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Share your views – Civil Service leaders to discuss progress on reform

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Meeting the CCS Customer Service team in Liverpool
Meeting the CCS Customer Service team in Liverpool and taking a few calls from members of the public and suppliers

Next week, the leadership of the Civil Service – all Permanent Secretaries and Directors General – will meet to discuss Civil Service Reform.

In particular we’ll be discussing some of the key aspects of reform, what we’ve achieved and what we have left to do in 2014.

To help with those conversations, we want to hear from you. Senior leaders can only give one perspective on reform. We will know we have succeeded when all civil servants notice a difference in the way they work.

I’ve seen (and responded to) the many views on the quality of our IT in the Civil Service, the depth of frustration for some of you came through. Liam Maxwell, the Chief Technology Officer, intends to follow up on your comments with technology leaders in your Departments and use them as a spur to change. I hope many of you will get involved in  this work  to deliver better access to fast and efficient technology, whatever your role or grade.


We did a lot in 2013 to improve the skills and capabilities of the Civil Service. 72% of you took the capabilities self assessment, and I hope you will all take the five days learning and development a year to which you’re entitled. Remember, this doesn’t have to be formal training, you could job swap with someone in a different team, shadow a senior manager for the day or run peer to peer lunchtime learning sessions.

So tell me, have you been able to take your 5 days of learning and development this year? Have you or your team taken part in some learning and development that you thought was particularly good and that others could learn from? And which skills do you see as the most important for you to build and improve in 2014?


Meanwhile, we are taking the identification and development of our most talented staff more seriously than ever. A new talent stream ensures there are opportunities at every level from fast stream through to Director General, and I have been delighted to have met people from so many departments and locations taking part in these schemes.

I would really like to hear from you if you’ve taken part in one of our talent schemes, what did you think? Are you a high performer who is hoping to get on a scheme this year? What more would you like us to be doing to identify and develop the brightest and best civil servants?

The way we work

Finally, I recognise that the way we work needs to modernise – from ensuring you are comfortable in your offices to delivering opportunities to embrace smarter working where you can. One breakout group at next week’s event will be looking at how far we’ve come in this work and what more we need to do. From looking at whether we have the right culture and opportunities, to embracing smarter working ,  reviewing our buildings and estates to ensure all our staff can work in modern, comfortable offices or at home. I would like to hear your experiences on these issues, good and bad, and where we can learn from our success and improve our performance. Please get involved in the conversations on this, as I am keen for colleagues and myself to discuss your comments on the day.

Please get involved in the conversations on this, as I am keen for colleagues and myself to discuss your comments on the day.

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Related content:

Blog post Technology at least as good as people have at home

Blog post Civil Service Reform- the year ahead

Blog post Hearing your concerns

Office of the Chief Technology Officer

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  1. Comment by Gareth posted on

    So it's just the Permanent Secretaries and Directors General at this meeting? Then I have two questions for you: when you discuss CS Reform, (a) from where are you getting your primary evidence about what has been achieved, and (b) who has prepared your briefings?

    I will answer your last question, about the way we work. I hot-desk, as thousands do on this site. I don't mind it, except on days like today where the previous occupant left a mess (dirty cups etc.). But it certainly isn't comfortable. You need your own space to make it comfortable, to have your own things around you in familiar places, and that can't be done with hot-desking. The lack of comfort means I no longer work beyond my conditioned hours - I'd rather get back to comforts of home and family. Psychologically, I find myself becoming more detached from my employer: I feel more like an itinerant worker, less like a full time civil servant. These are positives for me personally: it's good to spend time with family, probably good not to identify too closely with an employer (hopefully it will ease my leaving), and - for some reason I haven't worked out yet - it feels good to turn down work because my time is already allocated. Whether any of that is good for my employer is another question.

    • Replies to Gareth>

      Comment by Jane posted on

      I agree, hot desking is stressful. I understand that the private sector are moving away from hot desking as they recognise the benefits of giving employees their own space.

    • Replies to Gareth>

      Comment by Richard Rajham posted on

      We moved to a new "more modern" office last year, although the hot desking is unpleasant and alienating it is by no means the worst change. The worst change is the fact that we are so packed closely packed together that the noise generated by people doing their jobs, in an entirely reasonable manner, makes it very difficult to concentrate sufficiently to do my job.
      I am not alone in this. Many people have been forced to work at home to maintain any sort of productivity, unfortunately for those of us with young children who missed the house price escalator this is not a viable option.
      The loss of productivity and the costs of travelling elsewhere for meetings, are hidden costs which greatly reduce the apparent savings from office changes.

      None of the dutyholders I visit in industry are expected to do work requiring this level of concentration in this type of environment.

      This is an example of the civil service applying the lowest common denominator regardless of context or its merits in the particular circumstances.
      Our new model office is unpleasant and inefficient place to work.

    • Replies to Gareth>

      Comment by Peter posted on

      This is not a problem now and won't be for a number of years to come - long after those meeting have retired. Is the DWP unusual? We have more staff aged over 60 than are under 30. Where are the foundations for the future? We have a hugely skilled workforce who are constantly striving to improve services using their knowledge and experience gathered over years of working in public services. Who is going to do this in the future? And without being "ageist" (because I am one of the older generation) who is going to initiate and implement change at the ground level? With the best will in the world I am not quite as up for change as I used to be!

      • Replies to Peter>

        Comment by Lorna posted on

        I also worry about where the Civil Service are going with their employees, we haven't recruited in the Dept I work in for a number of years and the work force in our office has an average age of 50. The Managers in our Cluster are all of the same age group ranging from early 50's to late 50's, meaning there is likely to be a mass exodus within the next few years, there seems to be no forward planning for this and no opportunites for staff to progress into the next grade. Having said that the pay progression is something that is likely to put staff off from applying for promotion, I have been in the CS for 16years, 6 of them as an EO and am only just off the minimum pay for this grade, surely after 6 years I have either proved my worth in this grade.

    • Replies to Gareth>

      Comment by Stuart Scourfield posted on

      Thank you for eloquently summing up the feelings of thousands of employess
      disillusionedd, disnefranchised, disapoointed.
      Well done

  2. Comment by Andrew posted on

    Sir Bob,
    the various comments here and the staff survey results tell much.
    Do I think anything will change? No
    Will everyone get their "5 a year"? No
    Wil IT be fit for use? No
    Have you crushed the desire out of many hard-working people? Yes
    Will the Perm Secs tell you "all is well"? Yes

    But ultimately, does anyone care? That I'm not sure on, yet.

    • Replies to Andrew>

      Comment by Jeff Alley (HMRC) posted on

      I don't get my "5 a year" & this year its been put to us by our manager that there are compulsory training for CPD credits. I looked at them yesterday & discovered I did them 2-3 years ago when CPD first came out. If you want people to have their "5 a year" then you need to provide sources for getting the training time in.

      • Replies to Jeff Alley (HMRC)>

        Comment by Stuart Scourfield posted on

        I have o far found the Civil Service Training service anything other than useful.
        The people in it are trying their damnedest to support us but the systems implemented are far fro satifactory and like yourself I find myself missing courses due to a poor system
        Things do change, but how many of us feel they have changed for the better.
        All my colleagues across all the govt scorn the proposed improvements, when they result in a technica specialist in whatever field having to do the job (inefficiently) that an admin person used to do so effectively.
        I hope you get your 5 a day (deliberate mistake)

    • Replies to Andrew>

      Comment by Wendy (CMG) posted on

      I agree with Andrew. It may well be true that the leaders of the Civil Service have a genuine desire to improve both the lot of the public in respect of service and the employees in respect of working envrionment and equipment. However, how much of the genuine truth do they really know? Those that report to the leaders of the separate Civil Service Agencies seem far more interested in making themselves look like they have everything under control and they're doing a good job than telling the truth. This culture starts at SEO upwards. I, for one, am thoroughly disalliousioned after 21 years and feel I cannot give the service to the public that I would like to. All that seems important is statistics and telling everyone we're doing well.

      • Replies to Wendy (CMG)>

        Comment by Stuart Scourfield posted on

        I had an ewxcellent discussion with my high flying best friend also in the Civil Service where he put forward the hypothesis that the Must Improve process being deployed was a crude, sledgehammer to attempt to deal with inadequacies within the application of the original process. i.e. we will implement a bottom echelon (fixed) so that the managers who were not doing their job before i.e. having difficult conversations etc. or collecting even a modicum of evidence to supoprt a Must Improve assessment will be forced to do this......truly a sledgehammer, and truly an admission of failure from the managers, and a lack of willingness to implement a fair system. The sledgehammer will do more damage than good, it will not help consistency at all, it will identify staff who may be more than how much of the intention is working.........none if the intention was to improve consistency, everything if you want to reduce head count.

        • Replies to Stuart Scourfield>

          Comment by Nikki posted on

          1. The 5 days per year L&D is undermined in that we don't get a chance to put the L&D into practice and in terms of career development, it is outcomes that count when applying for other posts. What's in it for staff when with all the L&D, this will not translate to career outcomes and may not translate to a PDR outcome either?
          2. Developing our own staff seems to come second to the talent programmes and the fast stream programmes especially feel like a snub to the ability and potential current staff have. Plum posts go to the fast stream and when opportunities narrow, we will be competing for posts against people we have helped to train and develop.
          3. The PDR process is flawed and labels staff who are achieving their objectives as 'poor'. The proportion of staff falling into this group, now it cannot include actual poor performers, will be greater and the likelihood is that if staff are disabled, part-time or ethnic minorities, they will be told they are worse than their peers. No training has been provided to accompany this process and managers' interpretations differ widely. Basically, the process is not transparent nor is it equitable.
          4. The grievance policy is not worth the paper it's written on. The grievance and PDR processes are a charter for managers to fail staff with no independent appeal. The lack of recourse to an employment tribunal appears to have led to punitive policies.
          5. Pay is grossly unfair; I have calculated that at this rate, it will take me 18 years to reach the top of my payband. People at the top of the payband continue to get pay in excess of the top figure when others, just as experienced and in many cases, performing better, earn thousands less. This has a knock-on impact on pensions. I am aware of one situation where someone had excelled and was in the top 20% whilst earning the bottom of the payband.
          6. London salaries are not keeping pace with the private sector.
          7. Workloads are high and where there are headcount reductions, there is not a reduction in the workload.
          8. Why pay a proportion of salary to people on TCA when they are fulfilling all the requirements of the post? Unfair. If someone is discharging all the obligations of a position, they should get the rate of pay for that post. There is wide recognition that people on TCA, other than the pay, are working at the same level or better than those substantively and permanently in post.
          9. Hot-desking is intrinsically stressful. Where hot-desking occurs, it is probably more appropriate to encourage working from home.

          • Replies to Nikki>

            Comment by Craig Stephens posted on

            I have to concur with Nikki's comments posted 3/2/14. Having worked in various dept's over 14 years the civil service isn't necessarily getting any better at how it manages itself and the staff. In my experience the 'Peter Principle' is still widespread - that is people are promoted to their own level of incompetence. Staying somewhere long enough is not merit for promotion. And certainly how appointments to CEO or heads of agencies are made should be reviewed. We don't need nepotism or political apparatchiks - we need people with real experience and skills.

    • Replies to Andrew>

      Comment by Lesley Holiday posted on

      This is exactly how I feel, I have lost any respect for and pride in the Civil Service. We have been treated very shoddily and no longer feel valued or appreciated. I have been in HMRC for 25 years and things have never been worse! I cant wait to get out!

  3. Comment by Ayath Ullah posted on

    Being new to the Civil Service I'd like to see more interchange between the public and private sector to share skills, knowledge and experiences.

    And equally important (if not more important) is to have interchange between departments. Too many people still work in silos and I've still not seen any radical examples of us acting as "One Civil Service".

    The "us" and "them" culture must change in order for us to deliver a better service to the public.

    Ayath (HMRC)

  4. Comment by Alice posted on

    I agree with pretty much everything in the Civil Service Reform plan but I have a few thoughts on how we're doing...

    Departments currently self-assess on progress against some fairly arbitrary criteria. If we're going to measure things let's make sure they're the right things and let's publish the data in a transparent way e.g. like the Government Digital Service does here:
    We often hear that transparency can save money and strengthen people’s trust in government. The Cabinet Office collects a mass of data from departments that goes into a black hole somewhere. If its worth collecting it must be worth sharing.

    I also think something is missing from CSR that is fundamental to its success - a total reform of the recruitment processes. Have you spoken to anyone who has recently applied for a job in the civil service? The process is truly awful and I imagine puts off 99% of potential applicants. You really do have to be committed to the civil service to fill in that form. And then there's the 'gateway' exam... You should take the test yourself and see if you think its a good measure of the skills and capability you're looking for in a modern civil service.

    • Replies to Alice>

      Comment by JONATHAN KULAR posted on

      I would just like to say :
      That I very much like the proposal of teachers being assessed as "fit for purpose" annually.
      I think the civil service,DWP in particular, in my opinion have for far too many people, happy in situ in their respective grades and offer nothing new to an ever changing work place.
      Civil Servants should also be tested annually to see if they are fit for pupose and hence promote capability and get rid of the "dead wood" it's radicall I accept, and this should be adopted across all grades from AAs to Grade 5 and above if necessary.
      Lets move with the times a grade shouldn't be for life.
      Happy to discuss further if you wish.

      • Replies to JONATHAN KULAR>

        Comment by Lesley posted on

        I totally agree that Teachers should be "fit for purpose" my daughter was recently taught GCSE History for the full 2 year course by a Geography teacher who often asked the pupils to wait while she went to another class to ask a different History teacher the answer to a question she was asked by a pupil in her class. Surely this is unacceptable, needless to say, my daughter and her fellow pupils were disappointed with their final grades as they didn't have the support of a knowledgable Teacher.

      • Replies to JONATHAN KULAR>

        Comment by Luke posted on

        By "dead wood" do you mean those who misspell "radical"?

      • Replies to JONATHAN KULAR>

        Comment by Richard posted on

        There is a way of doing that - it's called the Appraisal System. Unfortunately the one we've been lumbered with now wouldn't pass the "fit for purpose" test.

    • Replies to Alice>

      Comment by Gareth Thornton posted on

      Here here - I have proven I have the talent and ability to do the next grade. I was TP'd for 3 years and got a Top box marking in the last one of them - however the current recruitment process does not work for me at all and as such I see no point in applying for roles I know I could do well. Be that on level transfer or on promotion.

  5. Comment by Stricky posted on

    If it wasn't for this email I received this morning, I'd have known nothing of what you've put on here, particularly under the "Capabilities" and "Talent" headings. Well done for having these amazing ideas, but when they aren't filtered down to where it matters, how are you genuinely going to find the talent? Managers here aren't about to put people forward to a scheme which would see their own staff overtake them on the ladder, even if many of them quite obviously deserve to be overtaken.

    • Replies to Stricky>

      Comment by Ruth posted on

      Agreed. The sector is so hierarchical that it is difficult to really embrace your job and be creative as it is in some other sectors, e.g, the charity sector where your grade and salary are less indicative of your abilities.and responsibilities. It stifles creativity and job satisfaction.

  6. Comment by Phil Dent posted on

    Consider the motto: "The only constant is change". I like this as it reflects where we are and where we need to be. However, please also note: "A change is as good as a rest" and a rest would assist colleagues in assimilating the changes to date. I'm not saying that change should (ever) stop, but the pace may need to be moderated. It feels like we're just getting to grips with the lated methodology and then its changed again - or is this just me?

    • Replies to Phil Dent>

      Comment by Lemmy Oughtahere posted on

      Unfortunately there are too many people making a career out of "change for change's sake". I'm not sure how we got there, but in the Valuation Office it seems the constant need to do things differently is certainly detracting from accuracy of what we deliver in valuations (not that that would ever show in the statistics of course), but on the ground we have been radically dumbed down in terms of what we produce.
      It seems the surveyors get in the way of the Change Management people at times and more and more of our senior staff have no surveying or valuation knowledge - just a notion that processes can be altered to deliver more acceptable statistics.
      I wonder if it will ever reach the stage where it all implodes and someone realises that all the surveying staff left years ago and the organisation has been running on the excellent statistical returns derived from the Change Management Department's reports on how well the Change Implementation Teams have performed in overhauling the HR Department's absence reporting codes for IT Reform Department. Okay, so I made the names up, but you get the picture. Change becomes an industry in its own right and we all have to dance to its relentless tune.
      Wouldn't it be great just to have chance to stand still for five, clear our heads, adopt some common sense, focus on what we produce and strive to produce it really well?
      Bring on the economic escape tunnel is almost under the perimeter fence.

  7. Comment by Peter posted on

    Without wanting to state the obvious, (but I will anyway!), there are unprecedented levels of change taking place at all levels of the Civil Service. There are some who will thrive in this environment. There are others who will want no part of it, (entirely their choice), and will chose to move on to pastures new. Some will bury their heads in the sand and hope nobody notices them. But, in my opinion, the majority of Civil Servants want to embrace new ways of working and all the changes that come with it but require sufficient levels of support to do so. At the moment, it feels like learning to swim without armbands, floats or a swimming instructor! This 'sink or swim' ethos wil, inevitably demoralise some talented, dedicated individuals and will, ultimately, drive them to seek employment elsewhere.

    Is is clear that, in today's civil service, levels of differentiation are high, (both within and across organsiations). To put it another way, there is often little integration within organisations. Horizontal integration, (the extent to which different functional areas within an organisation are 'joined up' and communicating), is poor and vertical integration, (information sharing and ways of working up and down the management chain), isn't much better. The same thing applies between organisations, having recently had 3 years of intensive hands-on experience in dealing with OGDs. I guess this is a long winded way of supporting Ayath's earlier statement.

    This is not to say that there isn't work underway to fix some of these issues but I think increased focus on the following issues, at every level and within every organisation, could improve things no end, both in terms of the psychological contract that Civil Servants have with their employers, the insight that could be gleaned by senior Civil Servants and the strategic outcomes of constituent CS organisations:

    • Leadership (too many managers, not enough leaders)
    • Organisational Structure (silos, amorphous teams/depts/directorates etc)
    • Organisational Culture ('forcing' change upon people will only end in one outcome)
    • Managing resistance to change and the personal impact of change (too much focus on change at the organisational level without understanding the fundamental impact that staff can have on change initiatives)
    • Organisational learning (we are caught in a loop where we keep asking ourselves "are we doing things right?" for fear of falling foul of some of the bureaucracy we're bound by. We should, instead, be asking "are we doing the right things?")
    • Communication - see other comments about transaparency, silo mentality, "joined up-ness" etc)

  8. Comment by Dave posted on

    Guided distribution" or "forced ranking" - whatever you call it - is an outdated, discredited and ineffective process. It corrodes team working, creates tensions and is generally counterproductive. It has been a complete disaster at Microsoft and is causing problems at Yahoo; even General Electric (who came up with the idea) have moved away from it. I believe it has no place in a modern, creative organisation; PLEASE rethink this corrosive policy. Want evidence?

    • Replies to Dave>

      Comment by David posted on

      Couldn't agree more about the negative impact of forced ranking. In my (specialist) area the vast majority of staff are working well above grade (and there is evidence to prove it) but the promotion prospects are virtually non-existant. The introduction of forced ranking has destroyed morale, co-operation and productivity. Many staff are working well above what they are being paid for yet have no chance of being ranked in the "exceed" category because of favouritism, not working on "pet projects" or discrimination of one form or another. If you get put into a lower ranking bracket than you deserve, it destroys your motivation because you know your performance is not being fairly recognised.

      As soon as the job market picks up, most of the good staff (70%?) will be out in a flash with a major pay rise, and the organisation will be crippled.

      • Replies to David>

        Comment by Unappreciated posted on

        *Sat applauding David, whilst creating UJM account!*

    • Replies to Dave>

      Comment by Phil posted on

      I agree with Dave that this system is counter-productive. Working as manager in a team environment, I want every member of the team to perform to the best they can and to develop where they need to, but also to work co-operatively together to get the best results; all this system does is raise questions in the team about who will be next in the bottom 10%, disagree with the choice of those who they learn are in it (a team discusses all sorts of issues) and instead of co-operation between members sets up a silo mentality within the team. Please scrap this system before morale is irrecoverable.

  9. Comment by James Owens posted on

    I don't have any comment, however, I note that the email asking if I have any comments arrived in my mailbox at 5.15am today (Friday) and the meeting is next week (perhaps from Monday) ! Well, we can't say we weren't asked, so tick the box saying staff "were consulted". Also, there are many CS staff who do not work every weekday, so many will be blissfully unaware of this opportunity to contribute.

  10. Comment by M Harbertson posted on

    Having worked for the civil service for nearly 25 years, the same things that drag us back are still effecting the individual organisations.
    Why are there not the same pay scales across all departments, why isn't a manager in MOJ paid the same as a manager in HMRC?
    Why do we use different HR policies from department to department, why do we record FWH and leave and claim expenses differently from department to department?
    And why do the government and powers at be think it's always a good thing to simply change something for change sake or because its not working? Numerous times we are asked to start doing things differently, without consultation, with explanation or any clue as to what the benefits are supposed to be.
    And in an encouraged LEAN environment, thats exactly what we are supposed to be doing, which leads to my final points, that Senior managers BANDs (B /SEO) and above are most guilty of not demonstrating correct behaviour that they then expect (Band D / EO's) to promote and instill within their teams.
    But the biggest improvement I could suggest would simply be this, if you are going to implement something in the service, consult, explain, deliver quality face to face training in good time, user test if necessary and once introduced give those working with the tools time to practice the new skills and implement the work, BEFORE forcing another wave of change on us, a constant tide of change allows nothing to build.
    Periods of putting projects to one side and concentrating on the customer and our day to day work would not go a miss.

    • Replies to M Harbertson>

      Comment by Ken posted on

      Pay and conditions vary so much across the broad public sector since the Civil Service was fragmented under the Thatcher and Major governments. Like many administrative functions, pay bargaining was delegated to Departments and devolved further to Agencies and NDPBs - presumably on the assumption of making savings.

      Instead of a single large national structure for pay and conditions, each bargaining unit had "hidden costs" as they were forced to scale up internal administration functions to replace services, including pay and conditions bargaining, no longer provided by the centre.

      The result is the present day "Tower of Babel" diversity of terms - especially obvious when moving between different bodies or, on a larger scale, when machinery of government changes merge and unite previously separate bodies.

      Whether it is desirable, feasible or cost-effective to put the "Humpty Dumpty" of common pay and conditions back together, remains to be seen. Action 17 of the Reform Plan touches on terms and conditions of employment but is silent on this issue of harmonisation.

  11. Comment by Clare Sample posted on

    I have worked in the Civil Service for 27 yrs & now the culture has totally changed for the worse.There is no common sense used in any decisions made.WE are told to do this & that knowing that it is duplicating work & wasting time & money when if youever makes the decisions come & talks to us the workers then you would get a better understanding of the job in hand & how to do it.Ita ll just about fogures & prducing loads of work so it is processing only which are not accurate or correct & there are too many checks in place for the same thing & not enough checks for the right parts of the job.Bring back the old days when you did a job properly & got satisfaction from your job & being proud to be a civil servant.

  12. Comment by Paul Mason posted on

    Please make it easier to move between departments. I have seen some job specifications recently that require so much experience within the department thats advertising that they really shouldnt advertise on civil service jobs. In some cases job adverts might as well have specific names on them. We are work towards one framework, we all have to prove competence so lets make it easier. Skills are transferable !

    • Replies to Paul Mason>

      Comment by Kim posted on

      Where to start?
      I'll leave IT to one side as it appears to be accepted that it's useless. The suppliers to my department are also useless in meeting their stated times for fulfilling requests.
      Hot desking - get rid of it. It is impossible to work effeiciently in an office when other people are screaming next to your desk. It is certainly impossible to work on sensitive commercial projects in open plan. Health and safety issues don't appear to be considered. As our employers you have a common law duty to provide a safe workplace (that includes out mental health and wellbeing). The overcrowding of staff to save on estate budget could cost much more in the long term as more staff go off sick with stress.
      But the biggest bugbear for me is pay and promotion. I joined the Fast Stream as it was the only part of the Civil Service recruiting at the time and found that the representations made in relation to salary increases were untrue. Four years, same pay is not sustainable. However promotion is driving me insane. Different departments have different barriers. Can it not just be you've passed probation therefore you may apply for any department? Likewise, I'm am looking for promotion as I have considerable work experieince prior to joining the Civil Service (including board level). All of the jobs in which I am interested are grade barred to me because I have to be either SCS already or have a Grade 7 post. Why is only Civil Service experience relevant for internal recruitment? There are two jobs currently be advertised on civil service jobs for which I am eminently qualified but I can't apply because of my grade and I don't see why I should go through the aggravation of applying for a Grade 7 job in which I'm not really interested and don't really want simply because it is the only way I can get to an SCS job.
      And interchange. Why? Why can an individual not just be appointed as a civil servant and then be able to move to any job with department? Why do we have all this pratting about with having to get approval from the 'home department' to move?

  13. Comment by Giles posted on

    I understand why the Civil Service has to reform & change with the times, however we are always being told that "our benefits" need to be brought in-line with the private sector & that our pensions are unaffordable & we need to pay more for them.

    The problem is that we are subject to a 1% pay cap on our salaries but are expected to pay in some cases 2% more for our pensions. Not only that if we are truly to become more in line with the private sector should we not pay private sector wages?

    • Replies to Giles>

      Comment by Paul posted on

      I agree entirely with this sentiment. However, the last four years has seen a circa 25% decline in my salary due to the wage freeze, inflation, an office move where the petrol payment for extra mileage afte tax and national insurance amounts to 9p a mile (an entirely inadeqate amount to compensate me for additional travelling expense - and that ends after three years - so how do I pay then) and the pension payment. None of this appears to be recognised by the Civil Service or the impact that it will have on my future pension that I have worked for, for the past 22 years.

      There is also the "glass" ceiling for professionals to consider, as their profession (unless a solicitor or similarly recognised type) effectively ends at C1 grade. B2's are classified as managers and therefore effectively become administrators - and their workload reflects that. Senior professionals are therefore hugely disadavantaged in their salary aspirations and the disparity for their expertise against that within the private sector for equivalent work is vast. The pay is very good for trainies, good for newly qualified professionals, average for professionals with 2 years post qualifying experience and then absolutely nowhere close beyond that with the gap increasingly widening with age and experience. So when we look at the vastly experienced work force that we now have, these have increasingly been retained on the cheap. When they go there will be very few experienced colleagues coming through to fill the knowledge gap as the private sector alternatives are much more attractive to them. To redress this, the Civil Service needs to be able to demonstrate a career path for new professionals that rewards them for loyalty, experience and their obvious knowledge both of their professional role and of the political system in which they have to deliver. At present the Civil Service is a place to be avoided for aspiring young professionals and until the senior professionals currently trapped at C1 are given the recognition they have long deserved by being given a career path well beyond this and through the B1 scale so as to reflect the private sector's pay scales, this avoidance by young professionals will continue (as they recognise that they do not have a career to speak of within the Civil Service). Young professionals may use the Civil Service for excellent experience in their early years (with excellent work experience and mentors) but will then leave to the private sector for a proper career. This means that the decreasing number of senior professionals are forever training people up for them to leave and in some cases this dramatically reduces the overall effectiveness of that part of the Civil Service in which they work as their time is not being used effectively to further its aims.

      The Civil Service needs to recognise this problem and redress it. Putting work out to the private sector is not the answer as the Civil Service will lose their expertise and therefore their ability to be able to control the private sector contracts that they appear so willing to embark on (this will inevitably occur as the "do it" role knowledge in the retained professional fades through time as they will not be practising it). The private sector will then be increasingly in control of the Civil Service which will then have to pay the private sector for its services without any idea as to why they are doing it. This will leave a lasting legacy for the public purse as has PFI and other "partnerships" etc, that needs to be avoided and so as to ensure that the services supplied are sustainable when those contracts come to an end. This can only be done by having the expertise that experienced internal staff offer to protect their Department's interests and that can only be sustained if they have a recognisable and rewarding career path.

      • Replies to Paul>

        Comment by Chris B posted on

        "Putting work out to the private sector is not the answer as the Civil Service will lose their expertise and therefore their ability to be able to control the private sector contracts that they appear so willing to embark on (this will inevitably occur as the "do it" role knowledge in the retained professional fades through time as they will not be practising it). The private sector will then be increasingly in control of the Civil Service which will then have to pay the private sector for its services without any idea as to why they are doing it."

        This is already happening in some departments, meaning that when changes are necessary, the Department is at the mercy of private contractors. Private contractors appear to have no ceiling on what they can then charge for 'new' work. A saving to the public purse it most definitely is not.

  14. Comment by Terry Moody posted on

    For me, any future progression to reform needs to include addressing motivational issues that impact on staff.
    1. VERS - why not let staff go immediately after their applications are approved instead of allowing the unacceptable to happen i.e staff who are wishing to remain in the civil service having to work around and try to tolerate the decline of work outputs that some staff resort to when leaving which in impacts hugely on their own motivation
    2. Dealing with Long Term Sickness - When are we going to get this right? Please note, for every mis-managed dealings with a long term sick member of staff - the perceptions by colleagues at work can and does have huge impact. Staff at work are not blind to mis-managed cases - why should they work hard when others may abuse the system and get away with it because of mis-management!
    3. Recognise work outputs with sincerity and stop judging someone's style of how they achieve their results - we are all diverse in our styles yet some managers who have different styles seem to think that their way is always right!

  15. Comment by John Archer posted on

    The CIvil Sevice needs to be more honest in its evaluation of initiatives and procedures. It most certainly needs to stop claiming something as a success when it patently isn't. Saving face may bring relief to an individual's career but it's a hot lead enema to staff morale.
    Also we need to look at customers being able to do more things on a single telephone call rather than having to ring different numbers for matters that may be related e.g. ringing one number to pay the tax owed from a Tax Return calculation and then a different number to pay class 2 NICs from the same calculation.

  16. Comment by RR posted on

    Why ask me? I wont be a Civial Servant for much longer. Not that i am losing my JOB!

  17. Comment by Martyn Wait posted on

    Sir Bob wants us all to contribute our thoughts and opinions. I notice that in the latest survey that came in the same CS e-mail, the list of grades began with AO. If I was one of the many thousands of AA's doing their bit to keep the CS functioning, I would feel rather miffed at being so obviously unimportant and unnoticed and whose opinions obviously are of no interest or value. So much for inclusion.

    • Replies to Martyn Wait>

      Comment by James posted on

      Martyn - it's not just the AA grade whole department isn't listed on the drop down list - what does that say????

    • Replies to Martyn Wait>

      Comment by Cameron Smith, Cabinet Office posted on


      Thank you for your comment. Due to an unknown issue the AA/AO option reverted to just AO - the AA option has now been included as a seperate option. Thanks for pointing out the error.

    • Replies to Martyn Wait>

      Comment by Joan posted on

      I too was feeling rather undervalued at the missing AA grade in the survey. Am I just an 'other' member of staff now? Soon to be replaced by agency staff?

  18. Comment by Mark posted on

    You need to manage the issues that the MOD PUS has completely failed to address:
    Pay, the appalling staff reporting/performance management process and degradation of terms and conditions of service.
    If you can't do anything about any of the above then a bit of honesty wouldn't go amiss. When there's bad news, tell us straight. Stop trying to put a posifive spin on everything - straight talking will gain our senior management a lot more trust and respect.

  19. Comment by Roger Cowell posted on

    All I see in Civil Service Reform is that staff conditions will get worse, (it doesn't really matter why), more will be expected with less. The mid year review that has been presented to ministers sees a reduction in our achievements as compared to last year with customer service.
    I am so glad that I am leaving with the voluntary exit in April. I think if I continued in the Department I would become even more disenchanted and depressed with how Civil Servants are treated. Fine words about the excellent staff are all very well but when pay increases are not even consolidated and there is an imposition of other conditions from the top down the Civil Service as a whole will become a FTA employer. ( I am not criticising the FTA's that we have at the moment here). I do not see a promising future for the staff of HMRC. I think it will go from a 'can do' to a 'make do' Department.

    • Replies to Roger Cowell>

      Comment by NIgel S posted on

      All I would ask is that you brief us "the workforce" before you brief the Daily Mail. That you be honest with us in that, your intention is to bring in change with or without consultation, please remove the horrid PAR system, it is not cost effective, is not fit for purpose and and has no place in a forward thinking Civil Service.

  20. Comment by Anon posted on

    5 Days L&D? The chance would be a fine thing. About a quarter of our workforce was made redundant a couple of years ago to achieve the Government's 30% cuts. However, the Law still requires use to meet certain duties. We are now below critical mass and the only way we can achieve this is working above and beyond conditioned hours.

  21. Comment by Julia Luckett posted on

    There are so many changes which we all here cope with exceptionally well.The problem is that a lot of things that are fed down to us the decisions are made by people who do not know the job and are not aware of the consequences to our clients and staff.

  22. Comment by Wendy Griffiths posted on

    I am an AA who is not taking the package and i am worried about what i will be doing come April.
    Also something that hasn't been mentioned, i am on the lowest pay scale and with the 1% payrise every year i am worse off every year with the standard of living rising more than my wage, i can't afford any "comforts" anymore.
    We need a decent pay rise.

    • Replies to Wendy Griffiths>

      Comment by Michael posted on

      I agree with you, Wendy. The AA grade has had the "Sword of Damocles" hanging over them for a number of years noiw, and in fairness to them, it is about time that their future was decided once and for all. In my view we will always need a few AA's around to do certain tasks which others would find time consuming, out of grade, and inconvenient. It's only when there are a scarcity of AA's that you realise how useful they are. Like goldust in fact.

    • Replies to Wendy Griffiths>

      Comment by Joan posted on

      Wendy, as an AA I didn't even get the 1% last year, our pay was frozen. Oh how I missed that extra £10 a month (*sarcasm*).

      Yes a decent pay rise would certainly be welcomed. I'm now at the top of my grade and have no future increments to look forward to. It's impossible to justify the constant increase in duties when I'm getitng poorer with each year of service.

    • Replies to Wendy Griffiths>

      Comment by Kaitlynn posted on

      Regarding AA pay; I've been told that I was the the last AA to be recruited onto my DWP site, in Jan 2010. This was my first job for seven years due to a long term illness.

      Today I am now a net £300 a month worse off than I was on benefits; I can no longer afford to run a car, I have virtually no social life and cannot afford to travel to see my children who live about 300 miles away.

      I work hard, for almost no recognition and far less job satisfaction than I've had in any private sector job I've held.

  23. Comment by Martin Lucas posted on

    There are two fundamental and conflicting approaches to organising a government service. Prevailing political opinion favours an Efficiency Model, and everything we are currently being asked to reform is steering us in this direction. The way an Efficiency Model works:
    First, decide how much money you have to spend
    Second, decide how many staff you can employ on this budget
    Third, do as much work as you can do with this number of staff
    Sounds reasonable at first glance, but the consequence of an Efficiency Model is that everyone is working flat-out all the time and some work still doesn't get done, calls don't get answered, people queue for appointments and staff end up hot-desking etc - because the focus is always on maximum output for minimum resource, doing more for less etc.
    The alternative approach is not currently fashionable but it will be familiar to many, and we can call it the Service Model. The way this works:
    First, decide what work needs doing
    Second, decide how many people you need to do the work
    Third, find the funds necessary to employ that many people, raising taxes if necessary
    That way you prioritise the service, cut down on queues, are always on top of the task, but the goverment doesn't like it because it's more expensive and because it doesn't require everyone to work flat-out all the time (because you've made sure you have enough staff to do the job, and if they finish ahead of schedule they'll have time to relax!). It's still perfectly possible to maximise efficiency under the Service Model, but not at the expense of reducing staff below the level needed to provide a full service.
    If we really wanted to reform the Civil Service in a way that maximises benefit for both staff and customers, i.e. all the people of the UK, we would embrace the Service Model and accept that it comes with a cost. While all our reforms are in the name of the Efficiency Model, staff will always feel overworked and underpaid, and customer service will always suffer to some extent, whatever genuine improvements are made along the way.

  24. Comment by Christine Dallimore posted on

    I am currently working in Debt Enforcement, having changed from New Claims 2003 scheme. Debt Enforcement South West changed from 10 teams of 10, to 5 teams of 10. The same amout of cases, half the staff. The same amount of work is excepted, I am now finding the work becomeing more stressfull by the day. There is not enough staff to complete the work. Customer/Clients are ringing and given change of circumances, but because of the work load these changes are sometimes not completed for months. This then casues angry phone calls from non resident parents who suddenly have huge arrears.

  25. Comment by C.Ray posted on

    # Leadership. Is communication, we need honest and open dialogue from senior management.
    # Connection. Management not loosing contact with the frontline and through communciation we have trust.
    # Clear vision. If something planned isn’t working tell us so we can help fix it !
    # Innovation. Staff should take on board ideas and put into action rather than “We can’t do that because nobody said we should “
    • Capability Future potential. Develop staff and make long term plans for future IT justified in efficiency and cost savings. Respect staff, they are the primary resource, value their experience. Run a "What is busted" forum to gather staff ideas on what processes need improving and how they can be improved.
    Many people in DWP will know friends or relatives on benefits, it's sometimes painful to hear their views of us, but the insight is invaluable.

  26. Comment by Mark Holliday posted on

    I agree with Alice in regards to the recruitment process, but it also applies to the promotion selection process. I and a number of my AO colleagues would like to progress through the ranks, and have applied on numerous occassions for EO roles within our department and the widespread CS.

    The process is a long and labourious one, and involves as we all know filling in forms with competencies relating to the role in question. I personally now have an average of 5 different senerio's to fit each of the different competencies within the framework, and each time i have applied (and failed), I have asked for feedback. This enables me to "tweek" my examples as necessary to meet the required standard. This still does not seem to have the desired effect!!

    I have been told by my HEO and SEO that I am more than capable of rising through the ranks, but to me the das of rewarding those that achieve and work hard with the promotions they deserve have gone, and instead the system rewards those people who seem to be able to find the right words in the right order to get through the sift and interview stage.

    This might sound like a bitter rant (and to some extent it is) but I am not alone in feeling this way. I have colleagues who feel that they have missed out especially when they find out that former colleagues are now 1 or two grades higher than them and they were deemed less capable when they where the same grades.

    If there could be a discussion on how HR can make the process of finding talent more down to the managers in the field (HEO in discussion with SEO), then we might have the cream rising to the top rather than those who can fill in a form slightly better.

    • Replies to Mark Holliday>

      Comment by Jay posted on

      I couldn’t agree more with Mark’s comment. However; as far as I am concerned there is no promotion process in the department any more. A promotion is something that you are rewarded with for proving that you’re capable of moving onto the next grade and as Mark says; those days are long gone. We now have a process where people are able to simply apply for a better job regardless of how capable they may or may not be. The process is a complete shambles and very concerning. Essentially we are in a situation where anyone can progress through the ranks by making up a complete pack of lies due to nothing being verified on any applications. In some cases we even have online tests to assess capability that can be completed on ANY computer with access to the web! Am I the only one who can see the obvious flaw here!!!
      I find it unbelievable that an organisation operates this way, not only is it a kick in the teeth to hard working, honest members of staff looking to progress but from a business point of view runs the risk of resulting in a chain of inept management who are incapable of running a department the way the public deserves and expects!

    • Replies to Mark Holliday>

      Comment by Gareth Thornton posted on

      Here here. Your experiences justify the comment I have just made.

    • Replies to Mark Holliday>

      Comment by Jan Jones posted on

      Mark – you may find a resource that you download from the CSL Portal called "Applying for a Job" useful and the following link takes you to a wide range of other information that might also be helpful.

  27. Comment by Bob Vaughan posted on

    Only one question here Quality or Quantity?
    While a focus on Quality can bring Quantity, as if claims are right they are quicker to action and less errors are introduced to the system, but a focus on Quantity does not necessarily bring with it Quality as with speed and the requirement to hit a high benchmark target inherently brings error as processors introduce error and checkers find it, which creates double-handling and rework over and over again. (and thats if its checked). You will never lose the customer not providing the right information to correctly assess claims, but give an experienced processor time to work (quality) and they will spot most errors, either blantant fraud or true mistakes!

  28. Comment by Ken Sefton posted on

    I would just like to take this opportunity of thanking the civil service for allowing the mass media to inform me of the impending sell off of the department I work for, it goes a long way to maintaining motivation levels in a departtment that has always performed superbly with a dedicated hard working and highly motivated workforce. This will go a long way to ensuring continued support for civil service reform.

  29. Comment by John Coates posted on

    As a long term employee of DWP, and its predecessors, appreciate that there has been a need to live within budgetary targets, but I think it would be highly motivational, as well as an instrument in keeping highly trained and experienced staff if Pay progression was recommenced. I have friends and colleagues who were promoted several years ago, and still no nearer reaching the higher pay bands within their grade.

    • Replies to John Coates>

      Comment by Elli posted on

      Progression pay should be reinstated; six years in grade and I am still on the band minima despite exceeding my objectives every year and posessing a wealth of experience & knowledge.
      I currently manage a large team and it doesn't do much for morale when some staff I manage, who have much less responsibility, workload and experience are on better pay than I am and someone newly promoted or in a digital post is also at the same pay.
      In recent years we have all seen our pay drop substantially in real terms and the continuous eroding of our t&c's. We've seen huge staff cuts and are expected to deliver the same or higher outputs - we are faced with huge staff shortages -there really was no fat to trim in a lot of areas in the first place and so staff are working longer and longer outside of their conditioned hours.
      Morale is low and people are fed up. Will things change in the forseable? I doubt it..
      I am dubious as whether all of these genuine concerns highlighted in this blog will be taken on board or addressed. To be honest this type of engagement looks like a tick in the box exercise to say personnel were encouraged to give their views...but I doubt it will make any difference.

    • Replies to John Coates>

      Comment by Janet posted on

      I agree. I am working with colleagues who were promoted only 2 years before me and are on the max. After 5 years in the role, I have remained on the same pay (other than my first increment) because of the pay freeze and now earning substantially less. I do the same job to the same standard (possibly better) and rewarded with less pay. What happened to pay equality? It is demotivating and I often ask myself why I take on additional work. The Civil Service relies very heavily on the goodwill and work ethic of its people. Something positive would be appreciated.

  30. Comment by Chris Bone posted on

    Training - I spend several days logging in and renewing passwords sorting out IT to complete poorly constructed patronising mandatory courses on fire safety, equality, looking after information, and security each year. Useful topics but I am just about to get DII which "means one password and log-on throughout the MoD" - except for our local network which we need because DII does not meet the business need, and the Learning Portal because its not properly linked to DII and HRMS. The combination of poor IT and poor mandatory training waste my 5 days proffessional development each year.

    • Replies to Chris Bone>

      Comment by Graham O'Connell posted on

      Chris, you mentioned a few mandatory e-learning products - 93% to 98% of learners agree these products met their objectives. These assessments are made by learners and are well above industry average for these types of products. However, we constantly review and quality assure all of our products, and a couple of those you mentioned have been replaced by newer versions over the last few months. We are aware there are IT limitations in some departments which can be frustrating to users and we know the Civil Service is encouraging departments to improve IT access.

      • Replies to Graham O'Connell>

        Comment by Chris Bone posted on

        Graham the use of statistics can distort reality - the reason 98% of people said the courses met their objective is because their objective was to complete the mandatory course, not as you clearly believe, to learn about fire safety, security or other important subjects.

  31. Comment by George McManus posted on

    Civil Servants are a key element in our democratic process. They should be encouraged to stand for public office to bring thgeir skills and experience to policy making.

    I agree that Senior Civil Servants and those who have contact with Ministers should be required to resign for Parliament. There is even an argument that more junior civil servants, like me, should be required to resign but there should ba an automatic assumption in place that when they're unsuccessful at elections, they should be automatically re-instated.

    We have a wealth of experience which could enhance decvision making but the current rules mitigate against half a million, mostly public facing citizens, ever taking that risk. I know as it took me nearly a year to be reinstated. I'm only a Band C and am still paying off the debt 10 years on. It's time to make the Civil Service Code fit for purpose. The Code should be an enabler and not a blocker.

  32. Comment by Clare F posted on

    I can see a common theme coming through a lot of the comments already and can only agree. My particular issue is with the lack of real innovation and openess for new ways of working on a practical working level. Specialisms with closed doors because ''they have always done it that way" stifles communication, collaborations and new ways to approach old problems. I can see the civil service focussing a lot of attention on reform in areas where it is not necessary but brushing under the carpet the real areas in need of attention and development. Lets be open to the talent and skills we have and allow/encourage cross team communications and sharing of experiences. I've seen messsages regarding 'job sharing' but have never seen it happen in practice. Our job filling arrangements are actually becoming more and more bureacractic

  33. Comment by Anita Morgan posted on

    SCS still need to press for wider engagement in Equality & Diversity. It is true that there have been strides forward in policy development, however where HR management is decentralised, ethical behaviours in embracing E & D in the workplace are sadly lacking. I was seconded to a government department close to Westminster for two years and was struck by the disparibetween its excellent E & D workplace culture and that of my own department in the MOD. E & D Policies are all well and good but without consistent demonstration by organisational members, especially its leaders, workplace culture will continue to support practices which are detrimental to the contributions of a truly diverse workforce.

  34. Comment by Matt posted on

    Digital SC - well, that means lots of passwords being reset all the time and time wasted trying to sort it out and having to write down all the different ones we use - thus creating even more risk
    Progressive SC - well, I haven't seen anything positively progressive. We have joined up services which makes them less personal adaptable to your oranisation - is proof of a backward step for access to information - pleased on't destroy our website aswell!
    Modern Terms and Conditions - well, I am paying over 3% more for a pension which ends in a years time before embarking a a brand new one which doesn't align with the old one. Having finacially planned for retirement, this has been blown out of the water! Pay - well, no increase there, just expectations from time you do with all the complications that have been thrown on top just to make life 'easier'. Oh, and if we are going to compare to private sector, could we have christmas bonuses, on-site childcare, fun team building events, career opportunities, private healthcare etc. or are we so scared that it will all be seen as gold plating or a waste of taxpayers money?
    Career opportunities - well, there aren't any - as senior people leave, their jobs are merged to save money!
    Are there any positives? well, I am struggling, but it has all got me to update my CV and look at other opportunties. I suppose I have learnt not to allow work to stress me out too much and switch off more often.

  35. Comment by James C posted on

    The issue of pay harmonisation seems to be cropping up more regularly. I have concerns about losing out after moving departments as a result of a Machinery of Government change. Given that I moved on a compulsory basis, I consider that I should be able to retain my previous terms and conditions.

    I am not happy about travelling further to get to work to receive less pay.

  36. Comment by Mike H posted on

    “Please get involved in the conversations on this, as I am keen for colleagues and myself to discuss your comments on the day.” When are these “conversations” planned to take place and how will the views be passed to next week’s meeting? Or are you going to take the views expressed on this and recent forums as a guide to the opinions of Civil Servants?
    It seems fairly clear that staff want:
    a) Modern IT facilities that enable us to perform more effectively.
    b) A simpler appraisal system which doesn’t come with strings attached in the form of PRP or forced distribution.
    c) Salaries that are at least the equal of comparable jobs in the private sector.
    We don't mind change, but we do object to change just for the sake of it. What we'd really like to see is some improvements!

  37. Comment by Neeta Hindocha posted on

    More cross working, as all departments are doing very similar work, but in isolation, eg. replacing the operating windows system, as XP is coming to the end of life. If we all joined up on this work across the government departments, then the cost could be significantly reduced and we would all learn from each other.

    Having better IT is key to delivery. We need to make an investment in here, not only for front line staff, but those that deliver key changes to support front line activities. Ipads have been given to Senior Managers, but what about others. Who defines what is being used and by whom. Not the right people make those decisions. Here's a thought, scrap laptops and give everyone a better, lighter, flexible IT device. This could reduce overheads in desk space and more than 1 device being used by 1 person.

  38. Comment by Chris posted on

    Sir Bob. Its nice to wake up in the morning to find out that, via the press, that after 27 years of loyal service, my department (Land Registry) is to be privatised. I have read the "Consultation Document" created by our Management Board, and for somebody who actually deals with our customers, I have never seen such a significant amount of misinformed devisive untruths. The idea that an organization that year on year smashes its extremely challenging and constantly changing key performance indicators and targets will perform better in the private sector, for the benefit of the customers, is proven by previous privatisations of government departments to be an absolute untruth. Privatisation NEVER actually benefits its customers. It always leads to increased prices and poorer performance. It was also nice to read that, what is left of the workforce, after the organisation has been dismantled, wil lose their Civil Service status. However, the Management Board will retain theirs!!!! We are all in this together....not! Thanks Land Registry for the wonderful service our customers tell us we have provided for the last 150 years, it was nice to know you.

  39. Comment by Jackie Clark posted on

    I think we all need to take personal accountability for our work, what we do has a direct and indirect affect on others, whether it is our colleagues, managers or members of the public (which of course we are also). I work with customer complaints and too often see a culture of either "It wasn't me it was somebody else", or "I'll let somebody else deal with that one & won't bother to tell anyone"
    We are all "somebody" and "anybody".

    • Replies to Jackie Clark>

      Comment by Dave posted on

      but the performance management system, with it's semi-arbitrary "bandings" based on not-very-good evidence means that the culture of "it wasn't me" is strongly promoted - anything to avoid being in the bottom 10 (or 25) percent!

  40. Comment by G posted on

    Sir Bob

    “I would really like to hear from you if you’ve taken part in one of our talent schemes”…. tells us all we need to know!!

    Have a lovely meeting Sir Bob (I’m sure you will). - Like CJ from Reggie Perrin, enjoy having your ego soothed and bathed again by familiar refrains of “Great” and “Super”s from our esteemed and glorious cadre of Perm Secs and DGs.

    In the meantime the rest of us will take the opportunity, whilst they are away, to look for jobs elsewhere, as we endeavor to leave an institution which makes Downton Abbey, and Upstairs Downstairs look like utopias of social mobility and equality.


  41. Comment by Hilary Norbury posted on

    I have worked in the civil service for 36 years and have always been hard working; career minded; keen to improve and contribute. This year I have lost all motivation and cannot wait to find a way out of this department. Because I was new to a job and working away from the main London hub (less opportunity to get involved in extra projects), when my performance was assessed next to my experienced peers, I was judged by the panel to be in the lower 10%. What a way to treat a high performing member of staff, who mastered the new job within 6 months, acheived all objectives to a high standard and obtained a professional qualification in the same year. Forced distribution is a terrible system and should be ended as soon as possible. It has fallen out of favour in private industry because it has been recognised as a demotivator. It is good to recognise and encourage talent and improve performance but this isn't the tool that should be used. I consider myself talented with a lot of experience and knowledge to offer to the organisation but I have been left feeling I am no longer valued.

    • Replies to Hilary Norbury>

      Comment by Dave posted on

      I've made no secret of my opinion of the quota-based performance management on this blog, and your case does not surprise me at all. If only I could truly believe someone in a position to help would listen to us and stand up against "political dogma".

  42. Comment by Victoria posted on

    I don't want to go back to the civil service that I joined 27 years ago. The sexism and gradism and all that paper! I enjoy being able to work flexibly. However, I feel that very senior managers are not leading by example. They still have their own offices and nice regular payrises. I have had 1 pay rise of 1% in four years - unfortuantely the cost of living has not had the decency to stay so static. I also agree with comments about the constant changing of staff reviews. CO has brought yet another version in this year, no training, incorrect advice and caps on the three box markings. Even if you achieve all your objectives you can still be marked down because of the cap. This is an enourmous disincentive, what is the point of working hard when there is this arbitary cap? I don't think I have had the same process now for about 5 years. Pick one and stick with it for a few years - just for a change

  43. Comment by Andrew Rouse posted on

    Sir Bob,
    I appreciate the kind words we often receive from the leadership in departments and this filters down through the management chains however I feel that some of the ways we have been treated in terms of pay, terms and conditions, pensions don't actively reflect the positive words. Being a Yorkshire Lad the term "fine words butter no crumpets" spring to mind?
    In terms of reform can we look to see how we can reflect the good work done by the Civil Service and its people by supporting this with actions.
    Just for the record this is not in praise of or support for further "development" of the the dreadful performance management regime.

  44. Comment by Jim posted on

    I'd be very keen to know what progress has been made under the Civil Service Reform agenda in relation to the terms and conditions for G7 / G6 colleagues. There are a number of concerns around alternative working patterns, the absence of a formal 'flexible working' arrangement, what should be a guide to expected "discretionary" effort. The July 2013 update seemed to be very silent on the progress of the review of this part of the reform agenda.

  45. Comment by Agency worker posted on

    I am not officially a civil servant as I am employed as an agency worker under the swedish derogation. Nevertheless I have been in post for over a year and whilst this method of employing staff may be cost effective, it is demoralising in human terms. I am expected to perform at the same level as permanent members of staff for less money and fewer benefits. In my view the system is both discriminatory and inequitable and should be reformed.

  46. Comment by Anon posted on

    I’m all for efficiency and moving forward. I embrace the changes that will make us more digitally focused. However I’m struggling to understand how making people unemployed makes for a better economy. If I don’t have any money and am forced to take a job for a lower salary how am I contributing to the wider economy? I can’t go out and spend any money, if I don’t get a job my children will have their school dinner funded by the LA, if offices close the surrounding businesses suffer and close.
    How can the government justify this for the sake of efficiency, especially when reducing departments that actually make money?

  47. Comment by Rob. posted on

    I have never worked anywhere where the moral of staff is so low, most colleagues I talk to want to leave the civil service as they no longer feel valued and are spending an inordinate amount of time working through new competences and trying to decide which of your staff have to be placed in the 'Must improve' category. I am not proud to call myself a civil servant and am looking forward to leaving and finding a role where I am valued and feel a sense of worth in the work I do.

  48. Comment by J Routledge posted on

    I'd like to pick up on the further comments I've already made. I note a lot of people are stating their length of service. Mine is 33 years. It's an important factor to picking up on the comments everyone is making. Civil Servants often have a long history of employment in the CS! We've also pretty much 'been there, seen it, worn the t-shirt', so can probably advise all the new Powers That Be of what works and what doesn't, because the re-iterative process of 'lets try this' seems to re-appear every few years down the line, like bad fashion items.
    For us to help the customers we need the breathing space to think and plan, and computer systems 'fit for purpose' (what does that mean - really?).
    We also need the trust to apply common sense, and stop applying blanket standards, which have been set-up to deal with colleagues who simply are not being given the management support or training to do the job properly in the first place.
    If there were less teirs of management, less senior managers working in isolation from the frontline experience, there might be more relevant and sensible ideas being put in place to: create a more flexible, and realistic service for our clients; give staff the trust and support we need to be confident in our roles; stop setting up systems (security questions and the 'special' words we should all use in calls with the clients!) to trip the staff up and make us paranoid.
    As much as the public sees us as tea swilling government lackeys, we are hard-working, conscientious, and often stressed.

  49. Comment by Steve posted on

    Senior mangement seem to be under the impression that everything is rosey, it appears they believe the training offered is worth while, that the systems we use do the job and that all civil servants are happy with their standards of living.
    It time for senior managers to come back to the floor, and I mean properly come and spend a week doing what we do, not with the perfect employee most center managers get shown, but the average person. See what we see, feel the same frustrations we have, and then may be you might understand what real changes need to be made, rather than the Guru version from management constultants.
    As for training, it would be better to have training that is recognised outside the civil service as well, because just about everything offered, the private sector would ignore as not relevant.

  50. Comment by John awbery posted on

    The more computers=the more hackers!

  51. Comment by Richard posted on

    The performance management system introduced in the last year is destroying trust and motivation in an already stressed workforce. People are worried about having a job this time next year, not whether they can take 5 days for learning.

  52. Comment by Helen posted on

    Dear Sir Bob,

    Having worked in the Civil Service for almost 30 years and been proud to have done so for most of that time, I can quite honestly say I have never felt so degraded, demoralised and demotivated by the soul destroying attitude of senior civil servants towards their staff. We are treated like something someone has wiped off the bottom of their shoes and given no respect or consideration as human beings. We are treated as a resource and, as such, are not seen as people any longer. Why is it so difficult for staff to be valued? I would like to point out, at this point, that actions speak louder than words. People are so thoroughly demotivated in so many areas of the civil service that it is now like a virus. Perhaps you have never heard of the phrase "behaviour breeds behaviour" but it is a very true saying. The virus and disease spreading through the civil service is a direct result of the treatment meted out to staff. No pay increase for god knows how many years, increased pension contributions, increased pension age, no possibility of progression or promotion for the minions, appalling I.T. systems, the introduction of I.T. systems which do not work, such as DMACR.... need I go on??? As I mentioned earlier, actions speak louder than words, so merely telling staff that they are valued has no effect and is simply patronising and condescending when it is patently obvious that it is not the case. Tinkering around the edges and dealing with minor issues is ineffective when the majority of staff are concerned with bigger and wider issues, such as those mentioned above. I have dialled into enough telekits this year to hear the concerns of staff across the country and nothing is ever done to address these issues, and yet these are the issues which cause staff to feel so demoralised. The performance management system is a complete farce and people are now running around trying to attend meetings and telekits in which they have absoultely no interest in order to tick a box on their end of year report, and yet senior managers think that this is a wonderful system and a good use of taxpayers money!!!??? As a taxpayer, I am outraged at the colossal and utterly appalling waste of time this process causes. Doing the job and doing it well seems to be an ethos which has disappeared into a black hole somewhere and now the only important thing is our "behaviour". I am not aware of a single staff member who thinks this process is worthwhile in any aspect, but if senior managers think it is worthwhile then that is obviously all that matters. They must be fully aware of the strength of feeling around this subject, so if they are so keen to take account of staff's views, why is this ridiculous system still in place???

    • Replies to Helen>

      Comment by Dave Stevens posted on

      Beautifully put. I also find an exquisite irony in the fact that it was from the mouth of Gill Rider, one of the government's favourite management gurus, at Civil Service Live that I first heard the phrase, "You can't talk your way out of what you have behaved yourself into."

      In terms of talent, nobody seems to have picked up on the fact that the 1st April next year will see the beginning of an exodus from the civil service the like of which will seldom or ever have been seen before. I have been a Civil Servant for 25 years but having seen my retirement go from being 14 year away to 21 years away virtually overnight, I will be amongst them. It never occurred to me that I would feel this way but I am thoroughly depressed about the future and still angry beyond measure that the pension deal that I entered into in 1988 is about to be reneged on. I know of many others in HRMC who intend to do the same as me, and for the same reasons; like me they are middle managers in their 40s (and who thus fall outside the 10 year and taper concessions to the pension reforms) with a wealth of experience, many of whom would be intending to step up and become future leaders if they had not been so badly treated. Doubtless the bright young graduates who will be brought in to replace us will find out the hard way that whilst academic qualifications are valuable, in many areas of work there is no substitute for experience.

  53. Comment by Rachel posted on

    I have worked in the civil service since I left school and something’s have changed for the better but not the pay. If we are just one big organisation why is there such a wide range of pay scales? Why do some departments reward people for getting their professional qualification in certain area (such as IT, Finance or Procurement) and others do not, we want qualified staff but are not willing to pay them for the hard work they have put in to get the qualification in question. I have not had a pay rise now for nearly 6 years due to the pay freeze but the cost of living keeps increasing and my funds are becoming more stretched. Promotion is hard to get if you want to stay in your chosen profession within the Civil Service and use the skills you have been trained for and have qualifications in due to outsourcing. We have lost control over things that should be controlled but nobody seems to listen. I feel that the powers that be do not value hard working normal Civil Servant and that things are only likely to get worse in the future as more cuts are made and pay never going up, but ministers get their pay rises. Without a robust structure with hard working dedicated civil servants the work the minister want would not get done but there is no appreciation, only criticism. I here the economy is on the up but I do not see this reflected in my life as I am not valued by my Government as I am only a civil servant.

  54. Comment by PAT posted on

    I have worked in a number of civil service departments over my working life having joined DWP 4 years ago it has been the most frustrating period of my career. Perhaps the department is just too big and therefore unmanageable. Simple things like working out your leave is overcomplicated, the suggestion that you can have 5 learning days a year is not practical when there are not enough bums on seats to do the work and having any time off only adds to the pressure on yourself and other members of staff. The constant uncertainty as to whether your office will close or not does nothing for morale. Lack of time to provide a good service to the customer is frustrating and the backlash staff then take from customers is understandable but sometimes unfair.

  55. Comment by Alison Slack posted on

    This is a small point but a real bugbear for me on the way we work. Our post is now scanned in Liverpool, I work in Nottingham. I work in IHT Compliance, with large files, it is simply not feasable, even with the best technology, to work without a paper file, but what I am asked to do if a letter, with say 50 attachments (very common) is sent to me. I copy the covering letter, but not attachments, put that copy in my file, with original attachements. I then fill in and print off a header to attach to the covering letter, send the header and letter to Liverpool where it will be scanned, I have to confIrm that I accept the scanned version, despite the fact that neither I nor
    anyone else will ever look at the scanned version which is held in caseflow, as we will always look at the paper file, as that is the complete record.
    This is a waste of time, paper, computer storage and for the life of me I can not see why we have to do it, I have asked a Hotseat question about this, but did not get a reply.

  56. Comment by Selected posted on

    The DfE experience of the Civil Service reform so far has been to see the implementation of the new competency framework, a selection exercise and a large scale re-organisation. The question a board of directors should ask is “are we in a better position now than we were before?” How would you measure this?
    I personally think we are in a better position. The competency framework is excellent and the CSL aligned to it is first class. I have observed the selection exercise selecting generally the “right” people; we have cleared a lot of “dead wood”. We are however now seeing many of those not selected being snapped up by other parts of the Civil Service. Certainly the management that I talk to in the DfE believe that the selection exercise had nothing to do with performance and don’t regard those made surplus as poor performers… they were just “unlucky” An interesting stat would be to see how many of those “not selected” are taking on new roles in the wider civil service? (it would seem that this is counterproductive?)
    Having seen the bottom performers in my area removed by the selection exercise and having just managed to settle the team again and feeling that I really do have a strong effective and up for it group of people which I can lead to drive the business forward. I have now been asked to identify my “must improve” people. My answer “they’ve gone”. The response “well give me the names of the bottom 10% of performers.” If we are going with a quota system (which we clearly have been doing for the last couple of years) then be honest, let people know that the bottom 10% of performers relative to the overall performance curve will be in “special measures” (to coin a phrase). Personally I believe this is a better system and promotes continuous improvement.
    I hope at this meeting the most senior leaders will recognise that progress has been made via the reform process, we have a much stronger group of people in our teams now and are much more clearly focussed on what government wants and structured in a way that we can more readily achieve success vs these goals. The stark risk now is that pushing too far will undo the good work and be counterproductive; good people will just walk (its beginning to happen... look at the survey results).

    • Replies to Selected>

      Comment by Peter Lockyer posted on

      Exactly how does selecting the 'bottom' 10% of people routinely and fingering them for 'special measures' foster continuous improvement? The Lehman brothers used forced distribution in this way, and it certainly fostered an increase in profits and organisational 'efficiency'. But look where it got the country...

  57. Comment by Peter Lockyer posted on

    Dear Sir Bob

    I wish you well in your attempts to reform the Civil Service. I love my work, think my employing organisation is great, and am proud to serve the public as best as I can.

    What I would like you to address issues connected with recruitment and ensuring that those doing it are competent and do act as demotivators. For me, its probably a bit late as I am 20% of my career and am in any case lucky to be well fixed financially. But I would like things to be better for those I manage who are wonderful people but who have little chance of progression.

    In recent years I have applied twice for the SCS. On neither occasion was I successful, and that is absolutely fine in a merit based system. However, I was given no feedback despite the fact this was promised by the recruiters and requested by me. On two other occasions I have attended interviews in other departments where it was clear in one that the main interviewer was unclear about the details of the job she was interviewing me for, and in the other all three were of the opposite gender to me, and were unaware of the risks of unconscious bias this can present.

    I do also sense that that there is a bit of a bias against people from NDGBs who look for jobs in central government departments, and a lack of awareness of the benefit that people with operational experience can bring to those working on policies.

  58. Comment by Sue Seear HMCTS posted on

    I agree with the comments about less job satisfaction. We are now expected to be "jack of all trades and master of none". This is a time waster. When you jump from job to job you do not get proficient or efficient. Having to constantly look at "job cards" makes a 5 minute job take 30 minutes, and colleagues are in the same boat. The in depth knowledge has gone.

    I do not like the computer based training. Discussion among team members shows that many of us feel it is a tick the box exercise, for HMCTS and for us. The indivuidual has to navigate the training, and concentrate on getting a pass, but I find personally that this type of training does not stick in my memory. The purpose of the training is lost. I realise that the resources to do proper training are not really available now, but computer based training enables the Civiil service to say it has trained us, but have we actually learned and remembered anything?
    I used to feel that we were here to help the public, but that job satisfaction has gone. Would I recommend a job with HMCTS to anyone? No. I really enjoy working with a great bunch of people including immediate managers, but the organisation leaves a lot to be desired.

    I am sure i could think of lots more to say, but duty calls......

    • Replies to Sue Seear HMCTS>

      Comment by Graham O'Connell posted on

      Sue. We in Civil Service Learning aim to ensure that different learning styles and needs are met through our offer. This includes a wide range of e-learning products and more traditional face to face courses. In particular, the use of technology in e-learning is used widely in many big organisations. The evaluation results we receive from our learners on e-learning products are overwhelmingly positive. We also give guidance on learning in the workplace, and offer services such as coaching and mentoring. There are also thousands of online resources available through the portal. Some people like to do elearning in pairs or small groups so they can discuss things as they go along. I know that helps things stick in my memory.

  59. Comment by Andrea posted on

    I was a Civil Servant for over 20 years in the Statts Office and worked my way up through the grades to HEO. To gain further experience outside the Civil Service I joined a private sector company and learnt new skills which after four years I thought I could bring back into the Civil Service. After several attempts to secure a post at the same level HEO at the Office I had given a long and dedicated period of my working life to. It appears recruitment thought I wasn't good enough for either HEO, EO or even an AO post even though I always had excellent reports and a low sick record. I did manage to get a fixed term role as an EO for a time. I am now working as an AO in the prison service and although I really enjoy my job I feel many of the skills I trained for in the civil service project management and support, marketing and fraud are not being utilised. Talent Management seems to be targeted at higher grades and not people like me who have had Civil Service roles at higher grades but have been unable to rejoin at the same grade. Technology is still far behing the private sector. The civil service still seems intent on high cost projects to produce bespoke systems that are not fit for purpose. They should be working in partnership with private companies as a lot of the systems and databases we need to store and analyse data is already out there. Sir Bob talked about increasing the use of social media but first we should be looking at how we can work smarter using cheaper off the shelf computer packages. In the prison service large sums of money have been used to reform, reduce and change the way the people resource is utilised but very little has been spent on the tools needed to work effectively on a daya to day basis. What happened to collect information once to be used by many.

    • Replies to Andrea>

      Comment by NIgel S posted on

      I joined the Civil Service as I saw it as a career, somewhere I could make a difference and achieve job satisfaction. I was quite good I gained rapid promotions to C1 within 7 years. Then came change, whilst accepting change where it was needed was acceptable, change for the sake of change which is not consulted upon with the workforce has driven me to consider my options. I no longer see the Civil Sevice as a career, there is no motivation or job satisfaction as we seem to be treated extremepy badly. I do not believe that the top tier within the Civil Service actually gives a damn about us, they are more fixed on targets and seem to totally disregard the feelings and concerns of their staff. We are often asked for our comments on different blogs, but are then totally ignored with little if any feedback. I have applied for jobs outside of the Civil Service, which seem to value my skills and experience, and have been offered similar employment, which pays more, and will provide me with employment which is valued by my new employer. I will be sad to leave, but cannot see any positive change which would make me consider remaining, I leave as a highly trained and experienced individual in my field of excellence, for which I am greatful, but is seems a shame that whilst you have funded and initially supported my career you will now lose all of that due to petty minded changes, which benefit nobody. I have been informed that as I leave I will be replaced by not one, not two but three people, two at the lower grade and a clerk, if that is positive change them you can keep it, as to me it makes the Civil Service a laughing stock and achieves nothing other than to show how you have totally ignored my proposals these past year that as people have left and you have added more tasks to my role, I was overworked and under staffed. Good luck in the future you will need it.

    • Replies to Andrea>

      Comment by Dan Donnelly posted on

      Andrea, you are not alone in that experience. See my comment of 30th January

  60. Comment by John Gilbert posted on

    Two areas that we do badly at. The first is that we encourage people to come to work when they are sick. People who come to work when they have a cold are six times more likely to develop complications or long term illnesses. Is this actually making our sick absence worse? Secondly, we don't keep track of the qualification, skills and past experience of our staff. In industry we would insist on keeping a comprehensive profile of our staff so that we could pick those most suitable for positions before any interviews took place. Sometimes the best people for promotion are the ones who quietly come to work each day and get on with the job. It once took me four hours to persuade a foreman to accept the job of works manager because he didn't feel he was up to the extra responsibility. He turned out to be the best works manager I ever had. We have a wealth of talent in the civil service; is there a way we can utilise it?

    • Replies to John Gilbert>

      Comment by Michael posted on

      I agree with your point about sick absences, and would add that by pressurising staff with infectious illnesses, to return to work as soon as possible, we are failing in our duty of care, both to other colleagues and the wider community. It really is bad form when staff who are still contagious, with say "norovirus", come back too soon and risk spreading such an infection amongst colleagues, and by logical extension, their families, friends and other contacts.

  61. Comment by Gary Sweeney posted on

    I would like you to justify why I get paid £3,000.00 less than my collegues. I do exactly the same work and I have to attain the same accuarcy and productivty. Why do you consider I am worth 15% less than others, when my work is exactly the same?

  62. Comment by Disgruntled AA posted on

    Having just completed the survey,I noticed that Question 2 asked what grade you are. AA wasn't listed,so we are obviously not valued by the Civl Service at all,if they think we no longer exist!

  63. Comment by Dean Coghlan posted on

    PAY. The majority of civil servants have had a pay freeze over the last 4-5 years which results inan effective pay cut year on year with rises in the cost of living and further increases on pension contributions. We are all aware of the steadying economy and the fact the UK has the fastest growth rate in all of Europe. We also constantly hear in the press about how civil servants are massively overpaid and that we shouldnt moan about the packages we receive. Well I have a few points to make. Point one - I am closer to the minimum of my pay scale now, then I was 7 years ago. As a joining cicil servant I was told I would reach the maximun within this time period. Point 2 - the aerage wage in the UK is around £24500. The average wage of a civil servant is around £22000. My wage is £17400 per year. 61% of the civil service earn below the average civil servant wage. So I ask this, why is it wehn Civil Servants stand up for themselves in regards to this we are ridiculed by the press and TV. Its about time they atsted using facts. The government actively promotes the 'Living Wage' - an increased rate of minimum wage paid by the countries top empoyer - I believe this rate to be well over £8.50 an hour, yet the government cannot even pay this themselves to their staff! I would like to see some absolute assurances that in this improving period of austerity the government will be offering a reasonable pay award for the forseeable future or at least entering negotiations in an open and formal manner. Its time to reward the hard working front facing staff that have been the main contributants to getting customers bacvk into work.

    • Replies to Dean Coghlan>

      Comment by John posted on

      Totally agree. Average wage....26 years service and I'm still dreaming of £20,000.00 a year. I'm no high achiever, but i work damn hard for my wage.

  64. Comment by Anthony Getgood posted on

    I agree the way we work needs to "modernise" in our ever changing environment through smarter working, reviewing our estates and facilitating home working - these are all positive measures which may bring us closer to the leading standards of private sector. However, the way our terms and conditions are being "modernised" does not fill me with the same confidence! Reducing sick pay and leave entitlements, constraining pay rises to 1% and increasing pension contributions for the extended duration of our service does not make the "modernised" Civil Service an attractive place to stay. Therefore, I fear we may lose much of the talent we so want to nurture and exploit, to those who we are trying to keep up with in the private sector.

  65. Comment by Jennifer Clarke posted on

    I'm new to this. Is this where they want the feedback? I thought there might be another survey to complete!
    Personally I would like to see some of the senior civil servants stand up and fight for the lower grades terms and conditions. The changes they are making are not going to make much difference to the overall outlay. In fact they will cause more cost in the long run. EG taking away leave from promotees will ensure that few people can be bothered with promotion as the monetary reward is very small. So loss of privelege is a farce. This will mean that jobs will need to be recruited from outside. No one will want a job on the basic for the grade so permission must be sort to negogiate. So inexperienced people will be recruited at a higher salary than you could have had an experienced, happy and loyal person.
    EG the public perception (encouraged and supported by a struggling government) of civil servants is: 'A tea drinking waste of time and money. With a huge salary, great perks and gold-plated pension. It is a huge amount of money spent with no return'. The facts are that you get what you pay for. When services across the board start to go wrong and the public don't get the money/help/advice they need who will stand up and say without the persons services will crumble. Putting all right will cost more money than is saved.
    As a long standing civil servant I am fed up with management jargon trying to persuade us that cuts and changes are making things better for all when in fact they are making it better for none. Capabilities - less, talent - surpressed, Surveys - misrepresented, comments on blogs - ignored, TACOS changed and salary in real terms - reduced.

  66. Comment by Richard posted on

    Ironically, this e-mail came into my inbox on the day that our Department announced the latest increase in pension contributions. That means that since 2011, my pension contributions will have risen by more than 3.7% without me seeing the benefit of it and despite having signed a contract which said that they would be 1.5%. That is one of the reasons why I (and many others) may be just feeling a touch demotivated and frankly fed up with all this talk of CS reform. And do you know what? I am one of those who is always happy to mbrace change and think an organisation and its people should never stay still. But you're gradually knocking that out of me..............

  67. Comment by Dominic Kingaby posted on

    I've been representing BIS on the cross-departmental taskforce working on the Reservist recruitment campaign and found contributing to a cross-cutting project with colleagues from other departments at various grades really helps embed the culture of a unified civil service. I'd recommend all departments - not just Cabinet Office and No 10 - are bolder about setting up similar taskforces for their cross-cutting work.

  68. Comment by Jacqui posted on

    Hi - I've recently joined the civil srvice from the private sector and I think one thing in particular would be an enormous success and really help drive forward a better civil service: secondments to the private sector.

    It isn't a very popular idea but I think one problem within the civi service is that staff remain within it, their roles and their teams for far too long. They get comfortable, don't challenge the status quo and it significanly reduces their ability to come up with fresh and original ideas (something the civil service needs a lot of!)

    It's been a shock joining the civi service to find that people forming the same policy have been doings for 30 odd years, with no experience outside that area or their role whatsoever.

    There is a lot to be gained by putting oneself outside one's comfort zone, being challenged and looking at something from a different persective, and in a different working environment. A lot of the practices in the civil service just woudn't be stood for in the private sector!

    I think GDS is a terrific example of what happens when you bring in people from outside the civil service who have fresh perspectives (NB: I'm not GDS!) Their results so far have shown them to be be of the greatest successes of governmet and the civil service this parliament.

    If staff can recognise the benefits of gaining experience elsewhere and the new skills and ideas they can bring bck to their roles as a consequence - and help in obtaining this - I think it would make a huge difference.

    • Replies to Jacqui>

      Comment by Bob Kerslake posted on

      Jacqui - you're absolutely right, and I am keen to see more civil servants being seconded to the private sector (and indeed more people from the private sector spending time on secondment with us). We are delivering more secondments through our talent programmes, and I know many departments also run secondments through their HR teams. Please encourage your staff to explore these opportunities if you think they would benefit from a secondment - and I hope you can use your private sector experience to share skills and knowledge with those you work with.

      • Replies to Bob Kerslake>

        Comment by Richard posted on

        Sir Bob. The idea of Secondments is a terrific one and I think many would be able to learn from them. I think, however, in the current climate staff may be concerned about what happens when they come back from their secondment (will they have anything to come back to) and I know of people who have been refused secondments on the grounds that they can not be replaced - will this become more prevalent as more and more redundancies occur? I think in some departments there is still some work to be done on this.

  69. Comment by Karen posted on

    in 2006 HEO max was £28920, today it is £30410, however, after deducting 4.67% pcspc contribution (April 14 rate), the balance is £28990 - an incease of only £70 in 8 years! In the same timeframe national minimum wage has increased by 17.8% (linked to inflation). Had the same percentage increase been applied to our salaries HEO max would now be £34067. Please, please, please give us a decent pay rise.

    • Replies to Karen>

      Comment by Neil Sutherland posted on

      A good, solid example. And let's not forget that in 2006 pay increases had already been running behind the private sector for several years.

  70. Comment by Christine Rowe posted on

    I don't think it's the same vibrant CS (MOD) I joined 23 yrs ago, but accept that nothing stays the same in this ever changing world - however, it's a shame that all the changes in the CS recently are (in my opinion) more about saving money rather than improving its own performance and T&Cs for employees.
    As for working environment, until recently on this site I was working in a 60yr old run down shack with scaffolding holding it up as a survey showed it was leaning and the foundations were crumbling, but apparently not serious enough to move us out until several months later (such fun ducking in and out of scaffolding), and now we are told that our stores are no longer allowed to order desks and other basic office equipment - I rest my case - everything is about saving the CS money and the rest is just smoke and mirrors.

  71. Comment by Jane posted on

    I am keen to develop and move on in the Civil Service and whilst our Seniors keep pushing the five L&D days the reality is that there is no time available and no other recourse to training other than the CSL online training modules. We are perpetually under-resourced and all team members routinely work far in excess of their normal contracted hours simply to keep our heads above water to achieve our departments objectives.

    On a more positive note local line managers and site leads do what they can in very constrained circumstances to engage wtih staff and provide support as best they can. Senior management has become much more visible over the last few years which is welcome and they now clearly communicate their expectations, the organisation's purpose, vision and value; they also try and provide positive feedback whenever they can. I am relieved that the spectre of "hot-desking" has not yet made it to our offices which allows for good team spirit and morale to develop.

    • Replies to Jane>

      Comment by Bob Kerslake posted on

      Jane, I am very concerned that you, and other colleagues who have commented on here this morning, don't have the time for learning and development - whether a formal training course or an opportunity to shadow a colleague or manager for the day.

      I am clear that if we're to modernise the Civil Service and improve our service to the public, we must all be given the opportunity to learn and develop. I will be picking this up with colleagues next week as I don't want 5 days a year to be an aspiration but a reality.

  72. Comment by Mark posted on

    I'd like to know why senior leaders (seemingly across Whitehall) allow policies to be rushed through just so they can be announced at party conferences?

    Surely the best way to implement policy is through establishing a proper evidence base and following this with a well planned delivery strategy?

    Do you recognise this as an issue?

  73. Comment by R W posted on

    Everyone wants a joined up and more efficient Civil Service. In the DWP we have the "As one" initiative/aspiration. This will never work and we will never be "as one" whilst policies around pay are so divisive. I am paid considerably less than my colleague who does the exact same job even though I've been doing it for 12 years. This is not just fundamentally unfair, it is morally and ethically offensive and until they address the most basic inequalities everything else becomes unimportant to me...

  74. Comment by Wayne posted on

    In working for the DWP for a number of years in the front line it is clear that there is a huge gap between what the public wants of a benefits system -ie it to be as least expensive and as targeted as possible to those who need it and the will from the politicians/leaders to tackle the situation decisively. A simple example could be : lets limit the benefits for children to 2 children and so families cant continue having more children to live off the benefits accrued and move up the housing priorities/use more public resources we cant afford them. Another is we have to tackle the lone parent issue as its now a lifestyle choice for many to be a lone parent in many cases and even have more children as a lomne parent to accrue benefits.
    Actions are needed, not contant pussy-footing about/political manoeuvering in debates. We would never have got to the Moon if Kennedy had said ''lets have a talk about the issue'', he said ''we will go to the moon ''..and got it done!

  75. Comment by Sheila Talbot posted on

    Under 'The way we work' you say 'reviewing our buildings and estates to ensure all our staff can work in modern, comfortable offices or at home.' Are you aware that more and more of us are being forced into working from home due to office closures? I used to love my job in a busy office, but since I was forced into home-working over 3 years ago I am very unhappy. I rarely get to see my colleagues, I don't feel part of a team, I feel isolated and frustrated. I am now suffering from mental health problems and I know that many of my colleagues are too, although they often don't speak up in public. The corporate line seems to be that we are lucky to be offered the flexibility to work from home, this may be true for some people, but for many of us it is just awful. Please stop this practice or you will end up with a disaffected and sick workforce. I'd be happier working in an old draughty barn with other people than in solitary confinement in my warm, comfortable box room.

  76. Comment by Leonard Hofstadter posted on

    The Department for Transport has, this week, put a three year pay offer to staff. On the day that the top news headline is that, in the economy as a whole, pay is rising in real terms, I learn that the Department's offer will leave me not quite as well off (in base pay terms) as I was 11 years ago (never mind increases in pension contributions etc). I take it that the Civil Service does not feel that my experience gained over the past eleven years has any value (which, given the mantra of wanting to change, may well be true).

    The drive to identify and develop your talented staff suggests that you don't have plans to develop those not so identified. I suspect what you have in mind is the identification and development of perceived leadership skills (the only talent that the Civil Service seems interested in). However, you also use the phrase "the brightest and best". Anyone who has seen the TV sitcom 'The Big Bang Theory' will know that the brightest are not necessarily any good at leadership. If leadership is what you're after, say so; and seek people of whatever 'brightness' who fit that. Since promotion is, it seems, the only way to keep earnings ahead of inflation, many people whose talents are not leadership-centred are condemned to declining living standards, despite the other talents they may have to contribute. Promotion is, in any case, not exactly widespread (especially once the implicit guarantee of career progression to fast streamers is taken into account).

  77. Comment by Christine posted on

    Why doesn't the senior leadership team agree over all performance measures / targets for areas and then leave people alone to deliver them, instead of hampering them by imposing all sorts of additional (and unnecessary) work. For example, if somewhere is performing well, why impose a bureaucratic Continuous Improvement system on them; just leave them to continously improve and intervene only if they fail to do so. The senior Civil Service needs to learn to trust the capable people it has working for it - there's no point preaching a culture of being more willing to take risks if you don't do that yourself.

  78. Comment by sfk posted on

    I feel privately disappointed in the way the civil service is evolving. There are too many changes being driven by fads rather than proper consultation and consideration about what works in an organisation. Hot-desking is one which came to mind but I think the performance review system needs to be fundamentally rewired and allow personal development to take place first. At the same time, the changes which are easy to implement are done first but the ones that are pressing are kicked in the long-grass. The most obvious is a real need to sort out ICT procurement to work to the needs of those who work in the civil service. Another is reconsidering the potential of moving whole departments out of London and into cities looking to regenerate their city centres.

    Of more concern is my perception that not enough is being done to protect the neutrality of civil servants. Politically, not enough is being done by permanent secretaries to ensure that advice which is contrary to political or short-term agendas of ministers are not being filtered out by private offices. Of more concern is the failure to ensure civil servants are listening to broader views by clamping down on access by lobbyists all the way down the chain. It is a time bomb for public confidence if the two trends are allowed to continue unchecked. As long as there continues to be a pay freeze, the best and brightest may leave quickly but its the people that are more publicly-minded who become most disillusioned.

  79. Comment by Andy Vickers posted on

    My department has just rolled out "Opportunities for All" and taken several staff who recommended themselves to their line managers for the Talent Pool. The Team Leaders took these staff to fill a quota.
    I would like to know how taking a select 'elite' for a Talent Pool and then pulling up the ladder is an Opportunity for All....surely it is an Opportunity for A Few. It is already mooted that this 'talent pool' get first sight and choice for any opportunities.
    Again this is the opposite of its title.
    Our Senior Management team have 'trialled' several failed changes of work methods. All have been supported by the staff despite misgivings. It was also pointed out that these changes were unneccessary and not workableby most staff. The same Senior Management team then roll back the changes and write a report explaining that the said trial failed due to 'unforseen events'.
    Mind boggling ineptitude.
    Ask the actual workers - consult instead of ploughing on regardless.
    Regarding the change for Land Registry in to a GovCo or private hands, why is this change supported by our Senior Management......oh yes I see that their plan involves them keeping themselves as Civil Servants and thus protecting their own pensions and terms and conditions.
    Scandalous disregard for your staff

  80. Comment by Karen Wellington posted on

    I don't see how we can claim to be 'one Civil Service' until pay is equalised between departments. I work for one of the departments low down the list of how much it pays, and would like to know how it is fair to say that I am worth less than someone of equal grade, doing the same job elsewhere? People look for jobs in departments that pay more then the one they currently work for (incuding me!), not necessarily becasue it would be good for their career. At the same time as looking at the disproptionate mis-match in pay across departments, you could also look at changing all the different job grades into standardised ones across the service.
    I work within a 'flexi-desking' environment and there is a permanent shortage of desks available for use. If you want to work in the office, you need to be in by 9.30 at the latest Mon-Thur, otherwise there's no chance. Therefore people have to come in earlier than they might otherwise want to, just in order to have somewhere to sit. Work/life balance?? The desk layout looks more like a large call centre - having visited one recently, I was shocked by he similarities. However they had much better chairs and IT kit! Although we occupy a large building, we now mostly inhabit just two of the five floors with the remaining space rented out to other departments. The facilities - toilets, restaurant, tea/coffee points, printers, etc - are insufficient for the number of people that use them and are badly managed and maintained.

    My department goes to great lengths to employ the 'brightest and the best', which means young graduates. These people - in my 20+ years experience - have little or no social or practical skills. Yes, they may have a good degree, but as soon as they realise they're not going to get promotion (i.e. more money) within a year, they're off elsewhere.

  81. Comment by Mark Green posted on

    I wonder if the Civil Service is too keen to change for changes sake. Change in countries like Germany appears to be carefully thought through, highly structured, with tangible benefits for both staff and the business as a whole. There seems to be a culture there that the workforce not only need to buy in to change, but there is a cultural belief that change is also about improving the conditions for the workforce so that they can perform at their best. The UK seem to fall behind in this area. There still appears to be a strong culture of "us and them" or "them and us". In Germany it appears that there approach is all inclusive; there is much less noticeable division between management and staff. Aren't the most efficient and effective businesses truly "seamless" in their approach to their business? At present we seem to be increasing the divisions between managemant and staff. Staff are increasingly disolusioned and managers appear keen to make sweeping changes in relative isolation, presuming, right from the start, that it would be better if the staff did not know what was coming, since involving them will only make the change process harder. Perhaps there is a clue here. Perhaps the changes envisaged need better structure, more investigation, more investment, and much deeper levels of consultation. The UK is not all about a "them and us" culture. The best of the private sector seem to know this. Our best engineering Companies, for example, consult at every level, not just because it looks good, but because they work hard to ensure no stone is left unturned, no opportunity missed, to both improve products and improve morale, both of which are essential to high performing busineses. The best businesses simply cannot afford to damage either their reputations, their products, or the morale of their workforce if they want to stay at the top. Do we really believe we are acheiving this in the civil service? Staff surveys appear to tell a completely different story.

  82. Comment by S Butt posted on

    We really need to stop relying on FTA staff and bring in some level of job security, especially in the administrative grades. AAs and AOs do all the donkey work but it seems that we're treated as a disposable commodity sometimes - rather than accept the increase in employment rights that comes after 2 years, out we go to be replaced by inexperienced staff. Administrative staff are often don't feel properly valued, and when one of my team left the service, the rest of us were left to take up the slack, because AOs just don't matter to senior management. There's no plan to replace our departed colleague and our only option is to work beyond our conditioned hours to get the work done. Funnily enough, this coincided with the arrival of a new flexi system that will not allow us to carry forward more than a limited number of hours, so we can't even take the time we're building up later. My team leader tries to make it better - I've had plenty of training opportunities and I'm taking part in a development programme, but I'm not sure how much point there is to that when I could be out in a few weeks. We have no job security but we do more and more while we're here in the hope that our contracts will be extended - and we're told that should our roles become permanent, we may well have to reapply for our own jobs. Meanwhile, the new appraisal system is skewed so that it penalises people who aren't particularly sociable, or who let the levels of stress affect their interactions with colleagues and don't turn up every day with a smile. It doesn't matter how productive, efficient or accurate you are, if you don't give the impression you're always happy to do more, you will be marked down (the most terrifying thing in the world when you're only on FTA as it is). It seems like it's designed to make life even more uncomfortable for fixed term staff, and it's particularly stressful to those with mental health conditions. To add insult to injury, the remuneration for the lower grades is barely enough for a single person to live on - when you work full time for the government, you don't expect to be forced to live in a bedsit (it's the only way to attempt to save anything for the inevitable end of the appointment, and there's not much left to save in the first place). It's not really very dignified, is it?

  83. Comment by Jean posted on

    I joined the Civil Service in 2003 and was proud to say I was working for the Home Office/UK Border Agency/Home Office/UK Visas and Immigration (whatever name we are using this week) and actually took a pay cut to move into the public sector safe in the knowledge that there would be a decent pension waiting at the end of my working life and the opportunities for progression up the payscale and managerial levels. What a difference a few years can make. Pensions and pay have been cut back to the bone and I now have an extra 6 years to work for whatever pittance is awaiting me. Our recruitment process for progression is fast becoming a joke - I no longer even bother looking as the 'level playing field' we are led to believe we are all playing on seems to become more and more bumpy. Over the years I have encountered managers EO/HEO & SEO lacking in knowledge, man-management skills and, even worse, integrity. Furthermore, I believed I was here to 'Protect our Borders' not to make as much money for the Government as possible. Statistics have increasingly become the focus of successive management changes which have occurred in our department. Although lip service is paid to customer service' everyone knows ultimately the main aim is to get cases out of the door as quickly as possible which means some staff inevitably cut corners in order to meet targets (if they have ever had the correct training in the first place which is highly unlikely). The same lip service is paid towards staff welfare. Desk sharing and de-personalisation of our work area is one of the most demoralising schemes thought up by people who do not sit at a their desk all day every day and being treated the same as someone who constantly has odd 'sick' days when you need an operation is insulting to say the least. I could go on but, obviously, I have targets to meet and am given no time to make such comments.

  84. Comment by Terry posted on

    The biggest reform that the Civil Service (CS) can and should make is to address pay. I have read countless ‘Have your say’, staff survey and blog articles that all say the same thing; pay is the most important element to Civil Servants. The service pays all grades and all departments differently for doing similar work. This needs to be equalised to the top end of the CS pay structure, however this does not mean that those staff should receive a pay freeze. You should re-introduce the pay scales that worked perfectly before and should have a maximum limit to reach the top in five years.
    You need to remove performance pay as this has been discredited within the CS and in outside industry. This bonus culture has proved to be worthless to the vast majority of the workforce and only benefits those at the top of the pay scales in senior management. The press are constantly stating that the CS is rewarding staff with millions of pounds of bonuses for failing departments. What the press don’t state is that the majority of those staff have worked extremely hard and have received a very small bonus. The press and management have also conveniently forgotten that the money to pay for these bonuses actually comes out of the overall pay bill for the CS and as a result we are actually paying for our bonuses out of our pay! The performance pay culture actually removed the annual increments that so may staff want re-instating and need to maintain a reasonable standard of living. As I have already stated the performance pay structure does not work and I am sure staff would rather have that element put back into their wages so they could keep up with the cost of living. Also this would improve their pension status which we are all advised to save towards.
    So the most radical and successful reform that the CS can make is to address pay of its staff. If this is done the motivation of the CS will go through the roof and staff will once again feel valued. Large projects and welfare reform will succeed and money will be saved. This reform will actually pay for itself as the performance pay comes out of the pay budget anyway. The CS has already saved billions of pounds in the last five years and with increased staff commitment and rewards will save more.

  85. Comment by Sandra posted on

    Sir Bob
    I would like to see the same pay for the same grades across all departments (preferably at the higher end!) The reintroduction of the pay spine, the introduction of a Performance system the markings of which are not based on whether your manager likes you or not - despite the evidence aspect of the current system this sadly is still in existence, removal of this ridiculous 'curve' where we MUST have people in the lower box marking, Recognition for those officers who take (or have taken) additional qualifications whilst working for the Civil Service (eg Management qualifications/NVQs), Removal of 'sheep dip' training, a centralised Civil Service recruitment process, the opportunity to be promoted on clearly demonstrated capability and not necessarily on giving the right answers to a set of questions posed by a panel.

    • Replies to Sandra>

      Comment by Gareth Thornton posted on

      "the opportunity to be promoted on clearly demonstrated capability and not necessarily on giving the right answers to a set of questions posed by a panel." Here here!

  86. Comment by David Sangster posted on

    it is good to have this opportunity to comment and the responses so far testify to the types of concerns that need to be looked at. I would have 3 immediate asks: 1) stop making L&D a punishment as there are too many, too frequent tick box compulsory courses that merely damages the whole ethos of learning and online learning from your desk in an open plan office is simply the daftest idea of them all; 2) we need to be wary of putting all our eggs in the IT basket - when we choose IT as an option for delivery/comms etc are we doing this because our customers want it, because it is the best way or simply because iti is cheapest?; 3) the senior civil service has to go if we are to have a credible organisation - it is too far removed from ordinary civil servants to either understand our perception or represent our views and this was clear in the staff survey - we need one service with everyone on the same terms, the same performance system, the same bonus system, the same trade union

    • Replies to David Sangster>

      Comment by Graham O'Connell posted on

      David, you commented about the number of compulsory courses - very little learning is actually centrally mandated and most mandates come from individual departments which reflect their situation and priorities. In terms of where you carry out your learning, you could always talk to your manager about finding an alternative quiet space for online learning; or consider using headphones. Don’t forget, the CSL portal can also be accessed from any device including computers, tablets and smartphones.

  87. Comment by Gill Standen posted on

    In terms of identifying Talent and the future leaders of tomorrow there is serious inconsistency of practice between departments in terms of promotion processes. In ne department HMRC there is no possible way for an SEO/SO wishing to progress to G7 and above to have theior promotion application looked out without first passing an online situational judgement test. Other governemnt depart do not require this for promotion applicant, but why should taleneted civeil servants be forced to leave the work and the departments we love in order to progress our careers?. Situatutional Judgement testing is quite frankly humiliating and degrading for candidated who like myself have excellent academic qualifications in policy making ( I have both a batchelors and masters degree in public policy making); who have consistently been acknowledged by management with "Top" perfromance markings; and/or have many years senior policy making experience directly advising senior ministers across multiple government departments. We are being halted at the leadership door because "computer says no!". Please don't misunderstand me, I do absolutely agree the value of situational judgement testing in identifying external talent pool candidates but there should be an alternative progression route for those of us who have cut their teeth in the civil service as junior administative grade and who have worked theiry way up by their finger nails over many year and undertaken relevant academic studies at the same time (no study breaks here!). A 45 minute test that gives no substantive feedback to failed candidates other than the fact that they did worse that x% of the "guinea pig" test group who answered the questions is quite frankly a nonsense and an insult to talent civl servants with the talent, will and ability to lead but who mind sets are not attuneed to a very expensive set of computer algorthms and even more expensive pschological profiling consultants who take vast amounts of departmental recrutiment budgets to provide these in some (but not all cases) meaningless tests. Until such time as the Civil Service leader wake up and realise that there is more than one way to capture leadership talent, and intorduce one consistent promotion process across all government departments which incorporates a variety of routes into the process depending on the candidates career path top date then it will continue to miss out on the very leaders it is seeking to recruit. The solution is simple but getting any meaningful action to address this serious HR issue appears to be far more of a challenge. Hey ho! Never mind back to my SO workload for the next twenty years ....

    • Replies to Gill Standen>

      Comment by Andrew posted on

      I wholeheartedly agree with the comments regarding situational judgement test. I have only applied for one other role within the civil service (I am fairly new with lots of external experience). I spent weeks honing the competency statements and was not unhappy with the ones I submitted. The role I applied for looked a perfect match for my fairly non standard mix of skills and experience. I had never done a situational judgement test before. I have never been more demoralised than when the rejection email pinged back immediately. I have to say it reduced me to tears and continues to impact on my confidence in my own abiities and whether there is any chance ever of career progression.

    • Replies to Gill Standen>

      Comment by ed posted on

      I do absolutely agree the value of situational judgement testing in identifying external talent pool candidates "

      If agree with it for external candidates then would agree with this method of testing it would seem inconistant to not use it both.

      Although i would personally agree that the siutaion testing quite pointless. Why have different standards for external or internal. As either tests is worthy screener or its not. If you think you have the ablity but cant past test then presumabily this would apply to external candidates also.

      If you feel you have the ablity but can not pas the test than presumabily you belive it is a worth screener this seems inconsistant logic.

      • Replies to ed>

        Comment by Gill Standen posted on

        Ed -24/1/14

        I agree with you that logically if SJT is okay for external recruiting it should be okay for internal recruiting. However the difference is that external candidates are an unknown quantity not having worked in the relevant department (and increasingly, not in the civil service given the number of private sector organisations which are downsizing). It is therefore not possible to estimate how these applicants may fit in with the department in question. SJT can be tailored by the department recruiting which makes it better than nothing at trying to predict the future perfromance of external candidates. Conversely though internal applicants have evidence of internal appraisal reports with objectives based on the values and ethos of their department. This is a more reflective measure of how the applicant already fits in with the department and how they might in future. SJT is ultimately worthless for any applicant as a "make or break" test to limit the number of candidates for interviews but in the case of external candidates it does provide some mechanism to manage the bnumber of candidates going through to interview.

  88. Comment by Steve posted on

    I think we should be doing much more to encourage and support recycling in our offices. I always felt the Civil Service should be the examplar here. I work at the Department of Health and there are no recycling bins on my floor, and very few in my building (Richmond House).

  89. Comment by Paul posted on

    Agree with a lot of what's been said.
    Moralle for main grades is at an all time low1
    A common theme from our masters is mobility, yet it's more difficult than ever to move around. Almost every job on CS Jobs says no relocation expenses. HR branches seem to have no interest in staff as regards career prospects, I come from an era where our deprtment had regional personnel offices, and everyone had a personnel officer who knew where upcommming vacancies were. In the non profession side of the civil service, aptitude to do a job, together with experience, was the guiding principle rather than needing actual certificates of x y and z. True we have more people who have specific skills now, but doesn't that in itsellf prohibit mobility.
    Lastly the thorny subject of pay. Osbourne's 1% doesn't even cover our agencies legally committec pay progression costs, so most of us got zero this year. A lot of us get allowances for skill IT /Finance etc, these have been removed on a mark time basis by local management. So we are in effewct on a 10 year + pay freeze. what does today's headline in the Telegraph say " Camaeron hails "start of recovery for all". not if you are a main grade Civil servant.

  90. Comment by Gill Standen posted on

    (Corrected version - typographical errors removed)
    In terms of identifying Talent and the future leaders of tomorrow there is serious inconsistency of practice between departments in terms of promotion processes. In my department HMRC there is no possible way for an SEO/SO wishing to progress to G7 and above to have their promotion application looked at without first passing an online situational judgement test. Other government departments do not require this for promotion applicants. Why though should talented civil servants be forced to leave the work and the departments we love in order to progress our careers? Situational Judgement testing is quite frankly humiliating and degrading for candidates who like myself, have excellent academic qualifications in policy making (I have both a bachelors’ and masters degree in public policy making); who have consistently been acknowledged by management with "Top" performance markings; and/or have many years senior policy making experience directly advising senior ministers across multiple government departments. We are being halted at the leadership door because "computer says no!” Please don't misunderstand me I do agree the value of situational judgement testing in identifying external talent pool candidates. However there should be an alternative progression route for those of us who have cut their teeth in the civil service as junior administrative grades and who have worked their way up by their finger nails over many years, undertaking relevant academic studies at the same time (no study breaks here!). A 45-minute online test that gives no substantive feedback to failed candidates other than the fact that they did worse that x% of the "guinea pig" test group who answered the questions is quite frankly nonsense. It is an insult to talent civil servants with the talent, will and ability to lead but who mind sets are not attuned to a very expensive set of computer algorithms and even more expensive psychological profiling consultants who take vast amounts of departmental recruitment budgets to provide these in some (but not all cases) meaningless tests. Until such time as the Civil Service leaders wake up and realise that there is more than one way to capture leadership talent, and act to introduce one consistent promotion process across all government departments; which incorporates a variety of routes into the process depending on the candidates career path to date then it will continue to miss out on the very leaders it is seeking to recruit. The solution is simple but getting any meaningful action to address this serious HR issue appears to be far more of a challenge. Hey ho! Never mind back to my SO workload for the next twenty years ….

  91. Comment by Mike posted on

    You refer to 'talent', but what sort of talent? In my career I've seen the intellectually talented go forward and then perpetuate the selection of like-minded people. Sure we need rolls-royce minds. But we also need EQ, organisational capabilities, and sheer common sense and an ability to think outside of the Whitehall bubble. Talent management should select on more than just IQ.

  92. Comment by JED posted on

    Sorry this is so long but something has to be said.

    Forget the Reform programme. I can guarantee, despite the fact that the people round the table will be very smart, they will miss the point entirely. Stop wasting money on iteration after iteration of ideas formed too quickly becasue we havbe to come up with somn ething by the end of the meeting. Stop. The one and only word you need to have on your mind is............Motivation. Genuinley motivated workers are like dynamos. A child can acheive the ten A* in that awful school, how?.....Motivation.

    However to acheive this we need to rethink how we go about things and the structure of our organisation. All throughout the previous comments you can taste how demotivated people are.

    Now, take the staff survey.

    The Management Committee message on the website does acknowledge some areas for improvement but completley misses the point.

    • 1 in 3 people would not recommend DfE as a good place to work
    • Almost 1 in 3 people are saying DfE does not motivate them to do a good job
    • 1 in 3 people has no faith that SCS will take action as a result of this survey
    • Staff think overwhelmingly that change is managed badly at DfE
    • In fact the whole leadership and managing change section is really quite depressing while being quite revealing at the same time
    • 23% if staff want to leave within 12 months!! – that is a catastrophic statistic and one that is totally incompatible with the rosy picture painted above

    Something toxic is simmering away in the background that is turning colleagues off and de-motivating them in droves. It is quite concerning that the management committee message indicates staff are happy with the benefits package. Why? becasue its a fraction more positive thatn last year? I don’t agree that the survey shows satisfaction with the benefits package at all and this is a serious problem. 33% - over 1000 people are indicating dissatisfaction with the benefits package and 25% have sat on the fence. This is a disturbing statistic, there is no other way to read it. Forget comparing the survey to last year, while absolute levels of pay are important, research has proven that people are far, far more sensitive to relative levels of pay, so the substantial gaps in pay between grades is acting as a de-motivator for substantial numbers of staff. In parts of the department, the differentiation between what people do at different grades is not immediately clear. This will be adding to the feeling of inequity in pay. Fairness in pay is one of the pre-requisites to motivation, it is a basic requirement. If you feel you are unfairly paid, you can only be motivated up to a point - fact. The survey shows that people that think they are paid fairly are in the minority. Yes, it may be positive that its higher than last year but something that goes from terrible to bad is still not good. DfE seems to be hung up on the relative nature of the results - forget it, look at the results in absolute terms and its an absolute disaster. In addition - The rise from last year may be completely unrelated to anything other than a different sample of people answering those questions. Small % points on any part of the survey cannot be attributed with any confidence to any policy or anything implemented by management. They are simply fluctuations in sampling and randomness in action. you ciould have made everyione take the same survey the very next day and you would see differences, then we would see positive messages about causality.

    The survey shows how colleagues are intrinsically motivated by the job i.e. being interested in their work, being sufficiently challenged, having personal accomplishment (These are excellent and what alot of organisations strive for) however, at the same time over 1000 colleagues think that DfE does not motivate them to do a good job and over 1000 colleagues would not recommend DfE as a good place to work. The toxic effect of perceived pay inequality, the performance management system and the fact that alot of people simply dont think that their employer is on their side are what the Reform programme should be addressing.

    The presenter from Ipsos Mori started to talk about behavioural economics / decision theory at the SCS conference. Please please go and read up on this field, we need more of the SCS to be tuned into how people think. Until they understand this, it is only possible to have marginal success from any reform programme you impliment and we will see the same cycle of reform and stagnation happen over and over again.

    It would be so refreshing to see some refom that actually keeps pace with modern thinking in terms of being sensitive to the way peoples minds actually work. The civil service is so far behind the research and science of effective management practices that after the reform programme, we will still be ten years behind. There is really no need for opinion anymore, the evidence is there. To end - Reform cannot be done without consultation and consultation does not simply mean telling people about what is happening, it is about seeking views and advice and taking that on board. Why not do something different? lets make the heads of the Reform programme staff from much lower down the grade structure, the people right at the tiop are not automatically the most qualified for the job, sure, they're smart and good at getting promoted but do they know everything? Do they fulfill the person spec for inspirational leaders? the survey would say no.

  93. Comment by Darknorth posted on

    Performance Management and “Stacked rankings”.

    The new Performance Management system is inefficient, cumbersome, and a massive waste of time. Despite this our managers think it’s the best thing since sliced bread.

    When will the new Performance Management system be replaced by something simpler and more efficient – and less time-consuming?

    Microsoft, Ford and Adobe have abandoned " Stacked Rankings " or "Guided Distribution" of the kind that the Civil Service has introduced. It is felt that this system discourages people from working together as people consider themselves before their teammates for fear of getting a "Not Met". The value of Adobe’s shares rose considerably when they abandoned Stacked Rankings.

    Why have we adopted this system when it has been seen to have failed elsewhere?

    • Replies to Darknorth>

      Comment by Steve L posted on

      Your final sentence here is indeed the "sixty-four-thousand-dollar question" and no matter how often it is asked in such plain and straightforward terms, we never receive a straight answer.

      Instead, we receive the "party line" rattled out parrot fashon: "The performance management system is being implemented across the Civil Service after significant research across both the public and private sectors, and supports one of the aims of the Civil Service Reform Plan to drive up performance". But this statement does not actually answer the question.

      At its very least worse, the new PMR system is "the King's new clothes", in that the majority of people cannot see any of its alleged benefits; at its very worst, the system could well turn out to be the Civil Service's "Poll Tax".

  94. Comment by Tartan d'Artagnan posted on

    My colleagues and I are deeply worried for our collective futures within our department and for the general performance and wellbeing of the department. Morale is being severely damaged by the new performance management system forced upon us in this reporting year. It has nothing to do with feeling uncomfortable with change; it is about feeling bullied into submission. Our managers are in the same boat and have no choice but to comply with the system irrespective of the wholesale damage that is being done to the service. Gone forever it seems is the feelgood factor of doing a good job. Looking around us staff go about their business quite literally with rounded shoulders and long faces. Goodwill is suffering, morale is in the basement and staff malaise and disengagement are running rife. Please, I urge you, before it is too late and the damage to the service goes beyond repair, to think seriously about withdrawing this draconian, discredited performance appraisal system with something positive, workable and motivational; i.e. something that genuinely galvanises people to really really want to give of their best.

  95. Comment by victoria calder posted on

    Just opening this email has caused my Outlook to corrupt so there's the level of the new Digital reform, nearly one year overdue now. The systems we use are just awful, it's not acceptable to have your computer crash up to 3 times a day, have we any idea how mucg time is being wasted yearly accross the Department. What's happening about the delays?
    There has been much new guidance come in to my job as a benefit processor in the last year but I can inform you none of this guidance has been cascaded properly. Having a manager inform you of a change that they have no concept of because it's not their job is next to useless. You ask questions and they have no idea, these questions go unanswered, the staff are left floundering.
    Tell us once is a concept that has nothing to do with my job. We can not speak to HMRC, let alone share information. A benefit stops being paid but that section does not have to inform us, I could go on, but the official error overpayment figures speak for them selves on that issue. But hey, lets have another meeting to congratulate us on the amount of overpayments we've referred in a year, because after all thats the stat you want right? Who cares about the amount of non recoverable overpayments.
    The post reform? Are you aware we have had no post for a week now? Again, the amount of official error overpayments because of this will be massive, will this be recouped from your suppliers?
    It's a shame all grades were not invited to discuss the reforms, you have a massive resource here of front line staff that seems rather untapped.

  96. Comment by PETE posted on

    Reform the whole Special Paid Leave (SPL) package. In the current situations departments are in with reduced manpower, can we really afford to let people do sport and be paid for it while those left in the workplace have to cover that persons work. For those covering what do they get, no extra money for doing that persons work, just resentment due to the person being away getting "extra time off work and paid for it" and no recognition for the extra effort they have to put in. In my own workplace someone this year (Jan to Dec) has booked over 45 workdays for sport, (I do not know how many are SPL but at least 15 must be). I know that their line manager should police it but even if they are using all their annual leave they will be getting nearly 50% more time off work than the rest of us left at work, is that fair? We keep on hearing that the Civil Service is being alligned more with the private sector, the best they would do is let you have the time off unpaid, if the system was changed to Special Unpaid Leave I'm sure the ammount of time off would be reduced!

  97. Comment by Steve Padfield posted on

    A major reform to budget rules would transform many departments and agencies and reduce overall expenditure...As we approach the end of the financial year the mantra of " Use it or loose it" is to be heard across the Civil Service. The HM Treasury rules that the annual budget is based on the previous years spend and no provision for carry over restricts flexible long term financial planning and constrains senior leaders from making real budget savings as expenditure can only be within the current year. Underspend discovered at this time of year leads to hurried procurement not necessarily at the most condusive price.
    If provision for 2 or 3 year planning and elements of carry over were to be allowed, the overall effect would be to allow managers to effectively manage budgets long term and reduce the incidence of expenditure to meet the end of year target.
    The link between historic annual spend to future budget is not condusive to prudent fiscal planning and so should be amended from its present rigid doctrine into more inteligent budgetary oversight.
    This effect is not specific to one department or agency but is Civil Service wide so amendment would have far reaching effects.

  98. Comment by Andrew posted on

    There is no such thing as a perfect performance management system yet my experience of 39 years in the Civil Service has not stopped it experimenting to find one. The new performance management system in this Department is proving to be the most labour intensive system I have ever seen with moderation groups involving very senior and highly paid staff presenting evidence to demonstrate that their clerk or personal assistant is performing better than one working for someone else. Is this the best use of their time and can we publicly justify spending so much time assessing ourselves to decide who should get a bonus or not get any pay rise instead of delivering a better service to the public. The private sector has dropped relative assessment because the experiment has failed - why do we not trust their experience?

  99. Comment by Tammy posted on

    Firstly I would like to say that I think the implementation of the 5 learning and development opportunities per annum is a positive step forward to ensure all staff are encouraged to increase/refresh their skills. I would not agree with the ‘opportunities’ statement as it is more of a requirement to ensure compliance with the new appraisal system.
    I have always been extremely keen to learn new skills and take advantage of any learning opportunities available even if it has been necessary for me to use some of my own time to complete. I am VERY disappointed that the NVQ’s have an age restriction as I am a long way off retirement age but apparently not young enough to be worth investing an education in despite all the assistance given to convicted criminals.
    It used to be that being a civil servant meant a job for life with great benefits which justified the reduced pay, now it brings uncertainty, constantly reducing benefits such as pension, pay freeze (despite the higher ups enjoying a healthy wage, travel expenses, lodgings etc) the resources to take advantage of the flexible working. We have to increase our car insurance to get a reasonable mileage or accept the lower amount which wouldn’t even cover ware and tear, we have to pay for parking, if we have to stay over night somewhere we couldn’t enjoy refreshments in the evening as we may do at home as the subsidence allowance does not stretch that far. When the amalgamation of areas first started happening and staff reducing remaining staff were told they would have to travel despite it potentially affecting their home circumstances however, recent changes have said that if you work at another location more than 4 times a month you could face being taxed, have no entitlement to parking or subsidence!
    With more senior positions being reduced and areas spread much wider than before the work load has been filtering down through the ranks/grades, those on the lower tiers have nowhere to filter their workload or stress and do not have the authority to pass it back up the chain. We are having to face the frustrations of all the business users whilst trying to sustain the continuously increasing expectations of the organisation and completing surveys or participating in workshops to show our concerns!
    Stress levels are up but, instead of receiving support we instead face a fear of disciplinary action and the response to this on the engagement survey is to put a few posters up encouraging health and well being (not financially backed so would be at the individuals expense) not to mention during personal time.
    It is not enough to spend a day here or there to get a ‘feel’ for the different roles you will not get the same outlook unless you are living it day in day out.
    I will say I am extremely lucky in that I work within a fantastic team and we support each other and create a much more comfortable working environment but, I know this is not necessarily the case everywhere. I feel loyal to my colleagues and have a good work ethic which makes me strife to always work to the best of my abilities but, I do not feel loyal to the organisation as I do not feel they are loyal to us.

  100. Comment by JUDITH posted on

    PAY; How can a band 6 manager who managers a million pound budget and 12 staff earn the same wages a her band 4. How can they call it fair and susainable when it is neither. i have had less pay increases than my staff i line manage.

  101. Comment by Neil Sutherland posted on

    Sir Bob, How about inviting to a meeting some of the people who comment on your blog posts? They may be among the fiercest critics of reform, but the majority want to be engaged and are committed to making things better. I'm sure Ministers would want to meet them too - to learn about life in the 'real' civil service and how reform can be implemented without collateral damage.

  102. Comment by Ian posted on

    "Setting direction, delivering results and engaging people" are the catchy titles that set out how the civil service wants its people to work. The "effective behaviours" identify the skills that people require to be effective. All this good stuff becomes blah blah blah when people see ineffective managment at the strategic level. The new reporting process is widely regarded as not being fit for purpose yet we appear to be stuck with it. This is not a case of the workers inability to embrace change, this is not a case of worry that we may learn that we need imrovement, this is a case of managments inability to take action when it is blindingly obvious that a policy/process is rotten. This process actually provides negative value and is doing harm to the morale and outputs of the workforce. Ask staff, ask managers, ask reporting officers just dont ask whoever dreamed up the policy in the first place! Its about time as an organisation we learned to cut our losses by taking timely action when faced with ineffective behaviours. Sticking with the reporting process is clearly ineffective and is an ideal opportunity for managment to gain kudos and provide strategic change for the good of the civil service.

  103. Comment by Angry man posted on

    Problems with the Home Office...

    #1 SSC are not fit for purpose - immediate changes MUST be made. I'm not sure if it's the managers, the foot soldiers or the systems they are using (I've tried to investigate but have come up against a wall of silence and incompetence) but via a freedom of information request, I have managed to find that in the 4 years leading up to 31st of October 2013 SSC have made an astonishing FOUR THOUSAND AND EIGHT (4008) cases of overpayment (equal to 1002 a year - or 3.84 individuals a day based on a 261 working day year, take in public holidays and really that number is closer to 4 people a day). This is beyond unacceptable as the people who are severely effected when they are chased up for repayment are the innocent employees, many of whom are unaware they are being overpaid and haven't saved the extra paid money they've been paid as, like me, they would have received a letter from SSC confirming that the necessary changes have been made to our pay. I would suggest the removal of hardcopy payslips delivered to each employee monthly has much to do with the sheer number of overpayments which go unnoticed by employees. In my case, SSC made error after error yet the responsibility seems to be with me only.

    #2 the sheer waste of money still outrages me. I work in IMS where we have recently spent £16,000 (minus a few pennies) sending 300 boxes to TNT to be shredded. £16k on shredding... wow. That should cause sever shame to read, it's disgusting. To put it into perspective, from the times the EOs in the team have been asked to shred boxes before we can shred 4 boxes an hour (a cost of £213.33 for the equivalent to be sent to TNT), in a week we could shred 110 boxes (a cost of £5,866.3 for the same to be sent to TNT), 440 boxes in a month (a cost of £23,465.2 to send the same to TNT) - put simply, we'd save more money if we had a G6 doing our shredding for a month then to send it to TNT. Furthermore, from #1 above, I'm being chased relentlessly for an overpayment of £3,300 which was overpaid to me at AA grade over 3 years I assume as it's "in the interest of the taxpayer to recover any money overpaid to an employee", yet the Home Office sees nothing wrong with spending such a large amount of money to cut up paper. which leads me to...

    #3 get rid of the useless managers who have no common sense. How anyone can think £16k on shredding such a small amount of paper is good value for money really angers me especially given the overzealous nature in which SSC chase such small (in comparison) amount from me as an individual. There is zero "operational purpose" which can excuse such a massive oversight of intelligence.

  104. Comment by Alex posted on

    Dear Sir Bob & team (GDS?),
    In your blog post of 8 Jan, "Civil Service Reform: The Year Ahead", you said that social media was important:-

    "Social media is an important part of this, and I want to see civil servants have access to these tools where they need them. I’ve been using Twitter for nearly 2 years, and have found it to be a really useful way to engage with people across the world on the work I’m doing."

    However, I'd like to point out that the comments on these blogs (which I find interesting - can't say I always agree with them, but I don't feel it would be right if I did!) are very rarely responded to - and by our own guidelines, see , you need to part of the conversation. At present, this amounts to "telling", not "engaging".

    I appreciate that you and your team are busy, but this looks to me like a key channel with many points being raised - some emotive, some logical - that is being left unattended. But in the name of raising a solution and not just a problem - do you want a hand?

    • Replies to Alex>

      Comment by Bob Kerslake posted on

      Alex - thanks for your post. I can assure you I read all the comments but as you'll appreciate it's not possible for me to reply to them all.

      The thing I enjoy most about social media is that it inspires debate between people, sometimes but not always involving the author. I am really delighted that so many people get involved in these conversations and respond to each other on the issues that matter to them. I hope you, and many others, will continue to engage. In that respect your help would be welcomed. Keep the comments coming!

      • Replies to Bob Kerslake>

        Comment by Ronald McDonald posted on

        Yes its wonderful, isn't it, all these comments, though sadly most of them are negative to say the least. I've just spent the last 20 minutes scrolling through the many comments and what has it achieved, nothing, its still the same old same old. What i would like to see is action not comments. You can have all the surveys and staff feedback in the world but if there is no perceived action at the end of the day then its all kind of pointless. I am continually frustrated in my job with the constant changes to systems and policy, most of which is not fit for purpose. At the end of the day all i want to do is help my customers, be it colleagues or the general public, with the minimum of fuss, but sadly in an ever increasing digital by default environment this is not always possible.

  105. Comment by Gary posted on

    My CS career began over 30 years ago and have no doubt that today we are a generally more effecient service at the front line. I don't perceive that those effeciency gains are necessarily reflected away from the front line, as my working day is now dominated by such overly bureaucratic processes required to achieve the simplest outcomes.
    1. As has been said, I also believe we need to embrace change to reflect the changing environment in which operate. Managing change is a challenge I feel we consistently fail to meet with any with any credible success. In any period of change, stability is a much undervalued asset in today's CS. By that I mean that I see so many projects being driven in an environment where the personnel are constantly changing mid stream, snap/ill informed decisions are being made leading to unexpected fallout later on, and those left to deliver have no real chance to offer their experience to help the change, but end up repairing the consequnences of others decisions.
    2. Pay and rewards has been mentioned already. It's unfashionable to suggest civil servants should be better remunerated - witness the general media message that we are all second class workers of no great value, a perception I don't think the CS contests anywhere near enough. Performance pay is a principle I have always considered to be appropriate, however the guided distribution,despite best intentions, is fundementally flawed when apllied to an individual PMR. Applied to a 'league table' of staff capability it is clearer to envisage.
    3. Mention has also been made of recruitment. My immediate office has a demographic of at least 90% over 45's. There have been positive moves though. The CS Apprentice scheme is ray of sunshine. 2 EO aprentices took up duties in this area in 2013. Both are under 21, both have demonstarted very strong capability and drive - testament to the selection process I believe - and the 2 year program they have begun has so far provided them with a level of support I have not previously seen with any new starter. A future model for all recruitment?
    4. Something that has again been mentioned earlier. I appreciate this is an attempt to foster greater engagement with staff. But the survey doesn't include the AA grade. This message and the completion timeframe means that, regardless of the opprtunity to give input, there is no realistic chance of responses being afforded proper consideration by next week.
    Finally given all the challenges facing the CS (falling real pay, pension reform, staff morale etc.) and actions being undertaken (introduction of the Apprentice scheme, drive to digital etc.), is the only 'succes' you can really offer in the message is in relation to the the gay friendliness of the organisation. Most people regardless of prejudice, simply don't understand why such stories appear to be so high on the agenda in the workplace.

  106. Comment by Mary posted on

    Comfort is the last thing HMRC think about when 'transforming' their estate. How can you move people out of a building with lifts to three story building with no lift? Disabled people confined to the ground floor and who knows how they manage deliveries of heavy stationery? They want the cheapest option, pack everyone into a few locations, lengthen commutes and lose any advantages local knowledge gave them

  107. Comment by Andrew posted on

    Sir Bob,
    please read these comments.
    When a senior manager tells you everything is ok, reflect on these words and challenge them.
    When we say we want to see poor performance dealt with, we mean AT EVERY LEVEL. There are lots of high up people ticking boxes and nodding to avoid looking bad rather than getting things done.
    Please, Bob. Take this opportunity.

  108. Comment by Pauline McMillan posted on

    I agree with a lot of the other comments made by people in different departments. I have returned to the Civil Service by default of a "bonfire of the quangos". The only thing that seems to be getting burned in this bonfire are staff at lower grades. Jobs aplenty at the director level meanwhile support staff are hot-desking, acting up for nothing extra, failing to get training and development, doing two people's job and generally being undervalued and underpaid. Simple answer is "less chiefs more indians" !

  109. Comment by Teresa posted on

    Like so many others have said before me, we hear a lot of fine words about how well we are doing, consistently achieving very challenging targets but management do not seem to believe in their own words as we still keep farming work out to private companies who continually fail. I understand the reasons for this are supposed to be to save money but as these companies focus on the quick wins, they are probably only achieving outcomes that would have been achieved without their input. I feel passionately about this as I believe that myself and the vast majority of my colleagues join the civil service to make a difference. We do not have to prioritise for the sake of profit and really do treat everyone fairly. I regularly see customers who are vulnerable and in very difficult and complicated circumstances, being supported and guided, with professionalism and with as much time as we can give.
    On a personal note, I have noticed there are a few comments on here about people sitting pretty in the jobs they have been doing for years. For some people, this is not because they do not wish to progress and are happy to do the bare minimum, it is because the only options are staff management. I like working with the public, I do not wish to spend all my time completing spreadsheets and managing staff. However I have a wealth of knowledge which is constantly called upon but there are no opportunities for this kind of expertise beyond the EO grade. It would be lovely if there was.

  110. Comment by Kate posted on

    I have been a civil servant for the last 35 years and never in all that time have I felt more disappointed/stressed/unappreciated than now.I have weathered the storms in the last 8 years, being merged from the Inland Revenue into HMRC/RCPO & after being told what an excellent job we'd been doing at RCPO, were told that because we were in such "great shape" we would be able to be merged into the CPS!
    After working now within the CPS these last 3 years, it has been a whirlwind of demoralisation, cost cutting & trying to mould us into a system already set up which is not compatible with what we do. We have learnt new technology to keep up with this technical age & this should be helping to cut costs, but we still need people with skills too. At maximum scale I can barely cope with bills after being on such a long pay freeze & earn less with pension deductions & ever increasing travel costs. I have always been hard working, find job satisfaction where I can & get good markings despite all, but I feel as I cannot cope with the amount of work when 25% of my colleagues have left & all anyone worries about are statistics to be measured by. I feel the quality & professionalism of my work is being destroyed due to the lack of people/time & financial restraints placed on me.
    When the people at the top decided 2/3 years ago to recruit another 300 HMRC Criminal Investigators, did anyone ask the staff at the bottom of the funnel who have to get their investigations through court, whether they would need more staff when twice/3times as much work comes through to them? None that I know of and then they cut our staff down each year as the work increases! We at the coal face are concerned of failing in the court, because we can't cope but feel that management look at some failing as "acceptable risks". This seems outrageous when other civil servants may have spent 2 years working on cases & us maybe a year too, should have all hard work lost because of cuts.
    I know we can't go back to how it was in happier years & am pleased that a lot of "dead wood" has been removed, but please help those of us who continually give more, but are finding it harder than it's ever been to have a good working & home life too.

  111. Comment by Dave posted on

    A couple of reforms I would like to see:

    Recruitment processes that recruit into a job rather than a grade - i.e. less focus on Core Competence as this is really ambiguous and does not lend itself to being effective in a huge number of jobs in the Civil Service. Also less focus on "fair" recruitment processes, as we all know that if a manager wants a certain person in a job they'll find a way to make it happen, and the process will have wasted a whole bunch of people's time and effort in the process... plus what is wrong with recuriting someone you know can do the job rather than taking a punt on someone else who you have to make a judgement on based on 30-45mins? This route would give clear incentive for people to impress in their job not just at interview!

    Allow working from home with the IT we all have at home already - I have a laptop at home that's always available and better spec than any from work. Why does government insist on paying for a lot of laptops, that require special encryption, that aren't available when you need them, when most workers work with information below Confidential level. Freeing this up will help productivity (especially on snow days), could free up office space & helps workers fit life in around their work, even if it wasn't a money-saver. Also Wi-fi within buildings allowing better use of space could be helpful, and would move towards feeling like we're not 20 years behind the tech curve.

    A core value of the civil service is evidence based decisions. Please therefore can senior management challenge and push back on any decision from government where there is no evidence of value for money or of a plan that has half a chance at working. A lot of comments on this blog are about workload which stems back to the abitrary slashing of 25% of the civil service workforce without any plan as to what that actually means and in fact has ended up costing the taxpayer more (through redundancies and unplanned outsourcing), not less.

  112. Comment by Maggie posted on

    I have 3 main asks (more but let's not get carried away !):

    1. review the diversity policiies: as a reduced hours worker i feel under constant and considerable pressure to perform at the same rate as my FTEs - it's simply not possible. There is an expectation that all staff will work and work but for me, the choice of staying to finish a task or leaving my son standing at school is non-negotiable (my salary/pension etc. all reflect this.) We take on more work but with reduced staff numbers, we skill up constantly in line with new and updated policies (anti-corruption and counter-fraud, M&E, due diligence, M&E and struggle to underake our 5 L&D days per year; our salaries haven't gone up in real terms and so it goes on.
    2. Goodwill: I would ask that all permanent secretaries/DGs take 2 mins to sit and think how their repective departments would function without staff goodwill?? It is now expected that we endevour to complete a task and do it well - whether we do it in working hours or not. E.g. - responding to ministerial correspondence with tight deadlines takes no account whatsoever that reduced hours workers are not in the office for the same time as FTEs and yet my FTE colleagues complain about tight deadlines on many tasks/asks but this is compounded for reduced hours workers. We need our top managers to recognise, acknowledge and support us - Diversity really is great !
    3. The uptake to new policies/frameworks: This refers to the 5 L&D days allocated or everyone. My dept has put in place a framework for undertaking due diligence assessment on our partners and rightly so. My concern here is that it's been rushed through with inadequate training (theory or practical) and my concern is that we are assessing partners for their anti-corruption fraud policies, their systems and processes, their Value for Money etc. but we haven't had adequate training or support to ensure that it is done properly.

    My overall impression of civil service reform is too much, too soon, too rushed with not enough preparation, analysis, staff and training.

  113. Comment by Helen Hardy posted on

    To take the areas in this blog in reverse order:

    1. The way we work (and especially IT) -
    A simple, relatively cheap and highly visible thing that could be done on improving IT is to improve the Civil Service Jobs portal. It is one of the worst web services I have ever used (just for example, why must I click through about 3 screens before I can login? Why do I complete a full record of my previous jobs but only the first section is picked up in online application forms?). Fixing this would send a good signal about how things could and should be better - I am sure a small GDS team could improve it beyond all measure very quickly.

    I work in HMRC where the challenges and costs of updating IT are high - but the thing I would most love to see is better homeworking / remote working. My husband works for Ofgem and can access his email and documents securely from our home computer - I can't wait for the day when I can do the same.

    Personally, I don't find hotdesking a problem - in fact it helps me interact with more colleagues more regularly - however it's true that more attention should be paid to acoustics as noise is proven to damage concentration (and even health in some cases). Perhaps the solution would be some 'quiet zones' like quiet carriages on the train?

    2. Talent
    The civil service (still) offers me a lot - I would have a hard time (and yes, I have looked) finding a job elsewhere that would pay me the same or better salary and allow me to work 3 or 4 days a week. Of course, I would rather we still got payrises etc but we are not the only ones to suffer during the economic downturn. That said, I totally agree with comments above about the corrosive and outdated performance ranking system - anything which divorces the outcome people get from their own individual improvement and effort, by arbitrary comparison with others, is unhelpful to motivation.

    I have mixed views on talent programmes etc - I joined HMRC as a fast streamer 14 years ago, and have been through several schemes including the cross-departmental 'Preparing for Top Management' programme and HMRC's national talent pool. These have all been good schemes from which I have gained personally - however I can't say they have had the desired result in terms of civil service resource usage, as (after many years on 'temporary' promotion), I am now back to grade 7, looking for jobs. This is owing to a variety of factors - of course I must take a large share of the responsibility myself, however there are at least two things that I think CS leaders could do to help and prevent this happening so often in future (I say often because I know a sizeable handful of talented people in similar positions). First, there are still too many jobs, particulary on promotion, that discourage part time workers to apply; too little understanding of what a good part time worker can offer; and evidence that part time working is still a discrimination factor in performance markings. Second, having worked (successfully) in the past in Finance, communications, programme / project work and other types of role, the professionalism agenda has now closed many of those routes to me (at grade 6 and above) because I do not have qualifications and am not prepared to commit my entire future career to a single professional area. I support professionalisms to the extent that we need people who specialise in some areas, and people who don't move around too often - however I also firmly believe that the civil service needs people who are able to work in an interdisciplinary way, picking up skills and knowledge as they go and using these to make connections - I hope that you are able to restore a sense of pride and possibility to people like myself who are talented generalists by nature.

    I hope the meeting goes well.

  114. Comment by Andrew Tolfree posted on

    Dear Mr. Kerslake,

    You have truly succeeded in getting a right royal engagement from civil servants with your latest sets of blog posts. Congratulations indeed!

    Unlike you, I don't have time to read all these comments, so I just ran a check on the number of common words and have decided to talk about these:

    1) Hot-desking - with so many people travelling around why not have hot-desking - to all those who like their own little piece of their catle at work then can I suggest bringing their own inflatable chairs and carrying staionary in a pencil case like when we were at school.
    As a visiting officer I would be hapiest with a tablet and a mobile phone and recieve my casework remotely by downloading every evening and travelling about all week - maybe I'll come into the office once a fortnight or so just to say hello to the lovely cleaners (thank you all for keeping my floor free of crumbs - greatly appreciated as I fail to eat a sandwich nicely while pouring over spreadsheets.

    IT Services
    Looking forward to the digital revolution especially the Unified Customs Code progress in joint data systems and messaging which may enable us to catch criminals with goods in transit more often (the data protection issues I am sure can be overcome).
    Do we have the figures on known email interception - I hear it is a significant concern - also do we have the figures on known postal worker letter interception - is this worse?

    Talent Schemes
    I was on three talent schemes in which I was told "No one is more interested in their career than you are" which I guess is both true and uninspiring at the same time. It was also "up to me to decide what I wanted to do and how I would do it and what I wanted at the end of it and we will not tell you what you can do or how to do it."
    That is fair enough to an extent and is also how I decided my university course and subsequant career path, but that had the benefits of a definitive set of steps that were mapped out with agreed lesson plans and examinations.
    It is unfortunate that with the exception of the Tax Specialist programme (and, of course, the entrance testing for joing the civil service) none of the other schemes have any structure, mapped plan or examination criteria - this I believe makes them fundamentally difficult to assess as to whether it is the scheme or the person that has caused the success.

    I am happy with what I earn, but it is a shame that I have been on the minimum of my salary since starting my current role and others are on the maximum and yet we both work just as well. This is the foreseeable trade-off of having a pay freeze I guess.
    Perhaps I could wager part of my salary against excellent performance like the proposal for senior civil servants.

    In conclusion
    I guess it is easy to pretend we dislike government and I guess it is easy to pretend the government distrusts its own staff - that latter message doesn't always seem to come from the highest levels, so where do you suppose it does come from.

    Also we haven't had a strike in a while - whose turn is it next and can I see the rota?

    Still this forum is great as other nations perhaps we not be so open.

    Yours spuriously
    Andrew T

    • Replies to Andrew Tolfree>

      Comment by Nadia - Civil Service Talent and Assessment Services posted on

      Hi Andrew,

      Thanks for your views; you make a very good point that it is important to build structure into talent development programmes.

      We have gone some way to addressing this by introducing the Civil Service High Potential Stream. CSHPS is a corporate talent pool which offers an integrated approach to managing high-potential talent across the Civil Service.

      CSHPS brings together three structured development programmes: the Future Leaders Scheme for Grades 7 and 6, the Senior Leaders Scheme for deputy directors, and the High Potential Development Scheme for directors. These schemes offer a range of engaging and innovative learning experiences mapped out as phases. These phases are structured initially around formal learning such as taught modules and masterclasses, and underpinned by experiential learning in the form of development discussions, coaching and mentoring, and support for secondments and moves.

      You can find out more about them at:

      The in-service Fast Stream is a talent programme for those below Grade 7 which you can find more about at (

      And, of course, there is also a range of departmental offers, which you can learn more about from your department’s HR contacts.

      Best wishes

      Nadia Bailey
      Talent Consultant – Civil Service Talent and Assessment Services

  115. Comment by Helen Hardy posted on

    PS two more small ideas on digital skills:
    - how about a civil service 'code club'? Perhaps with different levels from novices upward? To make it fun for people to share and learn skills that could help in their future roles; and
    - it's always been a mystery to me why we don't teach people touch-typing - we just assume people do this but many don't - it's easy to learn through online courses and is proven to increase efficiency in relation to document production etc. A foundation for more exciting digital skills perhaps?

  116. Comment by Paul Tregoning posted on

    You've got a LOT of free text comments, it's twitgov. Can you analyse it all?

    My point is the top of our respective shops should start explaining that we can't do as much stuff as we did in 2010, we've lost a fair few staff and we weren't THAT inefficient. It's career-limiting territory though, and it's easy to say "work smarter", "more for less" "better IT" but that skirts around the issue. So I guess we'll be sticking to fiddling around with security markings and stuff like that.

  117. Comment by Angie posted on

    My concern is still the job recruitment process. I know the framework has been changed but I feel that it still does not get the right people in or promoted. I have seen people who have a skill at writing these things or having them written for them who quite frankly don't deserve promotion and on the other side I know hard working people who give above and beyond their role who dont get selected. It is still the same old if you can talk the talk but not walk the walk you get through. It is quite alarming also that nothing is done to challenge this as the majority of the previous managers of the staff who have got through when quite clearly they shouldn't, were simply relieved to get shut of them regardless.

    • Replies to Angie>

      Comment by Gareth Thornton posted on

      RE Angie's comments on Recruitment - Here here!!

    • Replies to Angie>

      Comment by Vicki posted on

      Thank you Angie, that is certainly true in our Dept too. Being able to write a competency is not the same as demonstrating experience, knowledge and hard work. There's also no check on these competencies so who can say they are not fabricated. If competencies are the prefered way then they should at least be confirmed by their Manager prior to submission.

  118. Comment by susiea posted on

    The things that need to be changed are simple:
    Stop eroding our TACOS - the morale is at an all time low and I can't believe it will improve anytime soon.
    Reinstate reasonable payrises - I am now worse off than I have ever been - I took a substantial paycut when I joined the MOD 11 years ago - I now only earn £2k a year more than I did then but due to other "influences" I am barely any better off.
    The main bone of contention as well is that due to the removal of progression pay someone newly promoted will receive the same salary as people who have been at the higher grade for a number of years. I am one of these people - I have been in my grade for 4 years and am looking for promotion to the next grade (even though I know I will lose out in some ways) but someone who is newly promoted is earning the same as I am - how can this be right - it is totally demoralising and sometimes I don't know why I bother working as hard as I do (I do the work of 2 previous posts which were amalgamated under a reorganisation 2 years ago) but I have a conscience and regularly work 3-4 hours extra a week ( I could do a lot more but do limit myself) just to try and keep on top of my work. People are leaving all over the place so we have gapped posts to help cover as well.
    Anyway rant over - I know nothing will change - I just have 24.5 years left to work (after having worked for 25.5 years) before I can retire assuming I haven't expired before then!

  119. Comment by Trevor Dingle posted on

    The notice given of the meeting does seem rather short to get a reasonable amount of comments and for them actually to be read.
    The main thing that needs to be addressed is pay. The pay freeze and derisory 1% is about equivalent to a downgrading over the last 5 years or so. Which as sole breadwinner is affecting my family, meaning we cannot afford to move from a small cottage to a larger family house or have as many holidays.
    This and yet more change such as ever smaller and cramped offices is just bad news all round and is making those older than me very keen to retire.
    I recently read about the setting up of the Civil Service and how highly it was regarded in Victorian times. Some reform is needed, but it needs to cut down on bureaucracy and let qualified professionals get on with the job. Career progression is limited and I (a Chartered Surveyor in the Valuation Office Agency) am now in my 40s and sliding well behind my peers in the private sector property world not only in terms of pay, but also in terms of responsibility within the organisation and all round experience. My view is that there should be more promotion opportunities for those who are professionally qualified who still want to do the day job, instead of being full time managers which is what most Grade 7 roles are. If these roles were a mixture of professional work and management then this would encourage more people to apply and help retain knowledge and experience, and for people to feel they were getting adequate reward for that experience. It may be appropriate for 'market supplements' to be paid for those of us with professional qualifications and over 10 years or so experience.
    In terms of plans for the future of our agency these seem to take up lots of webpages but be rather nebulous as presumably so many people are involved that decisions are put off. This is frustrating, we might not like the result (for example estates rationalisation leading to office closures) but it would be good to know early and be able to plan one's future.
    Also, not all departments and agencies are the same and that some simply have more experienced staff so the performance 'bell curve' should not be enforced everywhere.

  120. Comment by Paul Sargent posted on

    "Please get involved in the conversations on this, as I am keen for colleagues and myself to discuss your comments on the day", your words but when will the conversations take place?Will the views expressed be discussed at next week’s meeting? Or are you going to take those views and file them away, something the Civil Service is good at? If so you really need to look hard at the comments reagrding:
    An IT system that constantly falls over and even when it is working is so slow a cup of coffee can be made between pages. A modern, up to date system off the shelf instead of a bespoke system that is older than Adam is what should have been looked at.
    A simpler performance appraisal system that allows narrative comments that are meaningful, not just a series of drop down boxes, people don't fit in boxes.
    Pay that is comparable with jobs in the private sector .

  121. Comment by Graham O'Connell posted on

    Thank you for all your comments and we are always interested to hear your feedback on the learning offer for Civil Servants.
    Chris, you mentioned a few mandatory e-learning products - 93% to 98% of learners agree these products met their objectives. These assessments are made by learners and are well above industry average for these types of products. However, we constantly review and quality assure all of our products, and a couple of those you mentioned have been replaced by newer versions over the last few months. We are aware there are IT limitations in some departments which can be frustrating to users and we know the Civil Service is encouraging departments to improve IT access.

    We offer a range of learning opportunities, and the learning is all based on knowledge and skills which are transferable not just across the Civil Service but beyond. Steve, you mentioned about training being recognised outside of Government – CSL also offer a range of accredited training which is recognised by external organisations.

    We aim to ensure that different learning styles and needs are met through our offer. This includes a wide range of e-learning products and more traditional face to face courses. In particular, the use of technology in e-learning is used widely in many big organisations. The evaluation results we receive from our learners on e-learning products are overwhelmingly positive. We also give guidance on learning in the workplace, and offer services such as coaching and mentoring. There are also thousands of online resources available through the portal.

    David, you commented about the number of compulsory courses - very little learning is actually centrally mandated and most mandates come from individual departments which reflect their situation and priorities. In terms of where you carry out your learning, you could always talk to your manager about finding an alternative quiet space for online learning; or consider using headphones. Don’t forget, the CSL portal can also be accessed from any device including computers, tablets and smartphones.

    Graham O’Connell
    L&D Strategy and Curriculum lead - CSL

  122. Comment by Steve posted on

    Think - about value as well as cost; if the nation still values a Civil Service that is honest, impartial (without fear or favour), ethical and can deliver public services to the required quantity and quality it must be paid for. If my view is "old fashioned" then please tell me which bits I should have dropped to equate the value of what I deliver with the cost (pay, pension, working conditions etc.) of providing me. Along with others commenting here I feel I deliver significantly more value than the cost warrants.
    Be - aware that leadership is often about what is seen by those being led - if senior leaders (politicians/SCS etc.) are seen ticking boxes without evidence for expediency or stealing (even if we don't call it that), don't be surprised if junior staff feel that is an example of acceptable behaviour.
    Do - Tell us where we are supposed to be going and what we are supposed to do when we get there. Most civil servants are able and willing to change, what we lack is the knowledge about what it is we are trying to change into (if we knew we might work it out for ourselves!). Until that happens I will remain trying to be honest, impartial and ethical and to balance for myself the push to deliver more outputs with fewer resources against ensuring that my staff and I are not overly exposed to excessive work place stress - and not becoming a hectoring bully like many that I see around me.

  123. Comment by Hazel posted on

    I have been a member of the Civil Service for under a year now. I attended Civil Service Live and listened to Bob speak and I believe that change, whilst difficult, is required and should be embraced.
    I have been TUPE'd three times in my working career and am no worse off for this process. In fact, my view is that change is required in the Civil Service. The key to staff embracing change is great comunication by senior managers and staff looking at the benefits of change not keep harping on about 'the good old days'. We are in a different world now.
    My observations are that silo working is rife in our wider organisation and we spend time and money needlessly at times as a result. Certain areas of our business are so far removed geographically that I hear only about 'our' part of organisation not 'the Civil Service'.
    Our staff wear many hats and they are spread thin at times trying to get everything done but this is something that happens in many organisations today.
    Yes I get my 5 a year and so do my staff. Training and development has many forms and not just face-to-face training this should be remembered
    Am I unhappy working for the Civil Service? No. Do I support change? Yes of course and I wish more staff would look upon this as a positive and not a negative. I'm a tax payer and I want my money spent wisely by the Civil Service and not frittered away nedlessly so lets communicate better and work together across different parts of the Civil Service who do the same thing as us.
    Champion change, be positive about it and work with the Civil Service and not against it to geth things right.

  124. Comment by Mary posted on

    Sir Bob

    It's reassuring to see that you have personally responded to some comments. It would mean a great deal to hear from you on this one. It's been a difficult few days and you'll see why, as you read on.

    My department is under public consultation with a view to privatisation. The consultation paper reveals that, if the proposals go ahead, the staff (what remains) will be transferred to a 'company' and cease to be civil servants. Now, here's the upsetting bit. We read this for the first time in the consultation document itself when it was released yesterday and when it had already gone public. Senior managers did not break the news to us in-house first that this is what the document would specifically say. You will surely appreciate how that will leave one feeling undervalued, disrespected and disregarded. It really hurt. We work so very hard to keep up with a backlog to maintain the reputation of our deparment. We're a dedicated band of people and exceptional technicians in a specialised area who want to be appreciated.

    As to the rights and wrongs of the proposals, that's an argument for another day but this post is about communication and respect. Please could you reply or at least speak directly to our department. Feeling a bit out in the cold here.

    Kind Regards

    • Replies to Mary>

      Comment by Paul Underhay posted on

      Thanks for voicing that on our behalf, Mary, and I'm glad it's made it through the filters. My comment is still awaiting moderation several hours after I tried to "get involved with the conversation".

    • Replies to Mary>

      Comment by Ronal Patel, Corporate Communications, Land Registry posted on

      Mary - Thank you for your post. I am concerned that the way in which this was communicated caused you to feel in any way undervalued or disregarded – that was never the intention. I am really keen that we work with staff to learn lessons on how we can improve the way we engage with our people. Therefore, if you have the time, I would really like to discuss this with you further and I am happy for you to get in touch with me to talk about this some more. Alternatively you could raise this with your local engagement contact as I will be meeting with them in the next few weeks.

  125. Comment by Emma posted on

    Sir Bob,

    CHANGE. Change for the sake of saving money is never good. Let me make no bones about it, if you lay off staff you patronise the ones still left by telling them they need to work SMART. Please don’t insult our intelligence by foisting LEAN or its evil sister Continuous Improvement on us as though it is our fault that all the extra work we have adopted is not being done and targets not being met. A rubber band when stretched too far will eventually snap. Your front line workers have been stretched as far as they are able to be stretched. Enough now.

    PAY. Could you please take a special look at the bottom rung workers and what you are expecting them to do for their meagre pay. I am one of these. I take home £60 a day. I am undervalued, overworked, stressed, de-motivated, de-moralised. £60 a day Sir Bob. I’m guessing by the time those at the top have earned their first £60 of the day they have probably only just hung their coats up.

  126. Comment by Mel posted on

    The talent programmes are good - I've been on one this year for feeder grades to SCS and learned a great deal. I'm very glad that I've had the opportunity to think about my management style, and practice some of the leadership behaviours needed for SCS.

    However, what is less good is the fact that access to SCS assessment centres is too often governed by whether you're in a high profile post or not at the time you want to apply. If a Director hasn't seen much of your work, you won't even be able to apply to the assessment centres. And if turnover is high in your organisation (retirements, maternity leave, promotions, redundancies) this becomes even more of a problem as the people who knew and respected you will have moved on by the time you come to apply for a board or assessment centre. I joined the fast stream 10 years back, and most of my cohort (working across Whitehall, I might add - this isn't just a problem unique to one department) feel that they've been overlooked for promotion opportunities to SCS simply because despite consistently high performance and top box markings, they didn't always end up in roles that were especially "visible", especially to Grade 3s. Many of us have now given up and left for the private sector. I cling on because I do love the civil service and the interesting and varied work it offers, but sometimes I wonder if I've made the right choice.

    If my cohort and I are right that there's a problem of unspoken patronage, then this is something that belongs firmly in the last century. Why not just take a free market approach here, and allow G7s and G6s with x number of years' experience (and x number of top box markings, if that's useful) to apply directly to SCS assessment centres? You could bolt on a "no return" policy, ie. if you fail the centre, you have to wait 2 years to apply again, in order to limit the number of applications. I suspect the results would be more likely to produce a crop of enthusiastic and talented SCS leaders than the current, slightly dodgy system does.

    • Replies to Mel>

      Comment by Alice posted on

      I think talent programmes are a good idea but how are people being identified as the best candidates for these? Much of how you progress in the civil service seems to depend on who you know rather than what you know and judgements are often made by individuals or small groups of people you don't have much contact with. If the performance appraisal system was fit for purpose it would be obvious where the talent was...

      I've been in the civil service less than 18 months and work with a lot of clever, hardworking, ambitious people who are stifled by unnecessary process. The processes, and the need to talk to 10 people to get a decision, is often there to mask the fact that there isn't actually a policy. Are people afraid that writing things down will mean they lose their jobs?!

      We all know what needs to change but there's a lot more talk than action. This is where the secondments in and out of the private sector should come in - we desperately need to expand the civil service's ability to do proper business transformation that doesn't drive the good people away.

  127. Comment by Gareth Thornton posted on

    As part of the Civil Service Reform I wonder if you are reviewing the way our recruitment process and how people have to apply for internal jobs?

    For the past 4 years I have commented in the People Survey - if we are to be a modern employer we need to change the recruitment process. It should be based on Essential and Desirable skills and knowledge instead of it being a word matching exercise against the Competency Framework.

    Why change things? It is my view the current Recruitment process used in HMRC wastes tax payer’s money and doesn’t necessarily always get the best person for the job.

    The recruitment process is predominately a word matching exercise which wastes an awful lot of tax payer’s money (when considered business wide) because people have to sit with sifters to learn how to write good CV examples and spend so much time ‘shaping’ them. If people want to get on they have to learn how to play the system. When a person gets sifted out of an exercise and do not get a job but then get a job in a latter exercise, it’s not necessarily because they have got any better at the job or are more skilled than before, it’s because they have improved the articulation of their CV examples. Often the same example is used but tweaked repeatedly until it meets the mark.

    To be successful people have to get out the Competency Framework and spend time shaping their examples to fit the statements of what is considered good using key words and phrases given to them by sifters.

    Sifters are often of a senior grade. It's a fact that when making an application if you do not sit with a sifter you are very unlikely to get through the initial sift. This means our recruitment process costs the tax payer more money than it needs to because they are paying for the time the applicant spends within the business shaping their CV, as well as paying for the time the sifter spends reviewing CVs and offering advice. There also appears to be inconsistently with the length of time people are given to apply for jobs ranging from 1 hour to as much time as you need – but that is a symptom of the overall issue.

    All the people I know that have been promoted recently have sat with sifters and spent days and hours refining their examples. Someone recently told me they started their job application 3 months in advance of the job coming out. And that was because a senior manager tipped them off! I doubt any business in the Private Sector would have a recruitment process that requires applicants to spend so much time drafting examples of their work in such a manner – especially whilst paying them to spend time doing it.

    Not necessarily the best person - People with lesser achievements may get through because they have articulated a situation better than another who may have made a bigger contribution to the department but not articulated it as well.

    There is a certain type of person that is good at filling in forms. If you are not good at filling in forms you don’t get through the initial sift without alot of help. The tests now mean that, more so than ever, academics may get through whilst those with natural ability/talent and common sense may not. How does this create a diverse workforce?

    Please review the current system.

  128. Comment by Deb posted on

    After 22 years as a civil servant I am fed up hearing media reports about the civil service bonus system and our pensions being unaffordable and much better than the private sector. Firstly, we were recruited on much lower starting salaries to comparable jobs in the private secter but were content to earn a lower salary for a decent pension. Secondly, do the powers that be remember spinepoints and performance related pay? This motivated staff as we knew the system would reward us when we performed well. What do we have these days? Constant change, a reduction in salary in real terms and senior management who 'bend' the statistics to make the situation look better. Can I suggest a move back to the times when all grades were called the same e.g. Executive Officer (now a Band B or Band D etc dependant on department) and a single salary structure. Why is an AA in one department worth more that an AA in another department? I am not against change and am the first to embrace it when required however the old motto "if it's not broken, don't fit it" is worth noting.

  129. Comment by Jon posted on

    Capabilities, often cited as the key issue to address, take a long time to improve on a systemic scale particularly if the focus is on developing professions and L&D. Senior managers in the private sector spend 50% of their time on their people, ie spotting talent, growing and developing it. This builds capability much more strongly than 5 days L&D a year.
    There are lots of frustrations with IT, hotdesking, varied attitudes to flexible working and a whole host of other things. They’re not good enough but they are changing. However, I think these are secondary to how we are managed and led. If you have a manager who trusts you, has confidence in you, gives clarity on expectations, holds you to account for meeting them and provides support and builds your capability then these frustrations become easier to deal with.
    Better managers will sort out bad management processes. Shouldn’t the top 200 be setting an example here?

  130. Comment by Adrian Dottridge posted on

    Many of the comments here relate to changes to pay, pensions and terms and conditions and I have read them all. My team has day to day cross-cutting responsibility for these areas where they relate to the Civil Service overall, in most cases operating under the overarching policy for the public sector set by Treasury Ministers.

    I am aware that many recent changes, and pay restraint overall, are unwelcome. As a Civil Servant myself I understand that. However where possible the Government has tried to offer some protections to those on the lowest salaries. And changes to many other terms and conditions are coming in for new starters rather than for existing civil servants.

    I would also like to make the point that in terms of pensions the new scheme that will be coming in from April next year for most staff, and the transitional protections for those closest to retirement, means that Civil Servants will continue to enjoy very favourable arrangements compared to those available elsewhere. We will be increasing our comms on these changes this year to help people understand how they will be affected. It is true that many of us working now (myself included) will have to work a little longer than many of those retiring now or previously, but it would have been very difficult to have asked the taxpayer to protect Civil Servants from changes taking place, such as people living longer, in the wider economy.

    • Replies to Adrian Dottridge>

      Comment by Amanda posted on

      Adrian Dottridge —

      You said..."However where possible the Government has tried to offer some protections to those on the lowest salaries."


      I had a pay freeze last year. I earn just shy of £60 a day and yet I received absolutely nothing extra last year in my pay packet. Nothing! Previous to that I have had to struggle by on a pathetic 1% extra. The paltry £10 extra a month I received the year previous to that was wiped out due to the rising cost of living and the extra pension contributions. Where is the protection offered by the government to those on the lowest salaries which you mentoned?

      I suspect it is not even acknowledged that civil servants are earning such low wages. I think we are invisible to those at the top. It's a shameful wage for the responsibilities expected in my job, in fact it is little more than minimum wage, and it looks as though that gap will be getting narrower in the near future.

    • Replies to Adrian Dottridge>

      Comment by Richard Pearson posted on

      I'm sorry Adrian, but I don't regard 7 (or even 8) years additional work in order to draw a full pension as "working a little bit longer". It's exactly this sort of reply (along with the usual line of people living longer) that incenses most of us and leads to a lot of the negativity that you see on this blog.

    • Replies to Adrian Dottridge>

      Comment by Chris B posted on

      Existing pensions arrangements should not have been tinkered with. Change the terms and conditions for new staff if you must, they will at least be fully aware of what they are signing up to. What has infuriated the majority of existing staff, is the irreparable hole which is now left in a pension which was promised, and expected, as part of an overall pay package after decades of service.

  131. Comment by Keith Grieve, Communications Manager, CSHR posted on

    There are some really good comments on here today. Times are tough but it has to be A Good Thing that we can share our experiences like this and say it as it is where we work. Noone else can do that for us.

    On hot desking, I’ve recently moved to what is now my third department in three years and to hot desking for the first time. Big deal. Well, yes, but my almost 27 years’ service doesn’t mean I like changing offices any more than I ever did. But it’s good. We’re now in a room – temporarily ... – and there are, duh, more people than desks. At least one of us works from home one day a week, others in different parts of the country on different days. Some days – and colleagues! - are definitely noisier than others but we all make it work. And we’re considerate of one another as colleagues. I find hot desking is helping me focus on my work in ways I wasn’t expecting. Well, that’s what I tell myself.

  132. Comment by F Bowbrick posted on

    Sir Bob,

    I find the new performance reporting process ridiculous - I am still waiting to find out who my reporting officer is!

    After having been a D grade for 6 years and having been scrupulous in following the performance management reporting requirements, because if we cannot be bothed to personalise a report to truely reflect the performance and effort of staff, why should they bother to try; I am now informed that my efforts are no longer required and a complete stranger over 100 miles with no daily contact or input will now tick the boxes that supposedly will reflect their individual efforts. I can tell you now it has done nothing to improve or motivate our section.

    If the only good news we have to celebrate that the Civil Service has been named a gay friendly workplace, we are in deep trouble. What, pray, does a persons sexuality have to do with their job in the Civil Service?

    If these are eaxmples of the new Civil Service Management plan, you really need to rethink it!

  133. Comment by Patsi Hartigan posted on

    Please, please, please make a commitment to scrap the Performance Management Systems guided distribution if, on review after April 2014, it’s found that appeals and complaints against final markings have increased by more than 100% from April 2013. I would hope that such a basic review will be taking place to ensure that the current application of PMR is successful and fit for purpose?
    Whatever, its original purpose it has become the most divisive and invidious tool in some quarters.
    It’s obvious that there are fundamental failings of application in many cases, due to the enormous amount of time required to administer this system (see other comments) and the arbitrary guided distribution (or as staff see it, quotas). To date, I've seen cases of anxiety, distress and scapegoating in order to achieve the arbitrary guided distribution element of “must improve”. The published guidance is not observed in many cases as the race to meet expectations of failure has to be won at all costs. The same zeal has not been applied to achieving the "top" percentage expected. That should tell you something.
    I've seen increased discrimination, which is borne out by our Departments mid-year indicative marking figures. If one is part-time, disabled, male and over 56 then one runs the risk of falling to the bottom automatically. Not sure how well our Department would now measure up to the Equality Act 2010.
    We can be proud of many things as a Civil Service – but definitely not of this.

  134. Comment by Tak posted on

    Noisy, cramped, tense open-plan office where only senior ranks are guaranteed a seat. Came in a few minutes late? Better find somewhere else to work!

    IT that is comparitively prehistoric and was not fit for purpose even when it was new. Today, our Microsoft consultant has asked me a question, I cannot reply by Email with the tools provided. I have to leave the building and use my own equipment.

    Government claims today that everyone except the top earners are better off as far as pay goes, with an average pay rise of 2.4%. Thanks for forgetting about us when you calculated this, those who have been stuck with 1% or less for the last several years.

    • Replies to Tak>

      Comment by Mike Booth posted on

      I am an HO on the max working in HMRC . On looking at my payslips , I see that in January 2007 , my net pay was £1,798.29 . This increased to £1,963.34 in 2012 but , as my next payslip has shown , my net monthly pay has now fallen back to £1,865.36 . As the Chancellor apparently wishes to talk about net pay , is an increase of 3.7% over the past 8 years really a fair reward in any circumstances . Is this the kind of increase that SCS have seen ? Or MP`s ?

  135. Comment by Derek posted on

    You say you will be “reviewing our buildings and estates to ensure all our staff can work in modern, comfortable offices or at home”. How are you going to improve working conditions in listed buildings? These do not have, can not have, and will not ever have air conditioning. What is the solution to such conditions that result in people working in wet, sweaty clothing all day? Is this acceptable? Would you be happy to do this? I know I am not.

    Only solution I can come up with is have a maximum temperature at work.

    • Replies to Derek>

      Comment by Tak posted on

      I can relate to this, uncomfortable temperatures in the workplace seems to be a common trend. My previous job had the opposite problem in that our office used to be a server room and the powerful air conditioning could not be switched off for technical reasons (the roof would leak). So we had to sit in our coats in a windy office at which sometimes got as cold as 14 degrees. The only reason we were moved out of there was because the roof eventually collapsed.
      Currently, I am working in the Army HQ building which was built only about 6-7 years ago. And guess what? No air conditioning at all, so we just have desk fans everywhere. The explanation we've been given is that a portion of our office was sectioned off to create a conference room and the thermometer for the office is inside that conference room, resulting in the erratic heat as the system thinks it is trying to warm the room up, but can only detect the temperature of the usually empty room.

  136. Comment by Thomas posted on

    Sir Bob,

    I think at your meeting you should discuss the following issues. The new Performance Appraisal system is not fit for purpose and needs a major rethink. Set up guided career development across Government that recognises and develops talented people, this will mean that HR will have something positive to do and you will need to expand HR departments across the board. Create a Central Government HR that helps HR departments across Government to guide their staff throughout their careers by providing the necessary resources. Pay us on the last Friday of every month or twice a month which will enable people to plan their finances better and might help to stop people having to use payday loan companies. Enable and encourage most civil servants to work from home using laptops, tablets - make this the norm and provide the kit. Take the overall bonus pot and spread it across the Civil Service if you can't give us a proper pay rise or just give us a pay rise. Tell us what is happening with the pay spine points - there seems to be a lot of confusion as to whether they are still extant or coming back or have been scrapped? We are fundametally different to the private sector as we do not make money for shareholders so comparing the Civil Service to the private sector makes no sense because our ways of working and our raison d'etra is not the same. If you do this then you can begin to look at the Civil Service as something entirely different and new that can be developed and nurtured. Open plan offices are almost imossible to work in. Take the space you have in these offices and make clusters with high-walled cubicles, much more productive and gives people their own space and cuts the noise down. Publicly support the Civil Service when we are bashed in the press by providing the press with truthful statistics that show how many of us are below minimum wage. It goes without saying that you should be discussing how to update the IT situation, reinvigorating training and development so that it is geared to a person's objectives and aspirations, and changing the culture across Government to one where training, learning and developing are the cornerstones of the Civil Service culture.

    Finally, where are these talent streams and talent schemes you mention and how does one gain access to them?


    • Replies to Thomas>

      Comment by Janet Barker, CSL Leadership and Talent Development posted on

      You can find out more about the talent streams on the Civil Service Learning Portal. If you select the Leadership and Management link on the front page and then select the Talent Management topic you will be able to find out about each of the schemes. You should also speak to the talent lead in your Department about how to access these programmes.

  137. Comment by Tim G posted on

    Just on the point of the talent development programmes, whilst my manager has said that she would support me to go for one of these, having spoken to several people in HR there is a view that for Grade 7s there aren't any talent development programmes really in operation, most frustrating!

    • Replies to Tim G>

      Comment by Bob Kerslake posted on

      Tim - the Future Leaders Scheme is a cross Civil Service talent scheme for Grade 6/7s. Information is on the Civil Service Learning website. If your HR team don't know about it, your Permanent Secretary certainly will.

      • Replies to Bob Kerslake>

        Comment by Alan Yates posted on

        Sir Bob,

        you write this as if we have easy access to our HR team and the permanent secretary.

  138. Comment by John posted on

    Sir Bob,
    First of all thank you for finally giving Civil Servants a platform on which we can express our concerns.
    Perhaps this is the most positive change that has come from the top in some time-(unless you are using it as a system to highlight "bad behaviours" for our next performance appraisals!)

    Thank you for giving us some headings on which to comment, on but in true SCS style I’m going to go off on my own tack.

    I think that even the SCS cannot fail to have noticed how low morale has dropped in the workforce at present.
    The response to you last few blogs has been overwhelming, and I hope has given you an insight into how we feel at the coalface. I agree with many of the people who have taken the time to post comments.

    The problems are numerous.. For example I was halfway through reading the e-mail directing us to your new post when Outlook went down. How are we supposed to be direct customers to be digital by default when we can’t even keep our own e-mail system working?

    Don’t even get me started on pay and pensions-if you look over the comments on your last few blogs you will know how most of us feel.

    However on the you keep telling can do nothing about this, let us tackle something you can- The hated performance appraisal system.

    Yes I know you have already responded in one of your previous blogs but I’d like to ask you to reconsider...!

    -The system is divisive and does nothing to encourage team working.
    -You can say that there are no quotas and distribution ratings all you like, but the fact is these exist, and will continue to exist.
    - Stress is already endemic throughout the civil service due to staffing reductions and this system will increase stress and sick absence, and the costs incurred in dealing with these issues.
    -The new system is extremely labour intensive, as are the costs of dealing with appeals against the outcomes.
    -There are better and more positive ways to deal with staff development / poorly performing staff.
    - We are being told to act more like the private sector - Well this approach to performance appraisal has been widely abandoned by it- numerous examples include Microsoft.

    Please........ Scrap the system and replace it with one fit for purpose.....and finally give us something to be grateful for, in what are extremely depressing times to be a civil servant.

    • Replies to John>

      Comment by Jacob posted on

      Totally agree. Counterproductive, divisive and archaic, and certainly not an example of best practice in the hallowed "private sector" these days. Why are we adopting a system the rest of industry is moving away from (towards mire enlightened approaches like continuous assessment, 360 degree exercises, etc.).

      After 20+ years in the Civil Service this is the one issue which has forced me to start seeking alternative employment, even at a reduced pay rate. Wait a minute - could that be the point...?

      • Replies to Jacob>

        Comment by Diane R posted on

        Totally and utterly agree. Heaven help us at the year end when we have to deal with all the appeals and grievenaces. How many staff years will we waste on that? - along with the accompanying stress and sickness absence, leading to even less productivity. Many good people are striving to move out of management posts because it's just been made hellish to be a manager. And it isn't helped by the cuts/rationalisation of Human Resources either.

    • Replies to John>

      Comment by Dave posted on

      Couldn't agree more - it is divisive, counter-productive and archaic. It destroys teamwork and ensures that much more time is wasted in "covering up" mistakes. PLEASE abandon it. It is a resignation issue for me; after 20+ years I am now actively looking elsewhere. The values, culture and fairness of the Civil Service I joined are dead,

  139. Comment by Ian posted on

    1. Reform = change. Change is an opportunity for improvement, but does not in itself automatically result in improvement. The Civil Service has seen far too much change, for its own sake, recently without delivering any tangible improvement - and in many cases ,quite the opposite!
    2. Most civil servants [at least at at G7 and below], in my almost 20 yrs experience, are committed, capable and knowledgeable about their areas of work. The recent changes in the PDR system DO NOT recognise this. It is clealy designed soley to avoid paying preformance bonuses! Indeed placing hard working staff into a forced distibution where a percentage are 'automatically' considered as underperforming and the majority are simply considered as 'average' is demeaning to the point of insult - especially where in a small, professional unit, everyone works consistently well above the so called 'effective performer' level. It would be far more effective to remove or deal with the alarmingly high proportion of very poor performers at G6 and above, and leave the majority to get on with doing a good job [as they already do]. The end result will be [already is?] to actively discourage dedicated staff from going the extra mile as there is now no conceivable benefit [not even recognition - never mind financial].
    The continuing trend to inflate the status [and salaries] of senior managers, who have little knowledge of the actual delivery prtocesses, whilst systematically removing proffessionally qualified staff with years of valuable experience from managemt positions, will in the long term, cause irreparable damage to the civil service.
    3. It is high time that senior management started to pay attention to front line staff who actually know the job, the field of work and what is / is not practicable, instead of imposing ill considered and impracticable 'blue sky thinking'.
    4. A comment on increasing the pension / retirement age. Lets stop pretending that this is anythin other than an officially sanctioned scam. The object of increasing the pension age is to ensure that a much larger number of employees will have died before being able to benefit from their hard earned pension fund savings - thus vastly reducing the future level of payments to be made.
    Cynical you may say! - I know but sadly, also, irrefutably true.

  140. Comment by Andrew P posted on

    For those that may have the time to do a spot of reading there was a very interesting debate in the Lords on 16/1/14 11:45 relating to the future of the Civil Service. Give it a try.

  141. Comment by JJ posted on

    Hello, I’m unaccustomed to making comments on or using facilities like ‘Share your views’ so I apologise in advance for any ‘faux pas’ I commit. I’m a Prison Officer and I really don’t care about hot desking or minimum and maximum working temperatures. I’m unhappy about pay freeze or real term pay cuts but not as much as the prospect of being TUPE’d over to the private sector which for me could result in a pay reduction of about 25%. I have had little training or development since I joined 14 years ago after graduating from university and no manager has ever asked me what I want to do. Let’s not talk about promotion. The IT systems available to me are not the most important part of the job talking to prisoners face to face is. What really gets me is the reduction in staffing in an environment populated with violent offenders and I really do mean violent they aren’t in prison for parking tickets. Just calling it safe, fair, decent or sustainable doesn’t mean it is, maybe in financial terms it’s sustainable and it’s certainly removed the threat of privatisation in the short term. Prison Officers mainly equate greater numbers of staff to increased safety from attack or injury by prisoners. What annoys me is the changes to the department I work in have been proposed and driven largely by its own senior management. If they ever were Prison Officers I doubt they had such small staffing levels in decades gone past.

  142. Comment by Caro posted on

    Is the intent to improve by alteration, abolish bad practices, make conditions better or simply reduce the number of Public Sector employees purely on a commercial basis?

    Morale in the Civil Service has dissolved and unfortunately a subtle increase in coercion and intimidation creating an imbalance of power towards bullys has occurred.

    Staff delivering public services know what needs to change and why - so why are they being ignored?
    Give everyone the opportunity to say what is good about their own department and what is not so good and how they would make improvements. This will allow an open, honest and transparent debate between staff that SCS need and should be aware of.

    Bad decisions: reducing learning and deveolpment opportunities from 10 to 5 days while concurrenlty reducing staff numbers; combining some Agencies or Depts on a fiscal basis; centralising HR facilities leading to contact difficulties; reducing flexible working; moderation; the list is not exhaustive.

    Rather than increase the number of staff at SEO and above look to increase operational delivery with people who have skill, talent and enthusiasm to provide a service the public expect.

    Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.

  143. Comment by Angela Parkes posted on

    Here are my comments to add although I have no confidence any notice will be taken.
    Stop tinkering with pay and conditions. Why am I having to put up with what are effectively continuous pay cuts?
    Stop bullying staff into accepting detrimental changes like AHW.
    Where is our work/life balance?
    Recognise when change doesn't work eg team working.
    There has been too much change for the sake of managers wanting to make themselves look good by instituting change.
    Get rid of competence based recruitment - it has only lead to incompetence shining.
    As others have said there should be "the opportunity to be promoted on clearly demonstrated capability and not necessarily on giving the right answers to a set of questions posed by a panel " (of mates).
    Stop this you can leave if you don't like it stuff.
    Stop patronising staff with managers from outside the organisation that have no idea about what their staff actually do.

  144. Comment by Alan Yates posted on

    You want to hear from us, but do not tell us how to get in contact. Presumably this is the only way of letting you know how incompetent the Civil Service is.
    You constantly go on about how we should be doing more with less. Instead of just taking resources away to save money, why not ask us, the workers, what we still need to do the job.

    IT. I fail to see why the Civil service cannot invest a suitable amount of money into ONE IT service for all the departments. Core information about people can be stored on one central database, name, address etc. Branch services can stem from this, depending on the department. The single system can then easily issue alerts / information to other departments as appropriate. I realise this would mean spending some money for once, but the long terms savings, both financial and time, would be considerably greater.

    While you are at it, why not have one Civil Service all working towards a common goal, instead of 33 separate departments and the current (and long held) them and us mentality. This could also address a number of inequalities in the Civil Service, eg: why should I earn more or less than another colleague in another department who is supposedly the same grade and same quality of work as me; why should I have more / less career opportunities than colleagues in other departments.

    I could go on, but unfortunately I have to do some work and apparently trying to improve my employer's performance is not considered important enough.

  145. Comment by john caddick posted on

    When the minimum wage goes up, how are you going to explain why AO level are far too near that rate of pay, considering the level of intelligence needed to pass the qualifying tests.
    Will you stop privatising the Service? It always costs far more than keeping the service in house. We used to have world class computer systems when in house - now we waste billions on second rate systems that are deliberately designed that way so we get screwed for upgrades.
    There was nothing wrong with the old performance system. The new system is time with our managers insisting on monthly reviews. I am 65 years old and find it patronising to be told to be a better person in mind and spirit and soul on a monthly basis. I do not need irrelevant training - all I need is pertinent training specific to my job and I have had that and do not need any more at my age. Anyway, We are so short of staff here, some staff are off with the stress of it all, and there is no time to go and do 5 days of learning we do not need, and why have we got 50% of the performance based on behaviour? I have asked all my line managers right up to the top for examples of behaviour likely to get an exceed and the only example they offer is being a role model. So, I ask for examples of what makes an exceeding role model - some just stare blankly at me and do not respond, some reply that they think the example of a role model is not one they would use. Confusion all round and no nearer receiving examples of proper behaviour that is really performance based. It is entirely subjective and at the whim of the managers. Checks and balances are useless because no manager is going to argue against their senior manager's point of view so, although they will not admit it, I reckon the only people who are going to get exceeds in performance are Uriah Heep and North Koreans. We haven't got many North Koreans but the Civil Service has more than enough Uriah Heeps.

  146. Comment by Alison Nicholls posted on

    I have been a civil servant for 5 years now as an AO, during which time I have completed a management degree relevant to my field. I am now seriously over-qualified for my job (and under paid). My annual reports have all confirmed that I am performing way above my grade.

    The new CS learning system is not fit for purpose. There are far too many assumptions made about the skills and knowledge of people within each grade. The aims of the reform are to modernise the way that we are working (be more like commercial enterprise?!) yet we are using training that commercial orgnisations would consider irrelevant.

    Where is the incentive the stay with the CS and progress? I want to use my experience and new skills but I am trapped by a promotion/recruitment process that is designed to keep me where I am. I may be cynical but it looks to me like there is a concerted effort to remove experience and fill the CS with "new blood". To lose the vast amount of corporate knowledge that the CS has in the last 12-18 months is madness and I fully expect that will "come home to roost" in the next year as more and more experienced people leave.

    Given the chance, guess what I will be doing?

    • Replies to Alison Nicholls>

      Comment by Graham O'Connell posted on

      Alison, firstly congratulations on your management degree. There is no doubt that the civil service needs people who understand good management. As to the Civil Service Learning offer, there is plenty there that can help with your career - for example, one of the top downloads is the Achieve your Potential guide - and the standard of products is certainly up there with the best of the private sector.

  147. Comment by Rob posted on

    another pointless exercise :-/

  148. Comment by Noel posted on

    Over the past decade my department has closed many offices, which has resulted in staff having to commute further to work each day. Whilst senior grades seem to be able to work at home when they wish, lower grades are discouraged from working at home when on some days they could quite easily perform their duties there. I’m sure it would make life a lot easier for many staff if they didn't have the stress and cost of commuting into the office when they could do their job just as well from home, without the distractions of the office.

    With the advent of age discrimination legislation, it is becoming increasingly obvious that staff above a certain grade find it easy to stay on part time after retirement age, especially if they have managed to find themselves a job which would probably be done by someone in a junior grade. They inevitably think they are doing a wonderful job.

    As others have previously commented, the promotion process is very time consuming as they try and develop Civil Service competencies as well as their own departmental ones. I have heard of one colleague who spends about half their working time checking the job site, taking part in projects and rewriting their competency examples to fit the next job they are applying for. Meanwhile some of the rest of us are too busy coping with the increasing workload of reduced staff numbers to have time to look at the job site, never mind compose competency examples that get us through the sift. It would also appear that those whose faces fit with senior management, have jobs created with their specific abilities in mind, excluding many others from the competition. The current system appears designed to promote those who can write a good job, rather than do a good job.

    Additionally the online testing that is required for some of the higher grades, also results in the promotion of clones who think the same way, which raises the question of whether this allows for any diversity and original thinking in senior management. The ability of my department to manage change has been highlighted as a failing in all the staff surveys undertaken and one wonders if senior management have any grasp of what their frontline staff have to cope with day to day.

    IT systems have generally become more bureaucratic and time consuming in the last several years. My department introduced a new system a number of years ago with poor training and implementation. When I challenged a senior manager over the matter, they pointed me in the direction of the online guidance, I then wrote back to them pointing out the errors in the guidance and the lack of training for staff, they didn't respond. Another system has now been introduced, which was supposed to have been thoroughly tested, but it has been very cumbersome and time consuming and it is now being redesigned to simplify it. The office that tested it prior to its introduction apparently pointed out many of the problems experienced, but their concerns were ignored.

    Many people have commented on the difficulties with PMR, which has to be one of the most divisive systems ever developed. In over 20 years in the civil service, I never cease to be amazed at how we introduce systems and processes from outside industry, which they have found wanting and stopped using before we even implement them. Others have attached links to articles which describe the failings in this system and the sooner it is dropped then the better for all staff.

  149. Comment by P Doff posted on

    It seems that since the introduction of 'austerity measures' senior managers have introduced two ethoses: "just do it" and "if you don't like it, leave". I recall about 10 years ago a manager was held acountable for bullying after saying the latter. If we want to achieve 'Best in the World' status, surely treating our staff courteously and with respect would be paramount.

    On the subject of achieving Best in the World status, slashing budgets, introducing out of date or not fit for purpose technology, having a support service that only works 9-5 Mon-Fri and a workforce that has been flogged to the point of not really caring or coping anymore doesn't help.

    Still at least I've got a new uniform...again!

  150. Comment by Shain Wells posted on

    I'm torn: there are a lot of things I value about DH (the career break I was able to have, the ability to work flexibly so I can see my son, the good salary that means I can afford to work part-time by making some economies at home (yes, I know I will get shot down for saying that), the fact that my interesting and challenging job actually matters). However, I find it hard to accept that a fair appraisal of my performance can only be made by reference to the performance of my colleagues rather than assessed against my objectives. Fortunately, I had very low expectations of my pay progression when I came back, so the fact that I continue to bounce along the bottom of my pay scale is just something I accept, but I feel very sorry for colleagues who are performing entirely up to the necessary standard but are penalised because someone has to "fail" every year. Continually "failing" the lowest 10% does not drive us to succeed, it makes us anxious, depressed and resentful, which does nothing for our performance...

    I would also say that much of what is good about my current job is down to my manager being committed to supporting me as an individual as well as valuing the work that I do. The fact that every system we have in place is seemingly designed to frustrate her attempts to be a good line manager is a damning indictment of the morons who put them in place and continue to maintain that they are a fair and effective way of managing the most expensive and valuable civil service resource...

    Finally, the way that things generally and development programmes specifically are discussed is very important. I heard about the G6/7 development programme and immediately volunteered, as I want to refresh my skills after 6 years out. I went to the information meeting which was by v/c so both London and Leeds could get the key messages. Amongst the things discussed at the meeting were the "mentors" that DH is identifying. It was clear that these are not people who actually want this role, but poor saps whose senior managers have volunteered them for it, and the person delivering the talk made much of the fact that there were "even" some mentors in Quarry House. Well, lookee here - strip me naked and call me a country cousin! They even have some of them there mentor-type thingies in the cute little village I work in! Yee haw - I'm as happy as a heifer on grazing land!

    This is indicative of how "London-centric" and "HQ-centric" we continue to be in the Civil Service. Language matters, and never more so than when we're already feeling disenfranchised and disadvantaged by not working in one of the "proper" buildings in London. Please try to be particularly aware how management messages might be received by ALL staff, reardless of their location...

  151. Comment by Chris Young DWP posted on

    From my experience within the DWP, I think for the civil service runs a Victorian model of operations and the strategy, this Victorian quote by Ruskin I think applies and shows we are behind the times

    "We want one man to be always thinking, and another to be always working, and we call one a gentleman, and the other an operative; whereas the workman ought often to be thinking, and the thinker often to be working, and both should be gentlemen, in the best sense. As it is, we make both ungentle, the one envying, the other despising, his brother; and the mass of society is made up of morbid thinkers and miserable workers. Now it is only by labour that thought can be made healthy, and only by thought that labour can be made happy, and the two cannot be separated with impunity."

    We should have a rota system between those staff who work back of house or at 'district', which I'm sure still work hard, and front line staff of all grades. All staff need to experience and excel on the front line.

  152. Comment by Diane R posted on

    Several things would speed up Civl Service Reform.

    1. Give us some decent IT. I have a blackberry with nearly all the useful functions disabled. My IT regularly crashes and is slower than anything I have experienced outside of work for at least 10 years. Digital - YES, give us the tools and we'll do the job

    2. Abolish the forced "guided" distribution which means managers are spending four or five times as long undertaking performance management, hours and hours wrangling over who needs to improve. We all know who needs to improve, and all managers are now tackling that which should have been tackled before(in some cases) , but if that isn't 10% we have to find someone else. It's appalling, demoralising and demotivating for staff and managers alike, and what's more important the appraisal system in itself is NOT driving up performance becuase there is too much stick and not enough carrot.

    3. Sort out our pay so we are rewarded properly and our wages keep pace with the cost of living. Undervalued and under rewarded by Government does not lead to good performance and the best people who are young enough are leaving.

    4. Make learning easier to access, in HMRC we have a bizarre method of booking learning ( which is different depending if it is Leadership and Management learning or not), which involves obtaining purchase order numbers and a level of complexity that is a barrier to people obtaining the learning they need.

    So the things that need fixing, in a nutshell, are IT, performance management, pay, and learning.

  153. Comment by DA posted on

    Thank you for the opportunity to comment. Like many others, I also find the working environment has become more difficult in recent years. I do understand the need for efficiencies, but these need to be weighed against the practical and psychological impacts. Many of us feel packed in like battery chickens, surrounded by distraction. Could the hot-desks at least be a little further apart - with more quiet spaces for when we really need to cut out distractions? Many of the most successful and innovative companies understand the link between working environment and productivity and staff retention – something the civil service could bear in mind?

  154. Comment by John posted on

    I first started work for the Civil Service 38 years ago so have seen many changes, some of which are not for the better:
    Performance. We used to audit or inspect offices 'independently', but now allow managers to report on their own performance, making it easier to hide or disguise poor performance. Outstanding work is often disguised or hidden. Measuring performance against targets encourages staff to cut corners and discourages them from taking the time necessary to gather and consider all necessary information before making decisions. In many jobs anything that takes longer than the 'average' time allowed by the target is likely not to be attended to fully and properly, since this will have a negative effect on productivity.
    Reward. We used to compare salaries and benefits against comparable jobs. Now we pay on a 'recruit and retain' policy. The failure of salaries to match inflation, CPI, RPI and every other measure of inflation (as well as the salaries of the original set of 'comparable jobs') results in it being harder to attract the best possible candidates, and in our best staff finding it easier to leave. This leaves many of those who stay feeling discouraged and de-motivated. I'm not alone in saying that when cost of living increases are taken into account I've suffered a net decrease in salary for many years but this has been even more significant since 2008.
    Pensions. For many years the 'non-contributory' pension was cited as a reason for civil service staff being paid lower than the going rate for comparable jobs. We now contribute towards our pensions and the contributions taken from us (in my case anyway) exceed the pay rises that have been awarded in the last 5 years. I'm now almost within 5 years of my pension age and the deterioration of purchasing in my salary over the next 5 years will seriously affect the purchasing power of the pension I draw for the rest of my life (as it already has over the last 5 years). Believe it or not, as an EO on the maximum of my salary in DWP I'm only marginally better off than I would be on benefits. Having given many years of what I consider to be loyal service I'm now forced to look at vacancies with a view to leaving. Even jobs on short term contracts seem attractive because, even if they fall through, I'm not likely to be much worse off, but could be significantly better off. I know many who feel disgruntled at never having progressed up the 'pay scale' they were promised they'd progress through after appointment or promotion.
    I fear the reforms will only take account of the negative impacts of reducing salaries and erosion of employee benefits on morale, job satisfaction and performance once significant numbers of existing staff leave.

  155. Comment by Philip posted on

    Is anyone in any place to do anything going to take any real notice of the very pertinent comments left on this site? Is this just another tick box exercise?

  156. Comment by Myles Tagoyet posted on

    With our terms and conditions continuing to be eroded, having to do more work with fewer staff, a long hours culture seemingly being expected, an IT system that continues to creak the “make do and mend” attitude that has long kept the CS and the Military going is now wearing thin. Bullying and Harassment is now becoming the norm/condoned by senior management inaction (submitted a formal case over a month ago & no acknowledgement of it – LM continues to ignore the laid down process)
    This is no longer the CS that we joined, alas after 25 years loyal service with a number of jobs I have loved – I no longer look forward to coming into work to do a days “graft” I’m looking for better offers and to take my years of experience elsewhere , Industry and Consultancy beckon, I hear their call!

    You don't have long to turn this decline around, act decisively and act fast - foor the good of the country.

  157. Comment by Steve L posted on

    My career is almost over,
    When I first started there was a 1.5% deduction from salary for widows and orphans pension, not 7% as today. Proper day release could be had by new entrants leading to external professsional qualifications, recognised across your industry sector. Staff seniority lists gave at least a degree of a fair pool of people for any promotion vacancies and it was transparent to see how people moved throught the ranks. The staff reporting process was linked to getting fitted for promotion markings; not the enforced distribution system that is a game of roulette for staff of similar abilities now. - Above all treat people fairly, individuals can do little to advance their career with the current system.
    Today people are parked waiting for the next round of reviews and reduction in staff numbers, be fair and cascade work down the ranks according to ability, and if there is a weakness in staff then coach them, give all new entrants and young staff a fair chance to develop professional traits.


  158. Comment by Mike posted on

    I believe that all civil servants are proud of the work they do and are aware that change is important. There have been huge changes in the way we work over the last 10-15 years and staff in the main have always embraced these changes in a positive manner. Julia hit the nail on the head the problem is that we now have managers who no longer fully understand the work that we do and are not therefore informed enough to implement the changes in an effective manner. Without the necessary consultation with the staff that do the work these changes have resulted in unnecessary pressures being put upon those very people that should have been consulted.
    Phrases are often used to describe civil servants by senior figures as highly skilled and highly valued but we now have a pay freeze, an incremental freeze, increased pension payments, office closures, job losses, privatisation, and changes in terms, conditions and working practices which fundamentally demoralise and demotivate civil servants and still more reforms are in the pipeline. As has already been said none of these reforms will be for the benefit of the staff that are on the frontline.
    We have become a target driven organisation top heavy with senior managers and directors whose main aim is to improve performance and reduce costs. This will not necessarily improve the level of the service we provide to the public but will I am sure make us feel even less valued than we currently are and provide less job satisfaction than we all desire.
    If you are looking to reform the Civil Service then may I suggest you start by giving the staff a decent pay rise and pay them the increments they are due.

  159. Comment by Aras posted on

    More opportunities for a bespoke career framework for personnel that have subject matter expertise as opposed to generic career progression opportunities that are at best demotivatating and also prevent corporate knowledge be used appropriately due to the churn in staff.

  160. Comment by Bob posted on

    With regards to my Senior Management (Band B, equivalent Ranks and above), my trust in them as well as my respect for them is currently at an all time low - with the occasional but increasingly rare exception.

    I am sick to the back teeth with trying to make a positive and constructive difference, only to be thwarted again and again by those above me who's only desire is to protect their Ivory Towers.

    As a priority therefore please deal with these double standards. Maybe then we as a combined Service can start to communicate more effectively to make a more effective difference for exploitation by our Government.

    To coin a phrase, there should be no need to "Do as I say"; one should be able to simply "Do as I do".

    Leadership by Example.

  161. Comment by Sally posted on

    I have been in the Civil Service less than 5 years, previous to this I worked for BT for over 20 years. I thought, wrongly, that the Civil Service would be a fair employer with structured pay increments and progression. I am appalled by the comparisons to the Private Sector and that Civil Servants receive a better level of pay - this is totally incorrect. There should be standard pay and conditions across the Civil Service, currently this is not so. DWP employees are the worst paid Civil Servants in the service why is that so?

  162. Comment by Leslie posted on

    End the ban on external recruitment. I have been temping in the civil service for the last 3 years. I am committed to working in government but have been unable to apply for permanent roles. It has been really hard and is a problem every 3-6 months when I get bumped out of my job whilst permanent workers' rights are protected.

    • Replies to Leslie>

      Comment by Peter posted on

      Too true. The vast majority of the staff under the age of about 40 in this office seem to be temps (and the number is falling as we all look for permanent employment which the CS refuses to offer). The Civil Service doesn't have much of a future if it refuses to treat younger workers as members of staff rather than disposable minions.

      Even better, the temps in this department are only here because of staff cuts - permanent staff were got rid of, the remaining numbers couldn't handle the volume of work so in come the temps to hold the breach. Why not just bite the bullet and hire the staff you need rather than carving away the meat of a department under the guise of 'trimming the fat' then having to fill the gaps with expensive temps?

      I'm sure that the agencies are happy with the way things are being run - they should be given how much money they're making off us but nobody else is benefiting.

  163. Comment by Diane Reddell posted on


    Better capability for customers to contact an an advisor on-line 24 hours a day for job help and benefit queries. Contact centre's have limited hours and the phone calls can be expensive for customers as most customers only have mobiles and they are on an extremely limited budget. New claims to be made via smartphone/ipads etc. Twitter and facebook sites for employers to directly post vacancies. On-line complaints/compliment board for customers. Champion disability rights with employers to remove the stigma of recruiting people with disabilities. This includes a smoother transition into work using Access to Work, a pre-application assessment when the customer is claiming benefits would be beneficial.


    All staff to to have a clear development path to progress up the grade 7 within 5-10 years which includes private sector and charity working. PDP to include training and people engagement activities. Develop reward and recognition to include 1 day flexi credits for high quality work and 100% attendance. Staff to have a 2 hour flexi credit for their birthday and for their xmas party. Staff to choose their religious holiday time off based on their religion. Staff to be given 30 minutes per month for people engagement activities. Make more of Special Study Leave and include it in the PDP if the staff presents a good business case for it. Many staff have skills which are not currently being utilised. A skills pool should be set up and staff can join projects on detached duty from the skills pool. Offer research work to employees of all grades so they could maybe with assistance gain a PhD or other higher qualification which will benefit the organisation. Improvements to the Fast Stream application process could also be implemented. Ideas for improvements are shown on

    • Replies to Diane Reddell>

      Comment by Dave S posted on

      24 hour a day online benefit enquiries? The Pension centre stopped opening til 8pm since nobody was ringing them after 6pm. Do we really want to pay people to monitor twitter from 8pm to 8am? They might get a few enquiries just after midnight from people at cash tills wanting to know why their benefit didn't credit at 00:01 but otherwise its a complete waste of resources. On the positive side I can see the appeal for staff who want to build up some flexi....

  164. Comment by Simon posted on

    I work in IT, and far from putting effort into delivering better services for end users (both internal and external) and becoming more flexible and responsive, we are becoming ever more rigidly bound by heavy weight Process (with a capital P). It seems to be more important to follow Process then to resolve faults or to deliver good quality systems. Rather than being a tool to help us develop and deliver IT systems, Process has become a major part of what we do. This rigidity is not confined to delivery, but includes even the staff reporting system. People are being told that they are in the "improvement needed" category because they have not filled in the staff reporting form satisfactorily -- I repeat, because they have not filled in the staff reporting form satisfactorily. The quality and quantity of their work is not questioned; it can be (and is) good, outstanding or even exemplary, but that counts for nothing --- they didn't fill in their staff report to the satisfaction of their H.R. manager (because they spent their time delivering for end users rather than blowing their own trumpet), so they get an "improvement needed". Absurd. For years now it has been an uphill struggle to deliver anything and get the job done in the face of the increasing number and size of the obstacles put in our, but it seems that now staff are actively penalised for it. Could you remind me again, what is the purpose of the Department? I didn’t think it was to produce well authored staff reports.

    • Replies to Simon>

      Comment by another_chris posted on

      My experience exactly! I also work in IT (having moved into the Civil Service from the private sector), and I have never worked in an environment where it was deliberately made so hard to get anything done. The Process is everything: so long as we have enough meetings and tick enough boxes, people seem to think they've achieved something, rather than simply indulging in endless displacement activity and ignoring the real tasks/problems. When the project (inevitably) runs into the sand, everybody shakes their head and reassures themselves that at least we all followed the Process, and next time around we are forced to follow the same Process with the same results.

      On a day-to-day basis, too many people seem to feel that the minimum unit of time in which to complete a task is the day or week, a situation made worse by the crippling weight of all that Process, and we also suffer from bottle-necks where the only person who knows how to do something only works part-time, so a task that should take an hour or two can easily take a week or two to complete. No private sector organisation could afford this level of bureaucracy and time-wasting inefficiency. We all complain about customer service from banks or companies like BT, but imagine how we'd complain if they routinely responded at such a glacial pace.

      Technical skills are often thin on the ground and are frequently undervalued, as the generic competency framework places little value on specific technical competence. Key technical roles may be allocated to certain grades, rather than to the people with the right technical skills. Civil Service Learning is completely irrelevant in terms of developing our technical skills, as their courses are typically 5-10 years out of date, and based on a very limited set of often outdated technologies.

      I am all too aware that my own technical skills are largely irrelevant to my miniscule prospects for career progression, and my pay will never reflect my prior experience or any efforts I make on my own behalf to develop my skills in my own time. If I want to climb the greasy pole, I need to invest my time in ticking Civil Service competency boxes, which just might help my grade and pay progression but will make no difference my ability to actually get the job done.

      So all this tinkering around with performance assessment, demotivating people further by cutting their pay/pensions in real terms, endless initiatives and consultations over "reform", and launching a few shallow websites (hello, GDS) will do nothing to address these deep-seated systemic problems. As with the rest of our Processes, these "reforms" seem like yet another pointless ritual rather than any real attempt to deal with the underlying problems.

  165. Comment by James posted on

    It annoys me that I'm four years into my Civil Service career (I'm 21 now) and I feel like I've hit the 'glass ceiling' already.

    There's no opportunity in my department, and opportunities in other departments get given to their own staff (rightly or wrongly) who have been starved of chances. My 'experience' in the Civil Service really means nothing outside of the Civil Service, so now I'm 'stuck' in my position.

    The disconnect between myself and the Department for Work and Pensions is growing every day, and I now know I'm not the only one. We're feeding off scraps.

    • Replies to James>

      Comment by Ayath Ullah posted on

      Hi James,
      After a successfull pilot with the first 100 candidates, the Civil Service has now opened applications for it's second cohort offering 200 places this year.
      More info here:

      You must be:

      a non-graduate
      have 5 GCSEs, grades A* to C including English language and maths
      aged between 18 and 21 on 31 August 2014
      be able to start in September 2014

      Ayath (HMRC)

  166. Comment by dward posted on

    How can you "make Reform a positive reality"? Every item in it is negative. To make it a "positive reality" you have to do something that staff will like. Stop being so disingenuous.

  167. Comment by Willa posted on


    Senior leadership should put some thought on exactly how civil servants should be incentivised to carry out their work to the best of their ability. Unlike private industry, the civil service is not motivated by profit and civil servants are also on the whole motivated by providing a service to the public.

    It would however, be unrealistic to believe that this motivation is untouched by commercial concerns. The recent focus on cost-savings has affected the morale of civil servants, aside from any personal financial concerns; it has subtly shifted the emphasis from providing the best service possible to providing the service possible in line with new cost directions.

    Teams should not be worried that because they have provided an exemplary service on a tight budget, they might prove that they actually need less resource in the next year. This unsustainable and does not incentivise individuals to perform at a higher than baseline standard. This is not a question of personal remuneration but of future proofing services.

    There should be some initiative to make certain that the performance measurement criteria reflect increased efficiency and not simply amputation of services. This should include a review of how performance measuring criteria are applied, to make sure that they measure efficiency and not just cost cutting. This would better ensure that cuts are applied as is appropriate and not just as is expedient in the short term.

  168. Comment by C Thomson posted on

    Sir Bob,

    Its good to see you replying to some of the comments posted.

    I and I am sure many would appreciate a reply from yourself with regard to:
    Static pay progression, pension increase and terms & conditions (specifically upon promotion now)
    An acknowledgement of these prominent concerns at least, one caveat no spin.

    Look forward to your reply


  169. Comment by James posted on

    I applied for one of the fast streams in 2013 but failed at the online test stage. I completed maths and verbal reasoning tests and a competency questionnaire only to receive a bland "You have not been successful" notification.

    As someone that has always performed above my pay grade and still keen to develop further, I am frustrated by the utter lack of feedback provided by recruitment processes across the civil service (not just fast stream). Did I fail because I got a low score? Did I say something in my competency questionnaire that counted against me? Does the Civil Service favour people who overhype their abilities like contestants from The Apprentice?

    If the Civil Service can't spend a few minutes telling applicants where we need to improve, how do you expect skilled people to advance, other than through sheer luck?

  170. Comment by Duncan posted on

    I wonder what private company the goverment have based there framwork on? Certainly not on one that values its staff, promotes individuality, rewards success, has promotional opportunities and is prosperous but one that asset strips, devalues and eventually closes.
    It feels to me that the Civil Servants are paying on there own for the failings of the banks and central government.
    I am the only one i know, except for my colleagues who have not had a pay rise in 8yrs, have not been promoted in 14yrs have no bonus system or paid for christmas parties.
    We have had to learn new ways of working and encouraged to learn but for what? when there are no promotional prospects? You attend interviews and the chances of getting any feedback is minimal, if you do you wonder whether you where at the same one? You know someone has already been ear marked.
    I wish my fellow Civil Servants good luck with job hunting because we may be up against each other lol
    Good luck to the Civil service because those that don't leave will be the ones we've all been carrying and no doubt will be promoted.
    Somethings never Change.

  171. Comment by Ian posted on

    With all the pressures on staff it's important that we feel that our contribution is valued. The most obvious way for this, especially in the current climate is financially. With the 1% pay increase largely offset by our normal deductions for tax etc & the pending additional pension increase as a rough guide for myself & other band C staff my net pay increase will be around £4 a month. For someone over 25 on the basic JSA they will get just over £3 extra - effectively we are valued at a mere £1 more than someone on benefits. In fact some people on benefits will get a bigger increase than that given to staff. Are we likely to see some sort of increase in pay at some future stage?

  172. Comment by Linda posted on

    I am concerned that HMRC have decided to move the National Duty Repayment centre up to Salford. HMRC already has the knowledge and expertise based in Dover. Why change something that isn't broken and just recruit more staff in the office where staff have not been replaced when they have left. Moving the NDRC to the north will cause a massive waste of money to the department, a loss of expertise, which will also cause charter standards to fail abismally, and people not to receive their refunds and loyal, hardworking staff who are already in the NDRC to lose their jobs and not be able to support their families. It's a very bad move all round. The final insult would be to announce that we're all redundant and at the same to be expected to train staff from Manchester to do our job!

  173. Comment by mr ed posted on

    I passed twice before the competence questionnaire got to final interview using normal application process. Then in 2012 I did the guaranteed interview and got now where and was told was failed on the competence questionnaire.

    I asked for feed back and was refused. I also asked for how the marks are adjusted for guaranteed interview, you skip the verbal reasoning and maths test things I had always passed anyway, for example the questionnaire a screener, with minimum mark before moving to next level or is it a combined score of the 3 tests used and if guaranteed interview just the competence test, used to compile the average.

    FastStream are not open and transparent refused to give feedback or how the test score is adjusted for guaranteed interview.

    They won’t give feedback on competence questionnaire. I asked for this and was told that it would give an unfair advantage. However if was an exam a project at university or something else feedback would given as understanding the process would not be a secret.

    It’s only a secrete as is used a key, as not overly scientific. Use regressive analysis to look for patterns or attributes depend on the size of groups what choose to measure. Signal and noise for example if took 100 successful business people you may find that the most common shoe size is 10, or hair colour brown or choice of car Audi. However some of this may just be noise, may be little causation between shoe size or hair colour even if some correlation. With car choice may be feedback.

    There could be group’s characteristics etiquette social groups that would also have to strip out. For example with overrepresentation of Oxbridge,
    It may be the way someone acts is related to background, if the normal default way of addressing a scenario the polite way is considered response 1. Then if did regressive analysis may find more successful people have this behaviour.

    However the success may not come from this, it may be the connection from privileged back ground that overepsented in Oxbridge.

    If asked people if they worse straw hats at school may find correlation with success in life, yet is it the straw hat probably not etc. The same can be with correct etiquette scrip response for different scenarios.

    It’s what choose to measure quite subjective and avoid noise. I suppose a big data approach measure a lot and not worry so much. But this is not a big data this is crude.

    It could be argued that scientific method may be to extent just not very good. Like scientific methods banks use to risk assess still scientific even if bad by choice of what measures can be subjective an miss things that are harder to measure less accessible.

    With the FastStream lack of openness of method, in exams don’t hide method its not secrete. Feedback would be offered the method the criteria is not hidden.

    The reason they wont give feedback is because its possibly because its being used as key rather than a proper test like a maths test where method no secret. Instead of a test it’s being used as password to an extent.

    In normal jobs all sort of arbitrary criteria that seem to used a key to under mine competition. The FastStream has a large overrepresentation of Oxbridge privileged backgrounds, its still in the 1980s in this respect the best private schemes more diverse. As look at Oxbridge as indicator as a lose way to measure diversity the higher the Oxbridge, the lower diversity possibly the less merit etc. As Oxbridge has a high hereditary element alumni only funding that has effect of being discriminatory.

    The civil service still used approach interviews even in 90s, far from competition recruiters would approach people at “top” universities. Still uncompetitive culture is ingrained. There is entitlement culture of Whitehall.

  174. Comment by Duncan posted on

    I tell my Children.
    ' It is easier to distroy than Create '
    Not very creative are we now?

  175. Comment by Bob posted on

    It is interesting (but not surprising) that in the year the Civil Service implements a new performance management system that the following is true of Perm Sec objectives in 2013/14

    Eight lacked timebound measures for 30% or more of their objectives in 2013/14, the same as in 2012/13 -

    See more at:

  176. Comment by Liz Worthington posted on

    I am somewhat reluctantly leaving DWP on the Voluntary Exit Scheme. I say "reluctantly" because there are quite a few years left before I can consider retirement. My CS Pension is far from the pot of gold depicted in the media. Throughout my time in the DWP my reports have been good or excellent, my knowlege is broad and my skills are always commented upon favourably. Despite my long service somehow I have managed to remain interested, adaptable and motivated but this has become harder and harder in the past couple of years. Whatever all the rhetoric says treatment of staff and customers is now appalling. Ordinary working folk find themselves unable to get basic information on benefit rules. They make simple mistakes in their claims and do not report changes of circumstances because they are often confused. Vulnerable customers are struggling to get the help they need and often end up in dangerous circumstances because they are unable to comply with what is expected of them. Staff are frustrated by not having the time or the freedom within the system to offer a satisfactory level of service. There is a loss to public funds because claims are processed by non technical, poorly trained and supported staff on a "Faster, faster" basis. As long as each section can say it has achieved higher numbers with less staff then all is reported to be working well. There is little regard to the cost of the errors when they come to light. That cost is not just monetary. What about the customer who, having a lifetime of work behind him, has to claim Employment Support Allowance because he has a career ending illness? He goes to the website to claim because he cannot speak to an actual person anymore. The information may be on the site and the right questions may be asked but he is not told about, or does not take in, the need to report it when his Occupational Pension begins to be paid several months later. The shock and dismay he experiences when told he has been overpaid a lot of benefit is sad to see. Often we find he has reported this but the Processing Centres are so overburdened with work that the change is not input. Sometimes work is moved from site to site in an effort to find spare capacity. Work practices differ so valuable information is lost or ovelooked.Recently my team found out that the Overpayment decisions we had been waiting on for several months had not reached the Central Recovery Team because, due to staff shortages, that work had been outsourced to another Benefit Centre. Decision Makers at the new site made their decisions then sent everything to filing instead of for Overpayment Recovery!!! You could not make it up!!! Every day there is another debacle like this but still senior management are told everything is wonderful, stats are changed and excuses are made. Why? Because there is a culture of fear. If you do not tell a Minister or a senior manager what they want to hear you will be sidelined in favour of someone who will. This has to stop. It is not cost effective or humane. The human brain is a truly amazing tool but DWP seems to constantly strive to replace it with mechanisms that can never reach it's performance. I could meet a new customer, fill in a claim form, ask for any proof needed to support their claim, anticipate future changes and advise on them, give advice on the rules for the benefit, signpost them to another possibly more approprite benefit, explain their Work related responsibilities and obtain their signed statement in under an hour. Since it is harder to lie face to face the incidence of fraud would decline. Customer mistakes would be far less. I could also input that claim and set up payment in another 15 -20 minutes. It would be quick because I was already familiar with the circumstances. Today's staff cannot do this. They do not have the benefit knowlege or the technical training. This is a complete waste of good human brains. Why do we recruit decent people only to squander most of their ingenuity on producing ticks in boxes and stats rather than real work? We must get back to local offices doing all the work locally, utilising local knowlege and understanding their customers good and bad. That way we have flexible staff able to cover for absences and produce a true "Joined up Service".
    I am taking my expertise elsewhere. DWP will be able to say they saved my wage, and that of others like me, but what will the cost of the loss of experience be in the long run? I will never know but I can guess.

  177. Comment by Toby posted on

    Maybe I'm too late to have my say but I'll try anyway.

    I wanted to echo some of the comments made above specifically around how personal promotion and development feed into civil service reform. I know I won't make many friends saying this but most of the negative comments (above) in regards to civil service reform begin with, "I've been a civil servant for 25/27/30 years". They proceed to state how it has never been so bad.

    Personally I worked in the private sector for just short of 20 years, including 8 years running my own business. I wholeheartedly believe the civil service is a good employer - the flexibility afforded to me (I have two young children) and the pension (far better than anything in the private sector despite the changes) being just a couple of examples.

    In 2010 I was one of 42 chosen from 3500 internal and external applicants to be part of an operational talent programme in DWP. The programme has since completed and I find myself applying for positions, predominantly at SEO or G7. At this point the fact that each team I have managed has seen an increase in their staff engagement score, a fall in sick days, increased productivity and exceeding all targets set bears no relevance. All that matters is whether I can write a competency example that ticks all the boxes of the reader and "play the game" successfully.

    I do have confidence in many of our senior leaders, I've been lucky enough to speak to many of them. They have excellent ideas but unfortunately these rarely make it down the line as there are many SEOs/G7s who have worked for the department 20-30 years and don't buy into the reforms. How can reforms be achieved if the managers implementing them don't buy in? They need to be creating environments for staff to succeed rather than environments where staff are always looking over their shoulders.

  178. Comment by Howard posted on

    What is the point of having line management for PMR and promotions? In this awful PMR system you have to evidence how good you are at your job otherwise you are bound to be dumped into the improvement needed ranking. I deliberately use the words ranking over marking as that is all the system is. You basically write your own PMR and gather your own evidence. Surely if line management is worth its salt they know how well or poorly you are doing the job otherwise why are all the reviews built into the system? As the PMR seems to count for little more than the pay ranking system why have such a convoluted procedure?

    Also has been pointed out in several well described articles above the appointments system is a bit of a lottery. Like the PMR system it is likely to suit extroverts and penalise introverts. Perhaps we should all have sales reps training? For promotions and the PMR system we basically have to sell ourselves no matter how well you can do the job. Surely line management should be of more value in these systems and if not why do we have so many managers throughout the Civil Service?

  179. Comment by Neil posted on

    Mod Corsham is a modern working environment but the building is so badly designed it's making people ill due to the lack of oxygen. The the hot desking has turned into a them and us turf war where the losers are left wandering around like refugees, and dont mention the parking problems, the shortage of lockers, the leaking windows, the block booking of meeting rooms, the heating and cooling fans fighting each other all the time, the meeting rooms like freezers, the automatic windows that open so the whole building turns into a wind tunnel, the slippery flooring...

  180. Comment by Dan Donnelly posted on

    I have worked in the Civil Service previously. Seriously, not much has changed except that we do our own typing now. In common with the NHS & education, there are too many CS reform initiatives, from transient senior managers, instigated before the previous ones are ever evaluated. While the CS professes to value/utilise existing skills & experience, I worked for 9 years when rejoining the CS, just to reach the junior grade I joined at in my youth. Appropriate degree, language skills, government & industry experience, all disregarded. We are encouraged to raise issues with management, only to be ignored. Constructive criticism is unwelcome, regarded as interfering or troublemaking. At least the ‘credit crunch’ brought some reality, but having lost experienced staff through voluntary schemes, at considerable expense, old habits are creeping back – recruitment, re-employment, consultants, temporary promotion, operational staff being office-based on shift allowances etc. Nepotism, cronyism & favouritism are rife. IT systems are unwieldy, only use large conglomerates, and performance indicators seemingly rarely enforced. Unsurprising when most of the senior managers are the same ones who prevailed over the previous scenario? Culture takes a long time to change (large companies are not immune either). A coherent, long-term strategy needs to begin from the time of induction, led by senior, charismatic mangers eg Roger de Haan when he owned Saga. Common sense, practicality, administration & relationship skills are to be valued. Those without, should not be ignored, passed on to someone else or put on long-term sick, but the problems addressed. Arthur Dent

  181. Comment by Graham posted on

    Please, please, please sort out the lamentable IT that afflicts the MoD.

  182. Comment by Roger Palmer posted on

    LEAN, PMR and other reforms do little or nothing to improve the service provided, while lowering morale to ever-decreasing levels. Sir Bob is forever telling us how much we are valued and what great work we do, so how about trusting us to carry on with that work, without burdening us with nonsensical surveys, courses and e-learning.I, and most Band F staff in my workplace, have not had a pay award for 3,or is it 4 years, even though the pay-freeze is now apparently history, and all I can look forward to is evermore mountains of rubbish to climb. I love my job, and am very good at it, but am seriously concerned that I will NEED IMPROVEMENT because I am unable to distinguish 'successes' from simply doing my job! Just let us get on with it, and let the suits at Rose Court try and justify their inflated salaries by actually doing something worthwhile.

  183. Comment by Martin Connaghan posted on

    Hi Bob,

    Not sure if your meeting has now taken place. If not, I just firstly want to share I think the 5 days Learning and Development is a great policy recently introduced as part of CS Reform. It is important to sustain it and properly embed it in years ahead.

    I won't labour the point about IT-I know much is planned in future and I hope in time the technology and equipment we introduce matches what many of us have come use to working with in our daily lives outside work.I will say HMRC's introduction of the 03000 handsets and technology was an example of how we can make the day job so much easier. For those that need mobiles, I would like to see us all on 'smartphones' if possible irrespective of grade-hopefully we can get a contract that makes that a reality in not too distance future.

    I do know one of the areas were we hope continue to share services is through rationalising HR. That makes perfect sense, but I will stress there is only so much that can be shared. And I sincerely hope we manage to maintain some HR expertise in each Dept., particulary the larger one's. HR throws up some unique and challenging issues, we can't afford to lose all our expertise and experience out there. The idea that people managers, can also deal with much of the HR, does not always stand up under close scrutiny. So let's ensure our people managers continue to get proper HR support as and when needed.

    Finally, what makes the Civil Service great is the people who work here. You and our respective Permanent Secretaries really need to look out for each and every one of us. Pay, pensions and our terms and conditions need properly protected. The public sector does so much good for society, we should never ever lose sight of that, and I think everybody can rise to the challenges ahead.

    Best wishes in coming year, and years ahead.

  184. Comment by Nicky Hobby posted on

    I am almost definitely too late with this but I thought I would post it anyway on the off chance it gets picked up still!
    I am currently working as part of a team on the Civil Service Academy Programme. I have mixed views on how this is going, however, I think the concept is great and I have benefited so much from spending time with colleagues across the civil service that I never would have met and from finding out more about their departments. This however has bought to the fore the vast differences between departments and lack of communication between departments. Our concept to take forward was around creating a site that would help connect civil servants, linking skills and connecting people to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and experience. We viewed this as a chance for people of all grades across the civil service to have a communication platform that would aid the development of talent and progression. However this seems to be a difficult route to go down and we are now left exploring the route of Linked In. In itself this should be relatively straight forward but different departments have different views and policies on this making it a bit of a minefield.
    Therefore the biggest issue to reform for me, seems to be on how the differences in structure, management, policy and day to day working practices are pulled in sync to create ONE civil service? As an example, when we tried to pull together a list of which grades we all were and how our department's grades worked, we were confronted with 5 different grade systems. Something as simple as this can cause massive problems if you are trying to link people of similar grades or connect people with someone one grade up. As a team of cross departmental colleagues, we are passionate about seeing this civil service become one civil service and I would like to know how this is being practically facilitated.
    Many thanks

  185. Comment by Phil posted on

    DWP Summer School is a remarkable programme and an excellent example of how to get Staff at all grades to work collaboratively and focus on the bigger picture.

    I see value in exploring how we could make this well established programme a Cross Departmental Opportunity.

    One Summer School Programme for all Civil Servants.

    Rather than separated similar schemes, we need to ensure our development programmes are much more overarching than they currently are.

  186. Comment by Steve B posted on

    Has anyone noticed that Sir Bob only answers the easy questions raised here and then only gives a pre-scripted response? Where are the replies concerning our dreadful pay, erosion of terms & conditions, PMR, increased pension contributions, job losses, office closures, privatisation...the list goes on.

    If other departments are anything like HMRC then issues such as job losses are communicated as casully as ordering a pizza..I'll have two pepperoni and a side order of 11,000 job cuts. No cuts to senior management, of course. I hope one day they create a digital ExCom so they will know what it feels like to have an axe hanging over their heads for months on end.

  187. Comment by Mike O'Neill posted on

    I'm not overly familiar with the inner workings of talent management in the civil service but from a cursory inspection of the verbiage, I'm perhaps a little unsettled.

    Once upon a time, long ago, I knew someone who was funny and talented. But they were shy. Those that knew them and who had witnessed and enjoyed the fruits of this talent felt strongly that they should overcome this shyness so that the world could see and enjoy those same fruits. And so they 'helped' this shy person by putting them up for an audition without their knowledge. And they didn't let their target chicken out. And it all worked out great, and that persons confidence grew by a measure in consequence. The key point though was that they had to be encouraged forward by many around them, as they would not have made any move on their own. In fact, it is very often a characteristic (not to say axiomatic) of talented people that they chronically lack self-confidence/assurance.

    The stuff I've read in relation CS intitiatives feels at times like it has a bit too much of the 'karaoke night' about it: those with well schooled self-assurance may all too easily get hold of the microphone ahead of those more shy yet with more to offer. Can you tell me please what is being done to try and stop that from happening.

    Also, talent is not necessarily well rounded. A brilliant surgeon may be an impossibly bad manager, but which of these is it that you consider more important they should be in order to excel in a key role. How is this aspect of talent to be handled in the thing that is CS talent management.

    Finally, the talent the world tomorrow will want may very easily not be recognised by those sent out to scout for talent today. We've all heard the stories about the record companies that turned away The Rolling Stones, The Beatles etc. etc. How does our strategy adress those risks?

    When all is said and done, it is Cinderalla we should like see go to the ball n'est-ce pas?