Estates and smart working: priorities for the government property profession

Written by Janet Young on 18 October 2019 in Feature

Head of the government property profession Janet Young tells Civil Service World how she is helping build expertise around government.

What does your job entail?

My job is to build capability within the government property profession. The civil service is a great place to have a property career. To get a sense of the sheer diversity of the government property portfolio, one of the things that we’ve developed is our A to Z of Government Property. We’ve worked out that you can cover all the letters of the alphabet working on government properties: “A” for “airports”, “B” for “barracks”, etc. 

Government has one of the biggest and most diverse property portfolios in the country, and the opportunity to work on that portfolio is hugely exciting. The other thing that’s important about what we do is that there’s a very broad range of roles within government property. There’s a huge variety of disciplines from surveying to delivering projects to managing facilities. It’s a great place to have a career and one of my priorities is to ensure that people who are considering a career in the civil service are aware of that opportunity.

Do you feel that, with so many people involved, it’s difficult to build on the expertise of the profession?

Yes. One of the things that we’ve done in the last year is we’ve started to build a property career framework. There’s a huge diversity of roles within the government profession and we wanted to have an overarching framework for people so they could see how their career might develop.

The idea is to make a very complex picture simple so that people can map their course through the property profession. What we did when we started is we found that there were 930 different job roles being used by government property professionals, and we’ve taken that and simplified it into six job families and around 25 different job roles, so that people can chart their course through the property profession and be attracted to work with us for their career.

Priorities for the Government Property Profession

  • Develop a career framework: An overarching framework for people to see how their career might progress
  • Develop a competency framework: An outline of the skills required to manage property assets at both the operational and strategic level
  • Recruitment of new talent: Cross-government apprenticeship scheme to recruit people into a level-six apprenticeship in commercial real estate
  • Retaining existing talent: Running events, sending technical updates, and building development programmes such as the International Certificate in Leadership for Property

How will you be measuring progress?

We’ve launched a three-year programme for the profession and we’re now into year one. The first and very important phase is developing the career framework that we want to get finalised by the autumn.

The next stage will then be to develop a competency framework to underpin all of that, and to underpin those job roles and job families that I’ve talked about.

We’re also very keen to attract talent into the government property profession. An important part of what we do is recruitment of new talent with a focus on apprenticeships. This year we’ve just launched our first cross-government apprenticeship scheme to recruit people into a level-six apprenticeship in commercial real estate. We’ve just advertised that and have been really pleased to get over 400 applications.

While recruitment is an important milestone for us, developing our existing people is also really important. So at the moment we’ve got around 3,000 people in the government property profession. Retaining them, developing them, and enabling them to progress is a really important part of what we do.

There’s a few things that we’re doing in that regard. First of all, we’re building a real sense of community across the property profession by running a network of events and sending technical updates.

But we’re also putting some really crunchy development programmes in place. This year we launched an international certificate in property leadership, delivered by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, and we had a bit of a competition internally in the government property profession – I think there were 13 people that were selected to go on that programme.

We’re also encouraging our people to go onto the civil service leadership scheme, the future leaders scheme, and the senior leadership scheme.

We’ve worked out that you can cover all the letters of the alphabet by working on government properties: A for airports, B for barracks…”

What are the similarities and differences between the work that’s been done across departments?

The departments that I’ve worked in have very different property portfolios: it’s very different delivering an office transformation scheme for the Department for Education than it is working out an estate strategy for the Foreign Office.

But I think what mixes all these things together is that all of them require committed and dedicated property professionals, and all of us in property share a passion and enthusiasm for what we do. So there’s a real understanding that, while the different types of property portfolios and organisational objectives can vary, there’s lots of commonality in terms of our professional skills.

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Janet Young
About the author

Janet Young is head of the government property profession and the government chief property officer for the civil service. Before joining the Cabinet Office, Young ran the property operations for a variety of government departments including the Department for Education, the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Justice

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