Faraday Partnership, which works with a number of clients in the public, private and voluntary sectors, will assess all senior staff against a series of key competencies to identify areas for further training, said a spokesman. He said some staff could leave DEFRA or shift jobs post assessment.
However, it was "not a redundancy scheme but a training exercise", he insisted.
"Getting rid of people is not the purpose of this. It is to equip them to do their jobs better."
The programme, which will cover about 500 staff, will probably start in the spring.