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Jon Kennard


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HMRC: No skills strategy?


The National Audit Office has slammed HM Revenue & Customs for lacking in skills and having no idea of either how much it spends on skills development or where the money goes.
Evidence from a customer survey and external stakeholders, which was cited in the auditor's report, suggested that the government department did not have adequate numbers of workers in the right places or with the right skills.
Although HMRC spent £96.5m in 2010/11 developing its staff through formal training, coaching, mentoring and on-the-job experience, it had no formal skills strategy to direct spending systematically towards areas that would produce the most important business results, the government auditor found. This meant that the agency had limited information and was unable to identify skills gaps.
Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: “At the level of the business as a whole, HMRC has no strategy to manage the £96m it spends each year on skills. Although the department is doing much to make sure it has the skills it requires, it needs a more systematic approach, where spending on skills is linked explicitly to the organisation’s overall business objectives and a vision of how it should look in the future.”
As a result, the auditor suggested that HMRC take a more strategic and informed approach to investment in order to enable senior managers to align existing skills, requirements and learning activity with business objectives and hold areas where performance was poor to account.
Building up its HR function would also help the department to adopt a more strategic approach as would analysing existing skills in order to gain an earlier understanding of possible future skills gaps, particularly as experienced staff retired. This situation was of particular concern in HMRC as an organisation because up to 20% of current employees operating in key business areas were over 55. 
HMRC faces significant challenges in hitting its change plan and Spending Review commitments, which are intended to reduce running costs 25% by 2014-15 and bring in additional tax revenues of £7bn a year, according to the report. 
The NAO also recommended that HMRC should:
  • Fully integrate learning and development activities with its overall business strategy as well as aligning it with the department's change programme
  • Have a clear contract with staff and individual business areas, setting out how it is prepared to invest in them and their skills and what is expected in return
  • Create a body such as a performance committee to consider how any investment in learning and development contributes to the organisation’s business objectives and vision
Facts and figures from the report:
  • £96.5m: estimate of HMRC’s total investment in skills in 2010-11
  • £6.3m: HMRC's expenditure on external training in 2010-11
  • £19.7m: total cost of developing the tax professionalism programme since 2006
  • 215,495: number of days of staff training undertaken during 2010-11
  • 2,037: number of training courses undertaken during 2010-11
  • £1,419: average cost of learning per head in 2010-11
  • 38%: respondents to 2011 staff survey who agreed that the training they received had improved their performance
  • 44,000: number of HMRC workers employed in operational delivery
  • 17,000: number of HMRC staff employed in the tax profession
  • 9,000: number of staff due to be retrained and redeployed into high-value enforcement and compliance work
  • 16%: the proportion of HMRC's workforce aged 56 or over

Author Profile Picture
Jon Kennard

Freelance writer

Read more from Jon Kennard

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