Headlines: October 27th, 2004

Sir Andrew Turnbull, head of the Civil Service, has responded to the Gershon efficiency report which called for central government departments to adopt a more professional approach. He has launched a Professional Skills for Government programme to equip the more senior ranks of civil servants with key business skills and an in-depth knowledge of their own professional area.Under the programme the work of civil servants is divided into three basic competencies. For policy expertise and analysis, the traditional area of senior civil servants, individuals will have skills in economics or social and scientific research, but they must also have experience of managing the business of government and making change happen.

For operational delivery, people will be skilled in the design, management and direct delivery of public services and have experience of large-scale project management.

The third competence is corporate services where people will require professional expertise in functions such as financial management, IT, human resources and communications. The Gershon report emphasised the need for a new focus on these professional and technical skills. In future the key roles in such areas will be filled by people with a demonstrable professional track record in tackling major organisational change.

The Professional Skills programme is linked to the recently launched High Potential Development Scheme for people with the most potential to move rapidly into senior positions.

The overall reform measures are underpinned by proposals for higher rewards for those who achieve the most and for the lowest 20% of comparative performers to address the causes of poorer performance or move out if they can’t meet the demands of the job. In future all senior Civil Service jobs will be four-year placements, with no presumption of permanence in post.