Monday 10 March 2014

The Race To The Bottom 10%

My thanks to a loyal reader, who directed me to a recently published blog by Sir Bob Kerslake (Head of the Civil Service and Permanent Secretary for the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG)) on the subject of Performance Management within the Civil Service.
"We are now starting the End Year Review period for the new Civil Service-wide performance management system. This system has introduced a consistent model across our organisation, which now looks at both “what” civil servants achieve and “how” they achieve it. Feedback on this has been positive, and I’m very proud that we now have a system which reflects our values as well as our achievements.

I am confident that introducing new performance management arrangements, done well, will radically improve the way in which we are all managed, and raise our overall effectiveness – whether that’s identifying and recognising high performers, or supporting those who need to improve."
This is the system that I wrote about in February which demands fixed quotas, wherein 10% of staff fall in the bottom rating regardless of their performance.

I noted at the time that:
"This is not a new concept, many "successful" private sector companies have used this technique (or variations thereon) eg Enron and Arthur Andersen (the failed accountancy firm that audited Enron). Seemingly the fear of "failure" is meant to be "motivational"."
Anyhoo be that as it may, Sir Bob is confident that the system will work:
"..the intention is that these ratings are guided not forced. There is a key role for managers here to ensure the system is applied fairly and consistently and that is why work is already underway to make sure they have the capability they need to run the process properly."
Aside from the nonsense of having fixed quotas for staff performance, its "success" or otherwise rests on the quality of management who make the assessment and then "guide" those who are in the bottom 10%.

Sadly for those in HMRC, based on comments on this site, the management skills of those "in charge" appear to be somewhat lacking; ie Sir Bob's wish that performance management arrangements should be done well is somewhat overoptimistic.

Aside from the comments on this site indicating that the system is not working, there are 300 comments on Kerslake's blog, most of which indicate that the system in the civil service as a whole is not working eg:
"I am sorry to say that I am not convinced. I know of many members of staff who have not had mid year review/talks with their line managers. Some still have not had last year's end of year review/talk. Bottom 10% has led to increased stress and depression. I am still waiting to find somebody who once in the bottom 10% has had guidance to help them improve."
"Sir Bob, this system is wrong. It allows perverse behaviour to reign supreme, it rewards favouritism, challenging performance markings does not result in changes and staff do not have faith in the system. We all know why you ask the poor performance question in staff surveys, and that is to get the result you want in order to say the staff want poor performance tackled – in turn you argue this is why you have this system. How about next time you leave out the loaded performance questions from staff surveys and put in protection to stop favouritism. I will sadly never be a box 1 from my manager's inferences – I'm a great performer, respected in the office, seen as reliable and positive – but unless I am best pals with the bosses it's hard cheese."
The key to an efficient organisation that staff are happy to work for is good management, poor management inevitably leads to failure and lousy staff morale.

Comments and views are most welcome, eg how is the "guidance" part of this system actually going?

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  1. The system is completely perverse because it encourages individualism over team work.
    This is because to ensure YOU dont fall into the bottom 10%. you will do everything to ensure that the mark of Cain falls onto someone else (not necessarily on your team).

    Still if Bob reckons it will work I am sure it will .....

  2. Wow, a browse of the "BobBlog" tells a trained mind a few stories!

    Is there something wrong with the system? It appears that the many of the bloggers are management and as critical of the system as the staff. Is this a continuation of The Emperors New Clothes saga?

    Keep an eye on what the PAC is reviewing in the next month or two wrt HMRC...

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    2. I'm a manager and have had frank discussions with my SCS1 about how I feel the EOY process should go. I've said that I will not, under any circumstances, put someone in a Must Improve if they didn't fully deserve it and only after I'd exhausted options to help them improve. They had no problem with this.

      This may be different throughout the department but please don't paint all managers with the same brush.

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    4. "This May be different throughout the department" ...... Says it all really

  3. We shop floor staff are definitely led by donkeys. How these donkeys got to where they are is rather obvious............

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    1. God I hope so. I can't wait to get out. Over 2 decades of hard work and loyal service and treated like an inconvenience. I have never, ever known so many unhappy people in one place.

      It's just one disaster after another and the staff left to bear the brunt and take the shots, whilst those responsible just seem to get pats on the back and promotion.

      "Had enough" doesn't even begin to describe it....

  5. Ken

    Did you see article in FT about Uli Hoeness being prosecuted in Germany for undeclared income in Swiss bank account? Only happened because opposition party there refused to allow anonymity for criminals who have broken the law. Who is our Uli Hoeness? How many big wigs in our establishment are getting away with this fraudulent activity because this government and opposition are allowing it?
    How many of this government and it's friends are guilty? They should be named and shamed like the benefit fraudsters are and then sent to gaol.

  6. I find myself in the bottom 10% (and the Director requires his 10%). I asked to discuss differences. No. I asked to see the evidence which obviously must have outweighed the feedback I presented. There was none, just an arbitrary and unfounded decision, and in any case the feedback was not read at the time of the end of year meeting. Many people in HMRC are angry, upset and demoralised. Is this because they are poor performers who have been caught out? No. At the same time HMRC witters about looking after "our people" and being concerned for our "well being". We are trained not to be fooled, but our employer expects us to be gullible. Or perhaps they don't care if we see through it or not.

    1. HMRC has been criticised so many times now by the likes of the P.M. down through the Chancellor, PAC & NAO, M.P.'s, the Accountancy Profession, the Legal System here and worldwide, the media and not forgetting the "customer base" itself, the humble and usually compliant, taxpayers. I don't mention the unions as unfortunately they are ineffective and spend too much money on bricks and mortar instead of fighting for their members. The good reps are few and far between but even they are held in contempt by the management.

      When it comes to the staff, and I was one, but left, they could not give a damn. there is no pride or accountability remaining with the management and as for their ethics and civil and criminal compliance with a broad range of legislation, forget it, they absolutely could not give a damn as no-one is or has been bringing them to account. The PAC is about as much use as the PCS and thats going some!

      I think that finding yourself in the bottom 10% arbitrarily at the end of the year to be a poor reflection on youyr line management who should have moved heaven and earth to kep you higher up. When I was a manager it was a bad reflection on me if one of my team was a poor performer of box 4 even. But then I was a C&E person not former "darkside", and whilst our senior managers had their faults, most of them were reasonable, but then we didnt hace Lean/Pacesetter crap and call centres in those days to contend with, only smugglers and VAT evaders or Excise cheats.

      Don't let the buggers get away with it, if you have got your evidence to prove them wrong get onto the union as soon as you can. Good Luck and dont give up.

    2. IMO most of the line managers r bullies and even senior management scratch their backs. They all stick together and without the pcs all hmrc staff I'm afraid r on their own.........

    3. Their Internal Grievance or "resolving disputes" procedures are a disgrace and are usually held within management silos i.e. complain about bad management or illegal practice and the people who undertake the fact finding, decision making and even the appeal are likely to be from the same generic pool or Directorship, the whole process is not only flawed it is "self policing" and lacking in moral and ethical standards.

      Do keep an eye on the Dundee Employment Tribunals though, HMRC lost 2 succesive cases badly last year and were severely criticised by the Tribunal Chair, almost unheard of, but an indication that some parts of the system do work properly.

      Also dont forget that the current and previous heads, that renowned double act of Hartnett and Homer, have about as much credibility with the Politicians as well as the legal and accountancy professions.

      Its a matter of time before the truth gets out, the PAC and the NAO are well aware of the issues, but apart from Osita Mba (HMRC Solicitor & whistleblower) and the use of anti-terrorism laws to surveil him and his wife, nothing else is ringing alarm bells yet.
      I take my hat off to Osita for his determination and ethical stance, the establishment should be kicking 3 kinds of crap out of HMRC. I would rather believe Osita for his knowledge of the law let alone his bravery than any of the spineless toads that inhabit the coridors of HMRC "power"!

      The arbitrary 10% is a joke, I would love to know how far up the greasy ploe the 10% applies?

  7. HMRC line managers are BULLIES BULLIES BULLIES, myself and other colleagues have witnessed this and the senior managers in our opinion do's usually the fat toad grey haired ones who have been on their arses for 40 yrs and don't know wen it's time to leave the bullying 70's attitudes and values at home in their single beds probably as no spouse wud put up with their shite

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  9. I've heard about voluntary exits for certain Band O's soon too