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Civil Service

This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

People Survey 2015 – you tell us where we must be better

Sir Jeremy at the Civil Service Board meeting, January 2015
Sir Jeremy Heywood

The results of the seventh annual People Survey are now available, and the overall picture remains largely the same as last year. Engagement in some departments has increased significantly (notably DCMS, DCLG and DFT); in others it has stayed the same or slipped back. But what can we learn when we look at the detail behind these headline figures?

The first thing to say is that the People Survey is your annual opportunity to tell us what you think about your job, your department or agency, what we do well and what could or should be improved. I want to thank everyone who took the time to complete it.

We learn valuable lessons from your feedback, and the more of us who take part, the more powerful the data that’s produced, giving insights into what issues top managers need to focus on, and how we can all work together to do things better. So, I’m pleased to see that 279,653 of us completed the survey – an overall response rate of 65%; 5 percentage points higher than in 2014.

People Survey 2015 -2

Resilience, professionalism and dedication

As an organisation, the Civil Service has clearly faced significant challenges over the past few years. The tough financial climate has forced us to make big changes: to re-organise, become more efficient, and deliver more for less. This year’s survey shows again that, despite such changes, most civil servants continue to enjoy their work. Job satisfaction remains at levels I’m sure most organisations would be jealous of, with interest in your work at 89%, and having the skills to do the job 88%. I believe this powerfully underlines the resilience and professionalism of civil servants and your dedication to public service.

Civil servants rose to the challenge of the last Parliament, while maintaining the quality of public services. If we are to do the same again over the next five years, we know we are going to have to continue to find better and more efficient ways of working.

Better leadership

While scores for leadership and managing change have been increasing, there is still much improvement to be made and we recognise that better leadership will be key to making the Civil Service a more modern, efficient and fairer place to work.

That is why in February we introduced the Leadership Statement, setting out the behaviours you can expect from your Civil Service leaders. The benchmark survey score for how you think your managers measure up to the statement is 57%, but this falls to 35% for senior managers. This simply isn’t good enough, and illustrates that we have much more to do here. It is only by acting on your feedback that we can meet the challenges of this Parliament and the imminent Spending Review, and emerge even stronger.

Eradicating discrimination

Top of my own list of priorities is improving diversity, inclusion and fairness. Of those who completed the survey, 11% said that they had experienced discrimination at some point in the last year. As a service, we must have zero tolerance of any kind of bullying or discrimination. Indeed, this shows the value of the People Survey, as without it we would have no reliable guide to the extent of the problem. The Civil Service Board is clear that that all senior leaders must take responsibility for eradicating discrimination. Given these results, we now need to give this issue renewed focus over the weeks and months ahead.

There is still progress to be made. I want to be able to say that I am the head of a truly national civil service that reflects the society it serves. This means attracting the best people, whoever they are and wherever they come from. This year, we refreshed the Talent Action Plan, helping us to understand and remove the barriers to progress for underrepresented groups. Soon, we will introduce name-blind job applications, making the recruitment process even fairer.

Thank you again for recording your views in the survey. I take your feedback very seriously and will be discussing it in depth with the Civil Service Board over the coming weeks, ensuring that we take the necessary steps to respond to it effectively.

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  1. Comment by Paul posted on

    On the subject of discrimination: I have been in the civil service for 28 years. In all that time, whenever I have applied for another role, I've not gotten it. For nearly all of those years, I have been a union rep. I could be forgiven for thinking I'm not getting to develop because of that. I was given it as a reason once, and when I told the HEO in question they couldnt do that, their response was 'la la la not listening.' So if we're going to tackle discrimination, will I have a chance in future? I won't hold my breath

  2. Comment by Catface posted on

    It isn't a Civil Service survey, most of the respondents are Military who have been coerced into completing it. It is an absolute farce, those behind manipulating the figures should hang their heads in shame.

  3. Comment by Aidan posted on

    I am one of the many people who chose not to participate in the survey. If no one completes it then that sends a clear message to Sir Jeremy and his board that civil servants have had enough of this annual farce. As others have commented, the issues that matter are not addressed. Why ask a question about pay and conditions when you clearly have no intention of doing anything about it? Year after year the same old issues are discussed, action plans, focus groups, fancy slogans.........stop start change.......see it solve it own it........... change for the better ............etc etc. Nothing changes. Like many of my colleagues I am waiting for the inevitable VES package to come round again and vote with my feet.

  4. Comment by Jon posted on

    Can I ask why the questions on the PAR have not been shown in the survey results?
    Go on, show us what people really think of the process.

  5. Comment by Julian Harris posted on

    There is alot of work to be done and the required change can only happen top down.
    When are the great British leaders like Nelson and Churchill who were large and in charge

  6. Comment by Barry Owen posted on

    Dave has nailed it perfectly.

  7. Comment by Darren posted on

    What I find interesting is how consistent the scores have been over the last 7 years, question by question, despite the ENDLESS task-forces, improvement plans, action plans... Perhaps our leaders might ask themselves why?

  8. Comment by Disgruntled posted on

    If Sir Jeremy really wants to do something about fairness may I suggest he trys to move civil service pay to spot rates or at least much shorter pay bands. I venture that most of the discrimination figures in "pay, grade" are because staff feel discriminated against when they are still at the minimum of a pay grade after 6 years in the job and see colleagues doing a similar job and being paid 20% more. Its not surprising that these people feel discrimination and are disengaged

  9. Comment by Dave posted on

    I'm surprised at some of the results being so high, despite the fact they are so bad again!

    It is clear from the feedback, people feel over-worked, under-paid, poorly motivated, badly led, un-empowered, intimidated, bullied, un-represented and depressed.

    The Management spin will again be applied and lip-service attributed, but overall nothing will change.

    We bear the brunt of the cuts and wage restraints. We have our terms and conditions torn up, without negotiation or recompence. We have our pensions raided, without compensation or consultation. We are expected to work harder and harder for less and less pay until we die before reaching and ever increasing retirement age!

    The general public have no sympathy for us, until the benefits or services they enjoy are withdrawn, by which time it is all too late.

    Public servants! Servants is right, underclass for the rich and powerful! And if you don't like it, you know where to go!

  10. Comment by john posted on

    This survey seems to have completely ingored the elphant in the room. The reviled Performance system, ridiculed throughout the civilised world and disowned by Delottie. It has allowed introverted managers to discriminate against staff not of their ilk, by using behaviour as a subjective weapon.
    Nothing has been learnt over the decades I have been here. The managers continue to promote, and now review, in their own image. The dull and the grey and the unimaginative continue to rule over us.
    The only people who are ever going to get an 'exceed' in behaviour are North Koreans.

  11. Comment by Scott posted on

    Can someone tell me what the point of these surveys are? In the current political climate of cut to the bone and keep on cutting, no matter what we do or whatever desperate reform management rolls out next, the civil service isn't going to work properly and those who work within it are going to feel pretty hard done by. Despite the party line, cuts don't make things better or indeed make efficiency miraculously spring forth. The real world consequence of cuts are as they have always been; backlogs, corner cutting, resource starvation, penny pinching, fire fighting and damage limitation. Things that are not conducive towards efficient ways of working. And are certainly not things that are going to make us all happy, smiley, engaged, motivated little human resources. So if our dogmatic political masters insist cuts are to be a permanent fixture in the civil service, how about cut the facade that what we think is actually going to make a blind bit of difference.

  12. Comment by Mark posted on

    With regard to the Civil Service Leadership Statement, there is no independent mechanism for reporting issues that fail to meet the standards of expected leadership. The only way for senior leaders to improve their score is for them to demonstrate that they can be held to account and serious issues not brushed under the carpet.

  13. Comment by Paul Mann posted on

    I have been in public Service since I left school. I plan to leave next year. I used to love coming to work and had a pride in my job. I now come to work because I have bills to pay.
    I my place of work we are being chased up as we have so much work outstanding, yet we waste our time on this ridiculous assessment system. For goodness sake get rid and see a percentage increase in the "we listen" box next year.
    A couple of years ago I took partial retirement as I realised my pension would increase at a greater rate than my pay. Staying on would effectively have meant a cut in pension income until I die. Where is the sense in that? However please don't mention this to Cutter George as he would probably solve the issue by cutting pension increases.

  14. Comment by John posted on

    Great…. more people completed the survey -however before you start slapping yourselves on the back, and using this weeks pet buzzword-(“engagement”), this is largely because the unions gave their blessing to complete the survey this year…
    Coming onto “engagement” most of us are indeed interested in our work, and have the skills to do the job. It would be surprising if we were still employed if we didn’t, given that recruitment has been largely non existent for many years.
    -Once again no mention regarding the fact that only 24% of DWP staff think their pay is reasonable.
    -No mention at all regarding the despised performance appraisal system- I’m sure a system that seeks to label 10% of your staff as abject failures must of cropped up more than a few times in responses to the survey, but the usual head in the sand response has yet again been adopted. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why only 38% of DWP staff have any confidence in decisions made by senior managers.
    I REALLY hope you do take some of the issues raised in this survey and do indeed take the necessary steps to respond to staff-it’s telling only 44% of staff think you will…..

  15. Comment by Brian Boak posted on

    Pay and benefits received a derisory 29% approval rating, because they are derisory. While this is dictated by ministers, rather than managers, I doubt any senior manager has had the wherewithal to challenge ministers on the issue.

  16. Comment by andy posted on

    Discrimination , bullying still widely exsists wether in the civil service by bosses or military managers,we are kept in the dark most of the time and only told information now and again which gives the weak line manager an easier time.Cetain line managers only care for themselves and not enough about their staff.

  17. Comment by Keith posted on

    Sir Jeremy
    What is the point of soliciting the views of staff on the effectiveness of their senior management if, year after year, nothing is done following the often devastatingly poor scoring of those same people? Seriously- what really is the purpose of this?

  18. Comment by Paul Weston posted on

    Where are the results? so that I can make my own review, otherwise whats the point

  19. Comment by Barry Owen posted on

    Surely if you are committed to a zero tolerance approach to discrimination and bullying then you are committed to abolishing the annual appraisal system which itself is used as a means to discriminate and bully staff. How about introducing 360degree appraisals, at least that way management could experience some of the medicine!! And as you claim the CS is committed to opportunity for all etc etc then you would have nothing to fear from this approach.

  20. Comment by Terry DWP posted on

    Agree with practically all the above- why no reference to pay YET AGAIN? In my office (DWP) the "sorry your leaving" banners are going up on one or two of the buildings floors EVERY WEEK! Until the horrenously unfair pay disparity between Government departments is addressed then our staff will continue to vote with their feet literally- we have delivered cost savings AND significantly increased productivity, why hang around any longer for 4 more years of pay cuts thanks to a 1% imposed pay rise coupled with drastic increases to pension contributions resulting in less pay? Some much for rewarding better performance!

  21. Comment by Paul posted on

    "I want to be able to say that I am the head of a truly national civil service that reflects the society it serves. This means attracting the best people, whoever they are and wherever they come from." Hard to do with a recruitment freeze. Maybe a better idea is to look after the people you have. We are told we have to pay high wages to senior managers to attract the best (or just the greedist?) people. Sadly this philosophy does not apply to the bottom of the pay scale. We're just told there's no money in the pot, and if we don't like, don't let the door catch us on the way out...

  22. Comment by Keith Spamer posted on

    After reading this go to the next item 'Civil Service Awards', not many females and even fewer black faces, and how many are London based or surrounding area. As Cameron often claims "we are all in this together", well not from where I'm standing.

  23. Comment by Robert posted on

    I truly despair at the comments above, "As a service, we must have zero tolerance of any kind of bullying or discrimination". The figures show this is a massive problem year after year and there is no doubt the true figure is likely to be even higher. There is an intrinsic bullying culture now in the CS and in HMRC around sick absence and especially PMR. This horrific system encourages divisive and discriminatory behaviour and despite widespread hatred of it amongst staff we get the usual PR responses to concerns. Like previous years I have no faith whatsoever in anything tangible being done to properly address the real issues, only a tinkering with some trivial matters to look like something has been done.

  24. Comment by Ron posted on

    It is no suprise to me that pay and benefits have not been mentioned by Heywood. I am surprised that 29% are satisfied with pay and benefits - where did they come form? I am retiring at the end of this year (could have worked on part-time but need to get out of here) and am going feeling frustrated, cheated and completely let down. Despite 12 years of getting good/excellent appraisal markings, I leave still not on the full rate for the job I am doing. No wonder there is such a high turnover of employees !!!

    • Replies to Ron>

      Comment by William (MoD) posted on

      Can I suggest that the 29% of people satified with the pay are possibly contractors?
      We certainly have about a 1/3 of the people on floor plates wearing "red badges".

  25. Comment by Chris posted on

    You don’t have a staff engagement problem.
    You don’t have a culture problem.
    You don’t have a staff motivation problem.
    You don’t have a performance management problem.
    You don’t have a strategy problem.

    You don't even have a leadership problem.

    These are all just symptoms...

    You have a management thinking problem.

    The question is by what method will you change management thinking about work? I would suggest that the current methods have not worked? Use a different method this time - not just more of the same - otherwise you'll only get more of the same again...

  26. Comment by David Sangster posted on

    Sir Jeremy is right to point out the issue around perceptions of leadership, but perhaps we are too obsessed with leadership as a panacea instead of focusing on what good management is. In big picture terms as long as the 'only show in town' is making savings then the survey will struggle to capture any improvements in staff perceptions. When you go five years without a pay rise, looking at another four the same with consequent irrepairable damage to pensions; when we are moved like sheep to ever more confined office space so floors can be rented out; when we are performance managed in the legacy of Gove's aggressive approach to employee relations - what grounds for optimism or confidence is there?

  27. Comment by Jim Tierney posted on

    In the lead up to the Survey opening, I am sure I read an assurance that the survey could not be completed more than once, thus allaying any staff concerns that Management, or disgruntled staff, could respond multiple times.

    I sent the following 2 e-mails to the DWP Survey Team. I am still awaiting a reply!


    I contacted you 17 days ago. Please see e-mail below.

    Please advise when you are likely to respond to my concern.


    Sent: 13 October 2015 17:07
    Subject: People Survey Query- All staff email


    I have just completed the survey.

    Out of interest, I attempted to start the survey for a second time, and it appeared that I would have been allowed to continue.

    Please respond to my concern that this therefore invalidates the survey as it is open to abuse.


  28. Comment by HMRC_Minion posted on

    Sir Jeremy

    In the section 'Eradicating discrimination' you state that:
    "Indeed, this shows the value of the People Survey, as without it we would have no reliable guide to the extent of the problem".

    I am fairly confident that, as the results for both discrimination and bullying & harassment have not improved at all since the surveys began, other people might disagree with that statement; and with good reason.

    Talk is cheap... time for some actions.

  29. Comment by Glen R posted on

    When AA Grades from other Departments are paid more than AO Grades in my Department it gives you a feeling of anger and frustration the DWP are still way behind with pay. with all the changes to benefits and people leaving on a weekly basis i for one won't be hanging about for long

  30. Comment by david cross posted on

    thats it--truth or dont bother

  31. Comment by david cross posted on

    .....the section with the worst figures,pay and benefits,doesnt rate a mention here---why are we not surprised,it isnt Heywood's responsibility after all

  32. Comment by Bill posted on

    When the results are actually listened to, and action is taken, not spun in the way the SCS wanted to do it anyway, then I will accept what comes of the survey.

    56% is not something to shout about, this means 44% are not happy at all.

    I look forward to the inevitable action plans, performance improvement plans, and threats to make sure that the results improve again.

  33. Comment by Caroline M Thacker posted on

    So the Civil Service is "listening" is it and values the feedback of employees? Is this the same kind of "listening", as the ONE sided Building our Future "conversations". DVLA closed, VOA closing, HMRC downsizing (593 IR offices in 2005 when IR merged with C & E, now down to 170 to be further reduced to 13), Job Centre closures. Won't be long before the Civil Service will only exsist in London.

    • Replies to Caroline M Thacker>

      Comment by LITTLE LONDONER posted on

      Caroline, the reality regarding the location of the civil service is completely different. Far from London being the only place where there will be any civil service empoyment, it is actually fast becoming a civil service free zone. The reality is that masses of it has moved out over the years, which for me as a Londoner irrevocably locked in to living in London for genuine family reasons, is the biggest concern of all. Three times in 30 years I have been told to move out of London or face dismissal from the service. Three times I have resisted - and won my fight to stay in London. I have actually had to put aside a large sum of my savings to fight a tribunal case if I am faced with the same situation again during what remains of my service (estimated at 5 years now). Frankly the civil service needs to be more localist in its approach to recruitment and retention, with the expectation that London-based roles will be filled by London people, Bristol based roles by Bristol-based people and so on.

  34. Comment by Michael Watson posted on

    Any chance of telling us what percentage of people are happy with the pay & conditions?

  35. Comment by Mr C J Bone posted on

    Pleased as I am that the figure is not higher, I am saddened, not enthused, that 12% of my colleagues cannot do their jobs properly due to lack of the proper skills. Criticism of senior staff would sometimes be better aimed at politicians but, the desire for organisational change appears to overide any need to review staff training and leadership.
    On a slightly different note - too many people now blindly follow regulations in the face of better common sense solutions due to fear of unfair censure.

  36. Comment by M Carroll posted on

    Better hold some more senior leadership workshops I think. Clearly the ones held since the last YS survey have been very effective.

  37. Comment by Chris posted on

    How about starting with stopping forced ranking and annual perofrmance reviews - a lot of effort and activity fo rvery little gain. Yet another big name is doing away with them all togather, think of the savings to be made...!

    "For FY16 and forward, KPMG is doing away with performance ratings for all partners and employees, including the use of a guided distribution. Instead of spending thousands of hours each year on the administration of ratings, the focus will shift to more frequent and frank “in-the-moment” performance conversations with the goal to provide more specific, timely, and meaningful feedback.

    This will include enhanced training, as well as new tools, resources, and incentives to promote and enhance the use of feedback. Additionally, KPMG will be ramping up the tools and incentives for individual employees to ask for and take full advantage of feedback, including feedback from peers.

    KPMG considers these enhancements as a significant step in making the firm an even greater place to work and building a rewarding career.

    KPMG is not alone making this change. Earlier this year, Deloitte and Accenture made similar announcements. As of September 2015, Accenture is getting rid of the annual performance review for all of their 330,000 people."

    • Replies to Chris>

      Comment by Alex posted on

      The article on why Accenture has scrapped this system makes for even better reading (and also shows just how discredited a system it is and why we make ourselves look more foolish the longer we keep it).
      There can only be two reasons why we still have this wretched system; 1) someone near the top of the civil service has a vested interest to keep it, OR 2) it will eventually be used to get rid of staff. Other than that, it doesn't make any sense at all to keep it.

    • Replies to Chris>

      Comment by Alex posted on

      Now this is a very interesting piece of information! We are constantly being told by SCS and politicians that the private sector is the shining beacon of efficiency that can do no wrong, and we must copy every idea about sick absence and performance management they come up with.

      Yet something tells me this will be the one private sector idea that will not be taken on board. The forced distribution (or "guided" or whatever this year's euphemism is) system remains the main source of demotivation for many people, especially when you work "out in the sticks" in offices with relatively little turnover. The only way to avoid a "Must Improve" is for one of your colleagues to pick it up instead - regardless of how much you as a whole team have improved, because 1 in 10 *have* to fit the bottom of the curve.

      I would love to be proved wrong by Senior Management but I'm not holding my breath.

      Oh and by the way, please don't throw back the wilful misunderstanding I encounter from senior managers whenever I raise this subject of "Oh, don't you think people should be assessed for how well they are doing?" Yes I do - but against SMART *absolute* standards of performance, not against *relative* standards which mean if you have 20 Einsteins in a performance group, 2 of them still have to be "Must Improve" because they are a bit less "Einsteiny" than the others.

      • Replies to Alex>

        Comment by Paul posted on

        Having a level playing field would help, where you knew what the standard required was, and if you met it, you got the reward. Having "relative" markings means the goal posts are shifting. Plus you are competing (because it is a competition) against people from other sections, courts and disiplines, as well as your own collegues, who may have more scope and opportunity to do all the extras to get an exceeded. Just being good at your job isn't enough.

      • Replies to Alex>

        Comment by Julia posted on

        I totally agree with your view. The PMR and PI do not give a true reflection of the amount or quality of work being done. The PI is not and never will be an accurate or fair way to measure how much work a person does. The PI is only useful to get an idea of average overall clearances.

    • Replies to Chris>

      Comment by Jon posted on

      'Equality and Diversity': The right to be treated fairly.
      One day someone is going to have the bottle to challenge the Performance System in court.

    • Replies to Chris>

      Comment by Jon posted on

      Ye Gods, Jeremy, I've never seen such an attempt at looking for a good news story in a pile of dung. The vast majority of the overall trends are DOWN on last year - excepting the number of people who wish to leave the Civil Service, which is UP.
      It may be great that 89% of people are interested in their job, but;
      'I am proud to tell others I am part of the organisation' -2%
      'I have a clear understanding of my organisations objectives' -2%
      'I have the tools to do my job effectively' -3%
      'I believe that the board has a clear vision for the future' -3%
      ' When changes are made, they are usually for the better' - 3%
      'I want to stay in the organisation for at least the next three years' -4%
      'I want to leave the organisation as soon as possible' +2%

      Personally, I'd be pretty worried about the trends this year, but I'm sure 'Senior Managers' think that they know best: (I believe that senior managers will take action on the results from this survey -2%)

  38. Comment by Stu Holttum posted on

    If the results are "available", a link to them would have been nice.

  39. Comment by Andy Deluce posted on

    The percentages given were interesting, but I would like to have seen a full breakdown of the survey, and not just the ones given here.
    Maybe next year you can change the format of the questions, and also the way you give your answer, as I believe most people do not take part because it usually the same every year.

  40. Comment by Ap posted on

    Where are the results and why not link them to this article

    • Replies to Ap>

      Comment by Darren posted on

      They're linked in the very first sentence...

  41. Comment by Eamonn posted on

    Your blog seems to suggest that you use HYS results to measure engagement with, and views of, the Civil Service. But MOD encourages contractor staff and armed forces personnel to complete HYS as well which must make a mockery of any data collected. Even more so if other departments also get contractors and non civil servants to complete the survey alongside civil servants.