Creating a modern employment offer to staff that encourages and rewards a productive, professional and engaged workforce

The Current Offer

The Civil Service employment offer is more than just pay and pensions. It combines a number of important aspects, set out below:


What needs to change

The success of the Civil Service depends on its staff, who have already been through a great deal of change and are facing more. The Civil Service will continue to encompass the widest range of roles of any organisation throughout the country, and at all levels civil servants will have the opportunity to do a job that matters.

The Civil Service has a strong set of values, and much talent, but to make the most of these, the culture needs to become pacier and less hierarchical, more focussed on outcomes than process.

The Civil Service has, and always will, provide a good employment offer for its staff and, with a national presence, it provides highly valued local and flexible employment.  However, whilst there has been significant recent change in pay and pensions, there are other terms and conditions that have not been updated and are now outliers. Action needs to be taken to address this.

Good performance needs to be more consistently rewarded and poor performance tackled effectively.

For civil servants to do their jobs effectively, the basics – such as IT and security – need to be right.

Together, this constitutes a new offer to staff.  The offer will build on what civil servants say they already like – interesting work that makes a difference – as well reflecting the feedback through the Civil Service people survey, feedback from Civil Service Live attendees, and from the Tell Us How website.

The outcome will be a Civil Service that is both a good employer and delivers value for the taxpayer.

How to deliver it

Action 17:

Creating a positive offer for staff: the views of staff will be sought on a new offer for civil servants that encompasses a much less hierarchical, pacier culture focussed on outcomes not process, supporting innovation and rewarding initiative.  The new offer will embrace:

  • Terms and conditions of employment that reflect good, modern practice in the wider public and private sector;
  • For the SCS, a proposal on reward to be submitted to Senior Salaries Review Board in the autumn for implementation in 2013 to include consideration of  a voluntary “earn-back” scheme.  The new offer will be put in place by 2013;
  • Regular and rigorous performance appraisal for all staff, recognising good performance and taking action where performance is poor;
  • At least five days a year investment in targeted learning and development; and
  • Creating a decent working environment for all staff, with modern workplaces enabling flexible working, substantially improving IT tools and streamlining security requirements to be less burdensome for staff.

Action 18:

Drive the culture and behaviours being sought through the new competence framework that sets out the behaviours civil servants need to demonstrate.

Changing the culture of the Civil Service

The Civil Service’s values are vitally important and underpin its worldwide reputation. But the Civil Service culture can often be seen as cautious and slow-moving, focused on process not outcomes, bureaucratic and hierarchical25. This can be deeply frustrating for civil servants themselves, who want to get on and do their jobs the best way they can.

This culture can make it more difficult for the Government to adapt swiftly to the needs of the day. There are few incentives for civil servants to change the status quo, or to seek out and implement cost savings or service improvements.

The Civil Service should provide an environment that allows all staff to be empowered.  It must become pacier, more flexible, focused on outcomes and results rather than process. It must encourage innovation and challenge the status quo, and reward those who identify and act to eradicate waste.

The new competence framework will promote and support behaviour that focuses on achieving results, continuous improvement and breaking down hierarchies and silos.  But ultimately a culture change requires civil servants to behave in different ways, and for managers and leaders to embrace this and remove the barriers to it.  It may also require Ministers to behave in different ways and adapt their expectations accordingly.

It is vital to engage and empower staff, and to create a dynamic and flexible career path.  Staff views collected through the Tell Us How website have already highlighted the importance of improving the management of poor performance but this is not a static process – the views of staff on how we can improve the Civil Service, be it culture, process or strategy are currently being sought, and will continue to be sought, including through Tell Us How and staff surveys. The best ideas will be championed by Ministers and Permanent Secretaries across Government.

During the Olympics, we will encourage more Whitehall civil servants to work remotely, whether from an office outside central London or from home.  This will require managers to focus on their outputs rather than their hours.  We aim to use the experience to spread this approach more widely.  This contribution to a better culture can be a key Olympic legacy.

A less hierarchical and more flexible culture

To support a more flexible, open and pacier culture within the Civil Service, structures need to be flatter, with less focus on whether people are the right grade for the job, and more on whether they are the right people to do it.  This means having the right people in the right jobs at the right time, taking into account the varying business needs and structures of different Government departments. Departments must improve workforce planning and ensure that talented people are recognised and deployed appropriately. As a default, all jobs available on promotion should be open to those best placed to fill them, irrespective of their current grade.  Furthermore, Departments will continue to review their structures as part of their ongoing change programmes or departmental improvement plans and should through this work look to ensure that there are no more than eight management tiers.  In many parts of the Civil Service it should be fewer.

Modern terms and conditions

Each Department will undertake a review of terms and conditions and identify those that are beyond what a good, modern employer would provide.  They will ensure that the Civil Service will continue to be among the best employers in the country whilst tackling those terms and conditions that often leave it open to caricature.

Civil Service Pay

In the 2011 Autumn Statement the Chancellor announced that there was a case for considering how public sector pay could better reflect local labour markets. The independent Pay Review Bodies are currently considering the case for greater local pay flexibility in the wider public sector but nothing has yet been decided. There will be no change unless there is strong evidence to support it and a rational case for proceeding.

Senior Civil Service pay

The Civil Service needs senior leaders that are equipped, motivated and high performing, to drive and oversee this package of reform.  The SCS pay structure is no longer an effective mechanism for supporting a modern workforce, and there is an insufficient link between performance and reward.

Working in partnership with Departments and other stakeholders we will develop plans for a new SCS reward package that will be submitted to the Review Body on Senior Salaries this Autumn. Consideration of a voluntary “earn back” scheme will be included that would allow Senior Civil Servants to place an element of their pay at risk each year, in return for the opportunity to ”earn back” this amount by meeting pre-agreed objectives or, to earn a greater amount through exceptional performance.

Managing performance

Civil servants consistently identify that poor performance is not tackled effectively. In the last People Survey only 37% of staff thought that poor performance was dealt with well26.  It is also true that good performance is often not properly recognised. To ensure that performance management is improved, Departments will:

  • Implement a common Civil Service performance framework, linked to the competence framework, for staff below the SCS during 2012/13. This will identify the top and bottom performers.
  • Implement an SCS appraisal system which will identify the top 25% and the bottom 10%.  The bottom 10% will need to undertake performance monitoring and improvement planning.
  • Implement the new streamlined policy on managing poor performance, with shorter timeframes and clearer guidance. This will enable poor performance to be tackled more quickly and effectively.  For all staff that remain in the bottom performers without improvement and are still not meeting the required standards, a decision will quickly be taken over whether they should be exited from the organisation, using this policy.
  • Support all managers to implement the new performance framework and explicitly hold them to account for the management of poor performance and attendance through their objectives.  Managers are too often slow to identify poor performance or do not feel confident in gathering evidence and giving early honest feedback.  Currently managers are not always supported or challenged to do so, and the obligation to act on poor performance needs to be encouraged.
  • Consistently recognise and reward high performance using the new performance management approach to identify potential and develop it effectively across the Civil Service. Recognition can be as simple as a thank you, but can include financial rewards for exceptional work.  Departments will develop their reward approach in line with the performance framework.

Learning and Development

Learning and development has and will continue to be an important part of the offer to staff.  Civil Servants have identified that they often feel that they are not given the right training and support to do their jobs to the best of their abilities.

Ensuring civil servants have the right skills is a key part of the employment offer – having the right skills enables people to do their jobs efficiently and effectively, and for some is crucial to keeping them safe. Furthermore developing, maintaining and accrediting the right skills for the job enhances employability.  The new offer will provide at least five days a year investment in learning and/or development, targeted at the skills most needed for their roles and will cover a wide range of forms of learning, from e-learning, traditional training, and other development activities.

Modernising Security across the Civil Service

The Civil Service needs to have robust security processes governing how well information and buildings are protected.  However, many of the current arrangements have become bureaucratic and unwieldy, adding cost and time to day to day activities, and to IT systems.  There is significant scope for rationalisation and streamlining, without reducing effectiveness.  Therefore, the following actions will be implemented during 2012/13:

  • Simplify Security Classifications: by rationalising the current six tier model into three distinct and intuitive security domains, with appropriate controls.
  • Establish a common approach to access buildings and a Civil Service wide pass to support a joined up approach to cross Departmental working and sharing of buildings.
  • Consolidate personnel security processes: all Departments must review recruitment controls, and any necessary national security vetting arrangements to improve interoperability and interchange, and drive further efficiencies in 2013.

Improving the flexibility and usability of IT

Many civil servants feel frustrated by slow, restrictive and outdated corporate systems. In 2012/13, steps will to be taken to improve IT to enable staff to do their jobs better.  Changes will include:

  • Upgrading IT systems across departments to ensure they support flexible and efficient working methods.
  • Updating IT equipment.  With more streamlined security systems, there is greater scope to modernise the way in which the Civil Service contracts IT – a far wider range of devices, like laptops, can be procured much more cheaply, rather than requiring expensive, bespoke devices.
  • Ensuring the security classifications of equipment matches the risks involved.  A risk aware culture will be fostered across Government that understands the threats faced and what ‘good enough’ ICT security looks like.

Increase flexible working between departments

The Civil Service has long needed to facilitate better working across departments27. To support this it will:

  • Begin work to build social media platforms across departments to enable more collaborative working and knowledge sharing between departments starting in 2012/13.
  • Offer unused or underused space in government buildings for use by SMEs to create more opportunities to exchange ideas and experiences between civil servants and entrepreneurs.
  • Use the results of the recent studies on working environments with BIS and DfT to create an environment and culture, with new technologies and office designs, which enable staff to do their work anytime and anywhere.

Delivering an Olympic legacy for the Civil Service

During the London 2012 Games period, to maintain resilience, and reduce the number of people travelling into central London at the same time as large numbers of visitors to the Olympic Games, civil servants are being encouraged to work more flexibly, as well as travel in different ways.  This experience will be enabled by a series of changes to HR policies, IT solutions and opening up Government buildings to more than one Department.  The Olympics therefore provide a case study for the introduction of more flexible ways of working and provide an opportunity to create a lasting change in the working culture of the Civil Service.

The changes piloted over summer 2012, which should translate into longer term change, include:

  • Better sharing of buildings between Departments, and the creation of ‘hub’ offices outside central London to enable employees to work remotely across multiple sites – starting with a hub in Croydon which will be in use in time for the Olympics;
  • A pilot of a very simple IT device to enable more people to work from home without the need to invest in expensive security enabled laptops to empower a mobile and diverse workforce;
  • Training for managers in managing people working remotely;
  • Completing a study to greater understand what behaviours hinder flexible working, which ones promote it, and what works in tackling these behaviours.
  1. Cabinet Office (2011), Civil Service People Survey 2011: 2,468 Civil Servants raised bureaucracy as an issue to be addressed in order to make their organisation a great place to work.
  2. Cabinet Office (2011), Civil Service People Survey 2011
  3. Public Administration Select Committee (September 2011), Change in Government: the agenda for leadership, paragraph 30:“Cross-departmental working remains a weakness for the Civil Service.”

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