“Leaders need to look at the ‘public sector service value chain’ [Heintzman & Marson 2005] and understand the connection of employee satisfaction and commitment to public service performance, client satisfaction, and citizen trust and confidence in government.”
— Ransford Smith, Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General, 2008
Four years ago, we suggested people, service and trust – three key priorities of public sector leaders – might be linked in what we called the Public Sector Service Value Chain (PS SVC) (CGE June/July 2006). Since then several Canadian jurisdictions have collaborated to confirm the two links in the chain, and to identify the factors that “drive” improved performance for its three elements.
Moreover, a number of public sector organizations including the Ontario and British Columbia public services, the Regional Municipalities of Peel, Hamilton and Waterloo, and the New Zealand Police have begun to use the PS SVC actively as a management tool for improving organizational performance.
Lessons of the links
One of the key concepts of the Public Sector Service Value Chain is that there are links between the three elements of the chain, links from the point of view of values but also from the point of view of results. Performance on one element influences performance on others.
The Employee Engagement-Client Satisfaction Link
The first link is between results for people management and leadership and results for citizen satisfaction with service delivery. British Columbia, Peel Region and the Ontario Public Service have now confirmed this two-way relationship by analyzing service satisfaction data with employee engagement data for work units within their public services. BC Stats undertook the analysis of the B.C. and Peel Region data, and Ipsos Loyalty analyzed Ontario data on internal IT services.
The most interesting findings by BC Stats were that (a) a two-way relationship does indeed exist between employee engagement and client satisfaction; and that (b) a two point change in employee engagement scores is associated with a one point change in service satisfaction scores. The results also show that by improving citizen satisfaction scores, we can generate greater employee pride and commitment.
These are very important research findings for public managers, because they document the existence of the link between people and service results in the Canadian public sector, its two-way nature, and the strength of the relationship. They also represent a call to action for public sector managers.
The Service to Public Trust Link
The PS Service Value Chain also posited a one-way link between organizational service outcomes and public trust and confidence. This second link has now also been confirmed by Canadian research. The biennial Citizens First surveys of Canadians and the Taking Care of Business surveys of Canadian businesses – both conducted by the Institute for Citizen-Centred Service on behalf of sponsoring governments – were designed to determine (a) whether service was an important factor in creating trust and confidence in public organizations and (b) what other factors influenced public trust and confidence.
The analysis of the data by Erin Research and Phase5 came to the same conclusion as U.K. government research – that service is indeed a factor influencing public trust. There are three dimensions to the way service impacts trust:
· How satisfied citizens are with the quality of the service;
· Whether the service benefits citizens and meet their needs; and
· Whether the services are seen to be delivered fairly.
The inter-governmental research has demonstrated that the Service to Trust link in the PS SVC is real, though complex and sometimes indirect, as we will see. Public sector service delivery is clearly not the only influence on something as complex as public trust. But it is one factor public sector managers can do something about. We will look at another in the next section.
Lessons of the drivers
Another lesson of the PS SVC is the importance of what we call the “drivers” of performance. The drivers are the key factors that influence an outcome. If you want to achieve a result, you need to know the drivers of the result to know where to focus your improvement efforts. To improve performance, public sector managers should focus on the drivers, not on the performance objective.
1. Service Satisfaction
The “drivers” of service satisfaction have been well documented for ten years through analysis of biennial Citizens First survey data. We know that the major generic drivers of service satisfaction are: Timeliness; Outcome; Courtesy/Extra Mile; Knowledge and Competence; and Fairness. When these factors are all performed well, scores of 90 percent can be obtained; when all are performed poorly, satisfaction scores drop to around 20 percent. Timeliness and Extra Mile are the priorities for improvement across the Canadian public sector. Beyond these five generic drivers, we now also know the specific drivers of client satisfaction by service channel and by business line (Citizens First 4).
2. Employee Engagement
Over the past three years, research by Ontario, British Columbia, Manitoba, Peel Region and the Government of Canada has documented the most important factors that determine employee engagement scores in public organizations. The most recent federal employee survey was designed to identify the performance drivers for federal organizations. As in Ontario and British Columbia, the most important drivers are Executive and Supervisory Leadership (including clear goals), staffing practices and career development opportunities. By focussing on factors like these, B.C. and Ontario have been able to improve their employee engagement scores by ten percent over the past two to three years.
3. Public Trust and Confidence
Citizens First 4 and Citizens First 5 research confirmed that service outcomes have an impact on trust and confidence in government, in the public service, and in individual PS institutions. From the factors tested in these surveys, two clusters emerge: Service drivers (the services benefit citizens, they are delivered well and clients are treated fairly) and Leadership and Management drivers (leaders and managers are seen as competent, the public service is seen to be ethical, is in touch with the needs of the community, and mistakes are admitted and corrected). Among those tested, service drivers make up 35-55 percent of trust and confidence outcomes, and management drivers 45-65 percent of the outcome. By improving their performance on these service and management drivers, public sector organizations can make an important contribution to improving public trust and confidence in public institutions.
Applying the chain
The Region of Peel has been a leader in applying the PS SVC over the past few years, and other Ontario regional governments, such as the Regions of Waterloo and Hamilton, are also early adopters. At the provincial level both Ontario and British Columbia are applying the PS SVC and, and internationally the New Zealand Police are using the PS SVC and are measuring people, service and trust outcomes.
Peel may be the most advanced Canadian jurisdiction. Under the leadership of the CAO, David Szwarc, Peel has been measuring outcomes in people, service and trust for several years. By focusing on the key drivers, Peel has been able to improve its employee engagement results from 70/100 in 2007 to 72/100 in 2008, its service performance from 75/100 in 2008 to 77/100 in 2009, and the trust and confidence