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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Not everything boils down to making money
Compare a Top Performing Company's aims with that of a Average Public Sector's aims.
TPC Aims = Sell more widgets, make more profit
APS Aims = educated children, less deprivation, cleaner streets, prettier buildings, healthier pensioners, nicer parks, fewer traffic jams, fewer anti-social neighbours, what else you got?
Public sector aims, and the means by which they can be measured, are far more complex. So it is hardly surprising that they're not as easily understood.
I've worked in the public sector...
and the old addage of 'if you took public sector employees and placed them in private sector employment, they wouldn't know what had hit them' rings true.
I was recruited in a massive drive for around 16,000 staff around 2 years ago now. I was utterly shocked by the quality of their current, long serving permanent staff who were better paid and underperformed massively compared to the new starters- whilst I was in my paticular office, the new starters would consistently outperform the old guard, yet when it came up to contract renewals, we got chucked out on our arses. In the period we were employed there, customer service and other KPIs were massively improved.
Nothing was ever done about inequalities in performance, and the new starters took the brunt of the work.
What the public sector needs to do is get rid of the staff that have been there for decades and bring in enthusiastic, hard working staff to get the best value from the taxpayers pound.
"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."
Comparing "top performers" with "average performers in sector X" is GUARANTEED to make sector X sound bad, isn't it?
How do top public sector organizations score? How do average non-public ones score?
Do public sector organizations have necessarily less clear objectives? Compare, for example, the wide range of services (and the messy human nature of the target) that your typical local council has to achieve compared with an organization trying to sell more widgets, or higher-margin widgets.