Thursday, 18 October 2012

Government reforms, performance management and the labour process: the case of officers in the UK probation service

an article by Jenny Gale (Staffordshire University, UK) published in Work Employment & Society Volume 26 Number 5 (October 2012)


Taking a labour process perspective, this article investigates the impact of government reforms and performance management on officers in the National Probation Service (England and Wales).

Based on a case study involving two Probation Service Areas and interviews with national and local trade union officers, insights are gained into changes for probation work and the workforce that perform it.

The findings illustrate how reforms of probation practice, implemented locally through performance management, have led to probation work becoming increasingly ‘Taylorized’ with implications for the division of labour based on labour substitution, deskilling and degradation.

As the Probation Service was entering a new political era under the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition, these findings provide insights into its trajectory under previous governments. They also invoke questions regarding the implications of reforms for the Probation Service and public services generally.

Hazel’s comment:
Taylorism is the theory of scientific management [Wikipedia article here] which seems to me to be a singularly inappropriate methodology for performance measurement in a social, people-oriented environment.
As an employment adviser in the Jobcentre our performance was measured using the Management by Objectives system. My best statistic was achieved by placing the same person into nine different short-term jobs in a year. My greatest achievement from an emotional point of view was working my butt off to get someone into work who hadn’t had a job for a very long time – and discovering that he was still there two years later.
People are all different and cannot be counted in the same way that you can count the number of accurately manufactured widgets coming off the production line.

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