The US was the only nation where confidence in the leadership was higher among more junior grades than among the leaders themselves.
Civil servants in the US pride themselves on their effective use of technology to deliver policy and services, and on how they collect and use data to track service outcomes. The total US group scored higher than any other Five Eyes country on all statements relating to use of technology, evidence and insights.
Uniquely among the Five Eyes countries – where larger samples took part in the study – the non-management civil servants in the US were more positive on all indicators than their more senior compatriots. In response to the overall statement – my organisation excels at learning and responding rapidly to meet evolving citizen needs – 87% of frontline civil servants agreed compared with 67% of leaders.
As well as being more negative about most performance indicators than their more junior colleagues, US leaders were also more downbeat than their peer groups in other countries. For example, they scored lowest overall on the statements about leadership and organisational vision, staff empowerment and autonomy, and among the bottom two on statements around environment for change and moving at pace.
Yet organisational direction and purpose is better understood by US civil servants than its leaders give them credit for. Nearly three-quarters of non-management staff agreed that all staff have a good understanding of the future direction of their organisation, compared to 42% of leaders and 58% of managers.
The US was the only nation where confidence in the leadership was higher among more junior grades than among the leaders themselves. For example, managers and non-managers gave higher ratings than their senior colleagues to leaders inspire and support our workforce to pursue and realise opportunity in the face of adversity. And 71% of frontline US staff agreed that leaders inspire, support and drive new ideas and change, compared with 58% of the leadership cohort (Fig 35).
US leaders were also most circumspect about their response to Covid. Just over half (58%) agreed that adapting to change had helped to develop significant capabilities that were not present three years prior to the pandemic. This is significantly lower than any other leadership cohort.
The apparently low self-efficacy of US leaders was also evident in their views on indicators relating to risk-taking and consideration of new ideas. US leaders were just as likely to disagree as agree (42%) that experimentation is made possible and actively encouraged (Fig 34).
However, the wider US cohort recorded the highest aggregate scores across the core Five Eyes group on most statements relating to staff empowerment and accountability.
However, leaders in the US were much more confident in their deployment of data and technology to design and deliver solutions. Three-quarters said that digital technologies are fully embedded in policymaking and service design processes from the outset and two-thirds agreed that the technology required for effective collaboration and solution delivery is available or can be developed in enough time to support requirements.
On all seven statements relating to the use of data and feedback from citizens to design and improve solutions, US civil servants were more confident than their peers across the Five Eyes countries.
US leaders were also more confident than their counterparts in other countries on some of the other statements. For example, all US leaders agreed that their organisation is led by data insights to track policy and service outcomes with end users, with three-quarters strongly agreeing.
However, they saw there was room for improvement in putting this data to use – only half agreed that wherever possible, our organisation uses citizen or end-user input to form policy and implementation solutions, and two-thirds that they have a cyclical process for improving services, which integrates citizen and end-user feedback.