Diversity, equality and inclusion at HM Land Registry – An interview with Head of Diversity Julie Dennis

julie dennis
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What is the role of HM Land Registry?

We register the ownership of property in England and Wales. What that means is that we safeguard land and property ownership worth more than £4 trillion! And that includes £1 trillion of mortgages.

The Land Register itself contains more than 24 million titles which show evidence of ownership covering over more than 84% of England and Wales. Anyone who buys or sells land or property or takes out a mortgage in England and Wales must apply to HM Land Registry to register it and that will include unregistered land and property and new ownership of property and land and so on. We do some international work as well.

We currently employ about 4,850 people and the roles that we have range from technical to casework, people who update the register to IT support. Eighty per cent of our workforce work in the casework area. We have a whole IT section in Plymouth. As you can imagine there’s a lot of infrastructure that sits behind that. We also have people who are commercial-focused experts, policy advisers and also specialists working in a range of support functions such as HR and finance.

You’re responsible for equality and diversity at HM Land Registry. What exactly does your role entail?

My role is to provide strategic leadership across the organisation in terms of equality, diversity and inclusion, not only looking at employment and recruitment but also at the service HM Land Registry delivers as a Civil Service department. I initiate and coordinate the development of our strategic equality and diversity processes and objectives.

Some of my work includes working closely with our Executive Board and giving them strategic guidance on what they should be looking at in terms of diversity. I’ve also got four board diversity champions, for ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and religion and we’ve just appointed a new gender champion as well. So I work very closely with them and we keep everyone up to speed with the key issues within their area. I also look after local diversity champions.

Each local office has one in place. My role is to make sure they are cascading diversity messages across the organisation throughout the year.

So, for example, during LGBT History Month our diversity champions will be putting information up at local offices. They’ll also hold local events such as dementia training and transgender awareness.

Alongside our diversity champions, we have four staff diversity networks. They are a network for LGBT staff and allies, a disability network, a black, Asian and minority ethnic network and a newly formed women’s network. All the networks are open to all staff. The main reason we did this is because diversity touches all of us. You don’t necessarily need to identify as part of a particular group to feel passionate about creating an inclusive workplace.

What skills do you look for in a candidate?

Our recruitment is based on the Civil Service recruitment principles, which means selection is based on merit, fairness and open competition. Candidates are assessed against the essential criteria for the role. We also have a competence framework that will differ depending on the level of the role, then we have our value and leadership behaviours, where relevant.

Do you have an apprenticeship scheme?

We’ve had a scheme since 2014 and we’ve currently got 331 apprentices. The majority of them are working as caseworkers and study BTEC Business Administration, but we do have a few that work in HR and other areas such as finance. We aim to give them all a good grounding in working life.

Our youngest apprentices are 16 but there’s no upper age limit. If we put a limit on that it would be age discrimination. We do see that some people want a change in careers.

What opportunities are there for career progression?

Like most organisations really. We have an ongoing commitment to make sure we develop our people to enable them to fulfil their role but they have to want to progress with the organisation.

We have a variety of ways that we develop our people, from face-to-face training to reading, guides, trainee manuals and those kind of things. Staff have regular conversations with their line manager about their development, aspirations and where they see themselves. Some of our senior leaders started out as caseworkers. Our Director of Operations, for example, started as a caseworker. There is potential to progress and potential to grow into another Civil Service department.

So if you come to work with HM Land Registry, yes you’re working for us but you are a civil servant. That could open so many doors and lots of people do change departments so they can move up the ladder rather than stay in one place.
Recruiting a diverse workforce

HM Land Registry is very serious when it comes to diversity. We need to make sure we truly reflect this. One of our strategic equality objectives is primarily focused on workforce demographics and we have set very stretching targets for ethnicity. Like other Civil Service departments we were subject to a recruitment freeze a number of years ago. Now we are recruiting again our board wanted to make sure we attract more diverse talent. Our diversity targets for recruitment are based on the economic activity rate so, for example, when we’re recruiting apprentices they’ll mostly travel from a wider local area to an office, so our targets reflect the ethnicity of that area.
We’ve worked with our recruitment team to ensure we target the relevant communities, for example by ensuring recruitment literature is aimed at BAME communities so potential candidates can see we have jobs. Our blog also features stories from our diverse staff.
We’re looking to remove any unconsciously biased views so all our recruiters have mandatory non-bias training. You’re not allowed to sit on the interview panel if you’ve not completed the training.

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