The Swedish Agency for Public Management

Evaluation of the “Offentligt etos” [Public Ethos] project (2014:22)

iStatskontoret has evaluated the Public Ethos project. The Swedish Council for Strategic Human Resource Development (KRUS) carried out the project on behalf of the Government 2010-2012. By inspiring government employers to work with values issues, KRUS was to improve employees' knowledge and understanding of fundamental values in state administration and the role of civil servant.

KRUS was to inform all authorities about the project and offer tailored support initiatives. Among other things, it offered documentation, conferences and seminars, fee-based training for managers and management groups, and online courses and podcasts.

One fifth of authorities inspired by the project

Statskontoret has conducted a survey of all authorities. It reveals that half of the authorities participated in the Public Ethos project's activities and that the project inspired one in five authorities. Some of the authorities had already commenced work on values and were not inspired by KRUS for this reason. Some have still benefited from the project's work.

During the same period, courts and police authorities conducted their own work with related issues and participated to a lesser extent than other authorities in the project's activities. If these are left out of calculations, the proportion of authorities that took part is two thirds.

Of the products and activities developed by KRUS, the documentation is the most used; primarily a document which summarises the common state values. It consists of six fundamental principles concerning legality, objectivity, efficiency and service, among other things.

The benefits of KRUS' project was greater for individual authorities whose management had participated in training and seminars, though this was only one in four authorities.

The ambition to reach all managers in central government with a special manager training was highlighted in the assignment. The ambition was not achieved.

Success of the Public Ethos project varies between different types of authority

County councils and cultural authorities are the types of operations that have benefited most from the Public Ethos project. Courts and police authorities are the bodies that state to the least extent that they benefited from the project.

Large authorities work with their values to a greater extent than small ones. The open questions in the survey reveal that several small authorities do not have the resources to work with value-related issues and that the project has therefore been of great value to them.

On the other hand, no differences can be discerned between authorities based on different forms of financing.

Most authorities work with values

Today, most authorities work to strengthen employees' knowledge and understanding of shared values for state employees. Normally, authorities develop their own watchwords and have an introduction course pertaining to the shared values or the role of civil servant.

Roughly half of all authorities have developed their own values and often the employees have been involved in this work. The documentation containing shared values for state employees has in many cases been introduced at an early stage.

The shared values need to be concretised and discussed

The shared values have a legal and abstract character and have no guidance function in the daily work. They do not, for example, provide guidance for weighing up the various principles.

One element in the work with values is time for discussion and reflection over the content of values and concrete adjustments between various values. At the three authorities examined in case studies, there was an interest among employees in discussing both ethical issues and the role of the civil servant. In one case, however, the authority's own values did not provide the guidance the employees considered necessary in their work. In another case, a common perception was that the values were important but that there was too little time for reflection and discussion on ethical dilemmas.

At the case study authorities, the employees have a considerably greater awareness of the authority's own values than of the shared values. It is also common for authorities to express their own values in various policy documents and vacancy advertisements and not the shared values.

Organisational differences in the work with values

The authorities have adopted different approaches to organising their work with values. It is relatively common for authorities to appoint one or more persons to take responsibility for the work. Other authorities have instead chosen to assign primary responsibility to the line managers.

Operational planning, operational development and skills provision affected to some extent

Many authorities do not appear to differentiate between work on values and other development work. A number of authorities point out that as the values are based on statutes that apply to all authorities, they govern everything.

Induction training for new employees, discussions on ethical dilemmas and the design of recruitment advertisements and job interviews are examples of how values affect skills provision. The case study authorities' own values were included in various policy documents. The shared values were only mentioned on a few isolated occasions.

The authorities which took part in the Public Ethos project and seminars more often than others feel that the shared values affect their operational planning, operational development and skills provision.

Difficulty establishing the impact that the work with values has on confidence in civil service

We have found no visible traces of the work with values among the case study authorities in the confidence studies we have access to. However, we feel that it is not possible to investigate the effects that the Public Ethos project may have had on confidence in civil service. One aspect is that the confidence is affected by a number of factors in complex collaborations. It is difficult to isolate the effect of one type of measure. Another aspect is that work with values may need to be conducted over a long period of time before it has an impact on the public perception of civil service.

The project's conditions had a negative impact on efficiency

The choice to allocate the task of carrying out the project to a newly formed and unknown authority has had an impact on efficiency. The end of the project coincided with the phasing out of KRUS, which also had a negative impact on the project.

A pilot scheme which is difficult to evaluate

The Public Ethos project had a broad structure and can be compared to a pilot scheme in which different methods of achieving results were tested. Among other things, the intention was for the methods to be tailored to operations.

The shared values for the State are based on statutes and must therefore be followed regardless of which initiatives have been carried out under the Public Ethos project. In addition to this, other influences such as the public administration bill may have influenced the authorities' decisions to carry out work on values. It is therefore difficult to isolate the effects of the initiatives carried out under the project.