Over 274,000 of you, in 101 participating organisations, did so – that’s more than last year and getting on for two-thirds of the entire Civil Service, confirming the survey as by far the most authoritative representation of the attitudes and experiences of civil servants, and one of the largest regular surveys of any workforce in any industry or profession in the country.
As a source of feedback – and concrete data – on what you think about the organisations you work for, the survey is more important than ever before. We are in the middle of the most far-reaching reform of Civil Service working practices in a generation. These changes were part dictated by the financial crisis, and the need for the Civil Service to become more digital and efficient. But they are also about meeting our ambition to be the best, most capable Civil Service we can be, confronting the demands of the 21st century and heightened expectations of the speed, efficiency and responsiveness of public services.
We appreciate the challenges that this presents to all civil servants – and one of the clear issues that you have raised in the survey, is around pay. I recognise that the Civil Service, like other parts of the public sector, has undergone pay restraint since we entered the financial crisis in 2007. This has been a necessary part of reducing public sector debt, but has been important in safeguarding many jobs, and keeping forced redundancies to an absolute minimum.
Nevertheless, against this background, it is encouraging that the survey shows levels of employee engagement actually increasing, with 5 of the 9 themes on the rise since last year, including leadership and managing change, and learning and development.
There are high scores for the numbers of us who are interested in our work (89%), believe we have the skills and tools we need to do our jobs (89%), feel trusted to do so effectively (89%), and are confident in the respect of our colleagues (84%).
Your own departments and teams will be updating you on the specific results in your own areas and their plans for actions arising from them.
These figures, and the increase in the headline employee engagement index to 59%, are encouraging, and a real tribute to the quality of management at all levels across the Civil Service. But it would be idle to pretend that satisfaction levels are uniformly high or that the overall perception – or achievement – of the leadership and management of the Civil Service is everything we would wish. This is why my senior leadership team and I have been prioritising action to improve our performance in areas where our scores are low.
Responses to some of the key questions around attitudes towards how you are managed, particularly at senior level, show small but welcome improvements. For example, confidence in the decisions of senior managers and that they are “living” the values of their organisation have risen by 3 points (to 44%) and 4 points (to 47%), respectively. The feeling from staff that their organisation is well managed is up 2 points to 45%, but this still means that many of you are not content with senior management. While at 45% the benchmark for believing senior managers will take action on the results is also too low.
I would like to assure you that the Civil Service Board will act on what you have shared with us. We are clear that embedding culture changes that will result in lasting change must start at the top.
Your responses to our consultation on the leadership strategy – and the results of the People Survey, which we are examining closely – will be reflected in the leadership statement we are developing and of which there will be more news soon.