Pay, recruitment and line management: Key commitments in the civil service people plan

New workforce strategy also sets out plans for a smaller SCS, more joined up L&D and a new HR functional strategy
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By Tevye Markson

10 Jan 2024

The Cabinet Office has released its first civil service workforce strategy since 2016.

The Civil Service People Plan 2024-2027, which follows the Civil Service People Strategy 2016-2020, contains 45 commitments for the next four years.

The plan focused on improvement in five areas – pay and reward, recruitment and retention, skills, employee experience and the HR function – and includes a mix of plans already underway, previously-announced schemes and new announcements.

Here are the key reforms the government is committing to.

Rewarding exceptional delivery

The plan commits to developing a long-term approach to pay and reward in the civil service. It will be published this year, with a focus on rewarding “exceptional civil servants” who demonstrate “outstanding” skills and expertise.

The new Civil Service Reward Strategy will “create a more coherent, flexible, and individualised reward framework by 2030”, the document says.

In a foreword to the document, Cabinet Office minister John Glen said the government “must better link reward and performance payments to meeting agreed targets and demonstrating higher performance”.

The strategy will aim to reward officials who drive better productivity and efficiency, the document adds. It will also incentivise officials with "deep subject expertise" who stay in areas where they add value and continue to develop.

The document includes testimonies from interviews with civil servants in 2023. One reads: “Someone who performs poorly or does the minimum is paid the same as someone who always goes the extra mile or who is competent to do their work. This is why capable people end up getting demotivated and even leave.”

Another says: “Most people of the same grade get paid about the same regardless of whether… they have been in the role for one day or 10 years.”

Smaller, better rewarded SCS

The plan also makes separate commitments to reform pay and reward the senior civil service. A new SCS strategy will also be published this year, setting out how the SCS will become “smaller, more skilled, and better rewarded”.

This will include a leadership and pay framework for the SCS that rewards delivery of better outcomes and that “raises the overall capability of the SCS so that it can lead the civil service across the government’s priorities, delivering greater productivity for citizens”.

Senior officials have frequently expressed frustration at an unfair pay system which lacks proper pay progression and recognition for high performance, and have also bemoaned stalling reform plans.

More training and accountability for line managers

The strategy also sets out plans to improve the productivity and capability of line managers by developing a set of externally accredited line management standards that will be embedded across government.

“These standards will draw on the evidence base of best practice from academic research, professional bodies, across sectors and within government,” the plan says.

The document commits that 70% of the target cohort of priority line managers will achieve or be working towards accreditation by 2025.

Training on offer to line managers will also be reformed, to align with the new accreditation.  

More joined-up cross-civil service training

The document gives more detail on the Government Skills Campus, a digital platform to provide better access and visibility to training across the civil service. The campus will bring about the “first pan-CS skills taxonomy to provide consistency in approach to defining and measuring skills” and skills passports that are recognised across departments, it says.

HM Revenue and Customs and the Cabinet Office will be the first to access a pilot service in the coming weeks, with a wider phased rollout coming this summer, according to the document. The campus should be accessible to half of all civil servants by the end of 2024-25, and all civil servants by the end of 2025-26.

An Emerging Talent Strategy plan will meanwhile be published this year that will lay out progression opportunities for fast streamers and other early-career civil servants. A new schools outreach programme will aim to attract more promising recruits.

The plan also promises to bolster digital and data skills for all, with further development of training for those outside the DDaT and analytical professions.

Rethinking recruitment

The plan also sets out how the government will address concerns about the pace of recruitment, pledging to revamp processes to speed up recruitment and open up new entry routes.

It says discovery pilots will be launched across the civil service this year to test new approaches to recruitment. Each time-limited discovery pilot will have a specific objective, which will be evaluated to determine its effectiveness and how appropriate it is for wider rollout across the civil service.

The document also pledges to create a new cross-civil service brand for recruitment.

Another pledge, to create industry secondment programmes across the functions and professions, builds on the launch of the pilot digital secondment programme last year.

HR refresh

For HR, the key new commitment is to deliver a fresh HR Functional Strategy this year which will "define the ambition for the HR function in being an enabler".

This will set out how capability should be built across the HR function to ensure the civil service has "the right people with the right skills in the right roles".

Other pledges include an updated HR career framework to "ensure it remains current and relevant", and a data strategy to improve how people data is captured and synthesised across the civil service and HR function, both to be achieved this year. 

The document also sets a commitment to redesign the HR Fast Stream programme to align with the wider reform of the Fast Stream being implemented this year. 

The plan also includes timelines for the government's shared-services strategy. It says that two shared-service centres went live in 2022, the third is expected in 2024 and the remaining two in 2025. The strategy, which aims to create a streamlined, interoperable civil service, and the accompanying Functional Convergence Programme, are both scheduled for completion in 2028.

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