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Civil Service

Are you a leader in the making?

Diversity Champion Sue Owen at the Diversity & Inclusion Awards 2015
Diversity Champion Sue Owen at the Diversity & Inclusion Awards 2015

Today, I would say that I’m writing with my Diversity Champion’s hat on. But the truth is that whatever I’m doing you will always find me wearing that hat. Why? Because whatever we are doing in the Civil Service, whether it’s advising on policy, giving customer service, making procurement decisions, hiring staff or generally interacting with colleagues, diversity is a part of that and needs to be given due consideration.

The days when civil servants were stereotyped as bowler-hat-wearing gentlemen, born and raised in the Home Counties, have long gone.

Sir Jeremy Heywood has made it clear that we are proud to be part of an organisation that values difference, whether that means you wear a bowler hat or live for dress-down Fridays.  The Civil Service thrives on these differences, making us stronger and more effective. And making sure we reflect the society we serve, which is vital in allowing us to provide the best service to the public.

The Talent Action Plan 2016 tells us that that the Civil Service is more diverse than it has ever been, which is something to celebrate. But it also shows that the percentage of people with protected characteristics drops in the Senior Civil Service. This lack of representation is not going unchallenged.

Leaders scheme titles in white type on black background divided by white lineThe corporate talent schemes, Future Leaders Scheme (Grades 7/6) and the Senior Leaders Scheme (Deputy Directors - SCS1), aim to create a strong, diverse and robust pipeline through to the most senior roles in government. If you are a talented and ambitious individual at Grades 6/7 or Deputy Director level, then, from 13 June until 1 July, you can apply online.

Head and shoulders of Navroza Ladha
Navroza Ladha, Deputy Director, Government Legal Department, and FLS Cohort 8

The Civil Service needs far more than one kind of leader, so I would encourage you to apply, no matter what your family or professional background, protected characteristic or place or work - be it in frontline delivery in Liverpool, or a corporate or policy role in Whitehall. Put yourself forward to be a leader and a role model of tomorrow.

There are several Civil-Service-wide development programmes, including the Positive Action Pathway, META and Accelerate. With such a choice, it can be difficult to know which development programme is right for you. The content of many leadership schemes may be similar, but the target audience and/or focus is different. For example, the Minority Ethnic Talent Association (META) is specifically for black and minority ethnic civil servants.

Man on bench
Tunde Olayinka, Head of the Lammy Review, MoJ, and FLS Cohort 10

Both META and FLS offer targeted leadership development to civil servants who have the aspiration and ability to progress to SCS level. However, FLS participants are expected to progress at least two grades and have the potential and aspiration to move into the most senior roles, either in their function/profession or across the wider Civil Service.

If you are not sure if the FLS is right for you, then speak to line manager, mentor and/or Head of Talent to discuss your best option.

You can find more information about FLS and SLS on Civil Service Learning. And you can view a selection of video case studies here.

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  1. Comment by excido posted on

    I am an EO within the Civil Service and currently on the Positive Action Pathway programme, I feel overall the programme has benefited me. I have has some support from line managers releasing me for the days required for the programme, none of the information provided from the programme has been ulitised in any one to ones with managers and I found a lot of managers ignorant of the whole programme. I feel, senior leaders need to champion these programmes more effectively but until there is a real push from leaders to do this and employ more BAME employees, nothing will change.

  2. Comment by Larry posted on

    I work in DE&S and I am sorry to say, this is discrimination of the highest order! This a way to exclude people below the Grade 6/7. Can the Civil Service Commission published the data on people with protected characteristic within the grades specified? Personally, BAME staffs within those grades in my department are nil to 5, which is a guess, I have never seen anybody within that BAME within those grades. Also, considering this is an inclusion week! those at the top just say what they don't believe in. The civil service as a provider of equal opportunity is a farce, they design system the preclude certain people. I have done the Postive Action Pathway, but what has become of it? Nothing, just a way to justify that those at the top are doing something about diversity and inclusion, once the programmes are done, you are left to your own devices.
    Please, I will implore the power that be at the civil service to stop pulling wool over our faces. For someone like me, I see what lies beneath, meaning I can read in between the lines and certainly confirm with authority that, all this initiatives is to make the Civil Service looks good that they are trying to include everyone. But for those with open mind and open eyes, it is a words rather than action. Where is the continuity provided even when you finish this programme is that is truely what they wanted "Inclusion", your guess is as good as mine.

  3. Comment by Christopher posted on

    BAME staff below G7 might want to investigate the Positive Action Pathway if your Department supports it.

  4. Comment by Mal James posted on

    I was employed as a leader/middle manager in my previous employment, attended leadership schools and achieving qualifications L5 Diploma in Management and Leadership also Affiliateship in leadership and management. I am grade AO in my current employment, not that this is an issue; however, I believe grades above AO would benefit from a leadership programme, not to say that they are poor but some persons have never been exposed to leadership roles and are now employed in a senior/supervisory role. Given the opportunity to participate in a leadership programme at a lower grade enables them to practice and grow into their role and also identify the different techniques available as a leader of which could enhance their skills as they progress through the grades.

  5. Comment by Sal posted on

    Talent should not be defined from the very higher levels only.
    You are missing out from the huge talent pool itching to show their abilities by confining this
    promotion to such high level personnel.
    Very unfair and very non diverse !!

  6. Comment by Luis posted on

    This is not to disagree with Anthony and others but to bring in another dimension to this issue of professional development: these schemes still aren't holistic enough as they don't address the aspirations of civil servants who are vastly talented and endowed with a wealth of experience and high value qualifications but have just started off at AA grade.

  7. Comment by Anthony posted on

    Sorry to disagree Sheils, but these schemmes ought to be aimed at E1s (AOs).

  8. Comment by Sheila posted on

    I have had plenty of opportunities in the recent years to develop myself in DWP and have been identified for the Talent Management Programme as an EO and recently on TDA/HEO. Unfortunately, I think the support does not continue consistently from Senior Managers/Leaders and many are not ready to support in the change of culture in working and transformation in DWP. My personal commitments allow me now to be flexible, which I am, and take up jobs to help with my Development. Are there any Schemes for grades EO? Its at this level that Schemes should be aimed at so that people who want to aim high can be supported fairly and consistently.

  9. Comment by Pragati Raithatha posted on


    This is great - will there be any similar opportunities at lower grades? I am an SEO grade.

  10. Comment by Annie posted on

    What is so myopic about this is that it assumes leaders can only come from current Grade 7/6 personnel. Pray tell, from whence will the grades 7/6 individuals come? Space? You need to get it right from the bottom. Talent management is not only for senior managers.

    At times, my head aches from some of what I see in the civil service.

  11. Comment by CSExit posted on

    Staff can only prove their leadership ability when given the opportunity to do so. Having been part of my department for a decade. I have experienced both the freedom to undertake my job and provide leadership to accomplish the outcomes, and sadly the more common stifling of critical thinking. I am and have been part of a number of development schemes yet I feel their impact is low, the CS leadership have been bleating about this for years and there has been marginal, if any, change.
    A recent influx of contractors means that the majority of challenge tasks are now undertaken by staff outside the civil service, and even those that are hired in are not a particular diverse bunch. This is an opportunity limiting factor for all CS staff and drains talent away.
    The bowler-hats might have gone but the private networks, attitudes and culture are still present.

  12. Comment by Anthony Blacker posted on

    Where is the talent scheme for E1s?

    • Replies to Anthony Blacker>

      Comment by T posted on

      The Fast Stream. If you work for the Civil Service you can apply any time.

  13. Comment by Angela Seesurrun posted on

    As a talented BAME G7 I was basically told not to bother applying because my child care responsibilities prevent me from taking part in the residential elements. Schemes often claim to support diversity without really thinking this through. BAME staff are less likely to have wide support networks to manage childcare. There are other schemes but this this one has a strong reputation and I feel excluded.

    • Replies to Angela Seesurrun>

      Comment by The FLS/SLS Team posted on

      Thank you for your comment. We are disappointed to learn you feel excluded. All talented G7s are encouraged to consider the FLS regardless of their personal circumstances. Jeremy Heywood and I have communicated our commitment to the scheme and our clear expectation that departments will encourage and support a diverse cadre of applications.

      Many current FLS/SLS participants are parents or carers from a variety of backgrounds. We provide a forward look of dates for residential modules far in advance, so that participants can plan ahead, and we aim to be as flexible as possible to enable people to attend the learning.

      We regularly evaluate the FLS and SLS programme and receive consistent positive feedback on the residential aspect from all participants. It provides them with an opportunity to come away from their busy jobs, to immerse themselves in the learning environment, and to build strong connections with their cohorts. We would encourage you to speak with your line manager in the event that departmental support may be available to enable your attendance. Alternatively, if your own personal circumstances make attending the residential learning impossible, then you may want to speak with your Head of Talent to find out what other opportunities might benefit you more.

      CS Talent would be happy to talk to you in more details about your circumstances and how we can help.

      The FLS/SLS team

      • Replies to The FLS/SLS Team>

        Comment by T posted on

        Just adding to that - there was a woman still breast-feeding her child on the FLS launch day. I'm surprised that you were advised in such a manner.