‘A humbling experience’: Q&A with Civil Service Awards champion Richard Heaton

Written by Richard Heaton on 19 June 2018

With nominations open for the Civil Service Awards 2018, the Ministry of Justice perm sec explains why he’s looking for humanity and the unexpected

What did you most like about being the Civil Service Awards champion?

Celebrating superb work by brilliant people! Reading the entries is a humbling experience. And then meeting the shortlisted teams and individuals at Lancaster House is a real privilege.

What are the three main things you’d like to see from nominations in 2018?

  1. Diversity. We are a richly diverse service. I'd like to see that reflected in nominations and on the winners' podium.
  2. The unexpected. I'd like to see creative and unusual nominations. They might demonstrate a mature approach to risk, or celebrate the learning that comes from failure. They might show a different way of working, or an unaccustomed collaboration.
  3. Humanity. We are a public service. How we treat people (including each other) is a mark of our success, and it’s something I'd like to see coming through strongly at the Awards event.

What impact do you think the Civil Service Awards have had on the civil service since they began in 2006?

It's hard to attribute precise cause and effect. I think the Awards have contributed to a certain professional competitiveness between departments. That's healthy. But the judges will always be looking for evidence of collaboration, because pulling together is even more important than winning for your department.

The Awards have also been good for overall morale, helping the civil service through some pretty challenging times. And by putting emphasis on qualities like leadership, customer service, commercial and digital, the Awards have helped cement our priorities as an employer and a public service.

Has being Awards champion taught you anything new about the civil service?

Lots!  Every year, there are nominations from areas I've never come across before, whether it's a branch of applied science, or an infrastructure project, or an international public health programme. The common theme has always been the quality and motivation of the civil servants who make these things happen.

Nominate now for the Civil Service Awards

The Civil Service Awards Community is a new section on Civil Service World that aims to celebrate past winners, inspire people to nominate in 2018, and help us all to learn from good practice. If you’ve ever won or been shortlisted for an award, register your interest to hear about future events and projects for awards alumni

About the author

Richard Heaton is permanent secretary at the Ministry of Justice and Civil Service Awards champion