You join the Consultant Development Community (CDC), for a two year whirlwind: a dazzling variety of projects with clients across the UK and around the world. This breadth of experience provides development opportunities which are second to none. However, occasionally the CDC also offers a chance to increase the depth of your client engagement and sector knowledge in the form of a secondment.
Being seconded to another organisation allows you to spend time in a role which would otherwise be filled by a member of its own staff. You are no longer a consultant, coming in to a client with a specific commission. Instead, you are working as a permanent employee, with an insider view of everything that goes on.
Earlier this year, I was very fortunate to get a secondment position with the Cabinet Office. This is set to be a nine month placement as a Policy Advisor on the Youth Policy team. Admittedly, my prior experience of policy advisory and the youth sector was minimal; however, I have a strong interest in the Public sector, previously working on Public sector projects with different government departments.
When starting my role with the Cabinet Office, the team was immediately welcoming, and I settled into the pattern of Parliamentary questions and Ministerial briefings and submissions. My role was different to anything I had done on consulting projects, and there were new challenges every day. However, I had support from both Capgemini and from the Cabinet Office team, and the work was both interesting and rewarding.
Whilst on secondment, I have been able to witness the transformation of government through an extremely tense election, meet with Ministers and other political stakeholders, and work with a range of government departments and external partners. These have all been hugely valuable experiences. However, the most significant knowledge I hope to take away with me is a deeper understanding of how the Public sector works: the culture of an organisation subject to political whims; the mindset of decision-makers who are not motivated by share prices or profit; the approach of an employee held to account to the taxpayer.
Ultimately, this experience will help to make me a better consultant. You need to understand a client before you can understand their problems, and you definitely need to understand their problems before you can even begin to solve them. I have been given an alternative perspective on the problems faced in the Public Sector. However, there are wider benefits to be gained from secondment opportunities, particularly since the CDC is also lucky to host a number of Civil Service fast streamers on secondments of their own.
Why send employees to work elsewhere for months on end? It is clear to me that this collaborative approach to developing talent produces individuals who are well-rounded, with both breadth and depth of experience. It provides opportunities to share knowledge and ideas, bringing fresh perspectives into an organisation. It expands networks and builds relationships, giving future leaders the connections that will eventually drive business. And it is evidence of a corporate culture that succeeds through investing in its most valuable resource.
I am looking forward to the last few months of my secondment- it has been a fantastic experience so far and I know there is plenty left to learn! However, I am aware that it has been a fairly unusual arrangement. I hope that we seek out more of these sorts of opportunities at Capgemini, so that we continue to see the rewards they bring.