Building our future leaders
Eva Braniff sees some reasons for optimism in HMRC’s plans to develop its next generation of leaders.
Thursday 12 November saw many of our members faced with some very difficult and challenging messages and future choices. It’s probably fair to say that in Belfast, the regional announcements held less fear for us than those outside the city and beyond. We were however very aware of the implications for our friends and colleagues working in offices that will ultimately close. Some good news was therefore very welcome the following day when we learned that that our four TPDP 2011 trainees had all met the required standard for advancement to Grade 7.
The superstitious amongst us may have reservations about associations with Friday 13th. For the TPDP 2011 cohort and their BLMs any such concerns proved unfounded. In fact, for HMRC and the Tax Academy it was a landmark day which marked the first Grade 7 programme to achieve 100% success at the final report stage. Congratulations to all concerned!
It’s encouraging to see that we are now beginning to reap the benefits of HMRC’s plans to recruit meaningful numbers of Grade 7 Tax Professionals and address the much talked about and fast approaching demographic time bomb. In 2011, there were only around 30 graduates recruited onto the tax professional programme. A drop in the ocean many will say, but at least it was a start, especially when compared with the preceding 20 years when recruitment was more often stop than start.
I’m going to show my age now but, in the good old days before PMR and the Civil Service Competency Framework, we were required to demonstrate various skills including ‘foresight and planning’ as part of the performance assessment process. What a pity the organisation itself didn’t pay more attention to this particular skillset and seek to implement succession planning in good time rather than waiting until the last possible moment. In the spirit of positive behaviours let’s call it a case of ‘better late than never’ rather than ‘too little, too late’.
Since 2012, the graduate technical recruitment programme has ramped up significantly with around 200 tax professionals, give or take, being recruited each year. The 2012 cohort is due to advance to Grade 7 in mid-July 2016. Meanwhile recruitment for the Tax Specialist Programme (TSP) in September 2016 closed on 24 November. So by now hopeful candidates will be undertaking Stage 2 of the selection process.HMRC’s technical training has always been held in extremely high regard. Yes, the programme needs to be modernised,but it also needs to retain its gold standard position as a robust and respected development programme.
For HMRC, a successful outcome for the current recruitment programme will see maximum uptake of places. But what will a place on the programme look like for the eager new recruits? I sincerely hope the current review looking at the modernisation of TSP for 2016 is not just about cutting costs. The technical training offered by HMRC has always been held in extremely high regard, both internally and externally. Yes, the programme needs to be modernised to meet the demands of a fast changing digitally evolving organisation. But it also needs to retain its gold standard position as a robust and respected development programme which produces well rounded and highly capable Grade 7 senior leaders.
In recent years I have watched many experienced colleagues retire. Generally they skip lightly out the door, never looking back and taking with them an often irreplaceable wealth of knowledge and expertise. In my office, the trainee community now outnumbers experienced tax professional Grade 7s by about six to one. Call me cynical, but I’m not convinced this ratio presents the best learning opportunity for our tax professionals and senior leaders of the future, especially when experienced Grade 7s are already busy completing an ever increasing range of specific wider competences now required to ‘achieve’. At risk of platitude overload, some would say it’s a case of ‘I told you so’. As a member of the BLM (“Business Learning Manager”) community, I prefer however to take a positive forward look.
As BLMs, we are passionate about ensuring the best learning environment possible for the trainees we manage and delivering equality of development opportunity. For that reason we continually have to work to overcome the obstacles presented by lack of experienced coaches and constant change. We do this by effective collaboration and seeking innovative ways to ensure that we give our trainees the learning experience they deserve. My positive optimistic self tells me that surely there will come a time when the organisation recognises these collective efforts and gives me (and my fellow ARC members) a fair day’s pay for what is often significantly more than a fair day’s work. I’m not sure however that adopting the approach ‘good things come to those who wait’ is a sound basis for expecting adequate remuneration.