Pollster: Performance has little to do with pay, bureaucracy

30% of public-sector bods have no idea what they're doing

Good engagement and more autonomy for staff, and a willingness to accept "controlled risk" are the characteristics that make for a successful organisation, according to the head of a major polling company.

Ben Page, chief executive of Ipsos MORI, told the the Guardian's IT Leadership in the Public Sector Forum that its research has shown these factors have a much stronger influence than issues such as pay and the degree of bureaucracy, and that senior officials need to take heed.

"What I find most compelling is that, when you look at who is performing best and worst, there is no correlation whatsoever with how people feel about their pay," he said. "Similarly, there is no correlation with bureaucracy."

He added: "If you look at the evidence it comes down to how we behave. It comes down to how leaders in the organisations perform, and it is clear that the things that correlate with performance are in our hands."

Page attributed good performance to how well leaders do the "soft stuff", notably in maintaining a good ongoing dialogue with the people who work for them.

"It's making people feel they are listened to, giving people autonomy, and making sure there are clear goals, " he said.

It also involves accepting a level of risk. "You have to accept that some things will go wrong, but do so in a controlled, sealed way that will not destroy the organisation. It will be down to the human factor and how much time you can make for innovations.

"When you look at most hospitals and councils you will see that everybody knows what is going on in their teams, but the difference in the successful ones is that everybody gets it about the entire organisation."

Page said that in top performing organisations, only about 5 per cent of staff have no idea what it is trying to achieve, but in the public sector the average is close to 30 per cent.

This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.

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