Capability reviews of Department of Health, Department for Transport and Crown Prosecution Service finds Whitehall still lacks people management skills

Poor people management and leadership continue to hinder government departments, the latest round of Whitehall capability reviews has revealed.

The Department of Health (DoH), Department for Transport (DfT), and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) were scrutinised by a team of assessors put together by the Cabinet Office.

HR performance at the CPS came in for particular criticism, with the report stating there was “a lack of passion for [the] learning and development of all staff and core management capabilities, talent management and succession planning are under-developed”.

Only 53% of staff at the CPS thought their team was well managed. The assessors said the department lacked a clear, holistic plan for developing its people.

The results of the review will come as a major blow to the service and its HR director Ros McCool, who joined in January from the Home Office, replacing Angela O’Connor.

However, the review did acknowledge the CPS had made great strides in its approach to diversity issues, and was now one of the best in Whitehall.

The DoH did not fare much better. Its review stated that staff morale in the department was low, and that there was a “sense of disenfranchisement” among staff. Skills gaps in specialist areas were also identified.

The DfT’s review highlighted problems with performance management and a failure to hit diversity targets. “The department is seen as unattractive to the full range of potential recruits,” the report stated.

The role of the department in overseeing HR and other business processes in its agencies was labelled unclear, with some “duplication and inconsistency”.

The DfT needed to develop what the review called “a forward-thinking HR strategy” as a matter of urgency, the assessors concluded.

The reviews bring the number of evidence-based assessments of government departments’ capabilities to 15 in areas such as leadership, strategy and delivery.

In April, after the last round of capability reviews, the Cabinet Office team said it found “too frequently” government departments were not managing their people effectively enough.

“This is not simply a question of HR functions, but is about line management, starting at the top of departments,” its report said.

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