Publication Machinery of government 1 May, 2024

Making the grade: Prioritising performance in Whitehall

Read the full report  

People and talent are at the core of a high-performing organisation. Civil servants work on some of the most complex and challenging projects of any workforce – from how to achieve Net Zero to how to build a resilient State. Their endeavours have the potential to change lives, shape the economy and impact geopolitics. Attracting the best minds and most skilled individuals is essential to ensuring Whitehall is up to this task. 

Instead, careers in the civil service are not appealing to exceptionally talented people from outside Whitehall; the many talented people in the civil service, who could be future leaders, are frustrated by the system and more likely to leave than pursue promotion; and poor performers are routinely moved around the system rather than managed and dismissed, to the frustration of everyone.   

Making the grade argues that government needs to take radical steps to address the imbalance of performance in the civil service. The paper rejects the implicit assumption that all civil servants should be treated the same, regardless of how capable they are. It sets out practical ideas to improve talent, pay exceptional people more, and boost productivity by managing out poor performers. 

Responses to Reform's FOI requests of government departments can be found in Appendix 1, here.

Results of the Reform/Civil Service World survey of civil servants can be found in Appendix 2, here.