We have spoken often about our desire for the Civil Service to be the most inclusive employer in the country and an engine for social mobility. Today, the Minister for the Cabinet Office reiterated this ambition and set out our plan for achieving it.
The first step must be to understand in detail where we start from. And this is exactly what we have done, commissioning the Bridge report, the first of its kind published by any employer in the country, to look at socio-economic diversity in our highly respected Fast Stream graduate programme.
The report shows that although we have made progress on the basis of gender, sexuality and race - for example, over 14% of successful candidates are from ethnic minority groups - there are still far too few applicants to the Fast Stream from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
The Civil Service, like many other institutions, made the assumption that an open and fair recruitment process would encourage candidates who reflect modern Britain. The Fast Stream is ahead of many peer employers in applying inclusive recruitment practices. But it is now clear that this alone is not enough. So, we must respond by taking further steps to ensure we attract and pull through a more representative diversity of talent.
And today we have begun with the announcement of four concrete initiatives:
- name-blind recruitment will be rolled out across the public sector
- the Fast Track apprenticeship scheme is to be expanded as part of a commitment to 30,000 new apprenticeship starts in the Civil Service by 2020
- a number of changes to Fast Stream recruitment, selection and outreach, including establishing a regional assessment centre and shortening the assessment process
- an ‘inequality index’, showing the pay ratio between the salaries of the median and highest-paid employees, will be published so we can measure progress and increase transparency
These alone will not solve the issue, but they are another jump forward in the right direction.
And, importantly, this effort is not just about recruitment, it also depends on nurturing the talent we already have. The general population of the Civil Service is largely representative of the country we serve – we have slightly more women than men, our BAME representation is just below that of the country as a whole, and we have people from a wide range of different socio-economic backgrounds. But we must make sure everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed.
Talent schemes are an important way we can do this. If you believe that anyone in your team has the potential to be part of one of these schemes, please think of nominating them. And if you think you should be supported further, then keep knocking on your manager’s door. Don’t take no for answer. If they think you aren’t ready, then demand the support to raise your performance. We want a culture of ambitious and motivated civil servants doing their best to provide excellent public services.
Social mobility strategy
And most important of all, our leaders must lead by example and take an active role in breaking down the barriers that exist. We need confident leaders, who inspire staff and empower them to excel in their roles. Leaders who work beyond the typical cliques that can form in offices and embrace people who think differently to them. The Leadership Statement sets out these expected behaviours, and we will be supporting all leaders to meet them and then measuring their performance against them at the end of the year.
Along with an update on the Talent Action Plan, we will publish a social mobility strategy in the Spring that will set out our full response to the Bridge Group recommendations and bring all of the initiatives mentioned above into a Civil Service-wide plan. Today’s report makes for sobering reading in some respects. We know we have to do much better. But it is more than a wake-up call - we now have more of the evidence we need to start breaking down barriers and building a Civil Service that is more representative of the society we serve, and a more effective organisation because of it.
Our Chief People Officer Rupert McNeil has responded to some of your comments below.