Motivating Public Service Workers
38. There are also questions to be asked about the
likely effect of public service reform on the motivation of public
service workers. Given that the vast majority of those providing
public services will continue to be in public sector organisations,
these are clearly important issues. The recent tendency towards
rising public sector salariesespecially for senior jobsmay
assist with recruitment, but also might have an effect on attitudes
to public service values. Similar questions arise in relation
to external recruitment for senior posts, and to secondments.
In addition, informal networks within organisations can be very
influential in deciding whether reforms succeed or fail, either
spreading the word that change is good or harming motivation and
morale by highlighting the risks.
39. All this is a reminder that reform may founder
if it seems not to take sufficient account of the needs and behaviour
of public servants themselves. Good public services clearly require
well motivated public servants. This certainly does not mean that
a necessary process of reform and change should not be engaged
in. Public service is about serving the public, not protecting
the interests of public sector employees. However, it does mean
that those who work in public services need to feel fully engaged
in the process of reform if it is to be successful. It also means
that public service workers in the new climate need the tools
to do the job. This should include, for instance, a significant
increase in training. A meagre one-and-a-half days is apparently
now the average for local government employees.
Public servants deserve better support and encouragement if they
are to give reform the support it needs.
40. For example, the recent report on Civil Service
Reform noted that there had been an 88 per cent increase in Senior
Civil Service jobs subjected to open competition since December
1999. The Prospect
trade union gave us evidence of a significant decrease in morale
among Civil Service members which seems to be associated with
the opening up of more posts to competition.
We will be seeking to discover at some point in our inquiry whether
the effect on moraleand perhaps on the ethos of the Serviceis
detrimental or not.
41. However, this does not mean that the motivations
of private sector workers are inferior to those of public sector
workers. Private companies are increasingly expected to demonstrate
social responsibility and to take account of the world beyond
the balance sheet. Again, stereotypes are not helpful. Yet the
particular environment experienced by public service workers,
and the nature of the demands on them, does have to be properly
42. We do know, for instance, that the structural
changes and funding constraints of the past twenty years have
increased the pressures on individual public servants in a wide
variety of ways. The demand for higher service quality has been
added to the requirement to be a cost-effective and efficient
manager of resources and people. The demands of public accountability,
performance measurement and the "Nolan" principles of
ethical behaviour are another set of issues which have to be handled.
The public service worker, unlike many of those providing purely
"private sector" services, is faced with a testing range
of demands which are intrinsic and special to public service.
43. This essential complexity of public service decision-making
is well demonstrated by the example put to us by the Council of
the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham.
The Council's submission gives a vivid description of the many
pressures on a Housing Benefit officer processing a complex claim:
he or she has to decide "whether to spend an extra 15 minutes
resolving a given problem, or to set the file aside and move on
to the next. For the public sector employee, the factors influencing
and motivating his or her judgements and decisions will be variousthe
daily pressures to get the job done, the expectations of his/her
line manager, targets for the section to deliver. But there will
also be countervailing pressures against rushing the task, which
may include an awareness that the council will be at risk of a
maladministration claim if the calculations are not done correctly,
a sense of accountability to a ward councillor [who] will have
an unhappy tenant on his doorstep, and ultimately an innate sense
that as a public servant the over-riding goal of a day's work
is to deliver the "right" outcome, in terms of social
equity as well as arithmetical accuracy, even though this may
take a little longer". Working out the best way to serve
the public interest (or interests) in this situation will never
44. There is also the question of the effect of an
externally-imposed measurement culture on the ethos of public
service. There is a danger that such a culture can erode trust
and damage the values of professionalism. It is crucial to get
the balance right here, involving an approach to accountability
that understands the importance of professionalism and an approach
to professionalism that understands the requirements of accountability.
We intend to explore this measurement culture and its effects
in a future report.
45. Because of these increasing pressures, we
believe that there would be benefit in a systematic survey of
the attitudes of public servants, possibly under the aegis of
the Office for Public Services Reform (a similar survey, for
civil servants only, was recommended by our predecessor Committee
in 1994, but there was successful resistance from the then Government.
46. The principles behind reform, then, need to be
properly explained, if it is not, like CCT, to be counter-productive.
We believe that a new approach to the public service ethos has
an important role to play in that, and in the next Chapter we
suggest what such an approach might consist of.