Former UK HR Boss Calls For Civil Service To Recruit Non-graduates
A retiring senior UK official is calling for the civil service to take a fresh approach to developing talent.
Kevin White, who left his post of HR director at the Home Office on 10 July, told Global Government Forum in an exclusive interview that the civil service is “at the risk of having a slightly simplistic view that the only real high-flying talent is made up of people who have come from universities.”
He said the civil service should remember that “the investment in the skills of our people at all levels helping them to be the best they can be is really important, and that we have to keep an eye out for talent in all shapes and sizes, because there’s a lot more there than we sometimes tend to think. And our leadership is not sufficiently diverse.”
White was reflecting on his 39-year-long career as civil servant, which, he said was shaped by five people.
One of them was his late fiancée Dame Lesley Strathie, who joined the civil service as an administrative assistant after leaving school with the equivalent to O-Levels, worked her way up and eventually became chief executive and permanent secretary of HM Revenue and Customs.
Strathie would have found it harder to get to the top of the civil service today, White said, because of “a slightly mono-cultural sense of the social and educational background of our top talent”.
The other four people who made a mark on White’s career were his mother – a career civil servant with “a strong sense of social purpose and mission” – plus Sir Geoffrey Holland, who developed fundamental labour market reforms, such as special programmes to reduce the impact of recessions on vulnerable groups and “active labour market policies”; former cabinet secretary Gus O’Donnell, who he called “the father of the modern civil service”; and former Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude.
See also: Our full interview with Kevin White