Staff engagement at Inland Revenue has plummeted as job losses loom from the department's $1.9 billion transformation programme.
Surveys supplied to Reseller News under the Official Information Act show overall staff engagement diving from an already low 44 per cent in 2015 to just 27 per cent last year.
The transformation programme will partly be paid for by staff cuts, with 2000 employees - a third of IRD's workforce - expected to lose their jobs between 2018 and 2021.
In 2015, IRD's engagement level was 44 per cent, compared with an Australasian government average of 51 per cent, New Zealand general industry average of 59 per cent, and a Aon Hewitt best employers average of 82 per cent. 56 per cent of staff were not engaged.
All rankings were well behind targets described in the report as IRD's "desired future culture".
However, by 2017 that situation had worsened strikingly, with overall staff engagement rated just 27 per cent, down 16 points and meaning 73 per cent of staff were considered not engaged.
The results (pdf) were down 32 points compared with the ANZ average and 29 points benchmarked against the ANZ government average.
The national secretary state sector union the PSA, Erin Polaczuk, said the results are concerning but not a surprise to the union.
"The PSA has engaged with IR – but we believe IR has not engaged properly with staff as a whole," Polaczuk said. "In particular, PSA members felt they did not have a lot of choice in what was being presented to them, and there was a significant lack of detail in the information provided by IR."
Inland Revenue told Reseller News it is undergoing a period of "significant change" in order to make it simpler and faster for New Zealanders to pay their taxes and receive their entitlements.
"It is often the case that organisations will experience a dip in engagement at such times," the department said in a statement.
"Our engagement survey results are not where we want them to be. We want our people to experience a positive working environment and at the time we ran our last survey, a large proportion of our people were going through our organisation redesign."
IRD said management takes the results very seriously.
"Having engaged people is critical to achieving our goals for New Zealand," a statement read. "We have continued to discuss the results with our staff, and how best to gather their ideas so we can put actions in place to improve the results in future surveys."
Focus groups have been held to find out more about what works and what needs to improve and executive and senior leaders regularly undertake site visits to get staff feedback.
The department said it is making significant investments in people development, including programmes for leaders to build engagement and enhance culture.
Furthermore, it is also running regular smaller surveys to see if these actions are working.
Polaczuk said the PSA believes workplaces function most efficiently when employees have a strong voice and are listened to by their employer.
"Inland Revenue is implementing a long-range project which will substantially reshape their business," Polaczuk added. "The first tranche of changes took place last year and around 120 jobs have already been lost."
IR urgently needs to rebuild trust with its staff, Polaczuk added.
"The PSA believes this can be achieved through meaningful engagement with the union, and a constructive and pro-active approach to collective bargaining."