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Addressing organizational challenges in the UK Civil Service

Orgvue Sales Director Mike Smith discusses managing disruption and difficulties in organizational planning within the UK Civil Service.

Published by Mike Smith 

Two colleagues working at a laptop

Following the recent Autumn Statement, three recent headlines (among many others) set out the challenge for the UK Civil Service including: stop, start, recruit (when skills are hard to find), pay erosion (risking key talent attrition) and changing the work done:

  • “Institute for Fiscal Studies warns that Government will have to pick between low pay awards, job cuts or worse services”, Civil Service World1
  • “Autumn Statement brings £300m for recruitment drive – but departments will be told to find savings elsewhere”, Civil Service World2
  • “Stopping activity to protect priority services”, Institute for Government3

So how to tackle all of this?

An early consideration is to differentiate people from positions. It has been said that natural attrition will address much of the people volume question. However, losing people without other change will erode key services and create even more pressure on civil servants. The focus should be on the positions and the work they are required to do. This opens up the opportunity to improve roles for better jobs and to free up more cash for pay awards for the people that remain.

Most Departments will have areas that need to expand, not limited to the £300m referred to above for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). The shortage of talent externally raises the question of how to redeploy more people internally to fill the new vacancies from demising more positions with the benefit of reducing recruitment and on-boarding time and costs.

The next question is how to demise more positions while protecting key services. There are two allied approaches:

  • To look at the organizational structure of Departments. We find in most organizations that haven’t done this for a while that significant structural opportunities exist – sometimes called a “spans and layers” or “organizational health” review.
  • To look at the work done, as recommended by the Institute for Government, to see within roles where lower priority activities could be stopped and priority work better allocated across roles, resulting in refined role responsibilities, fewer positions and usually more empowered jobs which are better for the people.

That may sound fine in theory but how to do that when change needs to happen at pace, with limited change team resources, constraints on external spend and a dependence on Excel and PowerPoint for organization analysis and design?

The Central Digital & Data Office in the UK Government says that “Digital and data are central to building this more efficient government … with access to the right data and tools to do jobs effectively.”4

What if such a “right tool” could not only enable the Civil Service to deliver as suggested but also reduce the cost of change by at least 33%5 to make this feasible?

The resources referred to below bring to life examples of this type of approach in practice. We hope these are of interest. If you would like to discuss any of this further, please do get in touch.

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1 – Civil Service World, 18 November 2022
2 – Civil Service World, 17 November 2022
3 – Institute for Government, “Cutting the Civil Service”, 4 November 2022
4 – Central Digital & Data Office, “Transforming for a digital future: 2022 to 2025 roadmap for digital and data”, June 2022
5 – Government Departments have stated that using Orgvue has enabled them to save 33%-66% in workforce data manipulation, analysis and organization chart creation. This mirrors saving in other sectors of 33% to over 70% effort savings and 50% elapsed time saving in transformation initiatives.