The Ministry of Defence employs 60,000 civil servants and has a core Civilian HR function of 180 people. Over the last three years, they have been working hard to boost their professional standards and plug capability gaps.

We are absolutely delighted about becoming a CIPD People Development Partner. As a profession we're trying to live and breathe what we think is important about development. We see development as something people are engaged in every day.

Siobhan Sheridan, Civilian HR Director, Ministry of Defence

What I've noticed is that those who've been through the CIPD qualification route are acting as ambassadors. MOD offers lots of career opportunities, but they have committed to the profession and developing their professional HR skills.

Steve Weston, Strategy & Operations- HR Capability, Civilian HR, Ministry of Defence


The Ministry of Defence has been working with Civil Service HR (CSHR) to improve their professional standards. CSHR includes all the civil servants in HR and Learning and Development across government departments, agencies and other public bodies.

The Civil Service HR Career Pathway produced by CSHR and used by the Ministry of Defence aligns closely with the new CIPD Profession Map. The Ministry of Defence have used the Profession Map to promote good practice and pinpoint where capability gaps lie.

‘There is no more purposeful organisation than Defence – people are absolutely fundamental to what we deliver,’ says Siobhan Sheridan, Civilian HR Director, Ministry of Defence. ‘Having “Purpose” right at the core of the Map has been critical for us because that’s the way Defence thinks, acts and operates.’

Siobhan says the Ministry of Defence has done an ‘enormous amount of work’ on becoming more evidence-based in its decision making, including training and development for team members. Specialist staff have been recruited to support internal development and embed new ways of working, ‘in the spirit of making sure we are delivering the outcomes for Defence and for the public that we need to be able to deliver.’

New initiatives include, utilising an HR Business Partner program developed by colleagues in HMRC in collaboration with CIPD, a program of masterclass events, and a series of strategic workforce planning workshops. All of which aim to improve knowledge and skills across the wider business.


Siobhan says People Development Partner status has been helpful in motivating colleagues who are seeking to professionally qualify. ‘And it really helps to share with the whole of the organisation that actually this is a great HR function – it’s been recognised as such by our professional body.’

The Ministry Defence is offering a wide range of development paths with the apprenticeship route proving popular. So far around 90 colleagues have chosen this route, with the numbers set to rise further. ‘Those who have completed apprenticeships or obtained CIPD membership are encouraging and supporting others to follow suit’, says Steve. Managers have noted increased confidence and performance among individuals attaining professional qualifications. There’s also been a concerted effort to reinforce the importance of continuing professional development.

‘I think it’s easy for any of us to get our professional qualifications and then think we’re done,’ says Siobhan. ‘What we’ve tried to do is make a really wide range of different approaches to development available. Some of that is training courses or programmes, or bite-size learning that we’ve put in place. But we’ve also tried to make sure people have got coaching and mentoring and that we are exposing people to the sorts of experiences they need to have in order to develop as HR professionals. The great thing about Defence is there are so many different experiences we can offer people that are truly helpful to their development.'

The desire is for the Civil Service, and Defence in particular, to be perceived as a rich professional development environment. Going forward a key aim is to expand new ways of working and CIPD recognition beyond the Civilian HR function into other parts of the business.

‘We have many colleagues now from other areas of Defence who are coming through the education and development routes we’ve created,’ says Siobhan. ‘It’s our intention to make sure we’re running an HR profession for the whole of Defence. We’re drawing on and learning from experiences of HR professionals from right across Defence and very much hoping to get this recognition expanded over the course of the coming months and years.’

I thought this would be a good way to gain CIPD Associate Membership, while getting the support from a wrap round study programme with guaranteed learning time. I also gained greater understanding of the business and of the HR function, that I think I would not have investigated had I not been on the programme.'

Maria Freeman, HR Senior Executive Officer, Ministry of Defence who used the HR apprenticeship route to become a CIPD Associate Member

To find out more about becoming a CIPD People Development Partner, get in touch with the team by emailing

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