The Public Management Index (PMI) is a sector-specific version of the Ashridge Management Index, which has been running since 1994. The publication of the 2010 PMI comes at a time when the public sector is facing huge challenges as the implications of the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review become clear.
The PMI – undertaken just before the Coalition government came to power – found that, despite all the pressures, management in the public sector is highly engaged, loyal, diligent, and hardworking. Contrary to stereotypes, public sector staff are prepared to take work home, go the extra mile, and work longer hours than they are contracted to do. They are hugely committed to helping public services change and succeed.
Over 50% of respondents expressed concern that top leaders spend insufficient time communicating with employees. A high percentage of staff saw organisational change as not only important, but a main part of their job. However, staff indicated that less than 50% of their leaders had skills in change management. Less than half believed, too, that their leaders had been appropriately developed to lead change. Of major concern, too, was the low score for successful delivery of the benefits of change – only 41%.
Employee engagement and regular communication with their leaders and each other is the top rated factor for success in delivering change. Both top leaders and their immediate managers were rated as poor on their communication with staff and unfortunately, they particularly identified a lack of leadership, closely followed by resistance to change as the most significant factors blocking major change in their organisations.
Public sector staff scored their line managers consistently well for effectiveness, providing direction, support and being trustworthy. They also felt that their own managers made sufficient time for them: the picture painted is one of solid day-to-day management.
They were less convinced by their top leaders who rated more poorly and, although the trend over time has been one of improvement, the top leaders in the public sector continue to lag well behind the private sector. Top leaders scored low on spending time communicating with staff (46%) and only 42% felt communications from top leaders were clear.
Staff continue to feel snowed under by emails (70%) and are working longer hours to get the job done. At 98%, long hours were given the highest single score in the survey. This suggests work life balance is under pressure with the risk of overload, fatigue and ill-health as high risk areas as the cost savings programme proceeds.
The report’s findings suggest that top public sector leaders will need to communicate more frequently in an open and honest way, to build trust and engage staff through the difficult times ahead. www.ashridge.org.uk/pmi