On 30th October 2014 the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and the Taoiseach launched the Civil Service Renewal Plan. This ambitious plan incorporated 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 was 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 was 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 in the Civil Service through 25 specific Actions in four key areas:

  1. Unified – Managing the Civil Service as a single unified organisation
  2. Professional – Maximising the performance and potential of all Civil Service employees and organisations
  3. Responsive – Changing our culture, structure and processes so that we become more agile, flexible and responsive
  4. Open and Accountable – Continuously learning and improving by being open to external ideas, challenge and debate.

Information on the progress of the Renewal Plan to-date can be found in the Progress Reports below.

Significant progress was made in implementing and delivering this ambitious programme of reform. Phase 1 of implementation focused on establishing governance structures, creating momentum and initiating a number of actions. Phase 2 successfully translated this progress into tangible results. Phase 3 focused on actions that directly impacted on staff, enhancing the capability of all civil servants and supporting the development a high performing and more accountable workforce.

  • Three pathfinder projects are piloting new ways for delivering Whole-of-Government work: (i) The Public Services Card, (ii) The National Cyber Security Strategy, and (iii) Youth Mental Health. (Action 5)
  • A Civil Service People Strategy has been finalised. This strategy will strengthen strategic HR capability across all Civil Service organisations and sets the strategic HR agenda for 2017 to 2020. (Action 7)
  • Significant progress in preparing for the introduction of the new shared Learning and Development model has been made. A core curriculum has been approved and contracts awarded to training providers across a range of courses. These will be available for staff later in the year. (Action 9)
  • Pilot executive leadership programmes for Assistant Secretary and Principal Officer levels were introduced as part of a new talent management initiative. Work is underway on a framework to support the development of emerging leaders at all grades up to Assistant Principal level. (Action 10)
  • The Civil Service Project Management Leaders and Advisory Service and a Project Managers’ Network (PMN) was established. The inaugural conference of the Civil Service PMN included the launch of a new Project Management Handbook for the Civil Service. An online portal has been developed that provides access to project management guidance and resources. (Action 17)
  • Work is advancing on the development of a guidance framework for policy-making to support Departments on the fundamental stages of policy-making. Open Policy Debates continue to be held and involve a networks of practitioners, academics and experts in developing and debating policy options. (Action 22)

Other significant progress made in phase 3 includes:

  • The Civil Service Accountability Board and the CSMB published their 2016 Annual Reports. They are available at http://www.per.gov.ie/. (Action 2)
  • The National Shared Services Office continues to implement the programme of shared services, delivering Payroll Shared Services to 111,900 public servants and HR/Pension Shared Services to 34,500 Civil Servants. The Civil Service Financial Management Shared Service is scheduled to begin operating on a phased basis in 2018. (Action 6)
  • In 2016 the Public Appointments Service ran 361 open recruitment and promotion campaigns for general service, professional and technical grades. (Acton 8)
  • A range of initiatives to improve gender balance across the Civil Service was developed by the CSMB and approved by Government and are now being implemented. (Action 8.5)
  • Following the introduction of new performance management policies, training has been made available to HR Units and line managers to support and improve the management of performance. (Action 11)
  • The second Civil Service Excellence and Innovation Awards was held in Q4 2016 with 74 nominations received from across the Civil Service. Preparations are underway for the 2017 Awards. (Action 13)
  • A Service Wide Mobility Scheme has been piloted in two regional locations. The Scheme will be launched across the Civil Service for Executive Officer and Clerical Officer grades in Q3 2017. It will be expanded to other grades in 2018. (Action 15)
  • The amalgamation of the Staff Officer and Executive Officer grades has been completed. (Action 16)
  • Strategic Workforce Planning guidelines and templates issued to all Departments to facilitate preparation of workforce plans for 2017-2019. (Action 18)
  • Implementation of the Public Service ICT strategy continues under five pillars i.e. Digital, Data, Build to Share, Governance and Capability. (Action 19)
  • The pilot Organisational Capability Review in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has been completed and a review of the Courts Service of Ireland is now underway. (Action 20)
  • A programme of communications and engagement with civil servants continues through a number of channels. Civil Service Renewal publications can be accessed here. (Action 23)
  • Work has commenced on establishing a framework for a National Data Infrastructure to improve how data is collected, managed and shared. (Action 24)
  • In response to the 2015 Civil Service Employee Engagement Survey, various initiatives are being implemented within Departments. The next Survey is scheduled for September 2017.  (Action 25)

This report was published midway through implementation of the Renewal Plan, with significant progress 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 were put 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, strengthening the accountability of the Civil Service as a unified organization (Action 3).
  • A new performance management policy began development 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, was to be 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 was 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 commenced with a pilot review of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Action 20).
  • A programme of engagement and communications with staff was 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 included:

    • Open recruitment campaigns were 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 were 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 began 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 was completed and a design of a new skills matrix was 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 were 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 introduced in January 2016 (Action 12).
  • A revised Disciplinary Code was drafted (Action 11).
  • Open recruitment campaigns were held for multiple grades in Departments across the Civil Service (Action 8).

Progress also accelerated in other areas, such as:

  • A common corporate governance standard for all Departments and Officers was developed (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:

A full copy of the plan is available to download here and the Irish version here, along with supporting documents:

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: csrenewal@per.gov.ie

By post: Civil Service Renewal Department of Public Expenditure and Reform 7/9 Merrion Row Dublin 2.