Top HR civil servant tells MPs she is impressed with Whitehall leadership

The top HR professional in the civil service has told MPs she is “impressed” by the quality of leadership across Whitehall after five months in her new role.

Gill Rider, director-general of leadership and people strategy, joined the civil service earlier this year after 27 years in the private sector. It is the first time the post has been filled by someone who is not a career civil servant.

Rider was being grilled by a group of MPs on the public administration committee earlier this month as part of an enquiry into ‘skills for government’. “There have been quite a number of [negative] comments about leadership in the civil service, but I have been very impressed,” she said.

Rider’s remit is to create a people strategy for the civil service, improve leadership and bolster the professionalism of HR. The former Accenture senior executive is responsible for implementing the Professional Skills for Government programme championed by cabinet secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell.

MPs questioned why its focus was on the senior civil service when government figures show there are 132,000 people in the public sector who are not qualified to basic numeracy and literacy levels.

“The whole purpose of employment generally is to make sure you get a match between the individual and what they are capable of doing and what the job requires,” Rider said. “So it may not be a problem in the way you are articulating.”

The committee’s inquiry will also look at whether the civil service operates the right recruitment and training policies and how poor performance is dealt with in Whitehall.

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