Friday, March 14, 2008

French civil servant: What motives you?

We had a case study, in which we had to help 200 civil servants to change their job habit in transition from paperwork to non-paperwork. The average age of the workers are around 50 years old (several years before retirement) and mostly women. The management sensed that this change might upset their employees and the productivity rate might drop after the implementation of the new system. They hired us, the consultant, for the change management plan.

While drawing out the plan, it came to point that I proposed to come out with rewards to motivate them into this change.

Naturally I proposed ideas that seems to work in Malaysia or US:
1. Let the 12 departments compete among them. The department with the highest productivity will win a week of vacation somewhere.

Idea rejected. Reason: The French don't like competition in work. The work union will certainly oppose this idea.

2. If the whole company manages to maintain their productivity rate for the first 3 months after the new system, everybody will go for weekend vacation in a domestic location.

Idea rejected: The French won't be tempted just by a weekend vacation.

3. Increase their salary

Idea rejected: They are nearly on retirement, money is not a motivator anymore.

At this point I won't even want to try other methods like best department team, best employees awards....

The main problem are: The French civil servant won't get fired, so they won't care about their productivity. They just want people to leave them alone, let them do their 9-6 job and don't expect extra things from them.

I regret that I didn't know the French culture enough to propose more workable ideas. It is time for me to really observe the French culture. If the French manages to have one of the highest productivity rate in the world, I must have missed out something (I'm not being sarcastic). Our teacher (professional consultant) told us that in France, the change management usually deals more with the users psychology than technical elements.


  1. Anonymous8:14 PM

    Since the French civil servants have their job for life, there is no motivation for them to work any harder nor more efficient in their job. After all, no matter how bad they are at their job, they cannot be fired.

  2. Anonymous8:50 PM

    I doubt if the Malaysian civil servants are any different from the French ones. When the job is well secured, the performance is inversely related.

  3. Anonymous2:26 PM

    "If the French manages to have one of the highest productivity rate in the world, I must have missed out something"

    Maybe you simply miss one thing.
    Not every french are civil servants...

    From a French not civil servants

  4. Anonymous9:35 PM

    "If the French manages to have one of the highest productivity rate in the world, I must have missed out something"
    Actually, you missed a lot of things about this country. I like to read your blog, sometimes it's quite funny :D

    I am not a civil servant but my grandmother worked at "Sécurité Sociale". I remeber that she told us, me and my syster, that their department was everytimes under pressure. They were not enough employes to do the job, so they had to work hardly.

    I noticed that you like to present a fact or an exemple and next you generalize. It is interesting to read something about my own country seen by a external point of view, but quite oftenly, I have to admit that I don't recognize it, it is like a caricature :)))

  5. alexandre and alain,

    Thanks for visiting my blog and left a comment.

    In fact, I was very frustrated after the case, as I couldn't think of anything useful to solve the problem (in this case motives a bunch of civil servants who are several years away from their retirement.)

    Since you guys are French, can you please give me some suggestions? Is it really true that they will not be motivated if propose them a weekend vacation?