Government / Statutory Bodies

Setting benchmarks for excellence

by Grace Chan

This is the 1st article in an eight-part series introducing winners of the Civil Service Outstanding Service Award Scheme 2009

Anthony Mak
principal assistant secretary (training & development)
Civil Service Training and Development Institute
Civil Service Bureau
Photo: Edde Ngan

Awards scheme encourages superior service culture in the public sector

The prime objective of all government departments is to serve the public. In order to promote a culture of quality service, the Civil Service Bureau in 1999 launched its Civil Service Outstanding Service Award Scheme to motivate staff to pursue continuous improvement in the delivery of public service.

Aside from acknowledging outstanding achievements of the winning departments, the biennial awards scheme also sets standards for service excellence, encourages a people-based service culture, and promotes learning and sharing in the civil service.

"All the participating departments review their services before and during the competition, giving them the chance to reassess their work and identify room for improvement," says Anthony Mak, principal assistant secretary (training & development), Civil Service Training and Development Institute, Civil Service Bureau. "Most importantly, the competition provides a learning platform across all departments."

The scheme this year attracted a total of 141 entries from 51 departments, an encouraging increase from 125 in 2007. "We're also delighted with the quality of service and the many innovative ideas these entries represent," Mr Mak notes.

Promoting team

Since 2007, the Civil Service Bureau has run the awards scheme in cooperation with the Hong Kong Management Association (HKMA). The aim is to include more seasoned practitioners from the private sector to form the panel of judges. Their involvement enhances the objectivity of the assessment process and facilitates benchmarking with the private sector. For the final-round adjudication this year, Legislative Council and District Council members, as well as representatives from professional bodies were invited as adjudicators to ensure wider public engagement.

A total of 50 awards divided into eight categories, with four departmental and four team awards, were given to deserving departments in this year.

The Best Performance Pledges Award is a new category recognising the departments that have incorporated best practices in implementing and continuously improving their performance pledges.

"This category acknowledges the importance of addressing public needs and continuously achieving and exceeding the performance pledges as times change," Mr Mak stresses.

The Best Public Image Award acknowledges departments that have impressed the general public with quality service. Winners in this category are determined partly through public vote. "We believe that engaging the public in selecting the winners can help to enhance the scheme's popularity and recognition," notes Mr Mak.

Wider acclaim

Since it is important for civil servants to work efficiently with their immediate colleagues, as well as those in different departments, a Partnership Award is in place to recognise outstanding service enhancement through cross-departmental collaboration, while an Internal Service Award acknowledges quality service provided to colleagues within the civil service.

"Treating colleagues as internal customers and offering them quality service can ultimately lead to better public service," Mr Mak explains.

Unique in this year's award scheme, there were distinctive entries from departments that assisted with rescue operations following last year's Sichuan earthquake or provided professional support services during the 2008 Olympic Games equestrian events staged in Hong Kong.

"These experiences not only stretched our government officers' capabilities, but they also served to confirm their international standards of service delivery," Mr Mak emphasises.

He sees the awards scheme as a good opportunity to introduce the wide range of government services to the public.

"We are producing a series of short videos to promote these exemplary services to the general public. These will be uploaded onto government websites and youth portals, and will be showcased in public areas at government premises," he says, adding that a "story-telling approach" will be used to stimulate public interest and understanding.

The Civil Service Bureau will also join hands with the HKMA to run a number of seminars where awardees will share their success stories with their colleagues and the business sector.

As a central training agency, the Civil Service Bureau provides consultancy services as well as customised training to other departments according to their specific training needs. "We believe that only through continuous learning and sharing can the public sector keep up with the changing times and provide service of high quality," Mr Mak concludes.

Enhancing a service culture

  • Biennial awards set benchmarks for public service excellence
  • Engaging the public and private sectors ensures wider recognition
  • Exemplary services to be promoted through video programmes
  • Winners to share their initiatives at upcoming seminars

Taken from Career Times 13 November 2009, p. A10
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