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EPO Staff Engagement Survey Predates the Pandemic and Provides False Assumptions for EPO Policies or Policy-Setting

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Summary: The EPO ticks a box for "surveying the staff", but is it actually listening? Is that done often enough? It was last done almost 3 years ago...

The Central Staff Committee (CSC) of the EPO wrote to António Campinos some days ago and then shared the letter as an open letter for staff to see. "The President has committed to holding another survey by no later than 2022," said the CSC. "Some national administrations conduct yearly surveys, which look at civil servants' attitudes to and experience of working in government departments. Such a best practice would not be out of place at the EPO."



As I've noted in the video above, these surveys are designed to get particular outcomes, desired by the surveyor. Loaded questions and push polling are widely known problems. It's therefore useful if not imperative that the union does its own survey, which is ongoing.

Here's the full letter signed by Alain Dumont on behalf of elected staff representatives.

European Patent Office | 80298 MUNICH | GERMANY

Mr António Campinos President of the EPO

By email

OPEN LETTER

Reference: sc21132cl Date: 18/11/2021

Staff Engagement Survey - Need for an update

Dear Mr President,

First of all, let us say something positive: we appreciate that you tried to reach out to staff and have spoken to over 1,000 individuals1 when you took up office and also participated in team meetings with 760 employees via videoconference2. It is a good thing to meet our colleagues individually or collectively, to show interest in their fate, to ask for their feedback, and to try to understand their concerns.

So what can go wrong in this endeavour? We are in constant contact with our colleagues but we seem to arrive at different assessments of how well, how committed and how satisfied staff are. The gap between how you think staff feel like and what we experience seems huge. In the absence of objective facts, these differing perceptions inevitably foster a highly polarised culture and the risk of increasing tribal politics.

What can be done to improve the situation? Fortunately, the answer is simple. The last general staff survey, the so-called “Staff Engagement Survey”, was conducted in early 2019, almost three years ago. You have committed to holding another survey by no later than 20223. Having lived through the biggest pandemic in a century, been subjected to a constant stream of reforms and reorganisations and now faced with “New Ways of Working”, we would suggest: the sooner the better.

_____ 1 IAM, https://www.iam-media.com/law-policy/man-plan 2 See slide 7 of document CA/73/21 3 See your announcement “Your voice, our future results” of 4 April 2019




Incidentally, some national administrations conduct yearly surveys, which look at civil servants' attitudes to and experience of working in government departments4. Such a best practice would not be out of place at the EPO.

As a politician once said: “In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue.5” In the same vein, the same politician also added: “It’s not cool to not know what you’re talking about. That’s not keeping it real, or telling it like it is.”

Yours sincerely,

Alain Dumont Chairman of the Central Staff Committee

_____ 4 See https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/civil-service-people-surveys 5 Barack Obama’s commencement speech at Rutgers


Just like ILO-AT decisions, these surveys are so slow to come that big decisions are already being made regardless of the outcome, making the outcome moot. In a sense, these surveys are partly PR stunts, if not in their own right (just their very existence) then maybe even the substance of them. The union's survey will be a lot more interesting.

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