Civil Service workforce data showed under-representation of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff at leadership levels. To address this, the Civil Service’s Minority Ethnic Talent Association (META) set to work to establish a programme to address the imbalance.
The challenge for META was to design a development programme in an area where solutions to this issue had previously been hard to find. The aim was to raise aspirations and expectations among BAME staff, showcase BAME talent, and create a pipeline of BAME staff towards senior leadership – thereby broadening the talent pool into the Senior Civil Service (SCS).
META devised a cross-Whitehall leadership and mentoring programme for BAME employees who are on the threshold of entry into the SCS – this was the Growing Talent programme. High-level mentoring would be supported by skills and personal development, in which participants’ confidence and visibility would be increased and where they would be helped to demonstrate leadership talent and potential.
The programme’s philosophy was to be inspirational, motivational and inclusive - seeking to help participants develop into their future role as leaders and ambassadors. Those who completed the programme would understand the need to take responsibility for changing the culture and creating a climate where diverse leadership would become part of the landscape of the Civil Service.
The first step for META was to secure senior leadership backing for the programme. As a result, the Association was able to establish a Steering Board chaired by a Permanent Secretary, with each Civil Service department committing to sponsor Growing Talent participants within their department.
Senior civil servants have been involved in the Growing Talent programme from the initial interview, assessment and selection. Top civil servants at Permanent Secretary and Director General grade have volunteered as mentors, helping participants to develop a high-level focus to their career planning, acquire a deeper insight into the workings of Whitehall and strengthen their personal leadership style and impact. In addition, a ‘Friends of META’ structure has been established, consisting of senior civil servants who support and promote META’s work within their departments.
The mentoring relationship has involved participants actively developing their career development proposals to form the basis of a two-way conversation. There is a particular focus on the development of presentation skills and learning how to work with senior colleagues and Ministers. There are regular critical feedback sessions in which all participants take part.
Senior civil servants and BAME staff sit on the META Steering Board, chaired by a Permanent Secretary.
The Growing Talent programme followed the guidelines of the Civil Service Talent Action Plan, which established accountabilities for the delivery of diversity objectives. The Growing Talent assessment and selection process was designed to select the right candidates for the programme - matching people who would work well together and support each other through a demanding 18 months. Through this, META has ensured that 96% of entrants have completed the programme and will continue to support each other in their developing careers.
There have now been four programmes over a period of nine years. 53 talented BAME staff have completed the 18-month course. To date, 25% of Growing Talent graduates from the most recently completed programme have already attained entry to the SCS or equivalent posts in government agencies.