Case Study: Department for Transport – The Importance of Confident Leadership and Thinking About People 

This content is part of the Vision for the Public Sector Zone 

Our engagement journey: what we learned along the way

  1. Paying attention to things that matter to people works better than chasing a score
  2. Local action works better than big corporate action plans BUT senior leaders have to be committed
  3. You’ve got to treat people as adults – involve them in making change and improvements
  4. Increasing our own employee engagement has helped create the conditions for better people focused policy making

Setting the scene

In 2013 DfT was one of only two government departments whose Engagement Index was both in the lower quartile and had dropped since 2012. A combination of internal and external events in 2012/13 contributed to low engagement across the department.

We made a decision not to simply chase after a higher engagement index score, but to tackle the root causes so that we could bring sustainable change to the organisation. This meant strengthening leadership and ownership across DfT, helping everyone share a vision of the future. We wanted change to be enabled from the top and led from within.

Fast forward to 2017. For the fourth consecutive year our engagement index has increased, bringing it to 65% – a fifteen percentage point increase since 2013 and making DfT one of the high performers on engagement across the Civil Service.

2017: 65% Employee engagement index

We are the highest performing department for Learning and Development, joint second for Leading and Managing Change and second for Diversity and Inclusion (82% against an average of 74%).

Our Discrimination, Bullying and Harassment scores fell to 8% and 7% respectively, but worryingly, only 30% of people report a concern. We need to do more to make people feel safe to speak up.


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