GCS 2020: Nine months in

This blog has been updated on 15 July 2020, to reflect the ‘Reshaping GCS’ project, announced on 2 July 2020.

GCS 2020 has been the improvement programme to ensure our profession delivers future best practice. Our mission, as always in Government Communication Service (GCS), is to make the best, standard. We also want to build fulfilling careers for our people.

In the last 6 years, collectively we’ve created 27 different initiatives for continuous improvement. They comprise what is known as the GCS Canon of Professional Practice.

2013 to 2019: Six Years of Continuous Improvement, The Canon of Professional Practice

Creating a wide membership baseA clear “ask and offer” for membershipRegularly refreshed professional standards
Diversity and Inclusion strategyCost effective approachesCreating Talent Management
Evaluation strategy and frameworkLeadership strategy and programmesIn-house design (D102)
Professional learning and develomentModern Communications Operating Model (MCOM)GCS Local
More centralised recruitment into the professionMinisterial Board and Annual Government Communications PlanGCS International
Internal Comms ExcellenceCreating Heads of ProfessionGCS Flex Team
Communications Futures CouncilProcurement best practiceAlignment between departments and key ALBs
Modern Media Operating ModelEmergency and crisis communicationsExternal Affairs Excellence
Business PartneringStrategic Communications Function GuideBehavioural Communications

This includes favourites such as the Modern Communications Operating Model now practised by the majority of our comms teams; curation of the internal communications and external affairs disciplines with their defined Heads of Profession (as one of these, I’ll declare an interest here!); and – really important – people and talent initiatives such as our Apprenticeship, Internship and GCS Fast Streamer schemes.

Making sure our profession continues to deliver exceptional world class practice is even more important with coronavirus (COVID-19), where good government communication is fundamental.  This need will continue through the expected lengthy recovery phase.

In April, we completed GCS2020, our seventh improvement programme,
which began last year. Colleagues from right across the GCS have been
involved in four projects:

  • leadership: to our people, into the industry and for the public
  • standards: excellence, professional standards and quality
  • people: your communications career and nurturing everyone’s ambitions
  • scale: using our size to maximise creativity; risk innovation and problem solving.

A huge thank you to everyone who has been involved. The programme ran from June 2019, and has delivered no less than fourteen new tools and guides.

So what’s new? Here are the headline ones:

GCS Guidance 2020   

OK, this is not strictly GCS 2020 but it’s a great and up-to-date guide to GCS setting out the priorities from the Prime Minister and our plans to support these with our campaigns throughout the year ahead. It also sets out our plans to continue developing the profession with the new tools and programmes available to you through GCS 2020. You should have received your copy from your director or head of communications. If not, please ask them for it.

Career Framework

My favourite. A clear guide to career pathways and development within the GCS.  This is an important document which you and your manager should have to hand when discussing career “what next” options. 

Newbie GCS Welcome Pack

An introduction to GCS for those who have recently joined or who are thinking of doing so.  Everyone coming in from ’outside’ should see this ‘fresher’s guide’.

Power of Choice

A programme which aims to promote diversity in the SCS talent pipeline, leading to more BAME and women at Director of Communication level.  It was launched in April 2020 with a cohort of 14 G6s and every one of the fourteen have one of us DoCs as a mentor. 

Quality Assurance Framework 

This is a comprehensive assessment of standards of governance, campaigns, practices and people, launched in January 2020. It will form the basis for understanding how well a comms operation is performing and, when we start them again either later this year or next, of capability reviews. 

Leadership Framework

This is a model for practising leadership in communications that defines the qualities, cultures and behaviours we expect in GCS, and the vision for how we want leaders across GCS to conduct ourselves : down to our teams, up to our principals, across to our peers and out to the wider profession.

Central recruitment guidance

A technical document for GCS HR people to develop consistent recruitment and selection standards across GCS, so we have a co-ordinated recruitment and resourcing approach going forward.  

Like the cross-profession approach to pay and reward the recruitment guidance isn’t something you’re likely to come across in everyday life unless you’re an HR or a senior manager but you should know it exists as part of the way we want to facilitate effective people planning across GCS.

The original plan was to re-start GCS2020 in October, and we were working on some plans for that when in early July the Prime Minister approved a proposal to reshape the Government Communication Service, put forward by GCS Exec Director Alex Aiken in the context of the wider Civil Service programme of change (Shaping Our Future), being led by new Civil Service Chief Operating Officer, Alex Chisholm.  

In the context of Reshaping GCS, we’ve taken the decision to formally close out GCS2020 and put the forward material for consideration into the Reshaping GCS programme.

All the GCS2020 initiatives which have been launched very much continue and form an important part of GCS practice. Email gcs2020@cabinetoffice.gov.uk if you would like to know more.

This blog post was written by Russell Grossman. He is the Director of Communications at the Office of Rail and Road, Assurance Director of the GCS2020 programme and Head of the Government Internal Communications profession.

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