As the United Kingdom’s economy continues to claw its way out of recession, ongoing cuts in UK Government spending seem likely to see the continuing migration of workers from the Civil Service to the private sector.
In the last five years, around 90,000 Civil Service jobs have disappeared, with at least the same number set to go in the coming few years. Many of those who remain in the Civil Service are, according to the Public and Commercial Services Union, demoralised and unhappy. Wage freezes, increased workloads, fears over job security, bullying and harassment have all been cited as being causal or contributory factors to this malaise.
Moreover, the union says that surveys have revealed that around 65% of civil servants have become ill due to stress at work. Many civil servants are therefore looking to make the move into the private sector. There are many private sector jobs in which the skills acquired and polished as a civil servant are particularly well suited.
The Civil Service is run on the basis of policies and protocols, so civil servants who come from junior or middle management posts are likely to be extremely well versed in managing a team or section in a policy-led environment.
Accordingly, they make ideal candidates for employment in the policy section of mid-sized and larger organisations. This is because their experience of management in a policy-led culture can play an invaluable role in helping to shape, hone and focus policies and protocols in order to meet objectives while avoiding or mitigating any negative operational effects of those policies or protocols.
With the Civil Service having borne the brunt of spending cuts in the last few years, its HR personnel have gained useful experience and knowledge of managing personnel issues in changing and highly challenging times.
Furthermore, the size of many Civil Service departments mean that their HR staff are likely to encounter a very broad spectrum of employee issues, as well as gaining significant experience of engaging and interacting with trades unions.
This breadth and diversity of experience translates well to the private sector and, consequently, is appealing to employers.
Tighter regulation coupled with greater public and political interest and awareness has led to corporate governance and corporate social responsibility assuming a front and centre position in most larger organisations and businesses.
Although transparency and accountability have long been part of the Civil Service ethos, the public’s right of access to information held by public sector bodies has amplified the importance to the Civil Service of operating in a culture of good practice and corporate responsibility. Accordingly, the Civil Service is an excellent environment in which to acquire governance skills.
As such skills are much in demand in the private sector, civil servants with experience of governance are well placed to find a good position should they elect to move to that sector.
Information Security/Data Protection
Due to the nature of the tasks performed by them, some Civil Service departments hold highly sensitive and confidential information on both a corporate and individual level. And as public bodies, they are under continual scrutiny from regulators, the press and the public.
The nature of Civil Service departments also means that they deal with a significant volume of requests for disclosure of information under the Data Protection Act 1998 as well as a high number of requests made under the freedom of information legislation. As a consequence of this, Civil Service Information Officers are both highly trained and very experienced.
Although most private sector businesses do not have to process the same volume of requests for information disclosure as government agencies, they must still ensure that their data security and information disclosure regime is fully compliant with the data protection legislation. Indeed, failure to comply with this legislation can have serious financial and reputational consequences for a business. Accordingly, the experience and knowledge of Civil Service Information Officers makes them highly attractive to private sector employers.
The size and nature of Civil Service departments means that their procurement staff have expert knowledge of the rules and procedures that apply to procurement. They are highly trained and expert at relationship management with both internal departments and external contractors, cost analysis, drafting invitations to tender and providing professional advice about procurement to departmental colleagues.
These attributes, combined with personal knowledge of Civil Service practices and methods, means that Civil Service procurement staff are highly sought after by the private sector.
Senior Civil Service managers work with large budgets, develop and maintain close professional relationships with public and private sector clients and contractors, and operate within a strict framework of public and political accountability, regulation, responsibility and transparency.
The attributes which a senior management role in the Civil Service requires of a person are similar to those required to perform a similar role in the private sector. Accordingly, it is relatively easy for a Civil Service manager to make the transition to a management role in the private sector. Indeed, many have already done so, with considerable success.
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