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What we learned from an HR and capability away day

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Community, Curiosity, Experts in what we do, Focus on core work

Some of HR and capability team during the treasure hunt

We haven’t had an away day for the HR and capability team before. Since we have new people in the team, we thought it would be a good idea to take a day away from the office. We came up with several things to talk about:

  • our team objectives, mission, and goals
  • the journey of a line manager in PDS and how they interact with HR and capability
  • improving processes such as managing the HR inbox
  • our team communicating with #TeamPDS to share knowledge and information

As one of our aspirations as an organisation is to be open and transparent, we wanted to share what we learned.

Organising the event

We channelled the PDS values of community and curiosity and used our public sector community on Twitter to ask for some help finding a venue. As ever, they came up trumps and we were offered a room at the Civil Service Fast Stream Assessment Centre over at the Cabinet Office. We felt it was important to get away from the office to help us think creatively and be free from distractions.

We also asked for help from a couple of members of #TeamPDS to facilitate certain sections of our day.

On the day

Thank you to Louise Butcher, Live Services support coordinator, for organising a team building exercise at the start of the day. We split into two teams and did a Whitehall and St James’s Park treasure hunt, followed by a quiz with a prize of chocolate. But it didn’t matter who won as it was fun, we got to know each other a little better, and we all shared the chocolate.

We then did a team canvas activity. The canvas is an actual thing that you complete together as a team and we went with the streamlined version. Carol Hindley, from our Programme Management Office, expertly facilitated this session.

Our first decision of the day was to call ourselves the HR and capability team, rather than have two disjointed teams. We focused on telling each other what our jobs were, our skills, and what we’re working on. This opened a productive discussion on crossover between our roles and some of the challenges we face as a team.

These things can sometimes be a drain on our time or don’t make it conducive to good team working, so it was great to talk this through. We then focused this thinking into four main areas we cover as a team:

  • employee relations
  • capability
  • operational HR
  • learning and development

We then wrote our initials beside each area which we felt we could strongly cover. This is so we can be clear ourselves who can do what, who’s the expert, and who colleagues in PDS can come to if they need to find out more.

We also focused on our values as a team and what we feel are most important to us to offer a good service to our colleagues in PDS. We set some rules on how we want to work as a team and how often we’ll review the team canvas to make sure we all still agree and keep it up to date.

Jonathan Seller, head of PDS HR, and I then ran an exercise to get us to focus on creating a team mission, using a simple tool given to us by one of our suppliers. Essentially it got us to think about four things:

  • What do we do?
  • How do we do it?
  • Who do we do it for?
  • What value are we bringing?

After working through these questions on our own, we came together as a team to share ideas/discuss/ponder and we came up with this:

The PDS HR and capability team support #TeamPDS to maintain a skilled and productive workforce that delivers its objectives by providing professional advice, support, and development.

From this we started to break that down and questioned what we need to do to achieve that as a team. We came up with the bare bones of an HR, people, and capability strategy which helped us to focus on what our goals are as a team. We’ll now use this structure to create a detailed strategy as a team.

For the rest of the day we looked at more detailed processes like the HR inbox, line management, and communication. What was clear to us was how we all agreed about a lot of things and came up with similar thoughts and ideas on how to approach tasks in the team.

Next steps for us

  • Work on our HR and capability strategy as a team.
  • Introduce ourselves, what we do, and our mission at an all staff meeting.
  • Update the HR part of the Digital Service SharePoint, linking to up to date and useful information.
  • Create a communications plan and regularly communicate about HR and capability via our various channels.

Things we learned

One of the team using the flipchart

  • We have great facilitators in the HR Team so thank you to them.
  • It’s useful to have a flip chart to capture things that need to be talked about at some point but you don’t want them to derail your day and take over the whole agenda.
  • It’s very tiring so take plenty of breaks so you can keep the energy high. Always have some cake/chocolate nearby.
  • Make sure everyone gets a proper lunch break.
  • Do some mindfulness exercises to help everyone bring their thoughts back to the room and what you should be focusing on.
  • Encourage everyone to talk, but don’t make them talk. Perhaps set some ground rules at the beginning of the day on participation and what's expected of everyone.
  • If you’re facilitating, try not to fill the uncomfortable silences with your ideas.
  • Take some time to celebrate team achievements.
  • We have a great team (okay we might have already known this).

Read more posts on the PDS cultural values

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1 comment

  1. Comment by Paul posted on

    I assume the new team member doesn't always have to wear the uniform. However could be effective in interview panels.

    Useful session by the looks and certainly a approach that others might want to re-use.