So, what next?
Eugene Mitchell watches the dust settle on the HMRC location announcements.
So we’ve had the locations’ announcement, and now the hard work really begins of sorting out who goes where and when. As universally acknowledged for the last couple of years, everyone will be impacted by this to some degree. For some colleagues it will eventually mean the end of the road for their HMRC career and, if that is not an outcome they had envisaged and were looking forward to, this will have been devastating news. We need to ensure that we are all as supportive of each other as we can be and I’m sure that’s the approach that all ARC members will take.
We know that the next step is for lines of business and directorates to produce their business plans setting out where they expect to be for the long term. In reality, that’s likely to be the real start of the process. The announcement of the locations is like producing the picture lid for a jigsaw puzzle. But the jigsaw has 51,000 pieces, and there are many ways of making those 51,000 pieces hang together. (Actually there are 57,000 pieces but by the time it’s been put together 6,000 or so will have been lost).
This is a hugely complex task, exacerbated by how complex our organisation is. So it’s difficult to imagine that when the first cuts of all the business plans are pulled together we will have a model that fits neatly within the announced locations. There will have to be many iterations while the pieces are engineered and reengineered until there is a fit.
I struggle to get my head round the scale of this task. I think of my own office and the creation of Large Business in April 2014 when BT’s Large Business Service and E&C’s Large & Complex element of Local Compliance were combined, something that had been talked about and attempted more than once over a number of years. Large Business in Glasgow is based in two offices, Cotton House and Portcullis House. Plans have been in development since 2013 to have the LB folk co-located. To achieve this required other business units to move to accommodate LB. It also required some Estates’ support. Dates have been set for moves – but the LB moves haven’t happened. They may yet. It’s not been for the want of trying that this one business unit within one region of one directorate in one line of business hasn’t managed to co-locate its people in one building in one city. Doing this work is very tricky.There will have to be many iterations while the pieces are engineered and reengineered until there is a fit. I struggle to get my head round the scale of this task.
Paradoxically, I’m sure that, despite the difference in scale, the very fact that every part of HMRC now has to engage in this work will mean that what has happened in Glasgow will not set the pattern for what goes on across the Department. The regional implementation leads, and the regional implementation teams, have got a huge job to do in the coming months and years. If this work is going to produce the best results it can then it needs ARC members everywhere, no matter your personal circumstances, to contribute professionally to ensure that we do produce an organisation where great people can do great work.
At the time of writing the Spending Review has not been published although HMRC is packaged with a group of departments facing an average cut of “around 21%”. Whatever the settlement, it’s not going to be great news, despite the number of different stakeholders who are more and more willing, as shown, at our parliamentary events, to question the wisdom of continuing to cut resources available to the country’s revenue raising body. With so much effort, and so much senior time, to be absorbed in making the different business plans a reality, and with resources being reduced via the Spending Review, we need to ensure that what we’re left with is deployed as effectively as possible.
So that brings me to how we administer the performance management process in HMRC. Since leaving university in 1980 I’ve always been involved in some form of performance management and I have no doubt of the value that effective managers produce in coaching the people they manage. And I see plenty of examples of that happening across HMRC today.
What I also see, however, even though we’re now in the third year of the current PMR system, is managers having to spend more time than ever in checking the process, not improving performance, so as to demonstrate the delivery of an arbitrary performance curve. A day spent establishing standards at the start of the year, a day spent by managers to ensure they understand those standards, another day to moderate indicative mid-year marks and a day to validate the end of year marks amounts to roughly 150 years of non-jobholder-facing time by managers. Not a huge amount of resource relative to the total headcount but I suspect there are many directorates who would be delighted to have access to another 150 staff.
At a time when we are so strapped for resource, and delivery expectations continue to rise, can we really afford the overhead currently associated with PMR?