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PMR - Again

Friday, September 25, 2015

It was with some admiration that we saw Q294 on the HMRC “Hotseat”. The fact it was written in such an excellent way stating clear facts about other major organisations abandoning such laborious annual reviews for a huge number of reasons. We selectively quote “This move away from annual performance reviews is largely prompted by recognition that the system is universally unpopular with managers and staff alike, and that it is slow, expensive, and detracts from the actual running of the business, with little or no gain to show for it.” As members will know this is a theme that has run through all of the articles we have published as the RCTU on the current PMR system.

The question is elegant in the rationale that is presented throughout as to why the current system in HMRC is far from fit for purpose. We would urge all members to log on to the site and view the question in full.

The answer is, however, rather true to form. “It works”. Well it does in the context of Civil Service Competencies which are in principle correct in having a uniform set across the CS, where applicable and Tax Professionalism is a notable point of exception - not that reform is required there – it is - but fails to see that the points made in the question are valid and are not answered.

Any system when it produces on an objective basis overwhelmingly negative outcomes when measured against any possible positive points for an organisation; must be changed. This means we are left with only one possible conclusion - the resistance to change is not for efficiency - it is dogmatic and that needs to be explained. Surely it is not for the reason of meeting targets that have no basis on real performance?

Another point that has been well made in the last week in relation to the PMR system is whether there is an explanation that certain groups have results that are incommensurate with the others, notably for part time and disabled staff. Is there inherent unconscious bias in the PMR system? That is distinctly possible as a systemic error rather than attributable to individual managers especially with mandatory unconscious bias training in force. Certainly it must call into question whether any equality audit is or has been sufficiently robust to say what we all know - the system does not work.


We are committed in the RCTU to challenging this system until it treats workers fairly and does not burden the organisation the way it currently does.

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