Government property chief Bruce Mann urges departments to use smart working to aid recruitment

 Head of the Government Property Unit challenges departments to test themselves against newly-launched smart working code of practice

By Suzannah Brecknell

22 Jan 2016

The civil service should be at the "leading edge" in terms of the working environment it offers staff if government wants to recruit talented people, Government Property Unit (GPU) chief Bruce Mann has said.

Speaking at the launch of a new government-wide code of practice on smart working, the executive director of the GPU – the central body which oversees the government estate – said: "If you're trying to recruit and retain the best people and you're not offering the kind of workplace and work life environment that fits with their lives, you aren't going to do it."

Mann said a focus on smarter working, involving improved IT and a more flexible working culture, was "especially" important in attracting civil servants with "some of the more specialist skills", where staff are in high demand.

Government Property Unit chief Bruce Mann on how the civil service is celebrating smarter working
Smarter working in the civil service: TW3 Awards 2015 Highlights

"We're starting to see that unless you've got a bit of a leading edge in terms of the environment that you offer they aren't going to join because other [organisations] do have that," he said. 

The Government Property Unit chief also said he was starting to see evidence of a link between smarter working and engagement scores in the annual civil service staff survey.

"There are some quite hard questions in [the survey] about what do you think about your workplace and your line manager," he said.

"It is quite interesting to look in those statistics [from the people survey] and starting to do the correlation between the leading departments on [smart working] and those who are not leading, and I think I am beginning to see that separation." 

The new code of practice – dubbed PAS3000 – was launched as the civil service celebrated teams who have adopted smarter ways of working in the second TW3 Awards ceremony.

Among the 2016 winners were the Ministry of Justice's Commuter Hubs team, which have created hubs that enable people to work from officers closer to home while cutting the need for expensive space in central London; and the Intellectual Property Office for a campaign which asked staff to help devise changes which would make the organisation better able to adapt to future demands.

The PAS3000 is a code of practice developed by the British Standards Institute to help organisations implement smart working practices. It was sponsored by the Cabinet Office and had input from industry, academia and public sector experts.

Mann said the principles in the standard would be used as his team implemented the "Government Hubs" programme, which will see departments and agencies co-locating in cities across the country

"We do intend to practice what the BSI is preaching," he said, and he challenged individual teams and organisations in the civil service to test themselves against the new standard.

"That is absolutely where we are going," he said, "and what we will be expecting civil service departments and agencies to do, is not only to build those workplaces which are necessary to recruit, but to get the learning, find out what is good, and what isn't good [in] the standard."

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