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The Department of Health's 6 commitments to increase management skills

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civil service pledge card reading: "to develop as a leader using CSL"The Department of Health People Management Programme tries to raise the quality and consistency of management in the department. It aims to increase people’s skills at managing staff and to ensure everyone has a good experience of being managed.

To achieve this a group of staff investigated what the basic elements of good people management consisted of. They came up with a set of commitments that we tested with different staff levels and networks in the department.

The 6 commitments are:

  1. I will hold regular one-to-one and timely and meaningful performance reviews
  2. I will ensure my team members have clear, measurable objectives which make clear how they support departmental objectives
  3. I will recognise and celebrate talent and diversity, and their contribution to our success
  4. I will ensure team performance reviews feed into robust personal development plans. I will also make sure all staff have fair access to relevant learning and development opportunities
  5. I will take meaningful action to get feedback about the quality of both my people management skills and those of my team(s), and act on it
  6. I will ensure my team are clear about my expectations, and understand I will deal with underperformance promptly, honestly and with integrity

The 6 commitments are pretty basic but the staff survey told us that even these basics weren’t in place for many staff.

The commitments launched in May 2013, and all Directors and Senior Civil Servants (SCS) have them as part of their objectives for 2013–14.  In fact nobody in the SCS will be receive the highest performance mark unless they’ve met these objectives.

Directorates have also started to incorporate the commitments in all line managers’ objectives.

The Cabinet Office’s Good Management campaign gave us a good opportunity to check how the scheme is working. We asked managers and staff to share best practice on how they are working with the commitments:

We've been looking at the consistency of setting objectives and review feedback. These need to be constructive and honest, as well providing a benchmark across the directorate. As we identify best practice we relay it back to staff.

Claire Phillips, Deputy Director of Developing Well

We did a light-touch stock take at mid-year review to challenge ourselves about how we are embedding the commitments into how we work. This highlighted some areas for improvement.  Of these, one specific area focused on encouraging staff to share the good work they are doing. To help we created storyboards in our offices displaying examples of best practice. These have increased awareness of the commitments and encouraged people to share more stories.

Neil Griffiths, Deputy Director Procurement Services and Head of Profession

One branch ran a ‘good line management’ workshop where staff listed the qualities they thought made a good manager. They then committed to use these as a framework for their next one to one with their line manager.

This has resulted in some constructive discussions and positive results.

One manager looked for innovative ways to get a sense of the team’s wellbeing by introducing a wellbeing tracker. This was a simple weekly form that asked the team to rate how they were feeling, their workload and how much of a difference they thought they were making to patients.  She used the results to address any issues, ranging from the distribution of work to the well-timed provision of cake!

This and other examples will be used to celebrate good people management in the department. There is also a People Management Working Group, led by Mark Davies, which is open to all managers and team leaders to help further develop their skills.

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