Cabinet Office assessments are a whole day affair that provide detailed reports on individuals’ strengths ©PA Images
Cabinet Office assessments are a whole day affair that provide detailed reports on individuals’ strengths ©PA Images

Civil service assessment centre a 'significant success'

A dedicated assessment centre that provides “bespoke” skills development has been key to attracting and keeping commercial talent across government.

Jim Carter, transformational director for the Government Commercial Function at the Cabinet Office (CO), said the centre, a “specialised recruitment resourcing hub”, was dedicated to looking at the commercial market and has had “significant success at attracting talent”.

Speaking at Procurex South conference, Carter said people were at the heart of improving commercial capabilities across government. “Talent and the people agenda is critical to making change,” he said.

In practices, the people agenda at CO means two things: having the capacity in terms of numbers and having the the capability in terms of skills.

The key to solving these issues was recognising employees want to feel their roles have a purpose, want investment in their learning and development and want flexibility. “It’s not just a millennial thing. We all in our careers want those things, we all want to feel like our jobs matter,” said Carter.

“It’s around rich and varied careers, it's about continuous improvement, it’s about collaboration,” he added.

Carter said government put a lot of effort into creating “people standards” that articulated the attributes, skills and competencies of people in more senior commercial roles. Those standards were used to design the assessment centre and used to track and improve the skills of commercial staff.

The assessment centre was introduced by chief commercial officer Gareth Rhys Williams in 2017.

The assessments are a whole day affair that provide detailed reports on individuals’ strengths and weaknesses. “We take people out for a full day. It is a multi-assessor, multi-exercise approach that really gets at the heart of [individuals’] strengths. It’s very valuable both from an organisational perspective but also for the individual to get that detail out of their report,” said Carter.

Assessments not only provide a picture of the government’s commercial capability, which can pinpoint where investment is needed to increase capability, but they can also inform talent and learning development so it is very “bespoke to the individual”, said Carter.

So far over 1,000 people across all departments, including both prospective employees and incumbent staff, have attended the centre and feedback has been good.

Improving commercial capabilities is one of the civil service top three priorities, and the CO wants government to have the best commercial function in the UK. “Often when I speak to teams across government I’ll say, ‘On a daily basis, are we acting with that vision in mind?’” said Carter.

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