Last week saw the Civil Service celebrate National Inclusion Week. It was the first year that we had taken part and I am delighted that departments and teams across the country participated so enthusiastically and imaginatively.
Some of the highlights included the announcement last Monday of four new independent external diversity advisers to really push the Civil Service to be more inclusive (you can read their blogs here); the publication for the first time on Thursday of each permanent secretary’s tailored diversity objectives and, on Friday, a major session on diversity at the Senior Leadership Group.
Since I became Head of the Civil Service just over a year ago, diversity has been one of my and the Civil Service Board’s top three priorities.
For as long as I am Head of the Civil Service it will remain so. And I know that Matt Hancock, Minister for the Cabinet Office, shares my passion. With the success of National Inclusion Week, it is a good time to look back and assess how much progress we have made.
Our progress so far
My ambition for the Civil Service is for us to be the UK’s most inclusive employer. It must be right that we allow our most talented staff to progress through the organisation, whatever their background. And it must also be right that the Civil Service reflects the society we serve in modern Britain. But, above all, we need to be the best in the UK because it makes good business sense. The Civil Service faces massive challenges as we adapt to the rapidly shifting landscape of policy and public service delivery. We cannot meet these challenges without allowing our best talent to shine.
I am pleased with how much we have achieved over the last year. The original Talent Action Plan (TAP), launched a year ago, was the major first step. Based on independent in-depth research, initially into gender issues, it included important initiatives such as the introduction of shared parental leave and measures to promote flexible working. The majority of its recommendations have now been implemented.
The TAP was refreshed in March this year following similarly comprehensive and independent research into issues facing BAME, disabled and LGB&T staff. Implementation of these further recommendations is also well under way and includes extended and expanded talent schemes, major improvements in data collection to assess progress, measures to tackle bullying and harassment and the formation of a single Diversity & Inclusion unit based in the Cabinet Office to bring together policy and delivery. This unit’s work now encompasses efforts to improve our record on social mobility.
We have more to do
This is, however, only the start. We have much more to do to achieve our objective. But we now have a solid foundation in place based on independent and thorough qualitative and quantitative evidence. We have senior level support at both Ministerial and official level including five permanent secretary champions, superbly led by Sue Owen, driving change in their particular areas of focus. Our staff networks do a fantastic job of championing the needs of individual groups and holding our leaders to account. Our new external advisers, through their experience and expertise, will challenge us to go further. Our data collection and analysis is being transformed so that we can truly assess how much real progress we are making.
I believe that what we have already done gives us the springboard to become one of the UK’s most diverse employers. But to become the best we need to go up another level. We need to ensure that the changes in policy are accompanied by changes in culture throughout the Civil Service. And that means all of us looking at what we can do to make ourselves and the teams we work in more inclusive, so that we are not simply ticking the “diversity” box but are actually becoming an organisation that genuinely values difference not conformity.
So, this is an opportunity for the Civil Service through its unique position in society to build and leave a lasting legacy. Each of you can play your part, without waiting to be asked to by your line managers. Keep a look out for more information and news stories - and talk with your colleagues, line managers and senior leaders to help speed the process of bringing to life our vision and aims to raise business efficiency and create a competitive edge through making the Civil Service the most diverse, inclusive and therefore successful employer in Britain.