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Transfusion: Private to Public


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Transfusion: Private to Public

The Senior Civil Service has been bringing people in from the private sector for a number of years.  Sharing knowledge and experience between the public and private sectors adds value to both parties. Although the UK Senior Civil Service (SCS) is acknowledged as a world class organisation, skills gaps exist. Leaders who have built their careers in the private sector move to senior positions in the public sector, either permanently or on secondment to contribute to building the capability of the SCS.

‘Transfusion’ is the latest report from the Public Sector group and is based on around 50 interviews with direct entry Senior Civil Servants from the private sector. The report is a follow up to the 2006 report, ‘The delivery challenge for the next government’, and focuses on the senior civil service.  It discusses motivations behind moves to the SCS, differences in working practices, performance management and skills gaps which still need to be filled in order to meet the Government’s delivery challenge. The report suggests recommendations which would embed appropriate private sector working practices into the public sector further to improve operational and delivery capability.

The report highlights that moves from private to public are motivated by a desire to ‘make a difference’, to help the civil service through the many challenges it faces each day and to ultimately have an impact on the lives of UK citizens. The motivation was certainly not monetary with many interviewees taking pay cuts to make the move.

Although the public sector must operate differently from a private sector organisation, some interviewees felt processes and working practices in the public sector were outdated, roles and responsibilities are not always clear, and priorities pile one on top of another. Processes are not streamlined and people feel that their diaries are full of meetings which aren’t always productive.

Performance management continues to be an issue in the public sector. This is particularly true of the vast numbers of people below the SCS.  Many interviewees found the processes to manage poor performers complicated and people are still sometimes still moved around the public sector underperforming as they go. They also found civil servants were reluctant to give constructive criticism whereas in the private sector, receiving such feedback can turn a career around.

In terms of existing skills gaps, many interviewees voiced concern about the lack of commercial skills held in the SCS and viewed this as a barrier to effective and efficient operational and programme delivery. Although policy making is a skill held strongly amongst most members of the SCS, the ability to work across departmental boundaries is one that needs to be worked on if the Government are to meet the Public Service Agreements. 

Download the full  Transfusion: Public to Private report. (PDF, 951kb)

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