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Changing up and paying down: the Civil Service People Survey 2015 continued

Continuing our analysis of the Civil Service People Survey, the UK’s largest employee attitude survey, Ollie Hirst examines in more detail the attitudes of Whitehall staff towards organisational change, and pay.

The 2015 Civil Service People Survey was conducted across 96 government organisations from 1 to 31 October. Overall 279,653 civil servants took part in the survey, representing a median response rate of 75% across organisations. The survey consists of 62 questions across ten themes, including what civil servants think of their team, their manager, pay and benefits, and leadership and managing change within their organisation. Full methodological details can be found here.

Whitehall Monitor has already looked at the overall picture from the People Survey and asked how innovative Whitehall is. Here we highlight a further three findings from the Survey.

The Treasury scores highest across eight of the 10 themes, including leadership and inclusion.

Each of the ten themes in the survey consists of a number of questions; the headline score for each theme is the percentage of civil servants agreeing or strongly agreeing with each of the questions under that theme. The engagement index is a weighted average of the five engagement questions. The Treasury is the top-scoring department on ‘My team’, ‘Inclusion and fair treatment,’ ‘My work,’ ‘Resources and workload,’ ‘My manager,’ ‘Learning and development’ and ‘Leadership and managing change,’ as well as the overall engagement index. HMRC is the lowest-scoring department on six of the 10 themes, including pay and benefits, resources and workload, and leadership and managing change.

The widest range of scores is on the theme of leadership and managing change, with a 34-percentage point difference between the lowest-scoring departments (HMRC and MoD, 30%) and the highest-scoring (HMT, 64%).

Around half of Treasury staff think that changes in their department are usually for the better, compared to only 14% in Defra.

Belief that organisational changes are being made for the better has risen in most departments since 2010, but in no department do more than half of staff agree this is the case. Since 2013 the Treasury has overtaken FCO as the department with the largest proportion of staff believing that changes are made for the better; this score has continued to improve, to 48% in 2015. At the other end of the spectrum, MoD and Defra are the departments with the lowest scores on this question: only 15% and 14% of their staff, respectively, consider that changes within their departments are generally improvements.

The greatest increase has been in DCMS, which has risen from a low of 12% in 2012 to 39% in the latest People Survey. DCLG has seen a similar trend, from 10% in 2009 to 31% in 2015 (although this is a decrease from 37% in 2014). These dips in faith in the ability of the department to make changes for the better largely correspond with actual or threatened rounds of redundancy: DCLG’s front-loaded headcount reductions at the start of the Parliament; and DCMS’s non-Senior Civil Service staff, at risk of redundancy after the 2012 Olympics.

Only a quarter of civil servants feel that their pay is reasonable compared to people doing a similar job in other organisations.

In 2015, 25% of the Civil Service are satisfied with their pay in comparison to the earnings of similar employees in other organisations; this is down from a third (33%) in 2009.

Civil servants in DfE are most likely to feel that their pay is reasonable compared to that of equivalent posts in other organisations, although this figure is still significantly less than half (39%). Treasury staff are least happy about their pay in relation to that earned by people in comparable positions in similar organisations, with a score of only 15% on this question (a nine percentage point drop since 2009). This may be correlated with the kind of private sector employees that Treasury staff come into contact with and have broadly similar responsibilities or skill sets to, such as those in the high-paid banking and finance professions.

Defra and DH have experienced the largest decreases in satisfaction with pay compared to similar jobs, dropping from 45% in 2009 in each case, to 23% and 28% respectively in 2015.

This is one of three questions that forms part of the ‘pay and benefits’ theme, the lowest scoring theme across the Civil Service as a whole (as we saw in one of our previous posts.) With changes to the redundancy terms being planned, we will have to wait until the 2016 survey results to see if that has left civil servants even more dissatisfied with their pay and benefits package.

Abbreviations for government departments can be found here.

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