Citizens Advice is the largest advice provider in the UK. The award-winning national charity is committed to helping people to resolve a range of problems, from debt and housing to consumer and employment related issues.
We sat down with Steve Whitehead, director of people and equality at Citizens Advice, to find out more about the pivotal senior roles they are recruiting for. Steve described just how motivating it can be to work for an organisation that has a real impact on society and gives individuals the opportunity to influence change.
Steve Whitehead, director of people and equality, Citizens Advice
Why would someone want to work for Citizens Advice?
The work we do to understand people and get to the bottom of their problems, through advice and influence, is at the heart of what motivates our employees. Winning Charity of the Year recently is testament to the impact we have on people and the ability to make society fairer. In the last year, the service has helped 2.1 million people with 6.6 million different problems. On average we solve the problems of two in three people who seek our help. This can be very rewarding and it's great to be part of a service that can help people find a way forward.
What key roles are you recruiting for?
We are currently recruiting for three pivotal roles: a head of organisational development and learning - a newly designed role for someone who can lead on OD and develop an L&D offer that speaks to the learning needs and styles of over 30,000 learners who work across the Citizens Advice service; a head of equality strategy - who will lead on our current equality projects and drive new ones forward; and a head of volunteering – to develop strategies that make our volunteering offer a modern one.
What responsibilities are associated with these roles?
The head of organisational development and learning will be responsible for leading the people strategy across a range of people management and development disciplines, from reward to organisational design, with a big emphasis on learning. The head of equality strategy will keep momentum and pace behind the pioneering work we are already doing whilst bringing our new strategic change priorities to life in an impactful way. The head of volunteering will have the important role of delivering a strategy around our volunteering activities, both within local Citizens Advice and the Citizens Advice Witness Service.
What kind of people are you looking for?
We want to create an inventive, generous and responsible culture. We are looking for people who are confident they can contribute positively and skilfully to developing this culture across the service. The successful applicants will also be able to demonstrate a strong record of delivery through their previous roles, regardless of what sector they have worked in. They need to show they are deeply committed to the work we do. They will also be expected to contribute in a big way to the senior leadership of the organisation, in addition to being specialists in their roles. They need to understand the strategic direction of the organisation and be able to translate that into the day-to-day operational delivery of their activities.
What career challenges are third sector professionals currently facing?
There is an expectation to deliver more for less. We intend to invest heavily in people management and development, but across the sector and more widely, HR and support services are very much under the spotlight when the economic climate becomes challenging. There is a massive opportunity for those services to demonstrate their worth and the value they can add. Professionals have to demonstrate much more inventiveness and creativity in terms of how they deliver solutions. I will be looking for people with a strong record of delivery and those who have personally made a significant impact on their organisation.
What career progression and development opportunities do you offer your employees?
Our people strategy is focused on talent. We offer personal development opportunities that are geared towards unlocking each individual’s potential. We have introduced a new performance management approach called Talent Talk - this encourages more regular conversations between managers and their employees, rather than the more traditional twice-a-year appraisal. This dynamic approach has enabled us to identify and reprioritise development goals consistently, rather than waiting for a formal appraisal. Each employee’s learning journey is geared around their development needs and we encourage them to take responsibility for their own careers.
What exciting projects are you working on?
An example of one of our major equality projects is our Talk about abuse campaign which we launched in September 2015 to encourage people to look for signs of domestic abuse among their friends and family.
The head of equality strategy will be tasked with continuing work to ensure advisers across the service receive training to identify domestic abuse. In addition, our new priorities for equality strategy will involve giving clients a voice, agency and influence; developing services for people with mental health issues; and finding ways to ensure the fair treatment of migrants, especially in the context of community cohesion. It’s a huge opportunity for an equality specialist to make a real impact.
We also now offer the Citizens Advice Witness Service, offering emotional and practical support to witnesses before, during and after a trial. The head of volunteering will have a big role to play in ensuring this is successfully delivered through nearly 2,500 volunteers.
We are also developing the Citizens Advice Academy - a central resource for all learning activity which everyone across the service can access. This is a massive project for the head of organisational development and learning who will need to harness the opportunities that learning technologies present.
Sum up what it’s like to work at Citizens Advice
A professional organisation where the challenges are varied and plentiful. If you want to contribute to the generous, inventive and responsible culture we have created and you want to contribute to helping resolve peoples’ problems then I would encourage you to get in touch.