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Team development activity

Teamworking is embedded within an approach that alters the way in which work processes and staff are organized and managed, combined with attempts to change the performance orientation of the Inland Revenue as a whole (Fisher, 2000). For example, at the same time that teamworking was being introduced, the Treasury Department committed the Inland Revenue to achieving cumulative savings of at least 10 per cent of its expenditure limit (HM Treasury, 1998). The Inland Revenue responded to requests from government to make efficiency gains by cutting employee numbers.

From 1978 to 1999, by means of resignations, retirements and voluntary severance, staff numbers in the Inland Revenue have fallen by nearly 30,000 (Fisher, 2000). This fell heavily upon management, with a de-layering process undertaken in 1995/6. This aimed to remove the middle management level of the organisation completely and to establish the principle that there should be no more than one level of management between any employee and the head of the office in which they worked (the officer-in-charge).

This led to the emergence of the position of front-line manager and, with it, an attempt to move to a very different approach to middle-level management (Currie & Procter, 2003). As part of New

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Public Management, the Inland Revenue was subject to the Next Steps’ programme in 1988. This sought the more active management of centrally determined policies and resources by further devolving budgeting and management responsibilities to regional and local office levels.

The Inland Revenue began operating on ‘Next Steps’ lines in 1992. As a result, 490 local offices re-organized under ten Regional Executive Offices charged with new responsibilities relating to budgeting, recruitment, training and the fulfilment of centrally determined targets within given resources. The size of office varies from around 50-60 staff up to around 500 (Currie & Procter, 2003). It should be noted that the devolved management system has become a focus for concentrations of regional managerial power (Fisher, 2000).

Under the Inland Revenue’s pay and grading system, staff are placed in one of five pay bands, A to E. Our concern in the paper is with those clerical employees, placed on the lowest grades: E ~ divided between El, E2 – and D, since this was the group at which the HR-teamworking intervention was aimed. From 1997 figures. Band E2 accounted for 27 per cent of staff. Band El for 34 per cent and Band D for 22 per cent of the Inland Revenue workforce (Currie & Procter, 2003). The jobs and responsibilities of each of these grades are as follow.

At revenue assistant (Band E2) level, work is made up of basic clerical tasks such as receiving mail, record-keeping and sorting and filing documents. Revenue officers (El) are concerned with the routine calculation and collection of tax. They would also be the point of contact for members of the public. Revenue executives (D) deal more with complex tax cases and with the tax affairs of more highly paid employees. They also provide technical support to revenue assistants and revenue officers. Front line managers (D) have a role that is managerial rather than technical.

Tax inspectors (Grade B), who represent the dominant professional group in the Inland Revenue, were not subjected to reorganisation. They continued to work relatively individualistically, although there was some sharing of cases, where cases were complex. Perhaps the most important part was the introduction of self-assessment for a large number of UK taxpayers in 1997/8. Under self-assessment, increasing numbers of taxpayers, who paid tax outside the PAYE framework, assessed their own tax liabilities and submitted these to the Inland Revenue for processing (Currie & Procter, 2003).

This, in its initial stages, was expected to increase both quantity and complexity of clerical employees’ workload. Perhaps the most important of these was that the immensity and complexity of self-assessment meant that – at least in the first instance – there was a need for employees to interact more so that they learnt from each other about how to administer tax assessment under the new regime. For example, there was uneven take-up of the team development activities across local offices.

While the human resource managers hoped that the team development pack would be utilized as a basis for teambuilding, the fact that the Inland Revenue consisted of regional fiefdoms meant human resource managers positioned in the Inland Revenue headquarters had difficulty in imposing generic human resource policies and practices across the organisation. However, the uneven take-up of team development activity did not make a significant impact upon the implementation of teamworking (Currie & Procter, 2003).

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