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Engagement and Wellbeing: Civil Service Success Stories

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Employee Engagement, Wellbeing

Have you ever wondered how some teams create an atmosphere of positivity and motivation, even at times of change? Or wanted to know how to turn around low employee engagement or high anxiety – boosting not only your team members’ wellbeing, but their performance?

High engagement and wellbeing not only benefit the people involved – a wealth of evidence shows links to productivity and organisational performance. Whether through higher creativity, lower sickness absence, or lower turnover, taking actions to build engagement and wellbeing can lead to an even more effective team – and a more effective Civil Service.

Today, we’re launching the first of a set of case studies to share approaches which have worked for Civil Service teams achieving outstanding results in staff engagement and wellbeing, as measured by the Civil Service People Survey. Follow this link to our page to read the teams’ stories. Are there ideas that you could apply to your team?

Our case study teams

We use the People Survey to calculate a measure of employee engagement for all Civil Service teams. This measures how far employees are committed to their organisation’s goals and values and are motivated to help it succeed. Since 2012, we’ve also asked 4 wellbeing questions in the survey, to measure subjective life satisfaction, life being worthwhile, happiness, and anxiety. These are National Statistics which ONS now routinely measure for the overall population.

We used results from these People Survey questions to identify teams who have particularly high levels of staff engagement or wellbeing, or have seen substantial increases in their scores in recent years. There were a large number of teams to pick from, so while we couldn’t interview every team, we’ve tried to make sure our selection included variety in terms of type of department, teams’ role within the department, and location. Teams told us about the approaches they’d tried and the benefits they’d seen – not only to their people but to the business.

So far, we’ve interviewed 10 teams, and are releasing our first 4 case studies to get your feedback.

Emerging themes from our initial interviews

Our 10 interviews so far have revealed some early themes and ideas for building an engaged team with high wellbeing. Hopefully there will be something everyone can relate to or draw on.

  1. Leaders who are passionate, visible, collaborative and welcome feedback really help to drive great engagement and wellbeing scores. Effective, emotionally intelligent leaders take time to empathise with people’s needs, create an open and trusting environment, express appreciation and give clarity of objectives and goals. They also give people the space to deliver.
  2. Prioritise feedback, involvement and consultation. Regular two-way feedback which is acted upon helps drive an engaged culture. People really value credit where it’s due and reward and recognition for good work. Think of ways to give team members a voice – an outlet to express grievances or concerns, and lots of opportunity to contribute to decisions on how things can be done better.
  3. Encourage innovation and creativity. Creating a non-judgmental atmosphere for ideas has been a real theme for a number of our teams – openly listen to and encourage new ideas, try new approaches, and expose your staff to new challenges.
  4. Make time for frontline exposure. Seeing impact of their work on the delivery of public services really helps teams connect with their organisational purpose and objectives.
  5. Challenge negative behaviours – have zero tolerance for bullying and harassment and an open-door policy for reporting it.
  6. Support flexible working approaches – and allow people to be open about non-work pressures.
  7. Build team spirit – ensure contact especially across geographical boundaries. Create time for people to talk – consider away days, volunteering days and skill-sharing opportunities.
  8. Take action on your People Survey results. Lots of our teams had taken the time to study and understand their results, and developed staff-led action plans.

The themes tally with the Inspiring, Confident, Empowering themes in the Civil Service Leadership Statement and the vision embodied in the Talent Action Plan, which sets out the Civil Service’s ambition to be a truly inclusive employer, recognising and rewarding talented individuals regardless of background and any visible or non-visible differences.

Tell us what you think

We hope there’s something for you to take away and apply to your team from our initial case studies and the themes above. We’re planning to release more over the year, along with an evaluation guide to help people assess whether their staff engagement and wellbeing approaches have been effective.

Please let us know what you think. Have you tried any of the ideas in the case studies? Did they work – and did you see wider benefits to team performance or productivity? What more would you like to see?

Sharing and comments

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  1. Comment by Gail Adams posted on

    Hello. First time I have been to your page and there is lots that I can use - thanks. I have a comment on the staff survey. A few of the questions ask for opinions about senior managers and describe them as (SCS Payband 1 and above). I dont think our front line people understand these grade distinctions. It isnt an exact readover but I wonder if we could use (this is usually your Director/Deputy Director) rather than using the grade. I think it would be a clearer request. Is there an opportunity to change this now.

    • Replies to Gail Adams>

      Comment by Kate Mieske posted on

      Thanks for your comment and we're glad the blog is useful. With regards to your question on the staff survey, certain elements of the questionnaire can be modified by each participating organisation to ensure its relevance to staff. This includes how senior managers are defined. Please send us an email to our team inbox ( and we would be happy to put you in touch with your organisation's survey manager.

  2. Comment by Russell Grossman posted on

    Good, evidence-based material here, Kate - thank you. Socialising these behaviours and rewarding those who actively practise them will make a big difference however. Are there plans for this, starting with directors and deputy directors - for example, in the context of the leadership statement?

    • Replies to Russell Grossman>

      Comment by tomannable posted on

      Hi Russell, thanks for your comment. We are keen to promote our findings, and will be running panel discussions at this year's Civil Service Live events with members of our case study teams. These discussions will showcase best practice in employee engagement and wellbeing to staff throughout the Civil Service.