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Civil Service

Finding inspiration on the frontline

Posted by: and , Posted on: - Categories: Civil Service Leaders, Leadership Statement
Photo of Robert Devereux
Robert Devereux, Permanent Secretary for DWP

The Civil Service Leadership Statement talks about inspiring people by recognising innovation and initiative. But how do leaders at every level create the conditions for this to happen across a large, dispersed organisation?

To find out what colleagues are up to, there’s no substitute for getting out and about: whether by taking part in their events, informal group discussion, or sitting with individuals to learn about their role and what would make it better.

Visiting the frontline

I recently visited the Halifax Contact Centre to learn about how teams in the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber region are responding to customer demand.

Lisa Gayton, the Halifax team leader, told me that our customers increasingly use our services between 8 to 9am and 4 to 6pm. To meet this demand, the teams had to revisit some of their own working patterns.

Lisa brought together colleagues across Halifax, including the local Trade Union, to manage this. Collaborating with their teams, and sharing learning regularly, they identified solutions that worked both for the business and for the individuals. One colleague, for example, agreed to work an extra hour and 45 minutes rather than 2 hours so that she could get the 6pm bus rather than the 7pm one!

For me, the most striking (if not surprising) discovery to emerge from this exercise was that the most powerful motivator for colleagues – which caused them voluntarily to alter some long-established home arrangements – was a desire to meet their customers’ needs.

On a more recent visit to Kent, I saw the same focus on our customers from Cheryl Potts and her team of Band As, Bs and Cs. Over a two-week period, nearly all 1,000 DWP Band As, Bs and Cs across Kent attended events highlighting not just that what we do matters, but how we do it matters more.

Designed by Cheryl’s team, these events combined role-play, videos and real local case histories to show very powerfully how every intervention, every contact with our customers has to count – because of the difference we can make when we get that right. One young customer had his life so transformed by his short interaction with a Work Coach that he came back and made a video of his experience, as an encouragement to keep up this good work!

These are only two examples of innovation and initiative producing excellent results across DWP and the Civil Service more widely.

Inspiring people is contagious

I know from my Directors and Executive Team colleagues that I am not alone in finding my energy levels topped up when I see first hand the extraordinary commitment and innovation that is at work in the fabric of the department. I’ve learned from observing leaders at every level that inspiring people is pretty contagious once you get going.

Those who do it don’t conform to a personality type, but they have some common characteristics: they are authentic, they include, they collaborate, they encourage others to take the stage when they’re ready, they know what they are up to, and they have some fire in them!

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  1. Comment by E Vanderpuye posted on

    'INSPIRING PEOPLE IS CONTAGIOUS' when 'personification' is applied. Same way as we say 'laughing is contagious'.

  2. Comment by Nigel Parsons posted on

    "Inspiring people is contagious". Is some form of physical contact required? If not then "infectious" might be a better choice of words.

  3. Comment by Buster Friendly posted on

    The converse is also true: poor leaders who do not listen to staff inspire disengagement, mistrust and low morale, engendering a 'them and us' culture.

  4. Comment by cad posted on

    "For me, the most striking (if not surprising) discovery to emerge from this exercise was that the most powerful motivator for colleagues – which caused them voluntarily to alter some long-established home arrangements – was a desire to meet their customers’ needs."

    That says it all - how can you be surprised that civil servants want to do a good job & the best they can for the public. That's what we joined for - sadly we're now so exploited by the likes of our "leaders" & our Govnt paymasters that motivation is generally at an all time low from which I don't think it will recover.

    • Replies to cad>

      Comment by John Brett posted on

      CAD, I understand what you are saying but it’s time to nail the canard that the majority of us joined the Civil Service out of some need to serve the public. I joined because at my, then, age no other employer wanted me. That's not to say we can't eventually gain satisfaction from serving. We shouldn't lose sight of the fact that we are bound by a fairly straightforward contract; "you do X and we'll pay Y." X is of course increasing while Y decreases, and is set to continue to do so, in real terms. If we give the impression that working in the Civil Service is a vocation then the abuse will continue. We should be doing all we can to get our contract of employment (X and Y) back in balance. One might call this “fairness”.

  5. Comment by John Brett posted on

    John Brett
    I always enjoy Robert’s writings. He is obviously a well educated intelligent man who doesn’t leap upon examples such as he outlines and make ludicrous claims as to how the example fits so well in to whatever concept HR is presently peddling. Robert just seems to quietly accept that good well intentioned people do good intelligent things. He is of course saddled with the foolish Civil Service Leadership Statement but he at least sails past it without getting bogged down in its nonsense.

  6. Comment by Deborah posted on

    A good article though originating from just 7 miles distant to Halifax I very much think it's in Yorkshire.

  7. Comment by Paul Harcombe posted on

    describing DWP as a 'business' will always strike me as odd, but then maybe I'm just old fashioned