GDS job adverts mount up as PaaS team explains new hand signals

Written by Rebecca Hill on 10 October 2016 in News

The Government Digital Service is continuing its recruitment drive – as its Platform as a Service team resorts to hand signals in ‘frustrating’ team meetings.

Interview panel: GDS team seeks candidates for 16 jobs - Photo credit: Flickr, Richard RutterCCBY2

There are now sixteen jobs advertised across the Government Digital Service’s teams, including a policy and engagement lead on Government as a Platform, a departmental engagement manager and a lead web operation engineer.

The team is also looking for a recruitment advisory lead to help departments develop their capabilities in the digital, data and technology professions by offering consultancy and creating standards for job titles, descriptions and recruitment processes.

In addition, GDS has re-listed its advert for the role of head of user research, a recruitment campaign that was first run back in July, but went back up on the civil service jobs site on Friday.

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The jobs, which have closing dates ranging from today to the end of the month, are offering salaries upwards of £36,000. The two highest paying roles are the lead web ops engineer at upwards of £65,000 and the head of user research at between £57,408 and £70,700.

The head of user research – a position that is being filled in an interim capacity by the freelance user researcher John Waterworth – will lead both the GDS’ user research team and the wider community of user researchers in government.

Meanwhile, the other most recent advert is for the policy and engagement lead on the Government as a Platform team.

A blogpost published on 7 October, set out the responsibilities in the role, saying the new recruit will create “the right environment across government by working with senior civil servants to explain what GaaP offers and to generate interest and support from senior leaders”.

The continued recruitment drive follows a year of relative unrest at GDS, which began with the sudden departure of its first executive director Mike Bracken in September last year and a number of other senior personnel.

Although this was followed by some months of stability and success – notably the £450m awarded to GDS in the last spending review – its future has again been drawn into question after more high-profile departures, including Bracken’s successor Stephen Foreshew-Cain and GOV.UK Verify lead Janet Hughes.

The latest leader, Kevin Cunnington, who arrived at GDS from the Department for Work and Pensions, and Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer have gone to some effort to allay such fears.

This includes announcements that GDS would be making the DWP Academy for digital skills a cross-government programme and that the service was moving to new offices in London’s East end.

Hand of friendship

However, a blogpost from the Platform as a Service team indicates that some parts of GDS have had to take unusual action to stop meetings being dominated by more confident team members.

“Our stand-ups and larger team meetings were getting longer and communication was becoming harder,” said Dan Carley in a post for the PaaS blog. “One of our team members suggested hand signals as a way to help with this, and we all agreed.”

Setting out the logic behind the decision, Carley said that everyone could empathise with the situation: discussions dominated by the most confident or loudest people, while the quieter or newer members “hesitate to voice their opinion”.

Carley stressed that people weren’t being “unkind or power hungry”, saying that those who dominate conversations are “usually…passionate”.

He said: “When a large group of passionate people come together, whatever the organisation, there’s a risk that meetings can become a bit chaotic, unfocused and frustrating”.

As such, the group has chosen a set of six hand signals – for agreement, disagreement, wanting to talk, to offer a direct response, ask for clarification and indicate conversation has strayed – to use during meetings.

Carley said that it took “discipline” for team members to make hand-signalling their default response, but that the flow of conversation had now improved.

“Agreement or disagreement can be demonstrated without speaking. Whoever is talking is free to finish without interruption, and gain feedback as they talk,” he wrote.

“We spend the same amount of time in meetings but we have more focused discussions and certainly get through more content. People can have a voice without worrying about when to jump in.”

Despite the fact the move could suggest fractious meetings within the group, the comments under the blogpost are generally positive, although one commentator questioned how it would work for people with visual impairments.

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