On 30th October 2014 the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and the Taoiseach launched the Civil Service Renewal Plan. This ambitious plan incorporates a vision and a three year action plan to renew the Irish Civil Service.
The Renewal Plan delivers on a key Programme for Government commitment, and represents a fundamental new vision and direction for the Civil Service. The Plan is the culmination of over 12 months work by two separate but related groups: the Independent Panel on strengthening Civil Service Accountability and Performance, and a Civil Service Renewal Taskforce made up of civil servants from all Government Departments. The engagement process for the renewal programme involved face-to-face consultations with almost 2,000 staff and stakeholders to gauge their views on what works well in the Civil Service, and what is in need of change. Government Ministers and members of both Houses of the Oireachtas were also asked for their views; in addition to contributions from the heads of Departments and Offices of State, members of the public, international parties, and expert bodies.
The Renewal Plan focuses on driving practical change through 25 specific actions in four key areas:
- Unified – Managing the Civil Service as a single unified organisation
- Professional – Maximising the performance and potential of all civil service employees and organisations
- Responsive – Changing our culture, structure and processes so that we become more agile, flexible and responsive
- Open and Accountable – Continuously learning and improving by being open to external ideas, challenge and debate.
The Programme Management Office is now operational and work has started, led by the Civil Service Management Board. Good progress has been made on both priority and non-priority actions: from October 2014 – July 2015, 23 out of the 25 major Actions were implemented; and of the 104 specific sub-actions, 14 completed and 54 at least partially underway.
Work has also started on the development of a new shared model for Learning and Development, on establishing recognition of staff excellence and innovation through an annual Awards ceremony, and the hosting of open policy debates.
We are now midway through implementation of the Renewal Plan. Significant progress has been made to date. Phase 1 of implementation focused on establishing governance structures, creating momentum and initiating a number of actions in the Plan. The challenge for Phase 2 was to translate this progress into tangible impact. The 7 actions prioritised for the second phase of implementation are on track for successful delivery as follows:
- “Implement a common governance standard for the Civil Service” (Action 3)
- “Strengthen performance management for all Civil Servants” (Action 11)
- “New performance process for Secretaries General and an enhanced review process for Assistant Secretaries” (Action 12)
- “Recognise staff excellence and innovation” (Action 13)
- “Expand career and mobility opportunities for staff” (Action 15)
- “Implement a programme of organisational capability reviews” (Action 20)
- “Improve internal Civil Service communications” (Action 23)
New structures are in place to lead and manage the Civil Service as a unified organisation:
- The Government agreed a common governance standard for the Civil Service. Departments have published their governance frameworks in accordance with the Standard. This strengthens the accountability of the Civil Service as a unified organization (Action 3).
- A new performance management policy is being developed with the introduction, in 2016, of a new 2-point rating format for the Performance Management and Development System (PMDS) which identifies satisfactory and unsatisfactory performance. It provides an opportunity to review and develop high performance and to address underperformance where it occurs (Action 11).
- An enhanced performance review process for Assistant Secretaries, including 360 degree feedback, is being implemented this year following a successful pilot in 2015 (Action 12)
- The first ever Civil Service excellence and innovation awards ceremony was held in December 2015 recognising the achievements and innovations in policy and service delivery (Action 13).
- An interdepartmental Principal Officer Mobility Policy was implemented in July 2015. Guiding principles for the development of a Civil Service wide staff mobility scheme has been approved by the CSMB. Plans to pilot this scheme for Clerical Officers and Executive Officers are well advanced (Action 15).
- A new programme of organisational capability reviews has commenced with a pilot review of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Action 20).
- A programme of engagement and communications with staff has been framed around the results of the first ever Civil Service Employee Engagement Survey along with Town Hall meetings at various locations across the country, other Renewal related events and regular updates on our website (Action 23).
Other significant progress made to date includes:
- Open recruitment campaigns have been held for most general service grades as well as specialised posts in the Civil Service (Action 8).
- An Interdepartmental Principal Officer Mobility Policy was implemented in July 2015 (Action 15).
- The first ever Chief Human Resources Officer for the Civil Service has been appointed (Action 7).
- 24 open policy debates have been held to date involving policy networks of practitioners, academics and experts in a range of policy issues (Action 22).
- Over 15,500 civil servants from nearly 60 organisations responded to the Civil Service Employee Engagement Survey. Individual Departments/Offices are developing and implementing initiatives that build on the strengths of the Civil Service and address what needs to improve for the future (Action 25).
- A shared learning and development model was agreed in Q2 2015. A new core common suite of learning and development programmes is nearing completion and a design of a new skills matrix has commenced (Action 9).
The Civil Service Renewal Plan bookmarked 6 priority Actions for delivery within the ‘first 200 days’:
- “Establish an Accountability Board for the Civil Service” (Action 1)
- “Create a Civil Service Management Board” (Action 2)
- “Establish the first performance review process for Secretaries General” (Action 12)
- “Identify available options to strengthen the disciplinary code” (Action 11.3)
- “Extend open recruitment in key areas to fill skill gaps” (Action 8)
- “Carry-out the first Civil Service-wide Engagement Survey” (Action 25)
Of the significant progress made during and since this time:
- An Accountability Board was established to bring together Civil Service, Ministerial, and external perspectives on Civil Service performance for the first time (Action 3).
- A Civil Service Management Board was established. All Members of the Board have been assigned responsibility for leading one or more Renewal Plan Actions. Minutes of the Board are published on a monthly basis (Action 2).
- The performance review process for Secretaries General was approved and was introduced in January 2016 (Action 12).
- A revised Disciplinary Code has been drafted, and is currently subject to normal consultation processes (Action 11).
- Open recruitment campaigns have been held for multiple grades in Departments across the Civil Service (Action 8).
Progress has also accelerated in other areas, such as:
- A common corporate governance standard for all Departments and Officers has been developed and is being finalised following public consultation (Action 3).
- A Civil Service Customer Satisfaction Survey was completed by 2,000 customers, with results highlighting strong and stable satisfaction levels (Action 23).
- An ICT Strategy for delivering better outcomes and increasing efficiency through innovation and excellence was published in Q2 of 2015. Implementation is currently underway (Action 19).
The first Progress Report on the Civil Service Renewal Plan marking these first 200 days was launched on July 8th 2015, and can be found below:
We are keen to continue hearing from all stakeholders, especially the public whom we serve. If you have any views or comments on the plan or its implementation please submit your views: By email to: firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to: Civil Service Renewal Department of Public Expenditure and Reform 7/9 Merrion Row Dublin 2.