Civil service social mobility vision bags top prize

Cross-department team behind HR reform proposals wins Reimagine Challenge. Matt Ross reports


HMRC chief executive and civil service social mobility champion, Jon Thompson (left), with the winning team. Photo credit: KPMG.

By Matt Ross

08 Dec 2016

A proposal to strengthen social mobility in the civil service triumphed in the Reimagine Challenge last month, winning the Cabinet Office’s support and taking a major step towards implementation.

Under the Challenge, five teams – bringing together civil servants from various departments and partners KPMG, with support from CSW publishers Dods – have worked up innovative ways to address five key policy challenges, developing their ideas in a series of presentations to permanent secretaries.

The winning team, which included officials from MoD, HMRC and BEIS, pitched a strategy that involves improving the civil service recruitment website; establishing civil service “ambassadors” to field questions from potential recruits; and creating a “feeder scheme” providing coaching and support to staff from lower socio-economic groups. Furthermore, the “Top 200” most senior officials would be assessed on social mobility within their workforces, with the best recruited as “Inclusive Leaders” to boost social mobility across the civil service.

The plan will now be taken forward by the civil service social mobility champion, HMRC chief executive Jon Thompson, with civil service director of workforce strategy and inclusion Simon Claydon and the Cabinet Office’s Social Mobility Steering Group.

Speaking at the event, civil service chief executive John Manzoni said he’d like to see all five ideas moving forward. “We want, and we can see ways that, every single one of these could go to the next stage,” he said. “There is energy, there is sponsorship, there are opportunities here. So whether you win or not, please take it to the next stage.”

The other four teams developed ways to support SMEs with digital technologies; reinvent care for older people; use “big data” to reduce crime; and raise the employment rate among young people with learning difficulties.

Handing over the trophy, Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer said that the Challenge has been “about releasing the talent, the passion and the intelligence of the people in this room: the teams that have contributed in a way that we need to replicate across Whitehall every day of the week.”

The civil service must, he added, express officials’ “passion and your vocation to public service” in order to “rebuild trust between people and government…and create a government and democracy which has the respect of the people that we serve”.

Kru Desai, KPMG’s head of government and infrastructure, said the project had strengthened public-private collaboration, staff development, and the delivery of solutions to thorny policy challenges. The teams had formed strong bonds, she added: “I walk into a room, and there’s such a great sense of achievement, camaraderie, support: I think this is the way we should all work together.”

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