Civil servants quizzed on ‘priorities for change’

Annual People Survey seeks Whitehall-wide input to help guide reform plan


Civil service chief operating officer Alex Chisholm has launched this year’s Civil Service People Survey for officials to help inform “priorities for change” across government.

The poll, which takes place against the backdrop of a reform drive aimed at improving the use of data science across government, has new questions for 2020 on civil servants’ health and wellbeing and the impact of coronavirus on their work. These “reflect the extraordinary changes to all of our lives”, Chisholm said,

Submissions can be made for the 12th annual survey during the whole of October, and the Cabinet Office permanent secretary said he wanted as many as possible to have their say.

“We want to know what you think, so that it can help us improve your experience of working not just in the civil service, but also your own department,” Chisholm said.

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“Every survey provides valuable information – in total confidence – that helps us make important decisions on how to improve life in the civil service and inform our collective priorities for change. It takes us a step closer to upholding our vision to be a Brilliant Civil Service, providing outstanding support to the government in delivering its priorities.”

Civil service reform is a priority for prime minister Boris Johnson, who has said that the civil service must “respond faster and better” to the public’s needs, and his top adviser Dominic Cummings. It has been reported, although subsequently disputed, that Cummings warned a “hard rain” was coming for Whitehall, and that reforms would make “the centre of government smaller, empower departments and change civil service fundamentals to improve performance”.

Chisholm, who moved into the role of COO with a brief to “lead the ongoing transformation of the civil service”, has already launched a “prospectus” for reform that promised to look at changes across “the whole system, at every level”.

Last year’s survey was completed by over 300,000 civil servants, and the civil service employee engagement score, the benchmark of staff satisfaction, hit a record 63%.

Chisholm said the 2019 poll results “reflected the extraordinary teamwork, pride and enthusiasm right across the organisation”. 

Last year, 78% of respondents said their work gave them a sense of personal accomplishment, and that the majority of benchmark question scores equalled or surpassed the 2018 figures, he said.

He urged officials have their say in 2020, adding: “Thank you in advance for your help in shaping our future together.”


Sam Trendall

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