What can we look forward to?
Clearly the recession is dead and we can all start making our personal spending plans given that our salaries could top £300,000. What? What do you mean we shouldn’t believe everything we read in the papers? No way!
Having said that, there’s clearly some momentum gathering behind the idea that some specialist skills in the civil service need to be paid much more than current pay scales allow. Civil Service World recently reported that “plans for a new specialist pay and terms package will be finalised early on in the new financial year, following discussions with staff and trade unions representing officials”.
I look forward to hearing how those discussions progress but in the cold light of day I suspect they will produce nothing for me or for the vast majority of ARC members or people in ARC grades. But it doesn’t take a genius to identify that a very few posts might be identified as requiring a significant premium (Mystic Meg tells me she sees something to do with international matters). So that would be really great news for the individual job holder or holders. I could be wrong but I suspect that the overwhelming majority for whom real term pay reductions will continue to be the norm at least to 2020 might find such an approach more than a little divisive. At least we will demonstrate the extent to which we value people.
Just before Christmas we announce that we are closing community forums down at the end of December without providing any facility for transferring any content in the forums.”
It was interesting to read the comments of Rob Varley, the Met Office Chief Executive, about the struggle to retain and recruit staff. For example the Met Office finds itself training people only to lose them to better paid careers elsewhere. (Does that sound familiar?) He has argued passionately that there needs to be some relief from five more years of pay rises capped at 1% to enable us to maximise our value to the nation. And he’s not actually “asking for any more money for this, because … I can spend the money I have either on more poorly-paid staff or fewer higher-paid staff ”. He says “I’m simply asking for the freedom to spend the money I have in the way that I judge to be the most effective. And given the choice I would spend it in such a way as to give those specialist people higher salaries in order to achieve more for the nation”. So in other words he’s happy to work within his overall funding allocation – he just doesn’t want his hands tied by an arbitrary cap because it will undoubtedly have an impact on the quality of work.
So it would be really refreshing if this type of approach could be delivered. The comments of Lord Kerslake, the former head of the civil service, might help us to gauge the likelihood of this. Describing the thrust of the measures in the Trade Union Bill currently going through parliament as “both partisan and disproportionate to the supposed problems that they are seeking to address” he points out that, taken together with other government measures, “they demonstrate a worryingly authoritarian streak in this government that is not comfortable with scrutiny and challenge”.
What else can we all look forward to? Well of course there’s the opportunity for each of us to carry out our five days mandatory leadership learning. Or rather there would be if it was possible to find courses that aren’t fully subscribed almost as soon as they are released. And then even if you find availability can your line of business afford any T&S that might be required in order to get you on to the learning? Even Dr Pangloss might consider there’s a disconnect in an organisation that on the one hand promises to put a premium on leadership skills and to provide the opportunity for developing the leadership skills that are said to be necessary and on the other doesn’t ensure that the promised courses are available to meet the forced demand.
We also have access to new digital tools. We’re encouraged when we log on to use Google Drive to “share, collaborate and innovate” (why do I keep thinking I should add “exterminate” to that list?) but then, at least in certain parts, we’re told “don’t do that” because we have to be sure about security and how we are going to use these tools. One might have thought such concerns would have been addressed fully before launching the tools – should applying a concept like One HMRC not have helped here? Last year everyone was being encouraged to sign up to Yammer to help us get to grips with using social media. And just as some folk are starting to use it and get to grips with it we announce we will not be taking it forward and we advise folk to stop using it – does this help us with our digital future? And finally just before Christmas we announce that we are closing community forums down at the end of December without providing any facility for transferring any content in the forums that users would want to continue to have access to – is this us putting the internal customer at the heart of everything we do that affects them?
These are the things that we all see happening and that undermine the messages from Building our Future. None of them is hugely significant but plenty of us are affected by them. And when you put these together with telephone problems following the switchover to a new service provider and IT problems following the introduction of Windows 7 it’s not surprising that the jury has spoken so negatively through the people survey about our ability to manage change and about their confidence in senior management (us). As an organisation we can rightly be proud of the big picture such as the migration to Windows 7 and the switchover of the telephony provider. But people at the coal face see the detail of the picture, it’s the detail that influences our willingness to embrace the change the department wants to bring about and it’s the detail that we have to get right going forward.