CSW surveyed 1,202 civil servants between 28 June and 12 July, in conjunction with recruitment specialist Totaljobs.com. The poll first asked: “How well do you think your department/organisation handled the process of shedding staff since 2010?” In response, 29% said “rather badly”; 20% said “extremely badly”; 25% said “to an acceptable standard”; 18% said “reasonably well”; and 5% said “very well”.
The survey then noted that employers cutting staff have a wide range of objectives, and asked civil servants to name the two best- and the two worst-handled aspects of the redundancy schemes within their organisations (see graph).
Of the best handled aspects, 27% chose “completing head count reductions rapidly”, while a further 16% said “communicating bad news sensitively”. “Distributing job losses intelligently across the organisation’s functions” was also chosen by 16%, but the answer which received the largest number of responses was “none of them”, chosen by 37%.
Asked about the weakest aspects of the head count reductions, 35% named “taking the opportunity to let poor performers go”, and the same proportion said “retaining talented and highly skilled individuals”. Almost as many – 34% – said “minimising uncertainty in the workforce”.
The survey also sought views on departments’ capabilities, asking: “Does your organisation currently have enough of the skills that are required to deliver your set objectives?” In reply, 56% said “no”; 30% “yes”; and 14% “don’t know”.
One objective does appear to be gaining traction, however. When asked: “Do you believe that your department/organisation will meet its diversity targets?”, 48% of civil servants said “yes”. A further 21% said “no, I believe we will miss our diversity targets by a small margin”, and only 21% were truly pessimistic, saying that their organisation will miss its targets by a “significant amount” or by a “sizeable amount”.
Head of the civil service Sir Bob Kerslake said: “The civil service will only retain its status as a world leader if it recruits the very best talent that’s out there,” adding that it “should reflect the society it serves and for that reason diversity is important... I’m absolutely committed to improving diversity in every part of the civil service”.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “The civil service continues to attract the brightest talent with employment terms remaining among the very best... However, to stay ahead of the game, an organisation the size and complexity of the civil service must constantly evolve and keep striving to better itself.
“A lot of work has been undertaken... to improve talent management – for instance, the new performance management system places a premium on identifying our best staff, and new programmes [exist] to support more talented staff who are about to join the senior civil service or have just joined the SCS.”
See also our Editorial: Civil servants must handle cutting blades more skillfully