Performance-related pay 'damages morale without improving outcomes', academics warn

Making public servants more accountable and paying them for results reduces both their motivation and the quality of their work, leading academics have warned.

By Joshua.Chambers

12 Dec 2013

Ngaire Woods, dean of Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government, told CSW this week that “if you make the business of working for government transactional, you will erode the public service [ethos].” She added: “if you start trying to introduce targets and associated bonus pay… that has real costs.”

Woods said that, at a meeting of global cabinet secretaries a few months ago, the head of the Singapore Civil Service warned that “if you make working for the civil service transactional, you’ll be left with very little quality work.”

Woods’ colleague, Blavatnik School’s Professor Paul Collier (pictured above) – who is also an adviser to the Department for International Development – warned that this is particularly true in education. He told the Blavatnik School’s conference that “governments are supposed to motivate people by saying: ‘We’ll reward good performers, so we’ll watch you and if you’re performing well we’ll pay you more.’ A lot of evidence suggests that is seriously demotivating, unless the activity is really well-suited to close monitoring.”

Education and healthcare cannot be compared to a “Ford production line,” he warned, because there are so many factors that can’t usefully be measured.

Also from the conference: GDP & delivery ‘must be fair’

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