Civil Service Talent Action Plan

Blog by Sandra Kerr OBE, National Director of Race for Opportunity

Last week I attended the launch of the Refreshed Talent Action Plan, Removing the Barriers to Success at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. The plan aims to ensure the best people progress in the Civil Service and that it remains one of the best and most progressive UK employers. Diversity is a key factor in this; the work of the Civil Service impacts on people across the country and therefore it’s vital that it reflects those it serves, including in its representation of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people.

The Civil Service has made good progress on increasing diversity, with its BAME population across all departments now standing at 9.6 per cent (up from 5.7 per cent in 1998), rising to 11.6 per cent and 16 per cent in the Fast Stream and Fast Track Apprenticeship programmes respectively. However, in the Senior Civil Service, just 4 per cent of employees are BAME – something which needs to change if we are to encourage more young BAME people to consider the Civil Service as a career option.

Addressing this gap is one of the key planks of the Talent Action Plan and I am delighted to see the Civil Service is using many of the same techniques as the top performing organisations in our 2014 Gender and Race Benchmark. These include ensuring every department has a board member responsible for monitoring progress, addressing unconscious bias and unintentional barriers to diverse candidates, mentoring for under-represented groups and stronger support for staff networks. It would like to see more Civil Service Departments complete our Gender and Race Benchmark to help them to chart progress.The survey opens in May so no time like the present! It’s good to see things like a commitment to inclusive leadership training for new managers, focus on reviewing data to understand what action is needed to increase the diversity of talent pipelines within the refreshed plan.

Many Civil Service departments have already been recognised for their efforts in boosting diversity within their own workforce. At the Race for Opportunity 2014 Awards Showcase last week, both HM Revenue & Customs and the Civil Service spoke about their winning programmes. These schemes are having a tremendous impact on the organisations – both HMRC’s embrace programme, which has boosted BAME representation in leadership roles, and the Civil Service’s Whitehall Internships which have helped raise young BAME people’s aspirations to work in the corridors of power. We also heard from staff members who had benefitted from the programmes which was incredibly powerful and inspiring. Both the rForeign and Commonwealth Office and the Crown Prosecution Service were also finalists in last year’s awards, showing that this is an issue that matters to many departments. The Race for Opportunity Awards 2015 are now open and I look forward to seeing how many Civil Service departments will submit entries – and maybe even win – this year.

The Civil Service offers a great example of an organisation that is taking workforce diversity seriously and has set out clear plans of how it aims to achieve this. With clear leadership from the top and  co-ordinated action with strong leadership at all management levels across all departments, using approaches that have been proven to be effective, I believe it is well-placed to achieve its aims.