Headlines: October 25th, 2000

Civil servants feel less positive than any other group of workers, including those in local government, the health service and private industry. This is the conclusion of a survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development covering all four groups.The survey report revealed that civil servants have the lowest levels of satisfaction and commitment in all the groups. They also have least trust in management; a less dynamic, creative and friendly climate in the workplace; a less positive work-life balance; a greater sense that promises have not been kept and lower satisfaction with life in general. The report also makes it clear that civil servants feel let down, with satisfaction rates on a range of issues to do with commitment scoring up to 20% below those from local government and the health service. In addition 51% feel that they are underpaid, compared with 41% of local government staff, 46% in the health service and 33% of private sector employees.

The underlying cause of the collapse in morale is the change programme. A number of people surveyed felt that the public service ethos to which they are committed is undervalued when compared with emphasis on commercial imperatives and imported management practices. Given that radical change is also sweeping across local government and the health service, it is clear that civil service managers are coping less well with managing change compared to their colleagues in other parts of the public sector. This in turn reflects adversely on those who are steering change and in the survey only 14% said they trust senior management.

Despite the steady decline in morale in recent years top managers have consistently rejected appeals for an attitude survey. This survey, which was part commissioned and funded by the Civil Service, shows that there is now a recognition that managers need to understand and respond to the needs and expectations of their staff. The Head of the Civil Service, Sir Richard Wilson, said that the report would be used as a benchmark to measure future progress of the reform programme.