… at the people on the inside looking out.
I’ve been hearing a lot from friends still inside the civil service recently. They generally echo the Observer’s secret diarist who noted a slump in morale and a Wacky Races -style race for the exits in his piece on Sunday. Those who can (the able ones, the ones with a good shot of getting a job elsewhere – the ones you wouldn’t want to lose) are moving hell and high water to get a job on the outside before the real unpleasantness starts and the competition becomes more intense. They are astonished by the speed and the scale of the policy changes that are being introduced and the cavalier way that they are being announced.
There are lots of reasons why civil servants might be feeling bruised – a pay freeze, cuts to redundancy packages and pension entitlements, job losses reckoned in the hundreds of thousands, being asked to impose big cuts on programmes they have worked for years on and often care passionately about. No wonder that no-one wants to stick around. The timing’s terrible though. A strong civil service is vital if proposed changes in health, education, the criminal justice system, the administration of benefits and all the rest are going to be introduced effectively.
Let’s hope the Observer’s Man from the Ministry is wrong when he says: A brain drain has begun and our brightest graduates have got the message that this is not a good place to be. The implications will not be felt for some time, but the results will be devastating to our society and our economy.
This also, of course, represents a challenge for the internal (and external) comms and HR functions of government departments. Managing change on this scale while keeping all the regular plates spinning is a highly skilled job. I wonder if they’re going to be strengthening those teams to help them do it? Oh yeah, I forgot.