It is that time of the year again and we see and hear the concerns of managers and staff again of the time it takes to operate what should be a simple appraisal system that links with common competencies across the Civil Service with some added links for particular Professions in HMRC. We also hear the usual examples of subjective evidence usually from third party sources about a single incident of “behaviour” that has no possible connection to the objective reality, the CS competencies or the CS code of conduct being used to denigrate an individual regardless of the good work they have done. Why oh why is that the case time and time again? And it is all pervasive and extends through all grades and all staff. And woe betides those who seek to challenge any issue, no matter how politely and correctly that challenge is done.
So it was initially quite good to see this from the VOA:
The VOA is piloting a new way of managing performance and you have the opportunity to shape the new process.
We know some managers find the amount of time spent in validation meetings challenging and often feel the discussions are focused on the need to meet the guided distribution rather than on how to improve the individual and group performance of their teams. We also know that, under the current system, some people say they don’t feel able to question changes within the VOA or raise concerns, for fear it will be construed as negative and lead to a Must Improve marking.
The VOA was an early adopter of the current Performance Management System and we have been using it for the past four years. It has helped line managers improve the quality and frequency of performance conversations. It has also challenged us to do more to support people to improve their performance and, where that has not been possible, to address poor performance and unacceptable behaviours.
I have been talking to senior colleagues in CSHR about the scope for developing a new approach and I am delighted that as a result of these conversations Sir Jeremy Heywood, Head of the Civil Service, has invited the Agency to pilot a new performance management approach, starting in April 2016.
This has only just been endorsed by the Civil Service Board and we are still working through the detail but I can confirm that it will be a radical change based on regular performance discussions with no mid-, end–of-year or validation discussions. There will be no box markings and nothing recorded on ERP.
We will, however, need to demonstrate throughout the pilot that line managers are continuing to identify people who need support to improve their performance, and take action to do that, and when people are still struggling despite of that support that poor performance is being properly dealt with. It is important for everyone to understand that this is not a “soft option” but will enable managers and their direct reports to have better quality performance conversations.
The duration of the pilot is yet to be agreed but we are working closely with Civil Service Employee Policy to scope this work and develop a more structured plan.
You immediately think – yes – finally the light has been seen but then you read it again and see no. The devil may well be in the detail ( or the lack of any evidence – no marking , no end and no mid year , no validation etc - but that is a very harsh judgement to make without the detail ) and how this squares with performance pay – not that that is fair anyway (what is a pay rise we hear you ask? – more on that in another article in production as this is written).
This said – it would be foolish not to support, in principle, this pilot – note that word – not a trial – a pilot. A harbinger for us all ?
As always we welcome your views on PMR and your current experiences no matter what your grade or position and also any views you may have on this pilot. Please use the Contact Us address for any communication – titled “PMR”.