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Civil Service

Civil Service People Survey 2017 – the results

Head and shoulders of Jeremy Heywood
Sir Jeremy Heywood

The results of the 2017 Civil Service People Survey are available here. First, I would like to pass on my thanks to everyone in the 98 participating organisations who spared the time to complete this survey, which is now in its ninth year.

In all, 294,905 of you took part, over 15,000 more than last year, making an overall response rate of 67%, up two percentage points (pp) from 2016 and the highest it's ever been.

We have ambitious aims for a brilliant Civil Service. These are certainly achievable, and this survey of your attitudes and experiences of working in the many parts of our organisation is an invaluable resource. It provides evidence and insight into the areas where we are doing well and others where we need to improve, and will shape our activity in the year ahead.

This year’s survey results are very encouraging. Looking across the Civil Service as a whole, scores for the vast majority of questions (85%) have improved since 2016. These are called ‘benchmark scores’ as they provide a point of comparison for scores in departments, agencies and teams.

The overall Employee Engagement Index give us an overall sense of how people feel about working in their organisation as part of the Civil Service, based on the answers to five questions in the survey. The index for 2017 is up 2pp at 61%, also the highest it has ever been.

Graphic showing topline employee survey result

Benchmark scores for all five questions that make up the overall engagement index have increased since 2016. The biggest increase was for “I would recommend [my organisation] as a great place to work”, up 4pp to 55%. The highest score among these questions was for “I am proud when I tell others I am part of [my organisation]” (62%, up 3pp).

Scores for eight of the nine themes within the people survey have also risen, and are at their highest level since the survey began in 2009. The lowest theme score, for ‘pay and benefits’, was also the only one to fall, by 1pp to 30%.

The biggest jump among theme scores was for ‘leadership and managing change’, which has increased by 4pp, to 47%, its highest point since 2009. Given the challenges that the Civil Service has faced over the last year, this result is especially encouraging. I am pleased to see further increases, on top of last year’s rises, in the number of people who believe that senior managers and their own managers actively role model the behaviours set out in the Leadership Statement. We know that the quality of leadership and change management has a big impact on how people feel about working in the Civil Service so we must ensure we sustain this improvement.

Following the recent publication of the Civil Service Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, it is great to see that the survey also suggests we are making progress in creating an inclusive culture. Scores for all questions on “Inclusion and fair treatment” have increased. The benchmark score for “I am treated with respect by the people I work with” remains high, at 85%. And a new question shows that, on average, 74% of people believe their organisation is committed to the goal of a diverse and inclusive workplace.

In this very positive picture, my one disappointment is that the benchmark scores for discrimination and bullying or harassment have not moved. Among those who had experienced bullying or harassment, there is a small increase in the proportion who reported their experience (36%, +2pp since 2016); but the percentage who felt their issue had been resolved stayed the same as in 2016 at 20%.

No amount of bullying or harassment is acceptable. Understanding, through the survey, where inappropriate behaviour is taking place allows leaders to focus their attention and take action. This is an area we will be looking at with redoubled seriousness to ensure existing arrangements for raising concerns are fit for purpose. On average, 63% of staff feel able to challenge inappropriate behaviour in the workplace. The recent allegations of sexual harassment in the media only underline the need for people to feel secure in reporting misconduct of any kind. Where people feel able to identify themselves, it is easier to investigate complaints fully and take action where necessary. But anyone raising a concern must be reassured that their confidentiality will be respected and that it’s OK to do so anonymously, if they prefer.

In terms of motivation, benchmark scores for people being interested in their work (90%) and being trusted to do their job effectively (89%) remain very high and would be the envy of any organisation in the country.

The same is true of responses to questions relating to understanding of “organisational objectives and purpose” and staff awareness of how their own work contributes to these, which are both over 80%.

Overall, the results show encouraging improvement across almost all areas of the questionnaire, and highlight those areas where we need to redouble our efforts moving forward - something that I encourage you to discuss within your own teams, as I will be doing with Permanent Secretaries in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, thank you again for the outstanding work you all do every day, and to everyone who took part in the survey - we are listening, and with your feedback we will work together to improve our Civil Service so that it is one we can all be proud of.

Follow Sir Jeremy on Twitter: @HeadUKCivServ.

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  1. Comment by CATFACE posted on

    The MOD contribution to the survey includes thousands of Military and Contract staff, so not all input is from Civil Service staff,

  2. Comment by Andy posted on

    In 2016 Cabinet Office announced that in the 8th annual Civil Service People Survey, conducted across 98 Civil Service organisations 279,708 civil servants responded to the People Survey, representing 65% of the workforce, which would make then CS workforce strength c. 430,320.

    Now Cabinet Office states that 294,905 of you across the 98 organisations responded to the 2017 People Survey, representing 67% of the workforce, which would make the workforce strength c. 440,156.

    These figures indicate a strange overall CS 2016 – 17 increase of c. 9,500 people, but …

    ONS webpage states that Civil Service employment on 31 March 2017 was 419,399, up 1,056 (0.3%) on 31 March 2016.

    Where is the hidden mismatch ? I cannot make it out at all. Consult Mark Twain perhaps ?

  3. Comment by Phippster posted on

    Quick question for The Blog Team...

    Is there any chance of seeing the overall CSPS results ranked by organisation? This could be particularly useful for identifying strong performers with a view to sharing better ways of working to improve results across the Civil Service.

  4. Comment by tired and broke MOD Civil Servant posted on

    ' we are listening, and with your feedback we will work together to improve our Civil Service so that it is one we can all be proud of.'

    Interesting comment - how about some responses to the things raised in the feedback to this blog? That to me would show that someone 'high up' is taking note.

  5. Comment by A posted on

    It's so boring to read the constant moaning about pay on this thread. If you don't like it, and think you can get more elsewhere, then do so. If in reality, you realise that your market value (aka what you would get in any other job) is probably what your current salary is or less, then suck it up. It's worth remembering all the benefits the Civil Service offers that just don't really exist elsewhere: defined benefit pension, flexible working etc.

    • Replies to A>

      Comment by John posted on

      Ahhh....That will be the reduced pension that you now have to pay more into for less, and the "flexible working" that requires you to be in a certain times and even at weekends if you signed up for the "Employee deal".
      Sorry you think it's boring A, but staff are fed up of the constant erosion of longstanding terms and conditions-hence the complaints. Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

    • Replies to A>

      Comment by Z posted on

      I assume you are new and/or very young?

      Those of us who have been in since before the pay freeze have seen our pay cut in real terms, and a lot of people are struggling to pay their bills. That is why people are justifiably moaning.

      Also for those of us who have been civil servants for many years and are now north of 50, the so-called benefits are not what we signed up to, but we are considered "too old" by outside industry to change careers.

    • Replies to A>

      Comment by MSc Eng (MOD) posted on

      Dear A,
      As much as I cannot disagree with you when you say the benefits of being a Civil Servant aren't bad - I have to correct you and say that, surprisingly, many other major employers have got flexible working and pension benefits.
      Some of them even have health care, car allowances and affordable travel allowances. Things we have either had taken off of us or never had.

      Plus - some of us are "in the pension trap" and stuck with our specialist pay falling further and further behind industry.

      I suggest you research your comments before sounding like a "right of centre paper" that rhymes with Wail.

  6. Comment by Simon posted on

    Some years ago I suggested to a senior manager in my organisation that the results may be improving because the seriously disaffected have either left or stopped filling in the survey. She did not reply.

  7. Comment by A Faulkner posted on

    I have always completed the staff survey in a vain hope that someone just might take note and address some of the issues highlighted but at this point I have decided to give up. With offices closures that will mean potentially 4 hrs a day commuting, no prospects for advancement and little sign of any sensible pay increase it seems pointless. At least the civil service is firmly behind mental health and welfare issues!

  8. Comment by me posted on

    I am intrigued to know exactly what engagement means to SLTs. To me it's not just being reminded to complete things or being told to attend meetings Its actually listening to staff and encouraging them to take an interest. 67% does not suggest engagement to me.

  9. Comment by David Sangster posted on

    The problem with the survey is that it is constructed to make it simple to analyse so closed questions with specific responses to choose from - so long as this is the driver the survey will never deliver the voice of civil servants - the responses to this blog are a better measure - I am impressed that this feedback loop is permitted - in my department they have taken the comment boxes away from most intranet communications from SCS as they are running scared of challenge

    • Replies to David Sangster>

      Comment by Si posted on

      Would be a good idea but earlier feedback states 'Each organisation is responsible for distributing comments internally as they feel appropriate. In practice, in most organisations, this means that they are shared with a small group of people to help them shape the actions that will improve the experience of working in the Civil Service.
      So it seems any comments stay within a business area and not fed up to higher managers/bodies that can make requested changes, pay etc.
      The business area can only work within criteria set by gov.

    • Replies to David Sangster>

      Comment by Andrew posted on

      Another problem, is that different people interpret different questions and answers in different ways. This is then compunded by senior managers telling people how questions should be interpreted.

  10. Comment by Disillusioned_Civil_Servant posted on

    In my Dept (MOD) contractors and the military are allowed to complete the survey too, which has the potential to skew the results.

    How many other Depts allow non Civil Servants to complete the survey I wonder?

    Because of pressure we now get a breakdown of the Civil Servant, contractor and military responses internally but what is reported is the combined responses. It won't surprise you that the Pay & Benefits score is the most skewed. I'm anticipating a ~20% satisfaction when only the Civil Servant scores are counted.

  11. Comment by Keith D posted on

    The survey needs more free text boxes as some of the option answers do not accurately reflect peoples thoughts or feelings and there is no space for the justification of the scores individuals give. To allow more free text boxes would allow a more rounded result rather than the blunt scores and may go someway to explaining why people think positively or negatively about many of the issues.

  12. Comment by DAVID L. posted on

    Bullying and harassment are not trivial issues ; they are deal-breaking. There are still too many negative acts and boundary behaviours around ; particularly persistent unfair disproportionate criticism of trivial detail issues of a person's work, and constant active surveillance and checking-up more appropriate to an infant school than to an allegedly professional civil service. The amount of sheer backbone needed to tackle this is absolutely zero. Managers need to be told how to behave and be held to account if they display negative behaviours. Unless and until this happens, nothing will change.

    • Replies to DAVID L.>

      Comment by Patricia Lindsey posted on

      Its very distressing that bullying is not being acknowledged and dealt with. Staff are even afraid to ask for a Stress assessment and this could help us to deal with this growing problem. Even on this feedbak staff do not put their full name which is very worrying

  13. Comment by A posted on

    I completed the survey, naively believing that things may change for the better, but having read your message, I no longer believe this to be the case.
    Please may I suggest you concentrate on reassuring staff, their jobs are safe, rather than quote figures from an annual survey, which appears to change nothing of importance.

  14. Comment by Andrew posted on

    Look will you please not try making a silk purse out of a sows ear and cherry picking the statistics. Most people I know who work in the civil service like their job and feel its useful. What most people don't like is the fact that there has been a steady almost exponential decline in pay and career progression and morale is overall poor. While leadership is important and preventing bullying. I would argue if you started showing some leadership by challenging the government on pay and conditions and we started seeing some tangible results on this then you will reverse what I feel is the nub of the issue as a value of 30% needs a little more than 1 or two lines. Essentially warm words do not pay bills and that is the elephant in the room which needs to be confronted head on as everyone is tired of working more efficiently but seeing no appreciation.

  15. Comment by Justin Kasse posted on

    Pay and benefits in the department i work in has dropped yet again this year to just 15%.

    And this is seen as acceptable when 85% of the staff know (not think) they are underpaid for the work they do.

    Sort it out.

  16. Comment by A posted on

    Is there any chance of seeing the comments left at the end of the survey. These would reflect so much more about the general issues and feelings of staff rather than a box ticking excercise.

    • Replies to A>

      Comment by The Blog Team posted on

      Thanks for your comment. To ensure confidentiality, and so that we don't inhibit responses in any way, individual free text comments are treated very carefully and are not published. However, as you say, they do provide a rich source of information and insight for the relevant organisation - alongside the numerical data that is collected - as to what civil servants are thinking and feeling. Each organisation is responsible for distributing comments internally as they feel appropriate. In practice, in most organisations, this means that they are shared with a small group of people to help them shape the actions that will improve the experience of working in the Civil Service. It is worth reiterating that, before comments are shared with organisations, they are 'cleaned' to remove names and job titles, in order to protect the confidentiality of individuals.

  17. Comment by Si posted on

    The thing is that these are survey results from people who actualy bothered to complete it! ...the rest just couldn't be bothered because of same old positive PR spin on the results and ignoring the results that really affect most staff moral.

    • Replies to Si>

      Comment by Patricia Lindsey posted on

      Have to agree with this Same responses year in year out and this stops staff completing it in the first place.

  18. Comment by Catface posted on

    The usual cherry-picking of slight positivity when ignoring some very poor outcomes. 45 % of Civil Servants don't think this is a great place to work and this is something to be trumpeted!!

    And only one disappointment? time to remove the rose tinted soectacles.

  19. Comment by William posted on

    Dear ???
    Do the "powers at be" want to put the pay and reward percentage up?
    We shall see in tomorrow's exciting instalment of the budget show.

    I know where I'd put my money if I were a gambling man.

  20. Comment by Charlotte Smith posted on

    " The lowest theme score, for ‘pay and benefits’, was also the only one to fall, by 1pp to 30%"

    So what are you going to do about this then? You did not say anything to address this concern. I am sick and tired of coming home to an empty fridge and not being able to pay my bills. It is totally demoralising.

    I live in hope of a response but i very much doubt one is forthcoming.

  21. Comment by ??? posted on

    Again folks look out for what has not been written, That usually says more than the usual business/political claptrap.

    So the pay percentage is down AGAIN, Year after year its the same, Alas no mention as to what will be done to try and get this percentage on the up.

    Couldnt make it up.

  22. Comment by Martin posted on

    You seem to be getting very excited about "leadership and managing change" despite over half of all respondents classing it as poor! And if you ignore the couple of bland questions that elicited the highest scores -

    B38 - Senior managers in my organisation are sufficiently visible - They can be visible but are they actually doing anything?

    B44 - My organisation keeps me informed about matters that affect me - Telling you something is going to happen is not the same as consulting and ACTUALLY acting on the staff feedback.

    Then the score would be even worse!

    Plus if you look at B42 and B43 (Change managed well, and Change for the better - the results are very poor and a much more accurate reflection of change management in the civil service!

    As for virtually ignoring the scores on pay and benefits - that just about sums up the worth of the survey!

  23. Comment by Paul K posted on

    Dig deeper away from the superficial gloss and the % theme increases are minimal. Pay is the issue and unless senior staff acknowledge it properly their credibility will continue to erode. Taking this in parallel with yet another change to our terms and conditions its clear that the messages are not getting through and will in the short, medium and long term hit the Civil Service hard.

  24. Comment by Martin posted on

    For the 1st time, this year I did not complete the survey as I see that the issues just are not getting addressed.

    The best bit about banging one's head against a brick wall, is it's nice to stop.

  25. Comment by Tony Higgins (HMCTS) posted on

    Once again a glossing over of the pay issues affecting front line civil servants from a senior civil servant.
    It really defies belief, although, it is not suprising bearing in mind the ivory tower and rarified air they live in.
    Whilst I agree the issue of bullying and discrimination is important, time and time again we on the front line are stating that we are sick to death of platitudes about our performance and keeping departments running on reduced budgets, mainly because we are proud to do so.

  26. Comment by Carlosamundo posted on

    Positive spin on some very poor results, Malcolm Tucker would be proud....

  27. Comment by c posted on

    You say that your one dissapointment was the scores for bullying, discrimination and harrasment. This suggests that you don't care about pay and benefits which got the lowest score and is getting worse.

    If senior management wern't so busy trying portray minor sucessues as glorious triumphs they might actually have the time to start trying to improve this issue, which the many view as being by far the most important. I wont hold my breath though.

  28. Comment by John posted on

    Another post survey blog trying to pass off a set of mediocre results as some sort of triumph.
    So much spin I'm struggling to hold on!!
    Here in the DWP engagement has actually fallen 1% to 60%, if we are going to celebrate over percentage points. Discrimination and bullying are still rife as underlined in the survey, and even those who report it are unhappy with the resolutions offered.
    However the most important figure regarding pay and benefits barely manages to rate 2 sentences in your response. If 70% of your staff are unsatisfied with their pay, can I please respectfully ask how low the percentage needs to get to, before you actually talk to the government of the day, and ask them to do something about it?

    • Replies to John>

      Comment by William posted on

      I completely agree and have asked this question on previous blogs.
      Would you be surprised to hear that I got no response from Sir Jeremy?

      However, my MP (Michelle Donelan) assures me that the Public Sector Pay Restraint has "saved thousands of jobs and is the fairest for all people involved, from the tax payer to the civil servant".

      It would be nice if we had any evidence that our senior civil servants were trying to get their staff a pay rise of better than a third the rate of inflation and that we "are all in this together" and the Government might manage to find another "money tree". Or perhaps it suits them not to.

  29. Comment by Alan Taylor posted on

    Shame the most imporant one to staff Pay and Benefits have gone down !

    • Replies to Alan Taylor>

      Comment by Guido Fawkes posted on

      I think many of the benchmarks are extremely poor, and in my current department which has something to do with trees (I'll let you think about which one that must be), the benchmarks have shown some declines of already poor scores. I would say anything less than say 95% is poor. The target should be 100%. How low will benchmarks have to go before it is considered mission critical? I would say even 0% will get passed over, and I can see a comment like 'the 0% score for pay and reward this year remains the same as last year, so it has shown no decline and we are moving in the right direction blah blah blah blah'. With further cuts in resources and staff numbers, lack of pay progression in England, and departments connected to Westminster, and sub 1% inflation rises for many years to come, against 3 to 4 % inflation, morale and scores will fall. If not, why not? Unfortunately poor retention and recruitment as a result of poor pay, is being swept under the carpet, and often posts are filled with people not qualified or experienced for the posts. Any employer can fill posts with unqualified, inexperienced applicants!

      • Replies to Guido Fawkes>

        Comment by Keith D posted on

        Not forgetting the ridiculous costs for agency staff and consultants filling vacant civil service posts because we cannot recruit professionals with the required skills on the civil service wages on offer.

      • Replies to Guido Fawkes>

        Comment by am posted on

        Yes, and unqualified, inexperienced employees don't know how good the civil service used to be (pre 2008 ish) and so are satisfied with how things are "managed" and staff are treated and "rewarded" (lmao) because they don't know any better. When I started in 1986 it was a great place to work, staff were valued and treated as people not units, change was managed with realistic timescales and the pay was good. I had left teaching to join the civil service as an EO and I took only a very small cut in pay but now the differences in pay and conditions are miles apart. In the 1990s when I was off work ill after surgery, a departmental Welfare Officer came to see me at home. She was interested in me and my well being not in hassling me back to work. She brought me chocolates and asked if I needed any shopping done! When I returned to work I got a letter from our Regional Office welcoming me back and thanking me for returnng to work between that surgery and a follow up op. Is it any wonder old timers feel disengaged now?