Civil service recruitment overhaul: unions welcome reforms as more details emerge

New 'success profiles' will roll out at vanguard departments next month, with all departments expected to have adopted them by early 2019


By Suzannah.Brecknell

09 May 2018

The new framework for civil service recruitment will be rolling out from next month, CSW understands, with all departments expected to have taken on the new model by early 2019.

Civil service chief executive John Manzoni announced plans to reform recruitment processes last week saying the new system would “allow us to evaluate candidates on what they have done before, what their actual experience, behaviours and values are – rather than on how they answer a competency questionnaire”.

From next month, departments will begin using new success profiles model rather than the competency-based recruitment system which was introduced in 2012.

CSW understands that the success profiles include five areas on which candidates can be assessed: behaviours; strengths; ability – which will include potential ability as assessed by aptitude tests, for example; experience and technical skills.

Not all areas will be relevant for each job so vacancy holders will be able to decide which areas they should consider for each post. For example, experience may not be considered for an apprenticeship role, but would be for a more senior post.

Supporting documents will be made available to define civil service behaviors and strengths, and CSW understands that these definitions will build on some of the existing competencies, such as seeing the big picture or managing a quality service.

Success profiles have been developed under the ‘Attract and Retain Talent’ strand of the 2016 Civil Service Workforce Plan. The plan committed to “moving away from the competency framework, to a more meaningful and business focused framework of assessment”.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson told CSW: “To deliver a modern, fairer and more inclusive approach to selection, we have listened to feedback and have been looking to make positive changes to the way the civil service recruits. We have worked extensively with staff groups and recruitment experts, both inside and outside the civil service, to ensure we learned from best practice and develop an approach that will work for everyone.”

Dave Allen, neogtiations officer from Prospect union, said he "cautiously welcomed" the reforms, adding that the old competency framework could be gamed by some people while others struggled to demonstrate their skills with the framework.

He added, however that there must be proper support for staff and managers as the new system is implemented.

“We recognise [the new system] will require quite a culture change,” he said, “and it will need quite an educational piece to support that.”

He said that the union had concerns about the speed of the roll-out, given the scale of changes, and would be carefully monitoring results in the pilot departments which are moving to the new scheme first.

Neil Rider, head of FDALearn and Keyskills at the FDA union said of the new recruitment system: “We see this as a positive development – looking not just at what people have done but their potential to do well based on their abilities, qualifications and personal strengths as well as their experience. Our members are often frustrated at their chances of getting onto a shortlist being based on how well they can frame a 250-word example.”

He adds that the new approach address recommendations in the 2016 Bridge Report that called for a more strengths-based assessment system to help improve socio-economic diversity in the civil service.

“We welcome the flexibility that means new entrants are not expected to have the same level of experience as older or more experienced candidates for roles (such as apprenticeships) where that is not a reasonable requirement,” Rider said.

He added, however, that the FDA is “keen that the system is used to its fullest extent to support older and long-standing workers in ensuring their experience is held to be valuable especially in workforce change situations". 

“The FDA represents a high number of professionals and we welcome a system that gives their expertise the weight it deserves.”

Rider also noted that the FDA believes training and recruitment systems should be connected across the public sector so to create greater opportunities to access training from and move between different public services. 

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