https://civilservice.blog.gov.uk/2015/11/24/making-sure-the-civil-service-has-got-talent/

Making sure the Civil Service has got talent

Picture of Una O'BrienAutumn always brings a range of popular TV shows featuring aspiring talent, whether it’s in dancing, singing or business. But encouraging and supporting talented people in the Civil Service is a year-round activity. In my role as chair of the Civil Service Talent Board, I have the pleasure of seeing the breadth of our talent, from apprentices and fast-streamers, right through to the most senior civil servants.  

One of my priorities is to ensure equal access to high-potential corporate talent schemes for departments and professions and for candidates from a wide range of different backgrounds. This year, we advertised entry to the Future and Senior Leaders Schemes much more widely than before. We provided a tool for people to judge for themselves whether they had the necessary skills and behaviours to be successful on the schemes, rather than leave it to someone else to nominate them.  

We had an unprecedented response. Over 1,300 people expressed an interest, covering most government departments, 23 out of 26 government professions and a diverse spread of candidates from different backgrounds. We have now finished interviewing over 500 people, who will find out in early December if they have a place. Next year, we plan to expand the number of places on offer again, to help grow the talent pipeline for the most senior leadership roles in the Civil Service and significantly improve its diversity.

Increasingly diverse

Turning to the Fast Stream, over the last few months we have welcomed nearly 1,000 new entrants to the programme, including people joining new specialist programmes for the government communications, finance, commercial and internal audit professions. I enjoyed meeting some of the new fast-streamers recently at their induction event.

The latest annual report on Fast Stream recruitment encouragingly reveals that the programme is becoming increasingly diverse. For example, the proportion of people coming from black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds has increased year on year. Recent data shows that BAME representation in the latest cohort stood at 14.2%, a few percentage points away from fully matching the target population in universities. We are making headway on all diversity fronts, but need to do more to ensure fast-streamers better reflect the society we serve. So, attracting talent from under-represented groups to the programme is a top priority. To find out more, visit the Fast Stream website and Facebook pages.

The initial intake of 100 Fast Track apprentices who started back in 2013 are drawing towards the end of their programme. After two years with the Civil Service, the apprentices will graduate not only with first-class professional experience but also a higher education certificate. I warmly congratulate them on their forthcoming graduation, in January, and all the best for their future careers.

Our responsibility

For further information about the Civil Service’s apprenticeship programmes, visit Civil Service Apprenticeships website. The 2014 intake was 206, and for this year we have already made over 550 placements. The next recruitment round commences in January 2016 for study on Business Administration, Digital, Cyber Security, Finance and Commercial Fast Track schemes.

We all have a responsibility to identify and develop talent, wherever we are in the Civil Service. Each of us should also feel encouraged to put ourselves forward for the various talent schemes, knowing that we will have support and a fair chance of success.

Developing ourselves and our highest potential civil servants to be inspiring, confident and empowering is crucial to the future of the organisation.

28 comments

  1. Anon

    Una, I am very pleased that the civil service talent schemes are taking off in this way. It's long overdue that we have a more effective way to identify and nurture talent across the organisation.

    But can I also make a plea that more is done to effectively deploy and use this talent. There is very little opportunity across the Civil Service at present, coupled with rock bottom wages, and I am tired of seeing highly talented colleagues seek better opportunities outside Government. I joined the civil service to make a difference to people's lives, something I still feel passionately about, and know I can't have the same impact on the public from the private sector. But frankly I am underused and underpaid and am for the first time looking at what's on offer outside Whitehall.

    I am someone who has been recognised as highly talented. I am not alone in feeling like this, and I hope the Civil Service will do more to reward those of us who deliver in this way - not just financially but with work which matches our skills and potential.

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    • Rob - CS Talent

      Thanks for your comment. You’re quite right that we need to deploy talented people across the Civil Service. This gives people interesting and developmental careers and also helps us deliver better services for the public. It’s disappointing to hear about the way you feel and if you would like to speak to someone in the Civil Service Talent Team then please drop them an email: civilservicetalent@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

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  2. Martin

    I've already completed all the necessary hurdles for senior management, having trained & completed the work while enduring duties and projects additional to the previous candidate, I was dropped without explanation.

    I can't recommend the Civil Service fast track promotion schemes to anyone because it's evident from the degree of corruption endemic in the system, that only those whose face fits are welcomed to the upper eschelons and not those who are really worthy of the positions available.

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  3. Anthony

    All very well promoting talent, but these scheme are aimed at "young" people. Where are the schemes for those of us over 55 who want to be leaders?

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    • Rob - CS Talent

      Thanks for your comment. All the talent schemes in this blog are open to all irrespective of age. In fact, this year a third of the FLS/SLS candidates interviewed were 40 years old or above.

      Similarly, whilst the Fast Stream is marketed alongside other graduate recruitment programmes, the majority of Fast Streamers do not join the programme straight from university. Our latest data shows that the median age of Fast Streamers is 27 (and 31 for ‘In Service’ entrants who join the programme on transfer from other Civil Service positions).

      Although the Fast Track Apprenticeship Scheme has previously targeted school leavers, the age restriction was removed this year to ensure the selection process is in line with Civil Service Commissioners' principles for fair and open recruitment based on merit. 70 apprentices in the new cohort are aged over 25, 21 of these being over 30.

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  4. DKW

    Could you please provide a link to the Future and Senior Leaders Schemes tool for people to judge whether they have the necessary skills and behaviours to be successful on the schemes? I can't locate it in the intranet. Thanks.

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  5. Andy Watson

    "We provided a tool for people to judge for themselves whether they had the necessary skills and behaviours to be successful on the schemes, rather than leave it to someone else to nominate them."

    My experience of development schemes is that they rely on self nomination. I have observed that probably as a result of this they are largely populated by arrogant big-mouths with neither the talent to fulfil the role nor the humility to learn from their mistakes. These are your future leaders.

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  6. The Usual Sceptic

    When will FTAs be able to participate?
    When will those within talent management be offered hard skills rather than repetitive soft skills?
    When will the relevant depatments genuinely engage with those participating in training?

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    • Rob - CS Talent

      Thanks for your comment. People on fixed-term appointments may be eligible for the Future and Senior Leaders Schemes, depending on the policy in their department. The Fast Stream and Fast Track Apprenticeship programmes are advertised externally and anyone can apply.

      People on the Future and Senior Leaders Schemes will benefit from a curriculum focussed on leadership development, but participants also have access to skill areas identified as priorities for the Civil Service such as commercial, digital, etc.

      Fast Streamers complete a bespoke learning and development pathway during their programme which equips them with both hard a soft skills to apply in their placements and in future leadership roles. You can see what is included on the Fast Stream L&D pathway by clicking on the following link: http://faststreamlearning.uk/

      Fast Track apprentices gain accredited qualifications during their time on the scheme, which are equivalent to a foundation degree.

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  7. Anon

    I would like to support the points made by the comment above.

    Talent schemes are vital in ensuring the effectiveness of the Civil Service, both in the short and long term. It is great that the Civil Service now welcomes anyone from any background to join the organisation in order to deliver a better service for the public.

    I also believe however that more must be done to support and nurture those who are identified as talented. As a member of one of the schemes mentioned in the article, I feel that the opportunities available to me and those on my scheme are sporadic and inconsistent, with a heavy reliance on individual line managers and teams develop their staff.

    It is a well known fact that some Government Departments have many members of staff nearing retirement age and that their roles will have to be filled by someone else. If the Civil Service is to truly prosper in the future, then surely it needs to invest in the people that are going to carry it forward and not force them into feeling that there are better opportunities elsewhere.

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    • Rob - CS Talent

      Thanks for your comment. You don’t say which scheme you’re in, so difficult to reply specifically, but I am sorry you feel the opportunities open to you are not coherent. You are absolutely right that we need to invest in people for the future, which is why I highlighted the schemes in the blog.

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  8. Buster Friendly

    Having been used as a springboard for many fast streamers, and seeing my degree and experience count for nothing at interviews, I am sceptical about any such schemes. All you appear to need to gain promotion is the ability to say the right thing at interviews; many fast streamers I have encountered do not have any real life experience outside of educational environments, and are grossly lacking in interpersonal skills. This translates into managers without the ability to deal with people or, indeed to manage properly, and as a result staff are being bullied and suffering other insults from these type of people- I know, because as a union rep my personal casework is exclusively bullying and harassment caused by poor management.

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    • Rob - CS Talent

      Thank you for your comment. We recognise how important developing effective people management skills is for Fast Streamers. We have made gaining people management experience mandatory and Fast Streamers need to complete at least one posting which focuses on this core skill and undertake formal people management training.

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  9. Ewok

    Yep, fast track scheme if your face fits or you are a young graduate. For those of us remaining, or at the wrong end of the age scale, we don't have a scheme to develop existing talent - a situation that hasn't changed since I was in the military where my skills weren't recognised resulting in my departure.
    The situation is the same, I was employed based on my expereince in the private sector but on talking up the role find that the experience gained in the private sector doesn't matter and not considered. I too feel am underused and also on the bottom of the pay scale (My choice) but it does mean I am considering going back into the private sector where my skills are actually recognised and rewarded

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    • Rob - CS Talent

      Thanks for your comment. All the talent schemes in this blog are open to all irrespective of age.

      All the talent schemes in this blog are open to all irrespective of age. In fact this year a third of the FLS/SLS candidates interviewed were 40yrs old or above.

      Similarly, whilst the Fast Stream is marketed alongside other graduate recruitment programmes, the majority of Fast Streamers do not join the programme straight from university. Our latest data shows that the median age of Fast Streamers is 27 (and 31 for ‘In Service’ entrants who join the programme on transfer from other Civil Service positions).
      Although the Fast Track Apprenticeship Scheme has previously targeted school leavers, the age restriction was removed this year to ensure the selection process is in line with Civil Service Commissioners' principles for fair and open recruitment based on merit. 70 apprentices in the new cohort are aged over 25, 21 of these being over 30.

      Link to this comment
  10. Neil Sutherland

    It would be wonderful to believe the Government is serious about this, but those of us who are accustomed to basing our judgments on evidence are not convinced. Just give us a reason to believe!

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  11. Anonagainonagain

    I find it ironic that the Perm Sec of the Department of Health (DH) speaks of increasing diversity in the Fast Stream. When the Fast Stream was managed by individual departments, internal application was open to those in AO – SEO grades. In 2013, the rules changed; now internal application is limited to AO – HEO grades only. The Department of Health goes along with this and consequently internal application to the Fast Stream has been restricted, disbarring an entire grade of staff from internal application.

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  12. Anon

    The Civil Service Fast Stream is open to applications from all substantive one service Civil Servants. There is no age limit and entrance is based purely on talent and potential.

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  13. Diverse

    I would apply to the senior schemes if there were tailored entry options for diversity groups. Based on the woeful lack of experience of some SCS in understanding development for those with a disability, I'm not confident that I'd get beneficial development on either FLS or other schemes. This article says the scheme is self nominated but my understanding is that departments still have a role in sifting. Independent sifting could go along way to encouraging diverse applicants to feel confident in applying.

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    • Rob - CS Talent

      Thanks for your comment. The self-assessment tool for FLS and SLS was available to everyone through the CS Learning website.

      Departments decided who to put forward for interview based on a range of information sources including positions on the nine-box talent grid, self-assessment scores and psychometric test results. People’s individual characteristics (eg disability declarations or other diversity data) were not taken into account when deciding who to sift out. This is the first year that we have selected people for FLS/SLS in this way. We will need to review this approach see if it needs strengthening for next year.

      You may be interested in the Positive Action Pathway which is a talent scheme for people from under-represented groups.

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  14. Anthony

    I've applied for the Fast Stream as an existing Civil Servant.
    Last week I received an e-mail saying I had not applied for any schemes.
    On Friday evening i went on-line and applied for the Commercial Scheme, answered the relevant questions regarding nationality and Civil Service grade amonst others. Then received a "message" saying I was not eligible for the schemes I applied for. I know extermal candidates require at least a 2:2 Degree, but are not the rules slightly different for serving Civil Servants?

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  15. Paul

    I agree with those comments above, especially by Anthony with regard to age. For those of us in the 50+ group, it is extremely difficult to progress. In some cases, including mine, it has already been decided that our 'face doesn't fit' ('Unconscious Bias' training anyone? Most of our SMT could do with reading that....) I have proved over & over that I am well capable of managing at a higher level, including lengthy periods at TDA - and have been praised and received recognition for changes or new approaches I instigated as a manager. But, it doesn't count for anything in the long run, and myself & colleagues are constantly ignored in favour of the latest Fast Stream selection. With regard to Fast Stream and the obvious age bias, have you seen the Fast Stream Digital pages? I didn't see any examples or images of anyone featured on those that appeared to be 25+ - every single example showed 'young' graduates, prepared to do 'whatever it takes' (as they have no family commitments) to succeed. A clear indication that if you haven't progressed by age 50 then you probably won't (for whatever reason, including a late career change - as happened in my case following redundancy). I cannot think of anything worse than arriving at a Fast Stream induction event and finding that you are at least 20 years older than all the other candidates - and have nothing in common with them (not least the fact that they are graduates and you are there as an existing Civil Servant)

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  16. Tom1

    Unfortunately many of the 'talented' ones I have met wouldn't be out of place in The Apprentice, and to me it seems that if you use the same selection method year after year, then you may get more diversity as far as race, gender, ethnic background etc, but you also get people who think the same way.

    Someone above commented on the fact that many of the people are recent graduates, who have little real life experience or people management knowledge, yet they are put into management/leadership roles where they alienate the staff they lead. In my own Department there is a technical fast track scheme for graduates, but when a staff member asked about what experience or training several new graduates from this scheme had for the management role they were put into, the answer was that they had been through the training programme, so could do anything!

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  17. We don't need to see this identification

    In my department recently there was a recruitment campaign and all interviews were done by telephone. The candidates attended the office in order that their identification and qualifications could be verified, but the interview panel did not get to see the candidate in person as they were in a separate room. Are Fast Stream interviews done this way? If not, why not? I would go one or two steps further and have all candidates respond to the interview questions in a written rather than spoken format, or otherwise have the voices of the candidates disguised. In addition I would have all candidates identified by a number or a code name. The panel does not need to know the name of the applicant. All they should be focussing on is the examples that the candidates provide. Neither do they need to know the race, gender, age, or any other physical characteristics of the candidate unless these are somehow relevant to an example and the information is volunteered. Interviews conducted in such a manner might go some way to solving the problems of both conscious and subconscious bias. My experience of diversity within the Civil Service has been far superior to what I have seen in the private sector. We have the technology now - let's go further.

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  18. Anon

    Surely, to be more inclusive and fair to the whole of the civil service employees - why are our end of year box markings, feedback and scoring from our 121 appraisal meetings etc not being used to promote existing members of staff. If individuals are hitting their targets, meeting and exceeding their yearly box markings in their performance review then surley that would indicate along with a manager's review/reference that the employee is experienced with customers, staff and the business and competent with a deeper understanding of the operational workings of the business.

    It seems that people who have the gift of the gab are better suited for promotion even if their performance at work is low. Fact is some people are just better at interviews whilst other's are better at their job; they adapt quicker, work harder, learn better than those who just blag through an interview. Then what you get is someone in a position who can't do the job properly as they have lesser understanding and with an lesser overall yearly performance marking.

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  19. Jackie

    The Fast Track Apprenticeship scheme is a great idea - but as well as increasing numbers we need to ensure that the placements offered and the managers appointed deliver what is intended. My daughter gained a place on the scheme last year and from having to chase CSR to get her placement, which turns out to be "the most boring job ever", through having a manager who says she is too busy to support her and that as an apprentice she will automatically be a must improve and having very little contact and constant deferall of meetings with her talent coach, at 6 months in she is ready to resign and is applying for other jobs - had it not been for the fact that she relocated to London to take up the job she would have resigned already. It might be a one off, but looking at some of the chat room discussions doesn't seem to be that unusual.

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