DWP morale on the rise, while gloom deepens at education

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has continued to improve staff engagement this year, while the Department for Education (DfE) has presided over the largest yearly fall, the 2013 Civil Service People Survey results show. The results mean that the DWP’s engagement score has now overtaken the DfE’s, at 54 compared to 51.

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By Joshua.Chambers

19 Feb 2014

Whitehall departments all released their annual engagement surveys last Friday, revealing a marked disparity in morale between departments. The two departments with the highest overall engagement scores are the Department for International Development (DfID) and the Foreign Office. The DfID figure is unchanged since 2010, while the FCO figure has increased by one percentage point in that time.

The DWP increased staff engagement by six percentage points in the last year (and by eight since 2010). During 2012-13 the Departments for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) also increased morale by the same amount. After an earlier dip, DCLG’s score now sits one point above that of 2010, while DCMS’s has slipped three points. All three departments still have a lower staff engagement score than the civil service average.

DWP achieved its biggest increases in the ‘learning & development’ and ‘leadership & managing change’ categories – both of which grew by 10 percentage points. There were large increases in the proportion of DWP staff saying that they have the opportunity to contribute their views before decisions are made, and that they are informed about matters that affect them.

DfE has seen a large fall in its engagement score this year – five percentage points – and a nine point drop since 2010. The biggest single decline came in responses to the statement “I would recommend DfE as a great place to work”, with only 35% agreeing – a nine point drop over the year. Meanwhile, there was a seven percentage point drop in responses to the statement “I am proud when I tell others I am part of the DfE”, with 46% now agreeing.

Only 31% of staff say that DfE “motivates me to help it achieve its objectives”; 33% think “DfE inspires me to do the best in my job”; and 35% “feel a strong personal attachment to the DfE”. All categories saw declining results compared with last year.

Chris Wormald, the DfE’s permanent secretary, has in his objectives a target that the “staff survey engagement score [should] improve against the backdrop of significant change”. The DfE did increase its learning and development score by four points, up to 46%.

The Department for Transport (DfT) presided over the second largest drop in staff engagement: three percentage points. Further, only 25% of employees say that “change is managed well in DfT”; 21% said “when changes are made in DfT they are usually for the better”; 37% said they “have confidence in the decisions made by DfT’s senior managers”; 39% gave a positive overall score for the ‘leadership and management’ category.

DfT permanent secretary Philip Rutnam’s 2012 objectives involve measuring his performance using “staff survey scores on clarity of vision, engagement, and change management”.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Our scores reflect the pace and scale of the changes we have made in the first year of the DfE Review. We know these impact on staff and we are taking action to improve engagement."

“To achieve the best education system and children's services we must create a department that delivers an excellent service to the public, while ensuring value for money for the taxpayer. We have already reduced admin costs by £120 million a year since 2010-11 and are on track to see it fall by £175m a year by 2014-15 — a 50 per cent reduction in real terms.”

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