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In tech and talented? The government’s digital transformation needs you

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: GDS team, People and skills, Transformation

We believe that successful digital transformation comes not through the choice of a particular technology stack or IT system but through the work of people and teams.

Over the past few years we have dramatically improved government’s ability to design and deliver digital services as well as modernise the critical technology infrastructure that runs our country.

However, there is much more to do.

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Making government the employer of choice for digital

Our goal: to make government a major destination for digital, data and technology professionals.

I have worked in many private sector organisations but government is one of the most exciting and rewarding places I have worked: for its scale, the complexity of problems, and the difference we make to people’s lives.

To deliver the ambitious targets we have in the pipeline, we need to fundamentally change how we attract, develop and retain technical professionals in government. In May 2016, our Digital, Data and Technology Profession team was asked to work with departments to make this a reality. Since then, we’ve worked with more than 600 colleagues from across government. We’ve collaboratively tackled issues such as competition for talent between departments, balance between insourcing and outsourcing, pay disparity and clarity in career paths. Here is an update on where we are.

Areas of focus

We have made progress quickly by working collaboratively with departments and technical communities across government to:

  • build a common taxonomy of job roles
  • set out clear career paths and capabilities
  • enhance the pay and reward for critical roles
  • develop our learning and training offer
  • improve ways of growing our own talent

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Common taxonomy of job roles – one national structure

Currently there are myriad different job roles across government, many of which are identical but with a different label. This means it’s not easy to move jobs between departments and it can be confusing for those who want to join government.

As part of building the digital and technology profession, we are creating a single structure of job roles. We’ve reclassified and reorganised job roles across departments into a new taxonomy of around 37 job roles. This will be used to create consistency and alignment across departments.

Immediate benefits include a more visible route for career progression and a better grasp of the huge scale of job opportunities for specialists across government.

Clear technical career paths

We are defining what’s required at each level of the reclassified job roles, as well as a clear set of criteria to test them. We’ll publish these in the open so career paths are transparent. We hope this will encourage technical specialists to have a long-term career in government.

People at GDS

Improving the pay and reward offer

Our salaries are funded by the taxpayer, and this drives a strong value-for-money mindset. But we want our pay and rewards to be competitive.

We are working on a set of new pay ranges aligned to the taxonomy of job roles. One of the methods used to fund this will be to reduce the reliance on contractors and interim positions, and create more permanent roles.

These will give more flexibility for key technical roles, both in terms of increased salary and allowances.

Scaling up our learning and development

We know from user research that continuous professional development is a key driver of retention.

With the Digital Academy, government has built an excellent learning resource for specialists. In the future, we will add to the popular classroom-based courses with other types of learning, for example, online, distance learning, onsite or multi-format.

Departments can tailor learning to their individual needs by drawing on these resources as well as a curated marketplace of training providers.

People at GDS

Growing our own talent

We have done a lot of work on how we attract specialists into government, and most departments have taken big strides forward on this.

But this will only take us so far. In parallel we also need to develop skills from the ground up.

We now have a digital and technology graduate scheme, Civil Service Fast Stream, and an apprentice scheme, Civil Service Fast Track Apprenticeship, both aimed at developing specialists of the future.

We are also retraining thousands of civil servants who currently work outside of a technology role, using both training and on-the-job learning.

This builds a stronger skill base and increases our pool of readily available talent for current and future needs.

Join the transformation revolution

The only way that we can transform public services is by attracting, retaining and growing the right technical skills in government.

We have started the journey, but there is a lot more to do to make government the destination of choice for digital, data and technology specialists.

Our approach is, as ever, driven by user needs, working collaboratively and making continuous incremental improvements towards our goal.

If you would like to join the transformation revolution in government, visit our Digital Careers Gov Twitter page to see current opportunities.

Arif Harbott is head of the Digital, Data and Technology Profession team at GDS. Follow Arif on Twitter and don’t forget to sign up for email alerts.

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  1. Comment by Josh Tumath posted on

    It's great to see that you're now offering apprenticeships, but it would be nice to see a more straightforward graduate scheme specifically for software development roles.

  2. Comment by Patrick Keane posted on

    I recently left a senior ICT post in local government and am very keen to share my experiences of project management in a unitary authority and wondered if there were opportunities within GDS.

  3. Comment by Amy posted on

    Hi Arif,

    I was a contractor at GDS until November 2016. I loved my time there, so many brilliantly smart people to learn loads from. However getting paid became a joke. My role and rate changed twice and somehow I ended up not being paid correctly for 6 months. At one point I was asked to stop submitting my time sheets which meant I wasn't being paid at all. When I finally received a payment I was overpaid (obviously I paid it back!) but this sort of stuff shouldn't be happening!

    Nobody has explained why this happened and what they're going to do about it to stop it happening to someone else. I know I'm not the only person who has been affected by similar payment delays.

    If you're supplying to government you need to go through Capita as well as another agency, so I accept that what happened to me might not be entirely GDS's fault. But the lack of transparency and accountability in the process shows that you've got work to do here to make GDS an even more attractive place to work.

    • Replies to Amy>

      Comment by GDS Contracting Team posted on

      Thank you for your message in regards to the pay issues that you experienced whilst contracting at GDS through the CL ONE (CL1). Contractors who engage through CL1 choose an agency to work with that pays the contractors on the receipt and approval of their timesheets.
      This particular problem was unusual in that there was a change in pay rate and a change of contract (with another change in pay rate). Unfortunately, the end client (in this case GDS) is not responsible for calculating the changes to the pay. This is the responsibility of the agency the contractor chooses. The CL1 arrangement prevents direct contact with agencies so checking the payment being made is difficult as this is done between the agency and Capita's finance team.
      Despite this being an unusual case, we realise that it caused considerable difficulties to the LTD company and we have taken to steps to ensure that this doesn't happen to other contractors going forward. Amongst others, we have strengthened our relationship with the Capita's Client relationship manager who can contact agencies directly to make sure that the process is run more smoothly in future.