TJ interviews: The Cabinet Office’s Daniel Okin

Degreed’s Conor Gilligan interviews Daniel Okin from the Cabinet Office.

Tell us about your background and how you got involved in L&D.

I was born and raised in London, my parents worked full time whilst brining up my brother and I. My father was a taxi driver and my mother a clerical worker for a marketing company. I left college and went directly into work as opposed to going to a university as I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do career-wise.

I joined the Metropolitan Police Service as a Special Constable in 2007 with the desire to potentially becoming a full time Police Officer. Weirdly, 14 years on and I am still volunteering my time to give back and help make London a safer place to live and work.

My first job was linked to the HR industry and after a few years I found a passion for developing people, building capability and working through challenging change programmes.

In 2010 I started my bachelor degree in Human Resources Management. I knew I wanted to stay in HR and L&D. I also found that many of the core skills required where applicable in all areas of business, including my voluntary role as a Special Inspector leading frontline Police Officers in the City of Westminster.

Lastly, I was a glutton for punishment and went on to complete my Masters in Learning and Development in 2015.

My first key leadership role in Learning and Development was with Serco. I remember thinking ‘oh my! what have I taken on’ as I was responsible for the people development programmes across the UK Enterprise Division. I had an amazing team who were equally committed in helping others develop and grow professionally. I knew from this moment on I didn’t want to do anything else.

Workforce development must move on from working in a silo to being deeply embedded across the business and, crucially, from a focus on content delivery and learning to a focus on performance.

The feeling I get from transforming an organisation’s capability needs and creating people programmes that see individuals excel in their career is the same as why I love volunteering in the Police Service! A sense of purpose in making a difference.

We all know there’s some huge transitions going on in government right now – what’s your current approach to upskilling and reskilling?

This year is unmatchable to any change we have ever experienced probably in our lifetime. I think the biggest transition we all had to make was the huge reduction in ‘real time’ people interactivity.

As we evolve into a hybrid working model and continue to adjust operational delivery remotely, there is a need to ensure that our colleagues have access to the development and training programmes. When the first lockdown was announced in March 2020, like many in the learning and development space, Contract Management Capability quickly took the predominantly face-to-face training courses online.

Our contract managers spend around £50bn annually on external contracts for a wide range of goods and services and are in need of easily accessible training content and resources whether they were based in the office or at home.

The future of work will require two types of changes across the workforce: upskilling, in which staff gain new skills to help in their current roles, and reskilling, in which staff need the capabilities to take on different or entirely new roles.


In operationally intensive sectors, leaders are starting to recognise that automation and sytem digitisation will likely create significant skill gaps in personnel capability, but many report feeling unprepared for the challenge according a recent study by the big four consultancy firms.

We provide practical experiential programmes, that support capability development by blending theory with real-life role play and plenary examples. Through this model we unlock the behaviours, skills, understanding and application aspects together.

Individuals are then formally tested to ensure they meet a benchmark requirement across a number of technical and behavioural attributes. These skills are primarily linked to contract management, however having a sound understanding of risk, financial balance sheets, commercial procurement and decision making are universally spread across any sector, discipline or organisation.

The importance is relevance to the evolving political and environmental landscape! Ensuring that what is accessible to employees is sustainable and delivers to meet the future needs and demands.

How are you measuring and validating skills to continue to support employees’ career development opportunities?

Government professions have a career mapping framework which identifies the capability and behavioural requirements across the different professional roles. Formal assessment and accreditation benchmarks an individual’s capability, highlighting areas for their strengths and areas for development.

For example, within the Contract Management programme, we developed two 360 diagnostics questionnaires. Individuals can grade their own capability against a series of technical and behavioural scenarios, seeking a further score from their peers and line manager.

The programmes and tailored curriculum are regularly reviewed to maintain relevancy against legislation, political and environmental changes which require new or evolved skills from our employees. While tailored content is still needed, it plays a diminishing part in a fast-moving, boundaryless and service-based global workplace.

Workforce development must move on from working in a silo to being deeply embedded across the business and, crucially, from a focus on content delivery and learning to a focus on performance.

Upskilling is the focus of the government’s recent Skills for Jobs white paper and reskilling and upskilling ranked top in the 2021 L&D Global Sentiment Survey.

During Covid, LinkedIn research shows that workers are spending more time learning (130% increase), more L&D leaders are prioritising reskilling (64% see it as more of a priority now than ever) and CEOs are championing L&D harder (159% increase). [Statistics and reference taken from Emerge Education – The future of workplace development 2021]

We know that the majority of learning happens on the job as part of the 70:20:10 model.  How are you supporting the 70% today such as mentoring, gigs, projects etc?

We specifically designed our programmes to incorporate the 70:20:10 learning model, providing individuals with the opportunity to directly apply what they are learning immediately in their day-job, reflecting on capability skills improvement and efficiencies.

With the right tools and resources in place, the 70:20:10 model can support individual by making learning immediately actionable. The 70% of learning through the programme is monitored weekly. Individuals attend bite sized weekly online learning sessions led by experienced subject matter and learning experts.

These sessions provide access to real life role play scenarios, plenary discussion opportunity that weekly can be taken back to the workplace and through a structure of reflective practice, monitored to see a change in understanding, skill application and process management.

Individuals on the programmes additionally have access to qualified L&D managers who provide performance coaching guidance. This is further supported by access to our online community of practice network, toolkits guidance and templates.

It’s important to remember that the 70:20:10 model is not fixed. It’s not about getting a perfect division of learning types. It should be used as a guideline for the recommended blend of learning needed across a programme. The optimum mix will depend on the learners and the organisation training need in question.


About the interviewee

Daniel Okin is Head of Learning and Development (Contract Management Capability) at The Cabinet Office.


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