Performance Management System September 2016

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding performance management systems in the civil service [and the related PCS campaign].

I agree that this is an important issue. I know that several organisations, including the PCS and Prospect unions, have expressed a number of concerns about civil service performance management, including that it is undermining the morale of civil service staff and that it discriminates against black and minority ethnic (BAME) staff and other groups.

I appreciate these concerns. I note that a report from Keele University has found significant differences in the outcomes achieved by staff based on a number of characteristics, including in particular disability and ethnicity. For example, BAME staff were less likely to be ranked in the top group and more likely to be ranked in the bottom group than their white colleagues, while disabled staff were less likely to be ranked in the top group than those without disabilities. I also note the findings of PCS's survey of civil service staff, which found widespread dissatisfaction with performance management systems.

I know that there are particular concerns about the system of "guided distribution", whereby a predetermined 10 per cent of staff receive the bottom rating. Shortly after the current system was introduced the then head of the civil service stated that ratings should be guided and not forced and that no individual's rating should be changed in order to meet the suggested distribution totals. However, I note that a survey of civil service managers found that 70 per cent felt under pressure to rate 10 per cent of staff as poor-performing, with 30 per cent saying that managers were explicitly told to do so. It is also worth noting that, before the last general election, the then Cabinet Office Minister called for a change in performance management, raising concerns that managers are able to "game the system".

Since 2010, we have seen the worst crisis in civil service morale in living memory. I believe we need a comprehensive performance management framework for government, but too often civil servants have been made to feel as if they are part of the problem, rather than the solution. We need a re-energised civil service, with civil servants that feel valued and motivated, as well as a new culture of respect for civil servants. It is also very important that the civil service reflects our diverse society.

I understand that the Government is currently piloting changes to the performance management system across a number of departments and that the Ministry of Defence plans to introduce changes from April 2017, but that the wider civil service will only implement these changes by 2018 at the earliest. I can assure you I will continue to monitor the Government's progress on this issue.

Thank you once again for contacting me and for sharing your views.