Helping create a wholesale transformation and culture of continuous improvement for NICO (HMRC)

The challenge

The National Insurance Contributions Office  (NICO)which registers 70 million new National Insurance (NI) accounts and processes £59Bn of UK State Benefits and Pensions each year –wanted to improve performance and the level of service provided to customers.

How we helped

Our Expert Practitioners worked alongside HMRC PaceSetter Practitioners to engage executives, managers and front-line employees in the initial redesign of two of NICO’s processing areas, to prioritise customer experience and performance improvement in terms of quality, productivity, people engagement and the time taken to serve customers.

The approach taken allowed the creation of a robust ‘Blueprint approach’ that – once embedded and proven to deliver significant benefits – was rolled out to the vast majority of the organisation, covering some 16 further operational areas and incorporating 3,000 employees.

Training NICO personnel in the use of Lean tools and techniques enabled them to understand their current levels of performance and empowered them to work with others at their own level, to improve work processes in the context of the entire workflow. This transfer of knowledge and skills promoted a sense of ownership of the resulting solutions and aimed to facilitate sustainment of improvements initially achieved.

The results

The programme resulted in the following significant achievements:

  • Productivity was boosted by an average of 25% (and, in the case of one operational area, by 145%), resulting in an improved customer experience

  • 16.5% of NICO’s workforce was freed up to undertake other duties, including the creation of a new evening shift, further enhancing customer service

  • NICO achieved Government Standard Customer Service Excellence accreditation in July 2009

  • The creation of a learning infrastructure – an environment for improving skills – has been established via the on-site ‘academy’ and quality cafes

  • The creation of one of the UK’s largest Lean transactional environments, with the ability to continuously improve its performance and customer service.

Sustaining Performance Improvement

The transfer of relevant skills and know-how to every level of NICO – which involved training approximately 2,000 people and creating 65 Expert Practitioners – laid the foundation for the organisation’s continued success and its focus on the creation of a true culture of continuous improvement.

Since Unipart left NICO this learning culture and infrastructure, and the continued engagement of staff, have delivered further ongoing benefits:

  • Waiting times have continued to fall, further improving customers’ experience
  • Productivity has increased by a further average of between 15% and 30% across all main processes
  • NICO has become a ‘Model Office’ and a location from which the PaceSetter journey has been shared with others in HMRC, the wider civil service and the private sector

As a result of its activity at NICO, Unipart has undertaken similar implementations in other parts of HMRC, as well as creating programmes to mentor HMRC Directors and to equip top HMRC executives to lead their organisation.