We all know that happiness breeds success. From your children, to your local sports team, to the man behind the counter at the coffee shop, the results will always be better when every member of the family/team/organisation is pleased to be where they are. But the question is, where does this contentment come from? From recognition for work well done and good relations with colleagues undoubtedly, but also, I believe, from the knowledge that people are listening to you. Knowing that your feedback and input are treated with respect and genuine interest, and that what you say about your organisation contributes to its future.
I have seen this throughout my career. In the best teams I have worked in everyone had a voice and saw change happen as a result of their involvement. In my role as Head of the Civil Service this continues to be highly relevant as we go through a period of significant change. It is particularly important that as we implement the Civil Service Reform everyone has a chance to have their say. One of the methods we are using to achieve this “listening and acting” is through the People Survey 2012. This is the fourth year that the survey has run and I hope that participation will be as high as it has been in past years. There are some great examples of using the results to make the Civil Service a place we can all enjoy working in. There are two I’d like to draw on in more detail, one from UK Border Agency (UKBA) and one from the Department for International Development (DfID).
The UKBA regional office for the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber saw a 9 percentage point increase in their engagement index between 2010 and 2011 – a great improvement, but how did they manage it? Amongst other things they improved communication of policy changes, holding “whole floor” meetings with senior managers present so that staff could ask questions at an early stage, and Deputy Directors held open “surgeries” to allow staff to bring news ideas directly from the business. They have continued this work by using the 2011 results as the basis for their engagement plan, so fingers crossed for this year’s results.
DfID have made a radical change to their SCS recruitment to test candidates’ abilities to be an engaging manager and listen to their staff. They have introduced into the SCS recruitment process a 30 minute exercise where the candidate takes part in a role play with a group of staff from across the organisation looking at a set of recent People Survey results. The role play is designed as a meeting between a Deputy Director and their ‘new’ team. The candidate is expected to explore the results with the group to understand the key issues and then work with the group to develop ideas. The results from this exercise is assessed equally with the other elements of the recruitment process, so passing this assessment is just as important as passing an interview or written exercise.
But feedback isn’t just an annual process. For example, the cross-Civil Service Tell Us How programme invited views on Civil Service Reform earlier this year which helped to inform the Plan. Many of you also gave us your thoughts on the Plan itself at Civil Service Live Tell Us How zone. These and other views we seek in the future will help inform the next stage of reform.
As I mentioned before, recognition is also an important ingredient for a productive workplace. That is why I am so looking forward the Diversity and Equality awards later this week and the Civil Service Awards next month. These events are great opportunities to celebrate the hard and innovative work that is carried out day-to-day by civil servants. The awards give me the chance to hear some of the inspiring stories about your excellent contributions.