Powering Up Networks in the Civil Service

The Civil Service is the one of the largest employers in the UK delivering a broad range of polices and services on behalf of the Government.

In October 2017, Sir Jeremy Heywod (Head of the Civil Service) launched the Civil Service’s Diversity and Inclusion strategy – its most ambitious to date which announced its ambition to be the UK’s most inclusive employer.

Cherron Inko-Tariah MBE (The Power of Staff Networks) met with the Chief People Officer, Rupert McNeil, to find out how the Civil Service plans to ‘power up’ staff networks to help embed inclusion and a brilliant Civil Service.

DD: What makes this strategy different from previous ones?

RM:Diversity and inclusion is based on our values and an incredible amount of work has helped to create what we have now. Diversity is one of the three cross government themes so its sends a strong signal across the Service. We wanted a strategy that responded to the needs of the Civil Service, with a strong focus on outcomes.

Transformation lies at the heart of this strategy, but is rooted in absolute clarity about where we need to be. We are delivering an innovative programme of inclusive culture audits across the Civil Service, this will help organisations understand how culture and values are impacting on workplace behaviours and inclusion. The inclusive culture audits will also help to identify where further action should be taken to support implementation of our D&I Strategy. In addition, we will publish our Diversity and Inclusion Dashboard which will help us work with departments to measure progress on diversity and inclusion targets.
These things and more helps us to look forward to being the most inclusive employer in the UK; it’s ambitious but achievable.

DD: The strategy talks about ‘powering up’ staff networks. What makes staff networks powerful?

RM: Staff networks are all about ‘people’; be it their membership or those staff who give their time to take on a leadership role. So it is people and their insight that make networks powerful. Networks can highlight the challenges that may have been overlooked in the decision making process. They have certainly helped me become aware of issues and provided that ‘ground truth’.

That’s why we believe it is vital to raise the profile of leaders of staff networks in recognition of the valuable role they play within the Civil Service and beyond. In addition, we want to mobilise the networks, provide access to resources and make sure that they get support from all levels of management.

DD: How will you do this? How can Departments best invest in Staff Networks as business critical entities in support of the CS D&I Strategy

RM: Departmental staff networks are important to us because they have already been playing a vital role in the development of our D&I Strategy. In the same way that being an inclusive employer is business critical, I know that working with all of our employees is critical to the Service being a brilliant place to work. We have been exploring how we better support departmental staff networks in partnership with our Employee Voice Group. We are currently working on three areas:

We are working on refreshing our very practical guidance on setting up and supporting staff networks.

We also recognise that there is more we can do to help identify resources including: staff time, learning and development opportunities and ensuring that colleagues who take on leadership roles in staff networks are being recognised for their important corporate contribution.

Recognition and awards are a great way of investing in staff networks, it is also a great way of demonstrating our support for diversity and inclusion. This is why it is great to see the Civil Service, as well departments using Annual Awards to profile the excellent work of our staff networks.

DD: What does the future hold for staff networks in the Civil Service

RM: In addition to being a driving force for change, I see networks as structured organised channels of impatience! They are impatient for inclusion and rightly so. We are placing staff networks front and centre of supporting the Civil Service in our twin priorities of increasing representation and creating a more inclusive culture. Staff networks are and will continue to be an integral part of how we make a brilliant Civil Service and a great place to work.

I also recognise that in complicated systems with lots of people brings a unique set of challenges and views that may polarise networks. That is why we must continue to think of creating opportunities for greater collaboration and dialogue between networks so that we can all understand the complexities and value of intersectionality. Staff Networks have a great role to play in fostering good relations in the workplace, but this only happens when we work together. The National Day for Staff Networks serves as a fantastic opportunity to galvanise the staff networks and celebrate as a community.

I also believe that allies can play an important role. We have seen this work successfully for the LGBT+ community and want to see allies for other areas.

DD: You mentioned the National Day for Staff Networks, how will you be marking the day?

RM: I will be taking a pledge to participate in the day. We will also:

Encourage the sharing of blogs and activity, which highlights Staff Networks Day and explain the work and achievements of staff networks.

Support a workshop, which will in part celebrate Networks, but also provide a great forum to share expertise and build collaboration and partnership.

Encourage departments to host joint events with their staff networks and support opportunities that help staff networks look at joint projects and events.

DD: Finally, how would you describe staff networks in the Civil Service?

RM: We are proud of the work staff networks are doing and so it is easy to choose three words to describe them. It is the three words that embody our brilliant Civil Service: Inspiring, Confident and Empowering

The Civil Service’s Diversity and Inclusion strategy, can be found at:

To follow Rupert on Twitter @CivilServiceCPO