Senior civil servants condemn Whitehall performance management

Fewer than a quarter of senior civil servants believe poor performance is dealt with effectively in Whitehall departments, according to internal government figures.

The survey of senior civil servants was obtained by the Institute for Public Policy Research following a Freedom of Information request, and paints a damning picture of frustration about performance management in central government departments.

Senior civil servants said they were confident that they have the skills to do their jobs, in the treatment of their staff, in encouraging teamwork and in the availability of training and development opportunities.
However, when asked whether poor performance is dealt with effectively in their departments, only officials in the Treasury scored more than one in four (32%).

Ten per cent were unhappy with the way that poor performance was handled at the Department of Trade and Industry and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and less than one in 10 senior civil servants said poor performance was dealt with effectively at:

  • Department for Transport (5%)
  • Home Office (6%)
  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (9%)
  • Department for Communications and Local Government (9%)
  • Ministry of Defence (9%) 

When asked whether performance appraisal systems were efficient, only the Department for Constitutional Affairs scored higher than one in three (with 44%).

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (with 6%) and the Department for Transport (with 9%) have the least efficient appraisal systems, according to their own senior civil servants.
Less than one in three senior civil servants in Whitehall departments believe that civil service leaders manage change effectively.
Nick Pearce, Institute for Public Policy Research director, said: “We can’t let politicians off the hook, but the civil service needs systemic reform. It will never achieve consistently high performance without external accountability and effective performance management.”

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