HMRC Is Shite

HMRC Is Shite
Dedicated to the taxpayers of Britain, and the employees of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), who have to endure the monumental shambles that is HMRC.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The Hail Mary Response



Last week I wrote that the "Grande Dame" (Lesley Strathie) had apparently talked up the recently published Civil Service People Survey 2010 (in which HMRC came 103rd out of 103).

My thanks to a loyal reader who has taken the time and trouble to make a transcript of the "Grande Dame's" pep talk. I understand that this has been typed from the script as it appears in the HMRC intranet, therefore there may be a few small errors and omissions. However, I am sure that you will all get the underlying message!

"Message from Leslie Straithie Improving Our People Survey Results

There's no question we have to improve our People Survey results.

Overall engagement was the lowest of the 103 organisations surveyed and all on the senior team take responsibility.

Tempting to think nothing can be done short term. People point to pay freezes and staff cuts insist we can't turn things around while this is happening.

Yet our highest performing teams show it can be done, Benefits & Credits we have front line operational teams whose scores have jumped over 20%.

These are fantastic results we can learn from them.

In the summer I set out what we were doing to start turning things round. Every HMRC leader now has to publish the 3 leadership behaviours they want to improve personally.

Frontline people have taken part in focus groups to examine what you expect from us as an employer (and what we can expect from you in return), we are currently looking at the HR policies and procedures we need to change.

Where our people survey have improved - and we've seen good results in parts of Information Management Services there are 4 common themes:

Pacesetter - People don't want to hear about changes they want to be part of the solution. Fundamentally it is about solving problems the 3 C's process is about making sure issues can be raised escalated and dealt with not simply ignored.

In 2009/2010 B&C adopted 75 staff ideas under Pacesetter Change Control Process this year they have taken up over 230. What's more leadership visibility scores in Pacesetter areas are an average 10 higher.

Communication - essential- especially where it involves line management. High performing teams use face to face briefings whenever possible and don't rely on intranet, newsletters or emails (Editor's note: Does that ,mean that HMRC - which does rely on emails and intranet - is not high performing?)

We have seen this in IMS with their fortnightly briefings and seen how these teams score higher where managers explain how their work fits into HMRC's overall strategy.

Good Line Managers - The manager is crucial especially when it comes to day to day issues that really affect morale and performance.

Not all of these issues will be within their gift but we have seen excellent results where they have listened (Editor's note: this implies that some line managers do not listen), fed back concerns and taken action.

CaM and B&C Ops have developed something called The Link Model to help managers do this. Last year just 20% of B&C believed action would be taken as a result of the survey, this year it was 42%.

Excellent managers tackle things that damage morale like poor performance, and take early and decisive action on sickness absence.

High scoring teams reward good work either through the Simply Thanks scheme, similar local initiative or celebrate it at special events.

Strong Leadership - Visible credible leadership is characteristic of high performing teams and a key part of our leadership behaviours. The most successful managers even have staff engagement built into their PDE's.

We expect them to talk openly and honestly about what's taking place in HMRC (key part of Change Programme) This is something we will measure them against.

Finally you said you wanted to see action so every month Pulse magazine will include a new Listening, Acting, Improving section setting out the changes large and small we make that month.

I firmly believe we can build a Department we can all be proud of. Its a big challenge and I want to thank the high performing teams who prove it can be done.
"

Well, from my perspective as an outsider, there is a lot of management consultant jargon in this "Hail Mary" plea for faith in the future. However, I would like to ask those who actually work in HMRC:

1 Do you believe that she is sincere in the above, in that she really believes that things can/will improve?

2 Are the tactics she refers to above really being rolled out across all of HMRC?

3 If these tactics are actually being rolled out, are they actually working and helping improve performance and morale?

4 What really needs to be done?

5 As a member of staff of HMRC, what was your genuine feeling about the Strathie response to the survey?

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24 comments:

  1. "The manager is crucial especially when it comes to day to day issues that really affect morale and performance.
    Not all of these issues will be within their gift".

    Should Morale and Performance not be a prerequisite to becoming a manager in the first place?

    103rd out of 103. The lot of them should resign.

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  2. 1 Do you believe that she is sincere in the above, in that she really believes that things can/will improve?
    No, she’s a career liar and will be off as soon as she (respectably?) can, with a nice big payout for completely arsing things up.

    2 Are the tactics she refers to above really being rolled out across all of HMRC?
    Probably, but that’s not what is required - see answer to #3.

    3 If these tactics are actually being rolled out, are they actually working and helping improve performance and morale?
    Pacesetter - people don't want to hear about it at all - it doesn’t work and is total bollocks. The cost of implementation however has snowballed to such an extent that they won’t do away with it (not while all eyes are on them at least).
    Communication - If you can call receiving loads of pointless, process-based emails per day from you manager (who only sits 50ft away) communication, then yes, it’s great, otherwise another poor result.
    Good Line Managers - To be fair, there are some, however these are in the minority. My immediate line manager for instance, manages by email (and only sits 50ft away), and his manager tends to ‘work at home’ a lot.
    Strong Leadership - “Visible credible leadership” - not words that I associate with any of the inept bunch of cocks that I’ve had the misfortune to deal with.

    4 What really needs to be done?
    Where to start? First and foremost sack (with no payout) Strathie, Hartnett (probably got a job with VF lined up anyway) and Clasper - HMRC simply cannot function if people don’t trust the top people. Secondly, run it like a public service and not a business. This will allow people to do their jobs free from pointless and de-motivating micro-management.

    5 As a member of staff of HMRC, what was your genuine feeling about the Strathie response to the survey?
    Simply that she disgusts me. Not just from a staff point of view but as a taxpayer who, along with millions of others, is paying for her (and her Ex-Com pals) to knacker things up more and more every day. Talk about lack of empathy.

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  3. I think a sixth question could also be asked Ken;

    6) Does anyone actually understand what the hell she is talking about?

    Her piece looks full of jargon and "common purpose" twat speak. I wonder if she, along with the other top managers, would benefit from a basic course in plain speaking. I also suspect that such a course, if attended by the aforementioned, would also benefit all staff as they may well be able to understand just what she is trying to say.

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  4. she really does drone on and on... and on.

    Well done to HMRC for coming 103rd out of 103. It takes a special kind of organisation to achieve these levels (consistently)

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  5. I do not work for HMRC but have a partner who does so can only comment on what I am told and witnessed myself as an outsider.

    From what I have heard/witnessed it looks very much like the lower end management are as much to blame for the survey problem as the senior managers are. I am pretty sure that constant threats of dismissal, lack of people skills (in fact lack of skills full stop) from the team leaders in the contact centers must be having a detrimental effect on morale and therefore the service provided by HMRC.

    Then there are policies that get changed at short notice. The latest one I have heard about is that if a member of staff is off sick the team leaders have to telephone everyday to see how they are and when they are returning to work (this is actually harassment). Everything they do seems to geared towards putting team members down and upsetting them. Which is quite funny really because the only team leader I have spoken too in the past is clearly not the brightest spark in the pack on the communication front. My guess is they got their team leader position because the kept screwing up on the telephone and will likely be in the position for along time (unless they get the chop in the cuts).

    I guess that unless health and safety regulations are adhered to, lower end managers go unchecked for harassment and other employment laws are simply ignored nothing will change within HMRC.

    On a good note if my partner actual was dismissed we would have a reason to celebrate.

    Oh yeah, and because I do not work for HMRC I can say what I want and they can GTF.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I would say some Junior managers got to those positions because they arsed-licked.
    More Senior people know they are arse licks and so they hand the shit down to them to hand out to everyone else. They want to serve in any way they can in the hope that in future times they might proceed further up the ladder, or that bizzarely they will be spared from the cuts.
    Whether the procedures implemented have any bearing on peoples mental well being or morale is irrelevent to them.
    Strathie, bad as she is, even admits in the above article that Morlae and performance are things which HMRC Managers will not be able to understand. Thats becuase they are not qualified to be managers but go to those positions through bluff and arse licking.

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  7. The post at 15.05 is spot on.

    The thing about HMRC is it is rotten from ExCom down. I can cite few examples of inspired leadership let alone management. When people in the survey said they were happy with their line manager, I am going to make a big assumption here and say they were talking about FLMs (Front or First Line Managers, basically people who would be classed supervisors in the private sector). Now I have seen some terrible FLms and a few excellent ones. In my experience the good ones do not get anywhere with their managers but are respected by their teams. The HOs and SOs Grades 6 and &s (Junior Managers and Middle Managers in the private secor) appear to think of themselves as demi gods. In my centre, the Grade 6 has been in the Civil Service for over 35 years, the Grade 7 for over 30 years and I am guessing by their behaviours the rest have been at it for approaching thirty years. This is the real problem. The culture at HMRC is one that promotes mindless decision-making and knee jerk responses. These "Managers" are past masters. Ask any question, and you don't get a managerial response, you always get a political response.

    The problem is that the Middle Managers are useless, the HOs are toothless and the FLMs are hopeless.

    HMRC seems to be a production line for political spin doctors and worst of all, they refer to the HMRC as a "business". Muppets the lot of them.

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  8. My reaction is"well she would say that would'nt she ?"
    The problems with HMRC is that the managers are either technically inept ( cf Leslie Strathie at the PAC hearing - I am not a tax expert) or managerially inept.
    As a previous poster said the way to get promoted is to follow the party line regardless of how stupid it is and not question things because otherwise you get told off for not demonstrating "corporate behaviour". I am ex C and E and we tended to be very focussed on getting things done and bringing the revenue in and did not bother too much about grade, whereas the Inland Revenue culture seems to be very grade conscious and also unable to let staff use their intelligence to get the job done without continually being micro managed.

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  9. HMRC Management seems to think that communication is the problem. I disagree - it's their actions that cause the problems. Every day senior management seem to introduce something that will make your life at work, just a little bit more shittier- cue the latest stuff about sickness absence which is designed to make people fearful and get rid of people on the cheap.
    As for Strathie shes only there for one reason - to get rid of staff - just like she did at DWP.
    As for Pacesetter it hasn't been introduced where I am and we don't need it - we need more staff and the tools to do the job - not constant interference and badly thought out iniatives.

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  10. "Well, from my perspective as an outsider, there is a lot of management consultant jargon in this"

    Everything that comes out in HMRC is like this. Very little of it makes sense. The whole of HMRC is filled with doublespeak and regurgitated consultant bollocks talk.

    Their response to coming 103rd? "Excellent managers tackle things that damage morale like poor performance, and take early and decisive action on sickness absence."

    This means within 1 week we will clamp down on sickness absence (including instructing managers that a doctors sick note is only advice to be considered and DOES NOT mean people need to be off work) and change the disciplinary process so that managers sack people with no reference to anyone with experience of employment law (as was previously the case).

    2 Are the tactics she refers to above really being rolled out across all of HMRC?

    The worst results came from the areas of HMRC these tactics have been in place the longest or have recently been introduced. They are the problem. Dull repetitive work where you follow a process and ignore any idea of service to the public are causing the problems and banging on about 3 C's doesn't change that.

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  11. Seeing as normal rules and laws do not seem to apply to HMRC managers. Is it OK do stick a boot up their arse? Cos if my partner comes home in tears to many more times that is what is going to happen.

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  12. Any normal organisation would conduct a thorough review of what is fast becoming a failing "business". Pacesetter us thoroughly detested where it has been rolled out. Staff are fully aware the taxpayer us not getting the service they should expect.

    From the staff figures as reported when salaries were disclosed, fully 52% of HMRC employees are Band O and above! Think about that, almost a one to one ratio of "management" to "staff". If you were a shareholder in a business with such top heavy organisation what would you do?

    No wonder the morale is so low, it's a basket case of a department within the civil service.

    I feel sorry for front line staff. It's a losing battle.

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  13. "Any normal organisation would conduct a thorough review of what is fast becoming a failing "business"."

    Too late, it has already failed.

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  14. Do many people actually get dismissed from HMRC for reasons like "being late back from a tea break", "being late in the morning", "taking time off when given a sick note"?

    If so how much does HMRC payout for tribunals or out of court settlements?

    Reading some of the posts on this site I would not be surprised if the actions of managers do not lead to people taking their own lives. You guys have my sympathy.

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  15. 23 February 2011 09:02

    I cant quote dates or names but I'm almost certain there was a suicide several years ago.
    The reason I remember was when a colleague confronted a Union rep about harassment in the workplace and brought it up.
    I know people who would never have been off work have been referred to hospital.

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  16. "Fully 52% of HMRC employees are Band O and above! Think about that, almost a one to one ratio of "management" to "staff"."

    To be fair most of those band O's are the "staff". Its only in contact centers or processing where band O's are managers. The rest of the department don't have many AO's or AA's because the actual work is done by band O's.

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  17. @ 23 February 2011 09:02

    Not yet. But until now there were rules to follow and if someone was going to be sacked it had to be agreed by some specialists in employment law. That has all gone now. They are counting on most people not going to tribunal.

    I think the new process is
    1. You get sacked by your manager 2. you appeal. The appeal is heard by you managers manager who decides they were right.
    3. you go to tribunal and win so department give you compensation.

    ReplyDelete
  18. As stated above, the purpose of Strathie being in charge is sackings. Take a look at recent news items on opening everything in the public sector to outside bids (except security service work). Surely it seems obvious, after the "trial" of debt collection for HMRC by outside companies that the purpose of destroying HMRC's morale and professional basis is to get the taxpayers to say "anything is better than this"? Cue the arrival of companies willing to collect taxes for a percentage cut and no questions asked about methods.

    If Strathie and Co can demoralise enough people, HMRC will be a bigger failure than it currently is (and it is NOT the front line staff to blame) and can be taken over. I'm sure HMRC employees are looking forward to applying for their own jobs with some security company conglomerate run from Abu Dhabi at half their current wage?

    Having dealt with HMC&E, the IR and now HMRC, I can only say you have my deepest sympathies and I hope you all manage to get out before the inevitable happens.

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  19. I guess if the new process works along the lines @23 February 2011 10:38 thinks it will then there will be a large rise in the number of tribunals taking place.

    I await the TV adds:
    "If you worked for HMRC, there is probably a claim"

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  20. "I'm sure HMRC employees are looking forward to applying for their own jobs with some security company conglomerate run from Abu Dhabi at half their current wage?"

    Would many bother?

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  21. 1 Do you believe that she is sincere in the above, in that she really believes that things can/will improve?

    You only have to listen to her rantings during the staff phone in to realise that dissention will not be tolerated under any circumstances. She has a total inability to shut her mouth and use her ears, but to be fair don't they all at that grade?

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  22. Not to put too fine a point on it - she is talking PISH

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  23. "To be fair most of those band O's are the "staff". Its only in contact centers or processing where band O's are managers. The rest of the department don't have many AO's or AA's because the actual work is done by band O's."

    And those in processing and contact centres (and debt management also) there is such pressure on them as the band gradings are now such a gray area no-one knows what they're allowed to do and what they can't - which is probably at least someway towards the 103rd place. I am just waiting for the day Panto Dame Strathie says something along the lines of "well we're 103rd, but at least we have got the highest number of all the departments!"

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  24. I think a major problem with hmrc is that there are too many layers of management and those at the top making the decisions just aren't seeing the effects it has lower down quickly enough. If they spent the time shadowing an AA/AO doing their job they would see the problems we face and be able to make simple changes that could make great improvements for employees and our customers alike, instead they create a bloated system of the 3 C's, there is no engagement in this, just them saying yes or no without really understanding the situation.

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