forward. In return, during end of year report I was deemed as being very close, very near the edge of promotion (that's what I was told) by managers. Just a bit more next year and you will be ready. I had an uphill struggle from the beginning, with management, and at times the struggle for promotion and recognition drained me of energy to fight on. After 21 years and 2 promotions within that timespan to HEO, I feel that my talents were wasted by my department. Yet colleagues who started same time as me or years after who are of the majority white (some academically less qualified), have moved on to senior management level. Having spoken to BAME colleagues at network meetings, it seems that the thinking process is the same in majority of the department, there is a stereotype that BAME staff are not management material, they are workers. Every BAME person has had an uphill struggle to move in the Civil Service. Action speaks louder than words, and to me nothing has changed since the 21 years I have been in the Civil Service. How will this new fad help the BAME staff who are already working in the Civil Service. There is a difference between showing and doing. What will be done to promote and recognise BAME staff talent.

    • Replies to SB>

      Comment by Joanne posted on

      Having read this far down the comments all I can see is that lots of people have had problems getting promoted whatever their race, sexual preference etc. It seems to me having worked in the service for 33 years that the person to be promoted has usually been decided upon prior to any job being advertised...and I am 100% certain this has happened with the last two or three promotions at my work place. This whole initiative has been introduced just to enable the Civil Service to gain a shiney award and not for the benefit for any group or community...gone are the days when a staff vote might have won them the 'Best place to work' award!

  81. Comment by Michael posted on

    I couldn't agree more with Kate. I would like to believe that people are promoted on merit and ability but I'm not convinced!

    • Replies to Michael>

      Comment by Amy Farrah-Fowler posted on

      The expression 'promotion on merit' is, unfortunately, ambiguous. Getting something on merit actually means getting it because you deserve it. This is all too often taken to mean promotion on merit because of past performance (or even because it's "your turn"), not because you show any ability or potential to do the job in the higher grade. Merit should, in this context, mean ability, not reward.

  82. Comment by Richard Nichols posted on

    Does any of this include recognising talent and rewarding it accordingly. I have witnessed that the more 'gifted' someone is the more they are 'put-upon' to deliver in these areas with little sign of any reward other than the obligatory R&R vouchers. I would also beg to differ with the thought train that the 'talent' will rise to the top within the civil service. From where I am looking (at the relative foot of the tree) the route up the ladder is blocked by red tape and old-fashioned heirarchies.

    • Replies to Richard Nichols>

      Comment by ADC posted on

      This sounds like the usual load of tosh that we hear everytime someone new is appointed. None of the important issues that people have raised will be addressed and I suspect that like Sir Bob, we won't see any meaningful replies from Mr Heywood on here. In HMRC, whenever these type of questions are raised we get two answers: "PMR (appraisal) is here to stay so tough" and " You can all have 5 days learning so are we a brilliant modern employer" - roll on the People Survey so I can have another good vent but I won't be holding my breath in terms of anything good coming from it.

  83. Comment by Sam posted on

    Sexism - treating a person differently on the basis of their sex
    Racism - treating a person differently on the basis of their race

  84. Comment by Andrew posted on

    I agree with most of what's been said here. In particular the implication that all-male interview panels will be unwelcome but all-female panels are ok sounds like a clear case of actually promoting sexual inequality!

  85. Comment by DK posted on

    Dear Sir Jeremy;

    I welcome the new Action Plan and the future research into experiences. Although, in terms of removing any actual, perceived or unconscious barriers that currently prevent suceeding despite all the good intentions; I think a long due step is to clarify and align the Civil Service policy on line manager endorsement/requirement to let line managers know first when a member of staff is thinking of applying for a new job (promotion or level transfer). And to remove the power that line manager's have over a member of staff's progression. It should be just as the private sector, where all that is required is a reference of some sort.

    I am a BME woman and I joined the Civil Service just under two years ago from the Private Sector (not a fast streamer); I have always been told how impressive I am/my past experience is. Although, since joining, I can feel my mind starting to work slower/react slower - and I think this is due to not being able to exercise the quick thinking/reaction/decision-making that I had to before. Also, I came from an environment where I was trained to get advice right (with dire consequences if it wasn't) so my very senior superiors trusted what I said when I said it.

    I'm regret saying that I am starting to doubt whether the CS is for me; and that since joining the area that I have, I'm plagued mentally with anxiety in meetings, insecurity and self-doubt; which is often deafening to my thought process. The simple answer is to move on - it can't be like that everywhere, right? Wrong. Unfortunately, I have been blocked by a line manager from applying to roles; and I feel guilty about/ perceive that I shouldn't be asking to apply for jobs - that's the impression I have been given. Unfortunately the policy is not currently clear.

    • Replies to DK>

      Comment by Francis posted on

      I totally agree with DK - I too joined CS from the Private Sector and was promised a career. I've met many great, intelligent, hard working people, but advancement and development are viewed very narrowly into particular operational areas. I have looked to roles in other departments for advancement but when I've applied, have discovered they really were not serious about external recruitment from other departments - experiences include being sent the wrong office address to go to when called for interview, and most recently emailing an application to the email address provided to get a reply stating the email address was no longer valid. I too am considering a return to the Private Sector. I'm a white male of a certain age, and a well qualified graduate, but I too have had development opportunities offered me blocked on grounds of 'business need'. It is a struggle seemingly for most in the civil service to move up regardless of ethnicity, unless they are either grade chasers happy to pursue advancement regardless of aptitude or suitability, or seemingly had a private and oxbridge education, as highlighted recently in the media. These are the real barriers we all face - a class ceiling rather than a glass one.

  86. Comment by Anon posted on

    The one and only threat I see to career progression (for all staff, not just BME) is recruiting managers given the ability to recruit thier mates. Nothing to do with diversity. There needs to be transparency and an independent recruitment team who work in a uniform way.

  87. Comment by Richard posted on

    Yet more Civil Service bluff & spin. A load of vacuous meaningless management speak. Spose it gives all the 'consultants' and 'analysts' something to do. How about not lying to me about my pay progression, telling me I would get to the maximum of my grade within 6 years of service, keeping me at the very bottom for 5 years 11 months then at the last minute cancelling it saying it wasn't 'contractual'? Then to add insult to injury putting all the higher grades to their max because of a gender discrimination case! How about actually telling me whether the office I work in is going to close or not rather than constantly hinting at it? How about giving me a pay rise without dumping me in the higher tier for pension contributions so you can take it all back again? How about not repeatedly shafting your lowest grade staff?

  88. Comment by Mandy posted on

    I work within the civil service and I am middle aged and I only joined the CS 6 years ago and started at the bottom of the ladder with the intention of getting promotion as I have all the relevant qualifications and years of experience in order to more than adequately fulfill any promotion to the next grade above mine. However, after so many attempts to get promoted to the next level, completing the comptency based application forms (which has taken me 6 years to perfect) and the frustration of never getting any closer to a job I know I could do with my eyes shut, I find that all my qualifications and experience are never taken into account but instead inexperienced youngsters who have no qualifications or experience are getting the promotion instead. I am not alone as there are 3 other ladies of the same age as myself in the same department as myself who have also applied with more than the required qualifications and experience who have also been turned down for promotion. I would not even mind losing out to someone younger if they had attained anywhere near the same level of experience or qualifications. If you have not reached a certain grade in the CS by middle age you are considered to be for the scrap heap and not worthy of promotion but what a waste of all those years of knowledge, experience and comittment, all going to waste! I think the CS could benefit greatly from all this experience as we are not all "over the hill" at middle age and could give someone younger a run for their money! I feel we are now in the minority group and are being treated very unfairly in the workplace especially as our pensionable age keeps rising so promotion for us is still something we strive for and are more than capable of achieving, if only we are given the chance.

    • Replies to Mandy>

      Comment by Carol posted on

      I too, feel your pain.
      We also don't fit into the favourites and face fits catagories when little projects are upcoming.

  89. Comment by Steve posted on

    Why does HR policy for disabled people vary so much across departments? If a disabled staff member needs to move across departments to ensure their ongoing care is guaranteed (ie being closer to a carer) then huge birick walls are thrown up. Existing Civil Service HR policy does not seem to be inline with newer legislation of the Equality Act 2010. Isnt it time to have one joined-up civil service HR policy and not individual ones to ensure all current and future Equality legislation is met?

    • Replies to Steve>

      Comment by Nigel posted on

      But we've still got further to go on disability then probably any of the other 'minorities'. The Civil Service interestignly hasn't won any top awards in that area. Our policies do not seem to be inline with newer legislation of the Equality Act 2010. Attend a group with disabled staff and shockingly you'll hear stories with similar themes over and over. In the 12 years I've been in the Civil Service I've seen many changes, seen diversity move to a central importance, watched departments move within schemes such as Stonewall top 100 - more and more the areas I have worked in are diverse. BUT as a newly disabled person I am shocked by the discrimination I have come up against in the Civil Service, the ignorance of managers and senior staff. The solution offered was not adjustments but early retirement... thanks but no thanks!

  90. Comment by Marian Oyewole posted on

    As someone from one of the groups that are under represented at the top and also a woman, I am conceren about this proposal as it is implying positive discrimination. Instead people should be given the opportunities/tools required to get better at their job, irrespective of colour, gender or age. What is needed is that we are all treated equally.

    • Replies to Marian Oyewole>

      Comment by Caroline Watson posted on

      Under the Equality Act, positive discrimination is illegal for all protected characteristics except disability. Its purpose there is to enable reasonable adjustments to be made which will put the disabled person on a 'level playing field'. Measures to address the under-representation of certain groups are not positive discrimination, and I find it very depressing that contributors to this page do not undertand the difference. I fully support the comments by Ann Emery about the Civil Service Unions - we would have very few of the measures that support equality and diversity - flexi-time, for example - if it wasn't for the work done by unions and lay officials in our workplaces. I also support the comments made by a number of people about age discrimination. When I was young, very few women progressed beyond EO - it just didn't happen and the culture taught us not to expect it. I actually remember sitting in a staff reports consultation meeting where a male manager commented, 'X will have no interest in promotion as she is about to get married'. Many of us have 30-odd years of experience, are sitting in HEO/SEO roles, and are constantly passed over for anything higher because we no longer have the energy to work ridiculously long hours and don't use 'project-management speak'. Younger women just don't understand how hard we have had to work, and fight, just to be where we are - and the unions, which gave us hope and won our personal cases against discrimination, are being bashed, as are Employment Tribunals - no wonder we are tired!

      • Replies to Caroline Watson>

        Comment by Ralph Cox posted on

        I think Caroline Watson is making some excellent points here, and raising another point which I don't think is addressed elsewhere.

        I have experienced discrimination throughout my life as a result of a learning disability which was diagnosed at age 41. This disability hampered my education and employment prospects, but technical aids I am now entitled to, adjust for this, (often it is hard to obtain's technical aids but that is not a subject I intend to cover here). I also experience the age discrimination which Caroline spoke of but I think it is worth raising the issue of "compound" discrimination.

        After covering the issue of my disability, how this has held me back in the past in terms of education and career should not count against me any more; but it does; and this is discrimination.

        Perhaps this is similar to the discrimination Caroline is experiencing? A "compound" discrimination given that her career has not progressed as it might due to past discrimination – being at a lower grade because of past discrimination should not count against her for future opportunities – that would be discrimination.

        I'm wary of speaking on Caroline's behalf, and invite you, Caroline to comment, given that I have never met you and don't know your circumstances. We can't change the past, the wrongs of the past but surely past discriminations should not be accepted as an excuse for current or future discriminations?

  91. Comment by Amy Farrah-Fowler posted on

    Interesting: talent means only one thing: leadership. The Civil Service is all about ensuring that "the most talented, irrespective of background, reach the most senior levels of their organisations". No mention of providing rewarding careers to those who aren't leadship types (on this view of leadership) but who nevertheless have other skills and talents to bring to the party; no mention of a reward structure based on anything but promotion. The Action Plan appears to do nothing to address the issues identified in the Hays report on encouraging and supporting more women into the SCS, which found that the SCS is 'a bear pit' full of opinionated, pushy people (are these the people with talent for 'leadership'?). And all the while assuming that, while white heterosexual able-bodied men dominate the top of the tree, that there is no need for doing anything for other white heterosexual able-bodied men who aren't.

  92. Comment by Catherine John posted on

    Dear Sir Jeremy Heywood,

    I read the title of this article in my Civil Sevice news email - Talent Action Plan: Removing the barriers to success - and it made me excited that there maybe something a talented indervidual like myself could get involved in to help me formulate a carrier for myself. On reading the article I realised the title was total missleading.. as a grunt level worker who has huge drive and ambition I feel so disappointed you didn't/don't have anything insightful or interesting or helpful to tell me or that I could get involved in to improve my chances of progressing in life!
    If this changes though by all means I would love to here about action I could get involved in.
    Catherine John BSc

  93. Comment by Dawn Parkin posted on

    Whilst applauding equality i cannot endorse positive discrimination which benefits no-one.

  94. Comment by Paul posted on

    Let's not reject this good initiative because some people's individual experience have been good. I get fed up with people who say "Well I've never had a problem" as if that single experience overthrows all the evidence of barriers and discrimination. Such interventions allow discrimination to thrive. There needs to be systematic improvements and this is a step in the right direction. There is much here to applaud.

    I worry about senior managers picking their 'favourite' staff to mentor. Mentoring benefits to both parties will sometimes come from there being several steps of grade separation between mentor and mentee. People need time and sometimes training to do this properly. I used to involved in a great scheme BME mentoring scheme in DTI. The department's participation was cut due to, yep, lack of funding.

  95. Comment by Dee posted on

    I too cannot understand the comment regarding all male interview panels. Surely there are just as many men out there who could be intimidated by all female panels. More importantly, to me at least, is for the panel members, whatever their gender, to have the right 'people skills' to conduct an interview!

  96. Comment by Alec posted on

    This should be about positive action not positive discrimination and the comment "Many of my own closest advisers are women" is frankly not the correct attitude. The attitude of Kate I fully support, she got the job because she was the best person not a "tick box" to get our % levels up. As for interview boards, let us put the best people on those boards irrespective of gender.

  97. Comment by Jan posted on

    Also you should address the many Agency staff who are underpaid and have no benefits at all even though they have worked for the same department for over 3 years

  98. Comment by Carol posted on

    I'm with Kate on this one. Token gestures are just that. The BEST people should be on the interviewing panel (regardless of gender) and they should recruit the BESTperson for the job reagrdless of gender, disability/ability, faith, creed etc. Positive discrimination is not all its cracked up to be.

  99. Comment by Kevin Evans posted on

    Understand the need for this Talent document. However, why does the Civil Service have an appraisal system that discriminates against the over 50s, Disbaled and Black and Minority Ethnic staff. A system that was similarly run by Microsoft and corporate America and now has been ditched by Microsoft and corporate America. I think the Civil Service is missing a trick and needs to look at staff appraisal methods it is using.

  100. Comment by Daniel Rafferty posted on

    Dear Sir Jeremy Heywood

    I suggest that you reform the pay across all branches of the CS. I work for DSTL and we get paid less than the equivalent grades in MOD. You have the passport office saying the same about the Home Office, the HMT saying the same about the HMRC and so on. You have one government dept poaching staff from another

    If you want talent then you have to pay the market rate for it.
    if you want the CS to remain one of the best employers in the country the you have to make the wages attractive, which currently they are not. No one in there right mind will take a job with an employer, when that employer is imposing a 1% cap on salaries

    Yours Sincerely

    Daniel Rafferty BEng(Hons), MSc, MIET

    • Replies to Daniel Rafferty>

      Comment by N Goodwin posted on

      The problem is the jobs are not the same even though the grades are, so if you want level pay for a grade across the CS you will need to evaluate jobs first so they are graded correctly. There are currently massive differences (i.e. some HO's in HMRC have very wide management spans whereas in other CS departments they are much narrower)

      • Replies to N Goodwin>

        Comment by Penny posted on

        This is true. I'm equivalent to a HEO, and yet I'm fulfilling some compentencies on the Civil Service COmpetency Framework at grade 4, which is about 2 or 3 grades higher. Why I do I get paid less than most people in HEO roles then??

    • Replies to Daniel Rafferty>

      Comment by Angela posted on

      I completely agree with Daniel Rafferty's comments. Disparity in pay within the Civil Service is appalling. I have been in the position of mentoring staff who have transferred from another Department with far less experience only to learn that they earn 15k more than me. Within my own Department, lawyers doing exactly the same job are paid as much as 17k more - not for experience but simply because of length of service. The work loads are similar so why is the pay so disparate? It is the cause of low morale in our Department.

      • Replies to Angela>

        Comment by Lynn B posted on

        Surely Angela length of service is a part of experience? You can have a wide experience base (many posts) or a narrow one (few posts). I have found it is the people who talk well that get on not the ones that do the job well on the MoD.

        • Replies to Lynn B>

          Comment by , posted on

          This is also my experience. The only way to get promoted is through a 30-45min interview with no actual reference to how well you have performed. I.e. a project manager can talk about what they did well on a project but if the project ultimately failed because of them there is no means of identifying this at interview and they can sail through. This is for me the biggest reason why much of the talent potential remains unfulfilled in the civil service and why many people are promoted into jobs they simply aren't ready for.

  101. Comment by Terry posted on

    So I assume that as a white heterosexual protestant male I am going to be further discriminated against?

    • Replies to Terry>

      Comment by Michael posted on

      Yes because white heterosexual men face discrimination on a daily basis...

  102. Comment by Alan Lewis posted on

    Any plans to redress historical under-privilege due to class, age or possession of a critical faculties ?

  103. Comment by Alison Smith posted on

    Removing barriers and making best use of talent?

    Twenty years ago I applied for fast-tracking. I was a graduate, which was something of a rarity then at EO level. I had a wealth of varied work experience and gained good qualifications during the course of two previous careers so I thought I merited some consideration. But I was rather surprised to be asked by my then counter-signing officer whether I'd attended a 'good school'. When I could only say that I went to a good 'comp' and did quite well academically, he (yes, inevitably a 'he'), expressed his reservations but reluctantly agreed to endorse my application. I don't know whether he ever did or not, but it soon became clear to me that I wasn't ever going to get anywhere and the few opportunities for promotion where I worked were already allocated within what I can only describe as a local mediocracy. Do I see any difference today? Of course not! Silly question. Would I ever recommend the civil service as a career? I don't think I need to answer that.

  104. Comment by R Lindley posted on

    Perhaps you should start by paying people the agreed rate for the job, by reinstating pay progression. You would then at lest motify your existing workforce.

    • Replies to R Lindley>

      Comment by Iain Newton posted on

      I agree with the comments about (a) improving pay and (b) making it consistent across Depts. As hinted at, this issue come into focus when people go on loan to a lower paying Dept, but take their pay rate with them (as I've experienced this with incoming staff doing exactly the same level work as me - indeed, is this legal ?). Also, when people go out on loan on temporary promotion (following open competition), some parent Depts nevertheless still expect them to revert to their substantive grade and take a huge pay cut when they
      return a few years a later, notwithstanding their up skilling (as I have experienced) .

      This is completely unreasonable, and is often applied inconsistently by Depts anyway. If people have done a satisfactory year in the higher grade, their promotion should be confirmed.

  105. Comment by Mike H posted on

    Surely all-female selection lists and interview panels should also only be by exception. Bias, conscious or otherwise, can work both ways.

  106. Comment by Robin (DEFRA LGB&T Network Ace Rep) posted on

    Greetings and many congratulations on your new appointment. You say that you will be conducting research into the experiences of “those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender,” please can you confirm whether you will also be looking into the experiences of asexual staff within the Civil Service?

  107. Comment by Ute Collier posted on

    What about age? In my experience, the civil service provides lots of opportunities to young high flyers but isn't particularly interested in those of us who have plenty of experience (e.g. from outside the civil service) but for a variety of reasons haven't climbed the ladder quickly in our younger years. Now we're 'middle-aged' (I hate that word!) and can't get anywhere, with SCS 1 jobs mostly going to young fast streamers. With application forms that only ask for the last 2 or 3 jobs, noone is interested in our 20 years worth of diverse experience. Competency-based applications and interviews also provide little opportunity to demonstrate long, wide-ranging experience. Leadership can benefit from maturity but I don't think that's recognised enough.

  108. Comment by Pete Pitman posted on

    Once again, the white working-class male is left out in the cold.

    • Replies to Pete Pitman>

      Comment by patrick moloney posted on

      I totally agree with Pete Pitman, its always the same, white working class male gets no mention.

    • Replies to Pete Pitman>

      Comment by Mark Mavin posted on

      I totally agree with this comment. It seems as a white male i do not have a voice anymore and now feel excluded. Is there any point in developing? Where are the development programmes to help me to succeed? Positive Action may be legal but it is discriminating against me no matter how you dress it up

  109. Comment by Kate posted on

    I do not understand why all male interview panels should be ended. I (a woman!) was interviewed by an all male panel and got the job because I was the best candidate. I have been the interviewer where all the candidates were male and we appointed one of them because they were the best candidate instead of running another campaign to see if a woman was out there. I have also employed disabled people not because I had to, but because they proved they were the most capable. I am fed up with all this tokenistic jargon about positive discrimination. I want to be promoted based on merit, by a panel of people who themselves are there by merit.

    • Replies to Kate>

      Comment by Alan Lewis posted on

      Mixed panels prevent sectional bias which might stop the best candidate getting the post. If you want yourself & others to be accepted on merit then go along with measures that avoid counter-productive artificial cultural distortions in selection.

      • Replies to Alan Lewis>

        Comment by CT posted on

        Does this mean all female interview panels will continue?

    • Replies to Kate>

      Comment by Michael J posted on

      Well I did notice in the "Talent Action Plan" that all male interview panels would be clamped down on. Does this also mean, by logical extension, that all female panels will also be "clamped down on"? Or are they OK? It's either sloppy wording or a possible breach of equality laws.

    • Replies to Kate>

      Comment by Miriam posted on

      I agree with you Kate; the best candiates should get shortlisted irrelevant of gender etc. I personally find it insulting if I was specifically shortlisted because I am female and not on my own merits. If it happens that the shortlisted canidates are male then so be it.

  110. Comment by MJ posted on

    I think statements like this can be compared to the Barclays Premier League and the bias between players/managers called John, Carl and Matthew being overlooked for being workmanlike, same old-same old etc. but Jean, Karl and Matthieu being seen as a great choice for being exotic, bringing something new in etc. etc. Despite the fact they are equally workmanlike and apt to shrink back to "same old-same old".

    If I may quote from the BBC -

    "Casey Stoney: Why being a gay mum can help my England career"

    Surely being a good soccer player should help her carerr - being a gay Mum shouldn't have anything to do with it - are we saying that in effect we're going to purposefully over-represent people just to tick boxes?

    • Replies to MJ>

      Comment by David Briggs posted on

      I couldn't agree more with MJ statement. I am a gay man working in the civil service but it has nothing to do with how well I do my job. I want to be judged on my abilities not my sexual orientaion. I fully support making sure there is no bias against minorities to make sure we can all be judged on a level playing field but I am totally opposed to positive discrimination. promote people on merit not to fill a quota.

      • Replies to David Briggs>

        Comment by Michael posted on

        Nobody is talking about positive discrimination. For one thing it is illegal.....

        • Replies to Michael>

          Comment by John posted on

          Positive discrimination is not in fact illegal and can be applied in an interview scenario if there are two candidates with identical abilities. The act of positive discrimination will allow for the person from the ethnic background who was discriminated against or under represented to fill the vacancy to allow for integration and representation within the workforce.

    • Replies to MJ>

      Comment by KS posted on

      I too, agree with MJ statement. I don't want special treatment just because I'm a woman, or just because I'm a part-time worker, and I don't want to be seen as receiving special treatment - I think this just causes resentment. I also don't want to be up against someone that is receiving special treatment - it should be an equal playing field, with any promotion based on merit alone, and the best person for the job. Having been in the service for 23 years I have been on the receiving end of discrimination many times due to my working pattern. The policies sit in a file in the office, and they are still ignored, mainly by management.

      • Replies to KS>

        Comment by S Lane posted on

        Having been in the Civil Service for over 30 years, I can honestly say that I have never been discriminated against just because I am a woman. I have always felt that I was judged on my performance in the job, not on my gender. I would like to see opportunities such as mentoring schemes open to all staff; it's wrong to exclude people just because they happen to belong to an "over-represented" group. The Civil Service risks losing out on developing talented staff if it fails to address this issue.

  111. Comment by Michael posted on

    I commend any efforts to ensure that the Civil service strives to be a more inclusive employer. However, in your first paragraph you implied that women are a minority. They are not. Women actually make up the majority of the population in Britain. I think it very important that in order to be make these initiatives work that the difference between 'minorities' and 'under represented' groups within society are clearly defined.

    • Replies to Michael>

      Comment by George Jeffreys posted on

      I think it isn't just a case of being a 'minority'. That in itself is not a reason for exclusion. Some ethic minorities are not excluded. eg the Jewish 9opulation is not very excluded these days. Oxbridge graduates are a minority but no-one claims they are excluded.

      • Replies to George Jeffreys>

        Comment by . posted on

        Oxbridge graduates are a minority but no-one claims they are excluded." what tosh Oxbridge vastly overrepresnted in faststream and high grades in preportion to amount in the counrty.

  112. Comment by Josh Trumann posted on

    This action plan must be result oriented. Over the last two decades, they have been various laudable initiatives which look excellent on paper but very thin on substance and outcome. The important outcome must be the diversity of bums on seats in the civil service especially at management and senior management. So it begs the question, are these initiatives effective? The answer is a big NO given that the peaks of the civil service are still very snowy and testicular. I am tempted to think these initiatives are a PR gimmicks intended to contain those who are affected by discrimination in the civil service for no body really cares that the workplace still discriminates despite these initiatives. The clue of imminent failure of the action plans is in the fact that they are often led by those who intentionally or inadvertently contribute to discrimination at the exclusion of those who are affected. It is a bit like trying to improve the patient experience without the involvement of patients. It feels like containment to me. It's a shame and it's hurting Great Britain.

    • Replies to Josh Trumann>

      Comment by EJE posted on

      I commend the effort to remove barriers to progress. The blog is spot on in identifying some of the root causes of the barrier and I would welcome practical action that actually removes them.

      The blog makes mention of "Minority Ethnic Talent Association (META) Scheme, which I have never heard of before. I checked the DWP intranet but found no information at all. When I searched on Google it brought me right back to this blog. Could you please provide information on the scheme.

    • Replies to Josh Trumann>

      Comment by G Burman posted on

      There are little issues with whole manangement chain (EO and up) is female up to Grade 7 and was up to Grade 5 until a year ago. Lin Homer, the organisation's Chief Executive was a woman. If anything, men at lower grades (AA to SEO) are at a disadvantage for promotion.

    • Replies to Josh Trumann>

      Comment by K posted on

      I'll file this under "thanks for the sentiment".

      Its nice to see government mandarins rush around with a diversity strategy after even the politicians have noted the absolute dearth of upward movement and participation of BME staff in all senior levels of the civil service...

      There is a long standing and entrenched problem of fairness in this respect in the civil service and is just another example of instutional establishments still not embracing real diversity even in this day and age...I guess we will see damn lies and statistics rule this area for a while yet...