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.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

HMRC's Race To The Bottom

In March 2014 I wrote about HMRC's performance evaluation system, which insists on 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"."
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%.

My thanks to a loyal reader, who recently dropped me a note outlining the reality of what goes on behind the scenes when HMRC management decide who has to be placed in the bottom 10%.

"Morale has eroded at an alarming rate. 

The competency based promotion system is flawed beyond belief and as for the Performance Management Review process we have to endure, well it is the most unfair ridiculous annual assessment of staff I have ever known, and I've been around a while. 

If the taxpayer was aware of how many man/woman hours is wasted on this process there'd be a public inquiry. 

I kid you not. 

Let me give you an example of how it works. I meet with each member of staff under my management, once at the mid year and once at year end. We will discuss performance and we will agree (or not!) where that person sits within one of the three areas; 

- Exceeded Performance, 
- Achieved Performance or 
- Less Effective Performance. 

As managers we have been told that as an office we MUST have 10% of staff in the Less Effective box. This is non negotiable. 

However once I've completed my staff reviews and given each one an indicative mark I must now attend a Validation Group where all managers meet under the leadership of a chairperson. This is where my staff will be compared against the staff of other managers. Each manager goes in determined that none of their staff are going to end up in the 10% bracket. Added in to the mix is the fact that a lot of the staff being "Validated" don't even do the same type of work!! 

In effect if your manager is going in to these validation meetings you had better hope and pray that they are exceptional at standing their ground. A further twist here is that the validation group chair in at least one example that I know of started the session by saying that his PMR depended on making sure that the validation group reached the target of at least 10% of the staff being discussed ending up in the Less Effective Performance band. 

The result of all this is that decisions about individuals' performance is being assessed by a group of managers most of whom have never seen the work of that individual, in a lot of cases don't know them at all. What normally happens it that no one enters the room with anyone in the 10% box. Then the fun and games start as each manager listens intently for any sign of weakness in other managers arguments or in the evidence put before them regarding each individual being discussed. 

Once a weak manager or weak evidence is identified, everyone else turns on that individual or their manager. After all, a group attack is the best form of defence. Weak managers are consumed by the rest and their staff suffer as a consequence. 

Oh by way, there is supposed to be an independent note taker at each validation meeting. I know of one independent person who was so upset at what she was exposed to she refused to do it again. 

The PMR process means that in October and April staff are more concerned with their PMRs than about the job they are paid to do. Perhaps someone should do a survey of HMRC call centres at PMR time. I would guess the waiting time for customers is a lot longer than normal. I would estimate that all staff spend a minimum of one whole day preparing for their mid year and end of year PMR (that's a conservative estimate). 

Then you've got the reviews themselves, then you've got the validation groups, then you've got the inevitable appeal processes. 

The managers hate it, but Excom ram it down our throats; grumble about it and you could find yourself on the naughty step i.e. the Less Effective Box."

HMRC's performance appraisal system is clearly not fit for purpose!

Tax does have to be taxing.

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  1. All true, except that the bottom caregory is called "must improve", not "less effective"

  2. Well done to the Blog O.P.

    At last, a manager prepared to tell it as it is, I hope they don't use the same illegal methods on you as they did for Osita M'Ba when they abused RIPA powers

    If more of your colleagues had a backbone perhaps things might have been a bit different.

  3. It's like a Gulag in here !!!

    You couldn't make it up.....bastards !!!

  4. Of course when you consider that some of the world's larger organisations, Accenture, Microsoft, Adobe and Deloittes, amongst many more, have aready dropped PMRs as expensive and ineffective with one consultancy claiming that it costs up to $35m per 10k employees, (

    If this is to be believed and there is no reason to believe not, it is costing HMRC the equivalent of £100m a year on PMRs. So ex-com, if you're reading, you are half way to meeting the "austerity" budget cuts set by Gideon if you scrap PMR.

  5. Tossers, 'The Emperor's New Clothes' scenario has been reported since day1, and reinforced by the evangelistic zeal of the lean believers and the spineless wonders fulfilling the PMR quotas, an absolute disgrace and the loss to the taxpayer (customer) or enforcing, promulgating and otherwise blindly following the dogma of the Common Purpose Neuro Linguistic Programming creed is phenominal and wasteful.
    Said it before, someone should join the dots, PCS, M.P.'s, G.P.'s, ex. staff, current staff, relatives, friends, the media, are all aware. Then there are the PAC/NAO reports, professional body reports, HMIC reports, all sitting unconnected. Brought together under an umbrella, the overall effect would shatter the illusion forever and the situation of gross waste, law breaking and mismanagement no longer ignored.
    Get your shite together peeple!

  6. The Pernicious Management Report system makes me feel like I'm trapped in an episode of The Wire with less interesting characters. In all seriousness, the system is killing morale, and more importantly, cohesion within teams. As has been repeatedly reported here and elsewhere, managers are forced to meet a guided distribution system (obligatory Orwell reference). The consequence is that one's individual performance becomes a zero sum game. My colleagues' loss is my gain. My loss is my colleagues' gain. At first, little changed. But with the system now fully operational, individuals are starting to become ever increasingly selfish (I will give £10 to anyone who can negotiate a yield share with another compliance directorate and utter the phrase 'One HMRC').

    I dread going into work. I'm constantly looking over my shoulder. I can't just get on with my work, I'm forced to care about other people's stats, and they are forced to care about my stats (Despite us doing non-competing /non-intersecting roles). Instead of giving new recruits a copy of the civil service code, they should give them a copy of Sun Tzu's Art of War.

    Might I add, PCS have failed spectacularly at mounting opposition to this system. When PMR was first introduced their response was to ask members to present their manager with a letter stating their disagreement. I don't know what they were thinking would happen (papercut the system out of existence?). In the second year, they tried to play a stats game with management by claiming the system discriminated against individuals on the grounds of race/sex/disability - Evidently they had not realized that management is ruthlessly efficient at 'juking' stats.

    I guess we can only grin and bear it. The grin being crucial, as we don't want to get marked down on behaviors.

    On an unrelated matter, does anybody know of any accountancy firms looking for Ex-HMRC enquiry officers... I joke, of course.

  7. I left a year ago. My closest remaning co-worker leaves this month . We were both top performers in a " customer facing" ( bleugh ). 50 years of service between us. THE ONLY REASON we decided to leave ....PMR. Too much time justifying our existence to managers who would be unable to do our jobs in 1000 years. Not enough time to do our jobs.

  8. All true, been a victim of it myself. Even though supported by by own manager I was dissed by one of the other managers in the validation group. This helps to support the marks of his / her own team. The more mud the managers / team leaders can get to stick elsewhere, the better their own team looks when it comes to stack ranking the individuals in all the teams. PMR is the pits, I hate it.

  9. Anonymous 18:33 is correct, that is more or less exactly how it works. A few 'achieved' staff are picked at random (anonymously) and the aim is then to try to downgrade them. It's a lottery where you definitely don't want your ticket to be picked. It should also be noted that the validation groups themselves have to be validated, so even more waste of time and money. The whole thing is a fiasco and someone should be held to account for it but won't be as they're too high up to be touched.

  10. SNAFU?

    Has anyone involved in this i.e. working for HMRC communicated with 38 Degrees as a 'whistleblower' [but whistleblowers needn't give away enough to expose themsleves to danger].

    Maybe suggest that their members should alert hundreds of MPs to the mess they are legally responsible for having set up and voted for (Parliament being sovereign and all that)?

    I feel somewhat thankful to be a mere taxpayer ... er, ahem, 'customer'. FWIW I don't think I've noticed such a decline in service with VAT as with income tax which is indeed a shambles.