Kerslake: top job promotions will require broad experience

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By Matt.Ross

27 Jun 2012

New promotion rules outlined in the Civil Service Reform Plan will require officials to gain wide experience before they reach top jobs, civil service head Sir Bob Kerslake has told CSW. While the civil service will “need to balance [greater mobility] with making sure that we carry on delivering”, departments will have to be more willing to let go of promising leaders, he added.

“The levers we have are programmes like the Future Leaders Scheme,” he said, referring to a raft of new centrally-managed initiatives to develop talented staff. Another lever, he said, will be better coordination of people’s moves around Whitehall: “There will be conversations between permanent secretaries, and between director generals, so there is more active management of people’s career development across departments.”

“The third lever we have is that when people go for jobs, we’ll be judging whether they’ve got that broad experience,” he continued. A new set of cross-government standards for promotion into and within the senior civil service will require applicants to demonstrate that they’ve worked in a wide range of jobs and organisations. “We’d normally expect people reaching director level to have had experience in more than one department, and ideally both operational and policy experience,” he said.

The Future Leaders Scheme, Kerslake added, is designed to fill a gap in the civil service’s personnel development schemes between those for senior civil servants and those for talented graduates. “When we look at engagement scores, there’s often a gap between the most senior leaders and those in the middle level, and we haven’t always done enough to signal that that group of managers are part of the leadership,” he said. “That’s a key part of the thinking here.”

The professions may also be used to increase interchange between the departments, Kerslake added, noting that he’ll “want through the corporate HR resource to actively test whether they’re doing things in terms of talent management, reviewing deployment.”

Asked about references in the plan to squeezing civil service terms and conditions, Kerslake suggested that privilege days may be at risk.

Sir Bob will be at Civil Service Live next week to gather officials’ opinions on the reform plan. “This is a really good opportunity to gauge reaction and have a real debate about how we best deliver the plan,” he said, adding that visitors will also be able to learn about the work of their colleagues in other departments. Asked whether he’ll be taking questions, he replied: “Absolutely, I’ve set aside a lot of time for that.”

To sign up for Kerslake’s CSL sessions, visit www.civilservicelive.com. See also Opinion and Feature.

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