MCA Management Awards 10 Year Anniversary: Human Resources in thePublic Sector


Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Trevor Phillips, chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, once likened the NHS to a snow-capped mountain where the boss is almost always white. Close to 35% of doctors, 16% of nurses and 11% of non-medical staff are from ethnic minorities. Yet at the top, only 1% of chief executives are from minority backgrounds.

The NHS is Europe's biggest employer, so in 2002, health secretary John Reid laid out a 10-point action plan to address under-representation.

The 'Breaking Through' programme was established to develop and equip employees from black and ethnic-minority backgrounds with the skills and behaviours to progress.

But simply doing a good job is not enough, and Hay Group's 'Aspiring Directors' plan has been an important part of the NHS programme, targeting staff whose self-belief has taken a hit or those who lack understanding about how to operate in a more political environment.

The 12-day course is broken down into four three-day modules. The first helps participants gain an in-depth understanding of themselves and others.

Using a picture-story excercise that measures motives, participants learn what drives their behaviour and that of others. The second module uses a diagnostic tool that measures the most effective ways of influencing strategy and people within an organisation. It also helps participants to a greater understanding of the norms, procedures, cultures and values of the NHS. The next stage analyses different leadership styles, but also helps managers see leadership as a journey. Finally, participants are given the chance through simulations to 'step up' to the board, role-playing with real NHS CEOs and directors.

Offering the Aspiring Directors course was a challenge in itself - some line managers felt threatened when their staff attended the course. But high-level endorsement of the programme from NHS CEO Sir Nigel Crisp and other directors ensured that managers fell into line.

Nearly nine out of 10 participants have achieved some career development.

Since the scheme began in 2003, the percentage of directors from black or ethnic-minority backgrounds has improved from 2% to more than 7%.


Hay Group created a programme to meet the needs of ethnic-minority employees at the NHS, enabling 9 out of 10 to achieve progress.

- Don't be afraid to challenge thinking about what is really needed.

- Be prepared to change along the way as you listen to needs and suggestions.

- Secure buy-in to the project at all levels.

SHORTLISTED Consultancy: RightCoutts Client: British Council Consultancy: RightCoutts Client: Ministry of Defence

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