Case Study:
The Civil Service Fast Stream

“Recruits from lower socio-economic backgrounds have doubled and continue to rise”

The Civil Service Fast Stream programme had a challenge: its intake was less diverse, in terms of socio-economic background, than that of the University of Oxford. Wanting an outside perspective on the issue, the Cabinet Office commissioned the Bridge Group to interrogate the data and produce its 2016 report, Socio-Economic Diversity in the Fast Stream.

“Having that independent view gave us a real momentum,” says Phil Wilson, Head of Assessment and Diversity, Civil Service Fast Stream. “The Bridge Group review brought everybody together at all levels in the organisation and ensured recommendations were delivered.”

The report looked in depth at the recruitment process, identified problem areas and made a series of detailed recommendations to be actioned over a two-year period. “We adopted the full list,” says Phil.

And results have been swift. In 2016, when the report was published, just 4.2% of Fast Stream recruits were from a lower socio-economic background. In 2017, that almost doubled to 8.3%, then rose to 9.1% in 2018. The time from application to hire has been drastically reduced, with the quickest process for a candidate taking less than 20 days – a key step to improving candidate engagement. The socio-economic background of candidates remains a critical focus, with a number of additional developments being considered.

Impact reached beyond Fast Stream: eight Civil Service departments feature in the Social Mobility Foundation’s Top 50 Employers in 2018 (with Fast Stream in the top 10), while Matt Hancock, then Minister for the Cabinet Office, wrote to 200 businesses in the wake of the report, urging them to take similar actions.

Finding ways to make the intake more diverse is vital to a healthy organisation, says Phil. “It’s about fairness and justice, of course. But the innovation and creativity you get when you have people from different backgrounds, with a range of different viewpoints, is invaluable.”