Press Releases

HISTORIC PRESS RELEASE : Making a difference in Public Services [February 2002]

The press release issued by HM Treasury on 26 February 2002.

Maintaining the commitment of public services managers and staff will be central to delivering continuing improvement in public services, according to a Public Services Productivity Panel (PSPP) report published by the Treasury today.

The report ‘Making A Difference – Motivating People To Improve Performance’ looked at qualitative research carried out in eight high-performing organisations in both private and public sectors to identify factors behind their success in delivering recognized high-quality services to clients and customers.

The report highlights a number of effective techniques and practices that management and staff have used to raise levels of motivation within their own organisations. But it also warns that its central recommendations – that organisations regularly assess the motivation of their staff and the skills of their managers and act on both – are minimum requirements: to achieve a step change in the quality of public service delivery, managers need to take a co-ordinated and strategic approach to motivating their staff.

The report was prepared by Sir Andrew Foster (Controller, Audit Commission), Greg Parston (Office for Public Management) and John Smith (Finance Director, BBC) for the PSPP, reporting to Treasury Chief Secretary Andrew Smith.

Welcoming the report, Mr Smith said :

“Informed, valued and motivated staff are central to improving services in both the public and private sectors. The best organisations in both sectors recognise this and have developed positive, effective management strategies to attract and retain staff who can deliver to users the services they expect and deserve.

“The PSPP report looks at some of the best of these approaches, strategies that have shown results already. I want to see them studied and adopted by management across the public sector as an important part of the drive to improve public services”.

Sir Andrew Foster said:

“Some of the places we visited would appear on first sight to be as different as chalk and cheese – a trendy ad agency and a Northern council. In truth, the thing that stood out was the quality and motivation of their staff, their switched-on line management and the time, effort and focus top management gave to these issues.

“Good effective management is not a given, but needs to be worked at. For those organisations that do so, the future it seems is very bright”.

The report concluded that the three requirements for a highly motivated workforce are:

  • A strategic framework that includes vision, transparent values, effective measures of performance, and HR functions that are central to the business.
  • A supportive culture that allows delegation, recognition, communication and mutual respect.
  • A strong emphasis on the inter-personal skills of line managers who are clearly connected to the organisation’s leadership and can translate these values for their staff.

The research found no significant differences between what motivates staff in the public and private sectors, and that so-called ‘soft’ management issues, such as good line management, setting clear objectives and inviting and recognizing staff contributions to success, are at least as important – if not more so – than pay and benefits. It also finds that motivated employees do not appear by chance, that active ‘interventionist’ personnel polices are required to develop and reward them, and that there are very real costs to any organisation which does not invest in this way.

Organisations involved in the qualitative research were: Clatterbridge NHS Trust; The Employment Service; Microsoft UK; Ministry of Defence Policy Unit; Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council; Suffolk County Council; Tesco; West Middlesex Hospital NHS Trust .