The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Mr. Brendan Howlin T.D., today welcomed the agreement of Civil Service management and unions to introduce fundamental changes to the performance management and development system in the Civil Service.
The Minister stated “the changes that have been agreed today under the Croke Park Agreement mean that managers in the Civil Service will have a more effective tool to manage performance. Strong and effective management is fundamental to achieving a high performing civil service. Management tools commonly used in many public and private sector organizations to assist managers in delivering a realistic and consistent approach to the assessment of performance will now be introduced.
A stronger framework for managing performance has now been agreed and the key challenge is for senior leadership to demonstrate their own commitment to delivering a high performance culture and to fully engage line managers in the management and improvement of performance. My Department will continue to work with managers across the system and to develop tools aimed at maximizing the effectiveness of the reformed performance management system.”
The main changes are:
- Staff need to achieve at least a 3 in their PMDS review in order to receive an increment.
- a new Competency Framework , based on the grade-based competency model used by the Public Appointment Service will come into operation
- a revised Ratings Scale with improved descriptions of performance levels, including competency evaluation will be used
- ratings will be decided by performance calibration review, this system to be introduced on a phased basis, commencing with the grades of Assistant Secretary, Principal and Assistant Principal, prior to rollout to all grades
- independent External Review of ratings will be available
Notes to Editor
In 2010, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform carried out a comprehensive review of the effectiveness of the Performance Management and Development System (PMDS) in use in the Civil Service. The Evaluation of PMDS highlighted that one the main underlying problems with PMDS is a perceived lack of fairness and consistency in the application of the system.
As part of our commitments in the Public Service Reform Plan and under the Croke Park Agreement we have reached agreement on fundamental changes to the performance management system – PMDS – in a way that will make it a more useful tool in the management of performance.
Phase 1 changes (introduced in 2012): aimed at improving the practical operation of PMDS and involved streamlining the paperwork, primarily to create space for more meaningful engagement on performance between staff and managers.
- We streamlined the performance management system that is being used in the Civil Service for 2012 to encourage managers and staff to have more meaningful engagement about standards of performance.
- Managers should only receive a rating of 3 or above where they have been managing their staff throughout the year
- We are developing an automated performance management system
Phase 2 Changes: Fairness and Consistency (to be introduced in 2013)
We have now agreed changes on the more complex issue of ensuring fairness and consistency under PMDS.
- Grade based competencies – the introduction of grade based competencies will ensure that people who are paid the same salary will be assessed against a common set of behaviours and will be expected to reach a similar standard of performance in relation to ‘how’ they do their job
- a revised Ratings Scale with improved descriptions of performance levels, including competency evaluation will be used – the revised ratings (not being released at this time) spell out in much more detail what good and excellent performance should look like
- a rating of ‘Fully Achieved Expectations’ will be required for the award of an increment – this is a significant change to the current PMDS. In order to qualify for an increment an individual had to get a rating equivalent to a 2 or above. This position was untenable from a management perspective as a 2 indicated that the jobholder was underperforming. An individual will from 2013 onwards have to get a rating of 3 – renamed as ‘Fully Achieved Expectations’ which will replace the previous rating of a 3 or above in order to qualify for an increment. A rating of a 1 (being replaced by ‘unsatisfactory’) or a 2 (being replaced by ‘needs to improve’ will no longer qualify for an increment.
- ratings will be decided by Calibration review, this system to be introduced on a phased basis, commencing with the grades of Assistant Secretary and Principal, prior to rollout to all grades – Calibration creates a more honest appraisal of an employee’s work. It is a process that is used frequently in private sector organisations to ensure that ratings awarded to staff are fair and consistent across an organisation.
In the calibration process multiple managers come together to discuss employees’ performance ratings thus ensuring an objective assessment is made based on past performance and in relation to other employees with similar job descriptions. The calibration process provides an opportunity for managers to learn to use the same language and share an understanding of the core competencies and expectations of employee behaviour.
This is a significant departure from the current way PMDS currently operates where ratings are given to individuals by their managers and there is a little if any review of whether the rating awarded is genuinely justified.
Benefits Using performance calibration, managers can discuss how to apply similar standards for all employees and help eliminate any potential manager bias. For example, prior to using performance review calibrations, all employees working for one manager may receive “outstanding” ratings while employees working for another manager may receive a wide-variety of ratings—anything from “outstanding” to “meets expectations” to “below expectations” for the same job. The reviews between the two teams would need to be calibrated to take into account the different reviewing styles and get a better idea of who is really doing well and who is not. After implementing calibrations, these managers will hold each other accountable for their ratings and extremely hard and extremely easy reviewers will be brought into line with the rest of their peers for more honest and in-depth performance reviews.
Ultimately, performance review calibration provides benefits to employees, managers and staff alike. Employees appreciate the consistent standards of performance being applied to all individuals doing similar work, significantly reducing rating errors and personal biases. Managers take performance management very seriously due to the justification process to their peers during performance review calibration.
Notwithstanding the changes we are making to the actual performance management system itself the only way that performance management will work well is if meaningful engagement on performance takes place between staff and managers on the ground. The impact of this engagement on the performance of individuals is of course highly dependent on the skills of line managers.
We are targeting senior managers to ensure that they drive and support performance management throughout the organisation. My Department is working closely with Human Resources staff across the civil service to support them in strengthening the knowledge and skills of line managers and how they manage the performance of their staff. In this regard, we have developed guidelines, toolkits and e-tutorials to help line managers manage performance.
We will continue to prioritise the strengthening of performance management as a critical enabler in delivering the overall reforms needed across the civil and public service.