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Civil Service

Building 'A Brilliant Civil Service' - our first steps on the journey

Man speaking in front of Civil Service vision logo
John Manzoni at Civil Service Live 2016

As Jeremy Heywood set out in his recent blog post, this is a momentous time for the country, for government, and for civil servants.

With a new ministerial team in place, we’re all adjusting to a new set of priorities and preparing to tackle the challenge of implementing the result of the EU referendum.

The Prime Minister has said she wants the overriding themes of her premiership to be:

  • reforming the economy so everyone has a share in prosperity
  • ensuring people regain control over their lives
  • making sure that everyone, regardless of their background, has access to the same opportunities and can achieve their potential
  • tackling irresponsible behaviour in corporate environments

These priorities chime with key parts of our vision, launched at Civil Service Live, for ‘A Brilliant Civil Service’ one that plays a central role in keeping the country prosperous; improves the lives of citizens through high-quality services focused on their needs; and provides an environment where everyone feels included and well-led.

Over the last few weeks, at events in Glasgow, Sheffield, Coventry, Cardiff and London, I’ve been speaking to civil servants about the vision and the four pillars that support it – Improved Outcomes, Effective Leaders, Skilled People, A Great Place to Work. And I’ve been explaining why it’s so important to our future.

People talking in chairs
Delegates at Civil Service Live London 2016

I was bowled over by the energy generated by civil servants at CS Live. It was inspiring to see people showcasing their skills and knowledge for the benefit of others at plenaries, workshops and exhibition stands. And your enthusiasm for improving yourselves, learning new skills and absorbing information that will help you deliver for the country was great to see. That attitude is vital if we’re going to rise to the challenges we face.

I also had the opportunity to hear your views about the vision. My impression is that people are receptive to what we’re trying to do. Feedback from CS Live delegates shows that well over 80% are now aware of the aims of the vision and understand that there is a role for them in realising it. But often you challenged us on what we, as leaders, will be doing to help you, and why it’s worth ‘going on the journey’.

These are fair questions - and I believe we’re already on the way to answering them.

To mention just a few, we’re establishing regional hubs where a number of different departments are co-located; making more economical use of our estate, with modern facilities and IT, encouraging collaboration across boundaries and creating opportunities to share experience and forge different career paths. This sort of silo-busting, sharing space, knowledge and skills, is the model for how we need to work in future.  

We’ve developed new learning programmes covering the full range of skills and will soon launch a leadership academy. And we’re introducing new apprenticeships that focus on the skills, knowledge and behaviours really needed to do the job, and not on sectors or grades. Five are already available, in the key areas of leadership, management and digital, and more are on the way.

For the vision to become a reality, we all have to change. We can’t be brilliant without embracing the challenge and opportunity of putting the vision into practice.

In the coming months, we have to communicate that vision to everyone in the Civil Service, and embed its aims in everything we do. This includes implementing the Civil Service Workforce Plan for improving your skills, building your career and achieving your potential.

We should all take our cue from the 80% of delegates who left CS Live inspired to do more to develop themselves. That’s the way we’ll make the vision a reality.

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  1. Comment by Pat Simpson posted on

    A painfull process but a worthy cause, I think the Civil Service working as ONE will be beneficial to customers and it's people.

  2. Comment by TANIA SMITH posted on

    It's not a brilliant place at the moment, but I truly want to believe that it can be. For me it's about getting the grass roots right and that means investing in people, building their skills in an environment that is conducive to learning. This is not the case at the moment. It seems to me, if you want happy (brilliant) productive people this must be addressed.

  3. Comment by JC posted on

    A significant step to realising your ambitions would be to abolish enforced quotas in our Performance Management system. How can labelling 10% of all civil servants as 'Must Improve' serve any useful purpose with incentivising us to deliver improved outcomes? Hundreds of emails have been submitted to this website, with compelling arguments for abolition, which I need not repeat here.

    The threat of stigmatising one tenth of your our workforce every year, regardless of outcome is not compatible with making the Civil Service a 'Brilliant Place to Work', nor in promoting inclusive and collaborative teams. Please remove this demotivating, divisive and potentially discriminatory rule.

  4. Comment by Worried posted on

    I was appalled to hear John Manzoni state at Civil Service Live he was a supporter of 'rankings' in the workplace. Until the unfair and arbitrary PMR system and guided distribution (bullying 10% into 'must improve' even if they have met their targets and have contributed fully) are scrapped and a fairer appraisal system introduced the civil service will not be a brilliant place to work. If you want to improve the frankly shameful engagement scores across the civil service, not to mention morale / performance / goodwill, you really should firstly acknowledge this widely held and articulated grievance, and secondly do something about it. The refusal to even acknowledge these concerns means that few trust that you are even listening.

  5. Comment by Andrew posted on

    The workforce plan has a vision of a utopia of a Civil Service that everyone in every organisation wants, but is unlikely to achieve.

    •The Civil Service must do all it can to attract and retain people of talent and experience from a range of sectors and all walks of life.
    •The Civil Service must build career paths that encourage a breadth of experience and depth of expertise.
    •The Civil Service must develop world-class leaders, who are inspiring, confident and empowering
    •The Civil Service must be the most inclusive employer in the UK
    • The Civil Service must develop cost-effective and flexible reward structures that enable us to attract, retain and develop the very best talent.

    The main problem with these statements is that there is a recruitment ban on the Civil Service departments and indeed have lost staff to recent exit schemes. This in addition to pay freezes and 1% pay limits, means points 1, 4 and 5 cannot be achieved.

    Although there is expertise in departments it is not recognised in any current reward system, for example there are no Professional Enhancements for specialists or expertise in Contracts, HR, Finance etc. they are just considered generalists with knowledge, experience and qualifications in that field. As there are different pay scales in different departments for the same job, it is possible to obtain a post in another department with a higher pay range at an equal grade, and so the department that you leave will not retain staff as the rewards are better elsewhere.

    Not only do you think the grass is greener, but you can see the grass is greener, and others tell you the grass is greener on the other side.

    • Replies to Andrew>

      Comment by Michael posted on

      Andrew you are absolutely spot on. Mr Manzoni's however is merely doing what his position dictates ... providing a PR spin to hide the unbelieveable mess that has been created over the last few decades. I work with a team of officers who are brilliant, creative in their approach and innovative in their thinking. I have four left out of twenty that I managed some years ago. over that time the team has been built to perform and in the last decade has been dismantled three times by Senior managers who have no idea of the technicalities of the work the team does and have no understanding of the value of professionalism. The reason is because we promote administative clones, whilst the people who perform well excelling at our real work i.e the work that is our raison d'etre are ignored. The answer is two Managemnt Streams one for the Primary Operational work and a Secondary management Stream to perform the purely administrative functions that support the Primary work.

  6. Comment by Garey Lennox posted on

    Mr Manzoni

    Firstly to say that the post by Pliny the Elder is spot on and, just to be clear, I doubt either of us expects you to take one iota of notice.

    For my part this is without doubt the most institutionally unfair organisation I have worked for (I worked for many in the private sector), with little or no accountability for those who reach the real decision making levels. Who ever gets demoted for not delivering what they so glibly say they can at interview.

    Simple test: Over the last ten years with all the various initiatives and managers promoted on the basis that they value diversity, see the big picture, develop staff etc; how many black staff have been promoted above their entry level by 1 grade , 2 grades or to SEO and above? Why? Can it be that the recruitment process is faulty or that black men in particular are incapable of benefitting from all of the development that many will claim has been open to them?

    When so many staff feel that they can never succeed regardless of talent or aptitude, I would suggest that effective actions over a well drafted vision is needed.

  7. Comment by Cassandra posted on

    Ah, I can leave the Civil Service vindicated! Many years ago when Regional Offices were abolished as part of that year's 'new, improved Civil Service' I always thought one day someone would think it be a goods idea to centralise work in one location in each region to rationalise estate etc. etc. etc. Lo and behold - Regional Hubs! Apparently 'Silo-busting, sharing space, knowledge and skills, is the model for how we need to work in future. Er, isn't it how we used to work in the past? Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Perhaps that is why us 'Old Grumpies' are being pushed out - the apprentices that will replace us, (who will have the 'skills, knowledge and behaviours really needed to do the job, ... (but) not ... (the) grades) really will believe the King's new clothes are brilliant. For a while, anyway.

  8. Comment by Mark posted on

    For a vision to succeed you have to publicise it, and unfortunately while it might have been the case at Civil Service Live, my department (HMRC) hasn't communicated the vision to it's staff.

    The vision simply appears to be a re-statement of prior aspirations (only with the word 'brilliant' added), and with the Civil Service failing to deliver or demonstrate it's previous progress against these goals, it all seems a bit lightweight.

    For example, the Civil Service Leadership Statement was introduced in February 2015 and there's still no reporting mechanism to report concerns/feedback. Without that, how can you expect to improve leadership?

  9. Comment by Pliny the Elder posted on

    Mr Manzoni,
    The have been a number of articles about making the Civil Service a "brilliant place to Work" recently, and I agree with much of the thought behind them.
    But - there has frequently been similar feedback, mostly along the lines of: -
    * It's all about the SCS;
    * Recruit and retain - and get rid of 30% of staff;
    * Reduce the pay but keep the best and brightest.

    Like many others I am only still here because I am getting closer to retirement and am getting further behind private industry for my skill set.
    I have had a substantial PAY CUT due to the restraint and pension changes, I am trying to cover for the lack of staff, we have posts that get no qualified applicants and the section has an average age of 53.

    The Civil Service is NOT a brilliant place to work and when the Old Grumpies" (like me and my colleagues) leave - there will be a complete collapse in skills and abilities.

    And printing a paper saying "it's a brilliant place to work" and giving SCS a boost will not cure the problems.
    You are not Snowball from Animal Farm and saying something often enough doesn't make it true.