Civil service 2017 People Survey launches with new focus on combating bullying

Written by Tamsin Rutter on 3 October 2017 in News

Sir Jeremy Heywood releases survey as new leadership academy starts work helping civil servants manage change

Head of the UK civil service Sir Jeremy Heywood. Credit: Louise Haywood-Schiefer

The 2017 civil service People Survey launched this week includes new questions on combating discriminatory or bullying behaviours and encouraging inclusion, according to an announcement by Sir Jeremy Heywood.

Writing in a civil service blog, the cabinet secretary explained that the new focus was needed after the 2016 People Survey showed an increase in the proportion of staff who said they had experienced discrimination (12%) and bullying or harassment (11%), compared to 2015.

He also said the score for leadership and managing change remained too low last year (43%) – an issue that he said the new Civil Service Leadership Academy aims to address.

Ministry of Defence permanent secretary Stephen Lovegrove tweeted yesterday that the academy began work this week, coinciding with the release of the survey.


The academy will “adopt an innovative approach to supporting leaders at all levels in handling the unique demands of working in government”, wrote Heywood, who also serves as head of the civil service. 

The civil service chief people officer Rupert McNeil told Civil Service World in an exclusive interview to be published this month that the academy will analyse previous complex government work – such as the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war or Whitehall’s response to the Ebola crisis – with a view to learning lessons and “building corporate memory”.

McNeil also said he hoped this kind of work – on lessons from Chilcot in particular – would help the civil service to tackle bullying and harassment, by encouraging “openness and being able to have open conversations up and down the management line, where people would be willing to raise issues and points of disagreement”.

In his blog Heywood said the 2016 People Survey had followed a busy year – “a new government, the referendum on membership of the European Union and, of course, the ongoing challenge of becoming an ever more efficient and skilled organisation”.

But he added: “The last 12 months have seen no let-up in the challenges we face as we support the government in preparing for our exit from the European Union and building a new global role for the country.”

The survey – which Heywood described as “the most important tool we have for making change happen in the civil service” – saw a 65% response rate last year, which Heywood said he wanted to be exceeded in 2017.

In 2016, just 31% of staff reported that they were satisfied with their pay and benefits, while 58% said they felt they had an acceptable workload, down one point on 2015.

Heywood pointed to some positive results: overall engagement levels returned to a high point of 59%; 90% of staff said they were interested in their work; 89% said they had the skills they needed to do their job; and the score for ‘inclusion and fair treatment’ increased by two percentage points from the year before to 76%.

“These results bear witness to civil servants’ commitment to public service and their resilience in the face of change,” he said.

The 2017 survey also includes new questions on awareness and understanding of the “civil service vision”. 

“We can’t progress towards being ‘A Brilliant Civil Service’ if we’re not effectively communicating to our people what the destination looks like or how we are going to get there,” Heywood said.

A civil service-wide diversity and inclusion strategy is expected this month.

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Tamsin Rutter
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Tamsin Rutter is senior reporter for Civil Service World and tweets as @TamsinRutter

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