· 2 min read · Features

Civil service reform: a more flexible culture for employees?


The Government’s reform plan announced in June sets out the ambition to reform the civil service into a sharper, quicker, more agile ‘machine’ to meet the unprecedented challenges facing the UK.

One of the key strands of the reform plan is a 'less hierarchical and more flexible culture' - the need for a more adaptable, open and pacier culture within the civil service. so in the future focus needs to be, not on whether people are at the 'right' grade, but whether they have the right capabilities.

This is likely to mean a need for more flexible resourcing - with people moving between rather than within departments, bringing in talent from outside the civil service if necessary to drive change and much faster deployment of people based on a better understanding of their capabilities and their availability.

This can only happen if Government departments know what skills their people possess.

However, our research shows that whilst civil servants claim to have the requisite skills, only 29% believe their department is assessing individual skills and applying them effectively. In the case of senior civil servants an even higher number, just under half (45%), do not feel their skills are properly utilised.

So given the perceptions of poor current utilisation of talent we believe that the very first task must be to allow individuals to assess their full range of skills, ensure they are visible to managers and thereby develop the capability to deploy and manage people effectively to meet changing workforce demands.

We presented the finding of our research at civil service live in July and received a great deal of feedback from delegates that supported the conclusions. Many civil service employees expressed the view that they would value the opportunity to make their skills more visible to their organisation. They also indicated that they would welcome a system that allowed them to compare their skills to those required for different roles so that they could focus their development on the kind of skills that really mattered to the organisation.

Good practice does exist to provide the basis of reform and to make the most of civil servants' talents. The Department of Work and Pensions, for example, is rolling out its Flexible Resourcing programme to facilitate the centralised management and resourcing of projects. Technology captures the skills of individual, against defined competencies, which are matched to project requirements and individual availability. In addition, civil servants have the ability to manage their own skills development, or that of their team, by the ability to identity skills gaps, development needs and learning solutions. The technology also supports workforce planning and succession management by allowing the organisation to see what overall skills its workforce possesses and areas of risk - where specific skills are in short supply.

Reform of the civil service will need to spread this best practice and apply it across government and by doing so will be in a better position to close the gaps in capability and skills which need to be filled if the Civil Service is to successfully meet today's and tomorrow's challenges.

Andrew Jackson (pictured), practice leader of government solutions at Kenexa