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Friday, 24 February 2012
Homer Speaks - HMRC The Three Pillared Triangle
My thanks to a loyal reader who sent me the transcript of Lin Homer's (CEO of HMRC) recent introductory video chat with Stephen Hardwick (HMRC Communications Director).
Homer is pushing the point that she wants managers to listen, and for staff to tell her "how it is":
"..lots of staff also come to 100 Parliament street, and along with EXCOM colleagues, I’m on the forth floor, I’m there. And I think unless people are prepared to tell me what they think is stopping us from advancing then I don’t think we can make the best plans as senior leadership.
What I do need them to be prepared to do is to give me ideas about solutions, as well as problems, so any time, they can get me on the email as well, share your thoughts and share your ideas."
The proof of the pudding is in the eating, take her at her word and tell her how it is; then let me know how you get on and whether management really do become more accessible.
Oh, and by the way, could someone please tell me what a three pillared triangle is?
"Transcript for Lin Homer introduction video with Stephen Hardwick
Hello I’m Stephen Hardwick, Communications Director, and I’m in St Mary’s House, Preston today to interview Lin Homer our new Chief Executive. Lin you’ve been in HMRC for about 3 weeks now, so how’s it going?
Well I’m really enjoying it. You’re going to have to ask everyone else what they think. But it’s given me a fantastic opportunity to get involved in the forward planning of the corporate plan but also to look at what we’ve achieved over the last year and to plan for the future. I’ve had a great chance to learn about what we do.
I knew quite a lot about that anyway. I’d been involved in the capability review 2 years ago.
In UKBA I’d been involved in taking some of the customs work on as responsibilities and of course I knew that we had 67,000 staff, but the scale of the organisation is still something really astonishing.
Collecting in 1.2 billion of tax every day, paying out 109 million of benefits and credits, this is a complex and significant organisation and one of the things I’d like to do is not only to learn about it but to get people to talk more about this important job they do.
From your first impressions, what do you think we’re doing well and what do you think we could do better?
Well I think there are loads of things that are done really well, I think we have set ourselves very clear targets. With the introduction of pacesetter we’ve learnt to focus on performance delivery, but also to involve everyone in the organisation in that. And we’ve increasingly narrowed the gap on the tax yield, reduced our errors, so that less money is paid out that then has to be clawed back. So it’s just significant areas where I think we’re leading the way and where others have much to learn from us.
But any good organisation wants to be better and I think what our front line would say is they want to deliver the very best for the public. So what I think we’ve got to do is really focus on how we can continue producing good customer service, how we can continue improving the tax that we get in, which after all is what all public services are based on, and how we can continue ensuring that we can be as cost effective and as efficient as possible. And those three pillars of our triangle are really important.
HMRC doesn’t currently get a very good press, do you think that’s deserved?
Well I think it’s almost inevitable that the department that collects taxes isn’t going to be universally loved all of the time. But I have to say I think we get a lot more of the negative and probably less of the positive than we should. And as I say I think one of the answers there is that we’ve got to be more prepared to talk about what we do well, hold out our improvements well, whilst being non defensive about the areas we still want to be better in.
And I think that requires all of us as senior managers to get out there and talk about the business, including rebutting things that need rebutting. But I really think it also needs every member of staff to be a little bit less modest, a little bit prepared to talk about the things that they do well and for all of us to remind people that public services are founded on us getting the tax in.
HMRC has been going through a period of upheaval since we were formed and re structuring and we’ve got the lowest staff engagement scores in the civil service, so what are your internal priorities Lin?
Well I think we’ve got a big responsibility to continue driving improvements forwards. Obviously for me very sad to arrive just as Lesley died but I’m determined that we’re going to build on the improvements that she started and follow those through. That’s what she would want, that’s what lots of staff have said to me and we’ve got a great base of operational efficiency already promised, begun to deliver, that ministers have great confidence in us so we’re going to take that forward. If we can get that cost base right then what that means is that we can deliver more for the country in these difficult times.
In addition I think we’ve got to keep pushing up the tax yield. Every public service needs us to do that and we are doing extremely well in a number of areas but the more we can ensure that the tax comes in at the right level and at the right time, then all public services are safer. And not withstanding those pressures of course we’ve got to continue to build on the customer service work we’re doing. Fantastic that the call centres are answering twice as many calls as they did two or three years ago but I know that the call centre people want to go further, they want to answer more calls and they want to answer them more quickly so those are good examples of where we can give ourselves some aspirations to do better on customer service.
I think all of us want to come to work with a bounce in our step, we want to work for an organisation that’s valued and we want to feel valued as part of that organisation. Again I think there’s been some fantastic work since I last looked at the organisation two years ago, and although we started from a low base our engagement scores are going up so I want us to build on that. That really requires us as senior managers to listen to what people are saying to us and it requires staff to have confidence in us that we want to be better and to work with us on that journey.
I’d like people to be thinking about their answers to the survey last year, and the answers that we got from that survey as well as the information we’ve got from our self assessment on the capability review, will give us an agenda for improvement as we go forwards. And bit by bit, year by year, we’re going to turn this into the organisation that the public want from us but that we want to work in.
While you’ve been out and about, you’ve asked people to come up and talk to you and tell you what they think about HMRC. Do you really want people to tell you how it is?
Yes I do.
There’s no point me sitting in an ivory tower, and I’m going to be trying to get out regularly. At the moment I’m out on a visit once a week but lots of staff also come to 100 Parliament street, and along with EXCOM colleagues, I’m on the fourth floor, I’m there. And I think unless people are prepared to tell me what they think is stopping us from advancing then I don’t think we can make the best plans as senior leadership.
What I do need them to be prepared to do is to give me ideas about solutions, as well as problems, so any time, they can get me on the email as well, share your thoughts and share your ideas. And again today in Preston Paul’s already given me a number or real, recent examples of front line staff coming up with things that have made the business here better and that’s what we need more of, and that’s what we as senior managers need to encourage.
You seem to have a really approachable and personable style, is that the sort of style you’d like for HMRC as an organisation?
Yes but I think it’s important that we’re professional and credible as well and I think what we’ve got to do is show people that they are right to place their trust in us. And I think what we’ve got to show our staff is that we mean to continue investing in them so of course we should be personable and accessible but we should be highly professional and highly trustworthy as well. If we get that right we can all hold our heads up high.
Being chief executive of HMRC is a really demanding job so how do you relax Lin?
I find work enjoyable most of the time I mean I’ve been lucky enough to do some great jobs, in demanding organisations, but you know doing things that matter to the public is quite a lot of reward in its own right and I do enjoy my work, so first of all I don’t go home heavily stressed. My family would say I’m a bit of a workaholic so don’t ask them for any advice, but I love family time, I’ve got three grown up daughters I still see a lot of, but then the boring lovely things of gardening and reading, they’re also great pleasures for me.
Lin, thank you very much."
Tax does have to be taxing.
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