Staff morale turnaround at DCMS wins plaudits

Civil Service People Survey delivery partner commends department’s bounce-back from morale doldrums

By Jim Dunton

16 Jun 2016

DCMS staff receive their award for boosting staff engagement. Image source: Twitter

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has won new recognition for its work in almost doubling staff morale – as measured by the annual Civil Service People Survey – over the past four years.

In 2012, as the coalition government’s cuts began to bite and the threat of redundancy loomed large for DCMS official, the department scored a 35% staff engagement rating in the key civil service morale survey.

But a programme of work including improved internal communications and investment in staff training has coincided with an increase in that level to 66% in the most recent tally.

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At a conference this week, business intelligence firm ORC International – which is the Cabinet Office’s delivery partner for the People Survey – presented DCMS with an international award in recognition of its “most-improved” status.

Permanent secretary Sue Owen said the latest engagement figures showed that more than nine out of ten staff in the department felt interested in their work, and that the 2015 survey had seen the department notch up the biggest rise in engagement of any Whitehall department for the second year in a row.

“Improving our staff engagement has been a key focus and I’m delighted our efforts have been independently recognised" – DCMS permanent secretary Sue Owen

“DCMS delivers on key government policies which drive growth, enrich lives and promote Britain to the world,” she said.

“So having the right staff, engaged and passionate about their work, is vital.

“Improving our staff engagement has been a key focus and I’m delighted our efforts have been independently recognised. It shows that DCMS is really a great place to work.”

DCMS said “notable” improvements in its staff engagement had seen a concerted effort to make the department’s executive team and senior leaders “more visible”, with the creation of frequent events for staff to engage with their perm sec, and an invite for staff to sit in as observers at executive board meetings.

It added that its human-resources support team had been reorganised, and a programme of peer-to-peer learning had been created via the DCMS Academy, which had led to “hundreds” of learning and development opportunities being provided at no cost to the taxpayer.

A further strand of work saw the department’s internal communications team strengthened to make greater use of digital channels and create what it described as a “genuine two-way conversation” between teams and senior managers.

Seema Shah, ORC International’s UK head of employee research said DCMS’ special achievement award for most-improved employee engagement recognised “inspirational” work.

“Throughout the last seven years we have seen the changes and challenges that central government departments and agencies have faced,” she said.

“It is a real inspiration to see how organisations like DCMS have been able to embed and significantly improve engagement through strong leadership and effective communication.”

Two departments had a higher engagement score than DCMS in the 2015 people survey – HM Treasury, with 72%, and the Department for International Development on 70%.

While the Treasury’s score was one percentage point higher than the previous year, DfID’s represented a 1% drop. HM Revenue & Customs had the lowest staff engagement score – 45%. The median score for departments was 58%.

Owen told CSW earlier this year that one change that had contributed to DCMS's morale turnaround had been to allow staff to create "team spaces" and allow them to personalise their own workspace.

Meanwhile, Owen explained, the departmental had invested in improving its internal communications, including having senior leaders invite a staff “observer” to sit in on executive meetings and then post on the departmental intranet about what they have seen. 

“Everybody always writes it completely differently,” the DCMS perm sec said Owen, “but it’s really helpful in demystifying what we do.”  

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