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MPs seek evidence on effectiveness of Civil Service People Survey

13 July 2022

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee today announce a new inquiry into the Civil Service People Survey, the largest barometer of staff satisfaction in Government. The annual census-style survey is sent to over half a million civil servants, across more than 100 Government departments, bodies and agencies.

Scope of the inquiry

MPs will examine how the departments act on the results of the People Survey which asks questions around staff wellbeing, staff morale, views on Civil Service leadership and vision, pay and career progression, and bullying and harassment. Concerns with the lack of follow-up on staff issues were highlighted last year by the Public and Commercial Services union, the biggest union for civil servants, who went so far as to call on staff at the Ministry of Justice to boycott the most recent People Survey.

The Committee’s inquiry will also look at underlying reasons for low participation in the People Survey, with returns in some departments being as low as 23.3% in 2021. Its level of confidentiality and whether improvements could be made to its design and delivery will also be considered. The Committee is welcoming evidence from several groups including current and former civil servants.

Chair's comment

Chair of PACAC William Wragg said:

“The Civil Service is essential in delivering Government policy and providing vital public services across the UK. It is therefore of paramount importance that Civil Servants remain motivated and satisfied in their roles, and the People Survey is an effective gauge of staff experience.

“We are concerned by the low participation in the People Survey in some departments as well as reports that results are not acted upon satisfactorily. We want to see why this is and what can be done, to enable Civil Service leaders to improve outcomes for staff.

“It will be the first time we scrutinise this area and we encourage anyone with experience of the People Survey, or similar large-scale workplace satisfaction surveys, to submit evidence to our inquiry.”

Terms of reference

The Committee welcomes evidence from those involved in the development and administration of the People Survey (or similar workplace surveys), Departments taking part in the survey, trade unions and other workplace employee representative groups, and current or former Civil Servants who have taken part in the survey.

It invites written submissions by Friday 19 August addressing any, or all, of the following points:

Survey design 

  • What is best practice for ensuring respondent anonymity in workplace staff surveys? 
  • What is the best design and method for delivering a staff survey – in particular, across multiple organisations/divisions/Departments?  
  • Who should be involved in the design and development of large-scale surveys like the People Survey?
  • How relevant are the metrics included within the People Survey? Are there additional topics or metrics that would add value to Departments in collecting the information sought? 

Survey delivery 

  • How does the Cabinet Office work with other Government Departments to administer the survey and gather responses? 
  • How is the survey delivered within individual Departments, and how are respondents encouraged to take part within those Departments? 
  • What are the strengths/weaknesses of delivering the survey in the current manner? 

Validity of results 

  • How can and should data collected through a staff survey be quality-assured? What sources can this data be cross-referenced with? 
  • Are the People Survey results considered to accurately represent the ‘lived experience’ of Civil Servants? Which areas are relevant or tend to vary? 
  • How does non-response bias impact results, i.e. How does the percentage of civil servants who choose not to respond to the survey impact the overall validity of the data? 

Application of results 

  • How should organisations take forward and implement learning from staff surveys, both to learn and build on positive outcomes and take corrective action for negative outcomes?  
  • What is considered best practice for taking forward and acting on employee feedback? 
  • What data from the People Survey are shared with departments following the delivery of the survey, and at what level of granularity? 
  • What action takes place within departments following the publication and sharing of results? How is this recorded, monitored and kept consistent across departments? 
  • What should the Cabinet Office’s role be in enabling departments to understand and benefit from the People Survey results? 

Submit evidence to the inquiry


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