€100,000 spent to make Department of Social Protection staff happier

The State’s largest government department has spent €100,000 enlisting a US-owned consultancy firm to help to make its discontented staff happier.

This follows the Department of Social Protection hiring Axiom Consulting Partners to help review its “culture and values” after a survey found almost half (49%) of employees surveyed did not believe their organisation cared about their wellbeing.

The department confirmed yesterday that the fee to Axiom for its work is €99,750 (ex-Vat) and that the firm has completed its work, with Axiom’s report already published to all departmental staff.

The tender for the works revealed the scale of the task for Axiom with more than half of 2,700 people surveyed saying they did not feel they were part of a ‘team’; with 56% not believing their organisation cared about their opinions; and 54% not believing their organisation considered their goals and values.

The survey also found 41% do not believe there is a climate of trust in their organisation. Only 22% felt their rewards for their work are fair compared to others doing similar work in other public sector organisations, while almost 80% felt their prospects of promotion were limited.

The 2012 survey was carried out by Irish and UK academics and more than 2,700 responses were received from staff working in the department, Fás and HSE Community Welfare Service. The work carried out by Axiom Consulting Partners involved top-ranking officials engaging in brainstorming sessions to help make things right.

Warning that if nothing was done to change the organisation without a supporting culture and values, the department said “the change process will lead to fragmentation within the organisation with a corresponding impact on staff morale and customer service”.

The documentation shows that the department is top heavy with high-level staff with more than 3,000 of the 7,000 staff at executive level or higher. The survey, ‘Work, Management and Change — A Survey of Employees’ Views and Experiences’ found “views on communication and participation are quite negative”.

Fewer than 30% believed they were adequately rewarded given the amount of effort they put into their jobs, more than 80% believed their work was helping people and 73% liked working in the department with 71% proud of the work they do.

“However, only 32% of respondents feel inspired by the work they do. In the case of overall wellbeing ... quite a high proportion of respondents (38%) feel drained at the end of their working day. Over half of the sample feel that it often seems they have too much work for one person to do,” the report said.

The report found only 29% of employees felt that their immediate manager is willing to deal with employees who are under-performing.

However, there are positives. Most colleagues help each other, agree working with others is not a strain and “feel happy” when fully engaged.


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