was formed last year following a merger of two departments. Credit: Louise Haywood-Schiefer
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has advertised an £80,000 contract for a private company to investigate its staff retention problems.
The department has around 3,000 employees but sees between 35 and 50 people quit every month, and says it has “no reliable data” on why they leave or where they go.
It is now seeking bids via the government contracts finder website for a consultant to carry out exit interviews and provide questionnaires for leavers, to identify trends and make recommendations to the head of workforce planning at BEIS.
The department – which was formed last year following the merger of the Department for Energy and Climate Change with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – expects its workforce to grow by 10% due to Brexit.
According to its tender document, BEIS has been focused for the past year on the issues arising from the machinery of government change, and now wants to turn its attention to retention.
A BEIS spokesperson said: “The department has gone through a huge transition since it was created last July and we have taken steps to make sure all of our staff feel valued and that we continue to attract talented people.
“We are keen to understand what more we can do to support these efforts. We already conduct exit interviews and the successful bidder will help us to act on their results.”
Retention has emerged as growing problem across the civil service, with Brexit and pay constraint thought to be partly to blame.
The Cabinet Office, in particular, recorded a huge increase to 35% in staff turnover last year, while the Institute for Government sounded the alarm this week over retention of civil service specialists ahead of changes to customs arrangements following Brexit.
A June poll by the FDA, the trade union representing senior civil servants, found that almost a third of its members want to leave the civil service as soon as possible, with dissatisfaction over pay one of the most cited reasons.
Meanwhile the government announced this week that it plans to lift the 1% cap on public sector pay for police and prison officers, to address increasing retention issues in these sectors.
Julian McCrae, deputy director of the Institute for Government, told that The Times that turnover in the civil service has always been a problem because people get moved around so much.
“With Brexit, departments need to be keeping people in post much longer than in the past,” he said.
“They need experienced people to get through a year or more of very tricky negotiations and then to implement the new regimes for a further two or three years.”
He also said that BEIS’ retention problems are unsurprising, and praised the department’s openness.
“But it’s an odd procurement to choose because you would have thought it’s the sort of thing a decent human relations department could do without commissioning external work, not least because the reasons people chose to stay are just as interesting,” he added.