One in three of the 2037 managers who responded to the survey said that “managers are being told explicitly to designate staff as poor performing”, with a further 40% saying managers are coming under pressure to hit the target despite being told it is an “aspiration”.
These figures exclude 10% of managers who chose ‘other’, mainly because the system has not yet been introduced, or is being applied with different ratios, in their department.
The new system advises managers to divide their staff into three categories: the top 25%, the middle-ranking 65%, and the bottom 10%. Civil service leaders have said these ratios are not mandatory targets: in a blog post discussing the reforms, head of the civil service Sir Bob Kerslake said the “intention is that these ratings are guided not forced.”
Kerslake also wrote that Civil Service People Survey results indicate greater staff satisfaction with performance management under the new system, noting that in DWP significantly more people feel that poor performance is addressed well.
The CSW survey, however,found that nearly half (46%) of respondents believe new procedures “have made little or no difference to performance management of poorly performing individuals”. This figure rose slightly, to 48%, among line managers – and, interestingly, among DWP staff.
In contrast, just 16% said the new system has improved management of poorly performing individuals, though line managers were a little more positive: 20% have seen improvements. So too were DWP staff, where the score was 24%.
There was more awareness of the new Competency Framework, with 74% of respondents saying they understand what it is and how it applies to their role, and 40% saying it has made it easier to assess their own performance.
The survey, carried out in April, gathered 4,196 responses – four times the average number.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “Over half the civil service have only just completed the first full year of the new system. Departments will be reviewing their progress to ensure the system is implemented fairly and consistently. Each department will be able to provide help and support so staff are clear what is expected of them and their managers.”
See also: Bob's blog met with CS fury, our editorial on forced ranking