Guidelines for. Managing. Underperformance. in the Civil Service

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Guidelines for

Managing

Underperformance

in the Civil Service

Department of Public Expenditure & Reform

May 2011

[Customisable document available on http://per.gov.ie/ This document is for your guidance only.]

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Contents

Page Number

Part I – Management of Underperformance in the

Civil Service 3

1. Introduction 3

2. Purpose of the Guidelines 3

Part II – Guide for Managers in Managing

Underperformance 5

1. Role of Managers 5

2. What is Underperformance? 5

3. Step by Step Guide for Managers on how to manage

Underperformance 6

Step 1 – Identify underperformance via the PMDS 6

Step 2 – Identify the reasons for/causes of underperformance via the Performance Review

Meeting 8

Step 3 – Decide and agree on the action required at the Performance Review Meeting using the

Performance Improvement Action Plan 15

Step 4 – Resource the action 16

Step 5 – Monitor and provide feedback 16

4. Follow up actions where performance does not improve 16

5. Supports for Managers 17

Appendix 1 – Performance Review Meeting 19

Appendix 2 – Sample Performance Improvement Action Plan 23

Part III – Role of HR Units 26

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1. Introduction

The Civil Service needs a strong and effective approach to tackling underperformance. There are compelling reasons for this. First and foremost, the individual is being paid a salary and therefore has a responsibility to contribute efficiently and effectively to their organisations objectives. The individual who is underperforming impacts negatively on all staff. Colleagues may resent having to pick up the slack. They may become overloaded and feel under pressure. Targets may slip causing strain for all concerned. Where underperformance is not addressed, it can have a negative impact on overall morale in the business unit concerned. Other staff, who had previously been performing effectively, may be de-motivated by tolerance of poor performance.

Constructive comment and advice on poor performance assist the jobholder concerned to confront and deal with the issues arising. While some managers may not be particularly comfortable with tackling underperformance, this reluctance, where it exists, must be overcome. Significant problems with performance or behaviour rarely correct themselves without direct intervention. In fact, problems with performance tend to become more intractable the longer they are allowed to continue. Also, the individual who is underperforming may, in some instances, come to feel that his/her performance is acceptable thus making attempts to bring about change more difficult. Time should not be lost in tackling underperformance.

The significant work involved for managers and HR units in managing underperformance is vital. Where underperformance is dealt with in a constructive and professional manner it can result in performance improvements and the staff member can go on to make a valuable contribution to the Department. Where performance does not improve and the person is ultimately dismissed managers are meeting their responsibilities.

Experience shows that all parties benefit from a meeting to discuss matters as early as possible after difficulties have become apparent.

2. Purpose of the Guidelines

The objective of these guidelines is to help managers and Human Resource (HR) Units to undertake the task of managing underperformance to the benefit of staff and the Department/Office concerned.

With this objective in mind this document includes a step-by-step guide for managers and jobholders to address underperformance issues and sets out the role of HR Units in managing underperformance. Being guidelines they are not rigidly binding upon management and Departments are encouraged to adapt the guidelines to suit their own requirements. The guidelines will be supplemented by training for managers. Where appropriate, support will also be provided by more senior managers, HR Units and the Employee Assistance Service (EAS). Additional clarification, if required, will be

Part I – Management of Underperformance in

the Civil Service

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provided to HR Units by the relevant unit in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

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1. Role of Managers

It is the responsibility of managers to agree realistic targets and monitor the performance of staff on an ongoing basis. They are also responsible for objectively assessing a jobholder’s performance based on fact. Any signs of underperformance should be tackled immediately. In this context, jobholders also have a responsibility to contribute efficiently and effectively to their organisations objectives. Managers should ensure that all issues around underperformance remain confidential and should only be discussed in the formal line management structure.

Supports for a manager dealing with underperformance are available from:

• his or her manager; and

• the Employee Assistance Service; and

• HR Unit.

These Guidelines outline for managers best practice approaches to the identification and management of underperformance and a framework, starting with the Performance Management and Development System (PMDS), in which to work through underperformance issues, tailoring the approach according to the cause(s) of underperformance.

2. What is Underperformance?

Underperformance is ongoing failure to meet specified, realistic objectives and standards.

All jobholders have days or even short periods when their performance is not satisfactory and they fail to meet the targets which they have been set. While this will result in episodes where the individual is not performing at a satisfactory level, it will not constitute underperformance as such unless it persists. It should nevertheless be monitored and managed, through giving constructive feedback to the jobholder concerned, and, where appropriate, agreeing short term targets, reviewing progress towards achieving those targets, etc.

Underperformance arises where, despite constructive feedback from the manager, and the putting in place of measures to assist the jobholder to improve his or her performance, it does not improve to an acceptable standard. Where this arises, a formal strategy needs to be put in place to manage the underperformance.

The underlying causes of underperformance can vary greatly and the range of strategies available to tackle underperformance must reflect this fact. It is important that these causes are categorised and that the appropriate corrective strategies are plainly outlined to ensure they are both understood and consistently utilised.

Part II – Guide for Managers in Managing

Underperformance

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Regardless of the underlying cause of underperformance, where satisfactory improvement is not achieved, the manager and jobholder should be aware that disciplinary action, in accordance with the Disciplinary Code, can be taken.

3. Step by Step Guide for Managers on how to

manage underperformance

The five basic steps required to manage underperformers, each of which is described in more detail below, are as follows:

1. Identify underperformance via the PMDS.

2. Identify the reasons for/causes of underperformance via the Performance Review Meeting.

3. Decide and agree on the action required at the Performance Review Meeting using the Performance Improvement Action Plan.

4. Resource the action.

5. Monitor and provide feedback.

PMDS provides the appropriate formal framework through which underperformance should be identified. PMDS is an individualised and specific measurement tool that sets out clearly each individual’s agreed role for a 12 month period in terms of what has to be achieved (the what), when it has to be achieved (the when) and the manner in which it must be achieved (the how). In addition, the training required to enable the individual achieve these objectives are agreed and recorded.

The performance ratings are as follows:

Rating Description

5 Outstanding Jobholder has substantially exceeded standard in all role requirements and performance has been consistently exceptional.

4 Exceeds required standard Jobholder has fully met all role requirements to required standard and significantly exceeded standards in some respects.

3 Fully acceptable Jobholder has met all of the role requirements to required standard and performance is at a fully acceptable level. 2 Needs improvement Jobholder has met some role

requirements to required standard but performance has fallen short in some respects.

1 Unacceptable Jobholder has met few of the role requirements and performance falls clearly short of the required standard.

A rating of 3 reflects that a good level of performance has been achieved.

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A rating of 1 or 2 in PMDS reflects some level of underperformance and a rating of 1 means that the jobholder will not receive their increment.

Evaluating Performance

All evaluations of performance must be by reference to the Role Profile.

Consequently, it is essential that all managers ensure, in relation to their staff, that the staff member’s Role Profile clearly states what are the objectives and standards to be applied to the achievement of key tasks. The objectives and standards should be clear, unambiguous and measurable. They should also be realistic and achievable within specified timescales.

Formal evaluation of performance is done via the Interim and Annual Reviews. Progress towards achieving the specified objectives and standards is assessed at the time of the Interim Review, and evaluated and rated in the Annual Review.

However, managers should not wait until the formal PMDS milestones to assess performance. Performance should be monitored on an ongoing basis and regular, constructive feedback should be provided informally to the jobholder by the manager. Where it is felt it would be beneficial, informal/off the record meetings can be held between the manager and the jobholder regarding performance issues. At all times, the integrity and right to privacy of the jobholder must be fully respected.

When evaluating performance – whether formally or informally – the manager should always use transparent, objective criteria and apply them to the standards and objectives set out in the jobholder’s Role Profile. They should be applied in a structured, logical manner and all conclusions reached must be objective and evidence based. The manager must always be able to cite factual examples in support of the assessment, whether positive or negative.

How should the manager use the Role Profile for evaluating performance?

The manager should examine the jobholder’s PMDS Role Profile, which sets out in detail:

• The objectives and key deliverables required for the job/role for the 12 month period and the timescales within which each objective must be delivered.

• The knowledge, skills, competencies and standards of performance for the particular job/role.

• The agreed personal training and development plan to enable the jobholder perform this role effectively.

Before raising the issue of underperformance with a jobholder the manager must be satisified that:

(1) The Role Profile has been agreed (and understood) with the jobholder (i.e. the form has been signed off and is not with the Reviewer).

(2) The knowledge, skills, competencies and related standards, required for the role are correctly documented in the jobholder’s Role Profile Form.

(3) The particular element(s) i.e. the objectives, timeframes, skills, competencies and standards, which the jobholder is considered to be ‘underperforming’, are identified as requirements of the job in the Role Profile.

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If the answer to (1) above is ‘No’ the manager should defer any further action until the Reviewer has decided on the matter.

If the answers to (2) or (3) above are ‘No’ the Role Profile should be re-examined and redefined in detail as soon as possible and the appropriate amendments made. It is not necessary to wait for the formal Interim Review to do this.

If the answer to (4) above is ‘No’ the manager should defer action until the appropriate training has been delivered and actively pursue the delivery of the relevant training either locally or with the Departments Training Unit (as appropriate). Managers should be aware that under Section 10(4) of the Civil Service Regulation (Amendment) Act 2005, disciplinary action in relation to underperformance on the part of a jobholder should not be taken unless measures aimed at improving the performance of the jobholder through training and development:

(a) have in relation to that civil servant been introduced and applied, and have failed to result in specified improvement in performance of the civil servant, or (b) have in relation to that civil servant no reasonable prospect of resulting in an

improvement in performance on the part of the civil servant.

If the answer to (1), (2), (3), and (4) above is ‘Yes’, the manager has verified underperformance and the matter must be addressed. The manager should now arrange a Performance Review Meeting with the jobholder to formally discuss the jobholder’s performance.

This should be done as soon as possible after the manager has become aware that the jobholder’s performance is not satisfactory. The manager should not wait until the next PMDS milestone (Interim or Annual Review), unless very imminent, to hold the Performance Review Meeting. The cause(s) of the underperformance will determine the approach to be taken at this meeting.

The Performance Review Meeting is used to identify the reasons for/causes of underperformance and to agree a Performance Improvement Action Plan to assist the jobholder to improve his or her performance to the required standard, within a specified timeframe.

Generally speaking, causes of underperformance fall under one of the 5 headings set out below. Sometimes more than one factor will be at play.1

i.

Lack of clarity about goals/expectations.

ii.

Lack of knowledge/skills/competencies for the job.

iii.

Clear lack of commitment or effort.

1

Where it is claimed that there have been mitigating factors, for example increased workload,

workplace stress, or other factors such as bullying etc., which prevented the jobholder from performing to the required standard, the manager should follow the procedures set out in A Positive Working Environment. If a claim is found to be unjustified then the manager can go back to the process of dealing with underperformance.

Step 2 – Identify the reasons for/causes of underperformance via

the Performance Review Meeting

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iv.

Issues arising in the context of ill health/sick leave.

v.

Personal/domestic difficulties.

Frequently, the manager will already know, or have a good idea of, the cause(s) of the underperformance. However, in some cases this/these will only emerge in the course of the Performance Review Meeting. A minute of the meeting should be taken to ensure that a clear record of the proceedings is recorded. A template of the steps involved in conducting the Performance Review Meeting and details of what is involved in each step are outlined in Appendix 1.

Once the reasons for/causes of underperformance have been identified the manager should proceed in accordance with the different strategies set out below as appropriate. Also included below is advice for the manger on how to proceed where the jobholder denies or refuses to acknowledge that there are issues with his or her performance, where underperformance has persisted for a long period and where the jobholder seeks to avoid engaging in the process to deal with underperformance. Regardless of the reasons for/causes of underperformance, the manager should make it clear to the jobholder that his or her performance is not acceptable and needs to be improved. The manager should also make it clear to the jobholder – in a straightforward, non-threatening manner – that where underperformance does not improve it is a ground for disciplinary action and that if the jobholder does not address the issues identified and deliver on the actions set out in the Performance Improvement Action Plan within the timeframes set out in that Plan, disciplinary action will be considered. The manager should also advise the jobholder that the Civil Service Disciplinary Code provides for a range of sanctions in proven cases, the most severe of which is dismissal.

i.

Underperformance due to lack of clarity about

goals/expectations

It is essential that managers are clear on their role and responsibilities in relation to their staff member’s knowledge of goals and expectations and the effect that this area of managerial duty can have on the performance of their staff. In some cases performance problems in staff can arise because the manager has failed to:

• Clarify requirements and expectations, e.g. objectives, standards and priorities.

• Provide adequate encouragement, guidance, support or information.

• Set reasonable or attainable objectives and standards or has arbitrarily changed tasks or priorities.

It is crucial, therefore, that managers should:

• Ensure that all staff reporting to them contribute to the development of the Business Plan for their area and that they are clear on their individual roles in the implementation of the Plan.

• Ensure that each individual member of staff is clear on his or her particular objectives as expressed in their Role Profile Form and the standards to be upheld and met in achieving same.

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• Ensure that when an individual takes up a new position they should be given a clear job description.

• Give regular objective feedback on performance to their staff and not just at the relevant times in the PMDS cycle. This feedback should acknowledge good performance and identify, in a constructive manner, performance that is not satisfactory.

It is important for jobholders to recognise that they too have a responsibility to seek clarification from their manager regarding goals/expectations.

ii.

Underperformance due to lack of

knowledge/skills/competencies for the job

Where, at the Performance Review Meeting, it becomes clear that lack of knowledge/skills/competencies are preventing the jobholder from reaching a satisfactory standard of performance, the Performance Improvement Action Plan to deal with these issues should focus clearly on measures which will be put in place to assist the jobholder to improve his or her performance.

The manager should advise the jobholder that they both have a responsibility to address the matters identified. The manager in discussion with the jobholder should establish the most appropriate measures or combination of measures. These can include any or all of the following and a record should be kept by the manager of all such measures provided to the jobholder:

• Coaching from a more experienced peer or the manager.

• Self-managed learning by the jobholder of specified material.

• Specific formal training arranged by Training Unit.

In relation to formal training, Training Unit should be consulted to identify the most appropriate and suitable training available and ascertain the earliest timeframe in which it could be provided. This will need to be done before the Action Plan is finalised.

In certain, limited, circumstances, a bad fit between the jobholder and his or her current job may be at the root of the underperformance issue. In such cases, further development/support measures may be unlikely to result in attainment of satisfactory performance in that job. Such measures as were undertaken should be documented. Provided the jobholder has shown a commitment to perform well generally, the manager should consult with HR Unit and evaluate if a transfer to a more suitable position within the Department would be a more appropriate measure. HR Unit will only facilitate transfers in such cases where it is shown that all reasonable measures to address the underperformance issue have been taken locally.

iii.

Underperformance due to clear lack of commitment or effort

A jobholder whose performance is not satisfactory because of his or her lack of commitment or effort is unlikely to disclose that as the reason. There can be many reasons for this, ranging from embarrassment, defensiveness, denial etc.

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As long as there are no other factors at play, a reasonably tough while fair-minded approach should be taken by the manager at the Performance Review Meeting. The manager should cite concrete examples in support of his or her contention. Examples could include poor attendance and/or lack of punctuality on the part of the jobholder; inadequate preparation for work tasks or events; poor quantity and/or quality of work output; ignoring guidance/advice on the optimal way to deal with the work; letting colleagues down; etc.

iv.

Underperformance in the context of ill health/sick leave

A manager may find that a staff member has poor attendance arising from high amounts of sick leave. Attendance patterns of a jobholder may be the sole issue to be addressed or there may be other related performance difficulties, such as non achievement of goals.

The first step in addressing any issues relating to ill health or sick leave is to follow the procedures set out in the Management of Sick Leave Circular 9/2010 available from your HR Unit who would also have additional information on this area. You should not deal with sick leave absences as an underperformance matter unless you have first addressed the matter as a sick leave issue.

Where the manager believes that ill health or sick leave are leading to underperformance, s/he needs to act with sensitivity and care.

The manager needs to be aware that:

(a) equality legislation prohibits discrimination in employment on any of the “9 grounds”, one of which is disability -

and

(b) information about a person’s health is deemed to be sensitive personal data for the purposes of Data Protection legislation and as such is accorded special protection.

Certified sickness absence

1) On the jobholders return to work the manager must hold a Return to Work Meeting, as set out in Circular 9/2010 (Sick Leave Circular). Where there are difficulties in meeting the requirements of the job and the targets agreed at the Return to Work Meeting are not being met they should be revisited with the jobholder. Managers can at this point ask HR Unit to refer the case to the EAS. They could also consult with HR Unit and evaluate if a transfer to a more suitable position within the Department would be a more appropriate measure. (HR Unit will only facilitate transfers in such cases where it is shown that all reasonable measures to address the issue have been taken locally.)

2) Where, following either a Sick Leave Review Meeting or a Return to Work Meeting there is still a difficulty with attendance managers should have the case referred to the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) through their HR Unit. This is particularly the case where stress is the reason for the sick leave.

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3) Once all reasonable steps have been taken by the manager and the Department and the jobholder has been certified as fit to return to work by the CMO the manager should begin to deal with the issue as an underperformance matter and hold a Performance Review Meeting (see Appendix 1).

Uncertified sickness absence

Some jobholders may have a combination of certified and uncertified sick leave or just high levels of uncertified sick leave. While certified sickness absence should be dealt with as outlined above, good practice requires monitoring of uncertified sickness absence by managers and HR Units. Certain patterns of uncertified sickness absence may signal that a jobholder has difficulties showing commitment to his or her job. Thus, a jobholder who regularly takes 5 or more days of uncertified sickness absence in any 12-month period may be in difficulty. Situations where jobholders regularly take uncertified sickness absence when their annual leave allocation has been exhausted may also need to be addressed. Similarly, jobholders who regularly have uncertified sickness absence on a Monday and/or Friday may have issues that need to be addressed.

Managers should be aware of the Civil Service Drugs and Alcohol policy and related guidelines, available from HR Units and should ask HR Unit to consult the CMO if there are any concerns.

As with certified sick leave managers need to approach a problem with uncertified sick leave with sensitivity and tact.

1) A Sick Leave Review Meeting should be held where the jobholder’s pattern of absence is a cause for concern (Sick Leave Circular 9/2010). The manager can ask the HR unit to refer the case to the CMO and can also refer the case to the EAS.

2) Where the manager has made all reasonable efforts to address the matter and it becomes clear that the matter is not one of genuine ill health then the matter should be dealt with by holding a Performance Review Meeting, as set out in these guidelines, or as a disciplinary matter. It is legitimate for the manager, during the Performance Review Meeting, to refer to uncertified sickness absences and probe whether these absences are in any way connected to the underperformance.

In dealing with a high rate of sick leave managers should make staff aware that:

• Sick leave is not an entitlement, it is a facility offered to jobholders. The sick leave regulations restrict the circumstances in which sick leave may be taken and confer on the Head of the Department (i.e. the Secretary General) the power to grant sick leave.

• There is a facility for staff to take up to 7 days uncertified sick leave over any 12 month period. However, this should be the exception rather than the rule. Where managers suspect that sick leave is being abused they can advise staff that uncertified sick leave is a privilege, not an entitlement, and that the facility can be removed if abused.

• Managers/HR units can require a certificate be given for all sickness absences and in dealing with attendance problems with staff they should make them aware that unapproved uncertified sick leave may result in non-payment for the period of the absence.

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• Where a staff member has 56 or more days of sick leave in any 4 year period (certified and/or uncertified) that has not been discounted2 they are not allowed to apply for promotion.

• Where a staff member has 56 or more days of sick leave in any 4 year period (certified and/or uncertified) and/or where there is a concern about abuse of sick leave it is recommended that an increment be withheld.

Ill health not resulting in sickness absence

It may be that the jobholder is suffering from an illness which has affected their performance but has not led to any sickness absence. Where this becomes evident, the manager should consult HR Unit for advice. HR Units deal with issues of this nature on a case-by-case basis.

Employee Assistance Service

It is always open to managers to seek the advice of an Employee Assistance Officer (EAO) in relation to issues arising from sickness absence; and/or to encourage the staff member concerned to avail of the services of the EAS.

v.

Underperformance due to personal or domestic difficulties

In cases of personal and/or domestic difficulties the confidentiality of the discussions between the manager and the jobholder is paramount.

Some jobholders may not be aware that a particular personal or domestic problem is impacting on their work performance and when made aware may take immediate remedial actions themselves to improve performance. Others may need greater flexibility on a temporary basis i.e. with regard to attendance. While managers should be aware of the “special leave” provisions, details of which are available from HR Units, they should use their discretion to accommodate the jobholder with arrangements acceptable to both. Management should monitor such arrangements. In some instances jobholders will disclose that they have personal problems but refuse to accept that these problems are having an effect on their work performance. It is of vital importance that, at the Performance Review Meeting, the manager can supply factual information, specific examples, etc. which do not match the agreed objectives/targets and timeframes shown on the Role Profile and/or Interim Review forms.

Jobholders, having confided a personal problem to a manager, should be offered appropriate support. The manager should not act as a counsellor to the jobholder concerning the difficulties they are encountering. Instead, the manager should strongly encourage the jobholder to seek advice from the EAS. Some jobholders may be reluctant to contact the EAS themselves so the manager should discuss the possibility of him/her intervening on their behalf.

Managers should be aware of their responsibilities with regard to staff. In this regard where there is a risk to someone’s well being the manager should contact the EAS. Particular care should be taken to ensure that underperformance due to personal or domestic problems is not handled in such a way so as to exacerbate the difficulties being experienced by the jobholder. It is essential that the manager takes into account the particular individual circumstances.

2

Discounting refers to the practice whereby one off or non-recurring illnesses are not taken into account when calculating the number of sick days taken by an officer.

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The manager should discuss and agree a Performance Improvement Action Plan with the jobholder specifying what is to be achieved, what supports will be put in place, and the timeframe in which this is to happen. The Action Plan should also specify the checkpoint dates when the manager will review progress on the Action Plan.

vi.

Refusal to acknowledge underperformance

This is not a cause of underperformance. However, where a jobholder refuses to acknowledge or accept that he or she is underperforming, the manager will need to demonstrate that this is the case. This should be done by reviewing the jobholder’s work in conjunction with his or her Role Profile. While acceptable performance of tasks should be acknowledged, unacceptable performance should be clearly explained. When explaining, the manager should state in relation to each of the relevant tasks/aspects of the job what is an acceptable level of performance and, using examples, the areas in which the jobholder’s performance has fallen short of this standard.

If, following this process, the jobholder continues to refuse to acknowledge underperformance; the manager should consult with HR Unit.

vii.

Longstanding underperformance

This is a particularly difficult issue to deal with. It can arise because the underperformance was never tackled before; or because all previous efforts at tackling it failed to resolve it.

Notwithstanding the history of the underperformance, the current manager should make best efforts to now deal with it.

Using the jobholder’s Role Profile, the manager should review the jobholder’s work performance as indicated earlier in these Guidelines and follow the template for the Performance Review Meeting at Appendix 1. Managers should only focus on the current Role Profile and the current work performance of the jobholder and not on past performance.

In discussing solutions, the manager could consider an incremental approach to seeking to improve the jobholder’s performance, if he or she deems it to be appropriate. By confining the initial remedial approach to smaller, manageable blocks of work, the manager can avoid the jobholder becoming overwhelmed or daunted by the task. For example, the manager could, in the Performance Improvement Action Plan, elect not to deal with all performance issues at once. Instead, a specific, time bound task or project could be specified in the Action Plan. When the specified task/project has been completed (or the agreed timeframe has passed, whichever is sooner), the manager could meet with the jobholder and review the performance of that task or project. Depending on the outcome, additional time bound tasks/projects can then be set and reviewed at the agreed checkpoints.

If this approach succeeds, it should be continued until the jobholder reaches a consistently satisfactory level of performance.

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You may find that when you actively start the process of dealing with underperformance staff may get defensive and may take sick leave as an avoidance measure. This can happen at the informal or formal stages of the process.

There should be no delay in dealing with this issue. If, in the course of dealing with underperformance issues, extended sick leave is availed of by the jobholder, the matter should be referred immediately to your HR Unit for consideration as to whether the matter should be referred to the EAS and/or to the CMO for his views. Likewise, if HR Units receive a medical certificate in these circumstances then they should consider whether the matter should be referred to the EAS and/or to the CMO for his views.

If the CMO certifies the person fit to work and says that it is a management issue, and the jobholder does not return to work, then consideration should be given to removing the officer from the payroll.

Depending on the cause of the underperformance identified as part of Step 2 above, the manager may deem it necessary to consult the EAS and/or seek advice and support from HR Unit. Otherwise, the manager should proceed to draw up a Performance Improvement Action Plan. The Performance Improvement Action Plan should specify:

• The areas (i.e. relevant Key Tasks on the Role Profile) where there has been unsatisfactory progress.

• The progress which is required to be achieved over the period of the Action Plan.

• The timeframes which will apply to achievement of progress.

• The support measures which will be put in place, when, and by whom (including development measures such as coaching, self-learning, formal training; and, in cases of personal/domestic difficulties, any other support measures to be provided, with timeframes).

• The intervals at which progress will be reviewed during the lifetime of the Action Plan.

• The date when overall progress achieved in the Action Plan will be reviewed and evaluated.

• A statement that, in the event that satisfactory progress is not achieved in the timeframe specified, consideration will be given to invoking the Disciplinary Code.

The Performance Improvement Action Plan should be signed and dated by the manager carrying out the meeting and the jobholder. The Plan should be retained locally, with the manager and the jobholder each holding a copy of the signed

Step 3 – Decide and agree on the action required at the

Performance Review Meeting using the Performance

Improvement Action Plan

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document. The Plan should not be forwarded to HR Unit but the manager should inform HR Unit that a Plan has been agreed.

A sample Performance Improvement Action Plan is at Appendix 2.

It is necessary, as outlined in each the strategies in Step 2 above, to provide the coaching, training, guidance, experience or facilities that are required to enable the actions agreed in the Performance Improvement Action Plan to happen. Where necessary, Training Unit and HR Unit should be contacted to ensure that these requirements are put in place promptly.

Managers should monitor progress under the Performance Improvement Action Plan ensuring that improvements are made and supports provided within the agreed timeframes. Overall progress should be reviewed at the agreed review date. Feedback should be provided by managers and agreement should be reached on any further actions that may be necessary.

4. Follow up actions where performance does not

improve

Where a manager has made concerted efforts to address underperformance in a jobholder, in line with the Guidelines above, and the jobholder has failed to improve his or her performance to a satisfactory standard, the manager can legitimately start disciplinary action. Taking disciplinary action means that the manager must follow the Civil Service Disciplinary Code3, which sets out the procedures involved in invoking the Disciplinary Code. This Code is available from your HR Unit.

Points to note are:-

• Before starting to take any disciplinary action the manager should consult with HR Unit.

• The Disciplinary Code provides for the following range of disciplinary actions which may be taken against a jobholder, following application of the disciplinary procedures:

o Placing a formal written note on the jobholder’s file in HR Unit.

o Deferral of an increment.

o Debarment from competitions or specified competitions or from promotion for a specified period of time.

o Transfer to another office or Division or geographical location.

o Withdrawal of concessions or allowances.

o Placement on a lower rate of remuneration.

3

At the time of issue of these Guidelines the relevant circular is Circular 14/2006: Civil Service Disciplinary Code.

Step 4 – Resource the action.

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o Reduction in grade or rank.

o Suspension without pay.

o Dismissal.

• A strict procedure must be observed, as set out in the Disciplinary Code, when taking disciplinary action and it is essential that this procedure is adhered to.

• Irrespective of the strength of a disciplinary case, where correct procedures are not adhered to, the case may fall.

5. Supports for Managers

Managers can expect support in dealing with underperformance from:

• his or her manager; and

• the Employee Assistance Service; and

• HR Unit.

The appropriate level for formally dealing with underperformance may be the line manager, or, in certain departments, there may be a policy that more senior managers within the department must also be involved. You should consult with your HR unit to confirm the policy in your own department on this.

Prior to entering the formal procedure, performance issues are dealt with by the immediate manager. Where required, the manager will receive advice, support and back up from his or her manager (i.e. the second supervisor for the staff member whose underperformance is being managed). At all times, the second supervisor should, by his or her attitude and bearing, demonstrate appropriate support for the first supervisor.

A manager who is engaged in the formal process of managing poor performance will receive advice and support from his or her manager who will, as above, visibly demonstrate appropriate support to the manager concerned.

The services of the EAS will be available, on a personal basis, to the manager as required. In the event that the staff member whose underperformance is being managed is already availing of the services of the EAS, the EAS will advise the manager accordingly and, if required, will arrange for the manager to have access to the services of an alternative EAO.

HR Unit is also available to advise the manager and should nominate an appropriate person within HR Unit as the contact person for managers in this regard. HR Unit should ensure that all managers are aware of the contact details for this person.

The Disability Liaison Officer can be contacted where issues involving disability are concerned.

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The purpose of the Performance Review Meeting is to establish or clarify the cause(s) of the underperformance and to agree a Performance Improvement Action Plan to deal with it/them.

The steps involved in a Performance Review Meeting

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Set the scene

Invite Jobholder’s View Give Manager’s View Discuss Gaps/ Issues Resolution/ Solution Manager’s confirmation & Agreement Summary of Agreement

Appendix 1

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Details of how each step should work

1.

Setting the scene

The meeting should take place in private, in an environment that is comfortable,

non-threatening and away from interruptions or distractions. While it is not recommended

that another staff member attends the meeting there may be circumstances where the

manager carrying out the interview may need to consider whether they should be

accompanied by another member of staff e.g. where it is possible that the jobholder may

become difficult during the meeting.

The meeting should be against a backdrop where the manager has already been giving

regular feedback to the jobholder about his or her performance (i.e. not just at Interim or

Annual Review meetings), including on aspects of the jobholder’s performance which are

not satisfactory.

The manager carrying out the interview should begin the meeting by outlining to the

jobholder the objectives of the Performance Review Meeting.

These are:

-

to clarify what are the standards of performance which are expected of the

jobholder, in the context of his or her Role Profile.

-

to clarify in what respects the jobholder has been meeting the required

standards.

-

to clarify in what respects the jobholder has not been meeting the required

standards.

-

to identify the causes of underperformance.

-

to agree a Performance Improvement Action Plan to assist the jobholder to

improve his or her performance to the required standard, within a specified

timeframe.

-

to ensure that the jobholder is aware that where satisfactory improvement is

not achieved, consideration will be given to invoking the Disciplinary Code.

At this stage, the manager should not go into any detail on the above. He or she should

wait until the jobholder has been given the opportunity to give his or her views before

giving his or her evaluation.

The manager should advise the jobholder that a minute is being taken of the meeting;

that a copy of the minute will be provided to him or her; and that the minute will not be

copied to any other party. The manager should clarify that the purpose of the minute is to

help both parties by providing a clear record of the meeting.

(20)

2. Jobholder’s

View

Having set the scene, the manager should invite the jobholder to express his or her own

views on their performance.

The manager’s approach to the rest of the meeting will be determined by what he or she

learns in this part of the meeting. It is, therefore, important that the manager should

adopt an open, non-judgemental stance and actively listen to what the jobholder is saying.

Where the jobholder is not offering specific causes for underperformance, the manager

should be alert to cues which might suggest what the causes are.

The disclosed or suggested causes of underperformance are likely to fall into one of the

following categories:

1.

that there have been mitigating factors for example increased workload,

workplace stress or other factors such as bullying etc. which prevented the

jobholder from performing to the required standard. Where this happens the

manager should follow the procedures set out in

A Positive Working Environment.

If a claim is found to be unjustified then the manager can go back to the process

of dealing with underperformance.

2.

lack of clear goals/expectations.

3.

lack of knowledge/skills etc.

4.

health reasons.

5.

personal and/or domestic difficulties.

6.

lack of commitment or effort.

Where the jobholder discloses that any of the causes at 2 to 5 above apply in his or her

case, the manager should adopt the specific strategy necessary as detailed at Step 2 i, ii,

iv or v of the Step by Step Guide for Managers.

However, it may alternatively be the case that the jobholder lacks commitment or has not

put in sufficient effort to achieve the required standard of performance. If the manager

forms the view that this is the cause, then again the appropriate strategy outlined at Step 2

iii of the Step by Step Guide for Managers should be adopted.

Particular difficulties which may arise, irrespective of cause, are where the jobholder

denies or refuses to acknowledge that there are issues with his or her performance or

refuses to engage in the process at all. The approaches which can be adopted here are

outlined at Step 2 vi and viii of the Step by Step Guide for Managers.

Finally, where underperformance has persisted for a long time and has either not been

tackled up to now, or attempts to redress it have not resulted in acceptable performance,

effective strategies can be difficult to find. Some guidance on the approach to be taken in

such cases is given at Step 2 vii of the Step by Step Guide for Managers.

(21)

3. Manager’s

View

At the Scene Setting part of the meeting, the manager will have outlined the specific

areas in which performance has not been satisfactory. In this part of the meeting, the

manager should take account of what he or she has learned when the jobholder expressed

his or her view and proceed accordingly.

The manager should review the jobholder’s performance by reference to his or her Role

Profile, taking each Key Task in turn and giving positive or negative feedback as

appropriate. All feedback should be addressed to the performance, not the personal

attributes of the individual. The feedback should be expressed in constructive terms. As

far as possible, the manager should cite factual examples in support of the views he or

she is expressing. These illustrate the point the manager is making. In a case where a

jobholder does not appear to accept that he or she is underperforming examples can

provide a means of demonstrating the underperformance.

In relation to underperformance, the manager should outline what the impact has been

(eg. consequences of missed deadlines; increased workload for colleagues and/or

manager; effect on customer service/image of the Section/ morale in the Section etc.).

4. Discussion

of Gaps/Issues

The manager should next initiate a discussion with the jobholder in which any gaps in

information or understanding (on either side) can be clarified and any issues arising from

differences in perception can be discussed.

The objective for this part of the meeting is to try to achieve a shared understanding of

what the issues are and work towards agreement on what strategy will be put in place to

address the issues.

5. Resolution/solution

Having identified what are the issues, the manager and jobholder should then proceed to

discuss realistic approaches to resolve them. The approach will be decided in the context

of the cause(s) of the underperformance. See the different strategies outlined at Step 2 of

these Guidelines for guidance.

6.

Manager’s confirmation and agreement

Following the discussion, the manager should state what he or she considers to be an

acceptable approach to resolving the issue(s) and over what timeframe.

7.

Summary of agreement

The details of the measures to be adopted to deal with the underperformance, and the

relevant timeframes should then be set out in the Performance Improvement Action Plan.

The jobholder and the manager should sign the Action Plan and the manager should

inform HR Unit that a Plan has been agreed.

(22)

1.

Description of Key Task(s)

where progress has been unsatisfactory (as on

Role Profile):

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

2.

Issues identified at Performance Review Meeting in relation to

above Key Task(s):

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

Appendix 2

(23)

3. Specific

Progress/Improvements to be achieved in Key Task(s) and

timeframes:

Progress/Improvements required

Timeframes

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

4.

Supports to be provided, by whom, timeframes:

Supports By

whom

Timeframes

1.

2.

3.

4.

(24)

5. Progress

review

dates:

6. Signatures

Signed (Jobholder): __________________________ Date: _______________

Signed (Manager): ___________________________ Date: _______________

The purpose of this Action Plan is to clarify what performance improvements are to be

achieved by the jobholder in the stated timeframe(s) and the supports which will be put in

place to assist the jobholder to make the improvements. This process is founded on the

expectation that the jobholder will achieve the specified improvements.

However,

where satisfactory improvement is not achieved, the jobholder should be aware that

consideration will be given to invoking the Disciplinary Code.

(25)

The role of HR Units in managing underperformance is crucial in supporting managers to

manage performance and to address underperformance.

To strengthen the approach to managing performance it is important that at least one

member of HR Units has responsibility and is accountable for performance policy

(including PMDS, management of underperformance, discipline) and that the role

provides opportunity to strengthen policies in these areas.

1.

Performance Management

The extent to which underperformance problems are addressed is generally a reflection of

the overall performance management culture in a department. The role of HR Units in

managing underperformance starts with a proactive role in performance management

within the Department. In the absence of a strong performance management culture it is

unlikely that managers will tackle underperformance. PMDS is the first step in

addressing any underperformance issue by providing the basis for identifying

underperformance and HR Unit’s role in performance management is crucial.

HR Units have a role in designing and reviewing PMDS which may involve taking new

approaches to strengthen performance management including for example, running

workshops for managers and staff, providing advice and support materials to staff and

managers and ensuring there is compliance with the system.

HR Units could engage in some or all of the following in terms of strengthening their

approach to performance management:

ƒ

Monitoring and enforcement of compliance.

ƒ

Auditing quality of PMDS.

ƒ

Regular reporting to Management Advisory Committee (MAC).

ƒ

Regular workshops with managers on aspects of PMDS such as goal setting,

monitoring performance, strengthening performance, ratings.

ƒ

Guidelines and resources for managers.

ƒ

Staff surveys.

ƒ

Training for new managers.

ƒ

Be visible to all the organization where you are proactive.

ƒ

Increase transparency on ratings and compliance whilst maintaining the

confidentiality of individual ratings.

2. Framework for addressing underperformance matters

While the manager has primary responsibility for dealing with underperformance of their

staff member, HR units have an important role to play in developing a culture and

awareness of the need to address underperformance and also of supporting managers in

dealing with it.

(26)

One of the main reasons that HR units perceive that underperformance is not dealt with is

because managers fail to do so.

To support managers HR Units should:

A: Develop the skills of managers in addressing underperformance through a range

of strategies, for example:

ƒ

Ensure that managers have full awareness of all relevant guidelines and

procedures e.g. grievance, discipline, bullying and harassment, absence

management etc.

ƒ

Review the extent to which managers consider themselves able to deal with

underperformance.

ƒ

Hold workshops and train managers on how to address underperformance

ƒ

Engage with managers as to why they may be reluctant to address

underperformance matters.

ƒ

Provide guidelines to managers on managing underperformance and related

policies (these can be adapted from Part II of this document).

ƒ

Challenge managers who complain of underperformance but do not address it

directly (e.g. do not move staff on the basis of underperformance unless the

manager can show they have attempted to address the issue).

ƒ

Introduce a requirement for management training as part of year 1 following

promotion to management positions.

B: Provide advice and assistance to managers on managing underperformance

including:

ƒ

Strongly support managers who address underperformance in the proper way.

ƒ

Nominate a person in their Unit who will act as the contact for managers on this

issue. Managers should be notified of the name and contact details of this

person.

ƒ

The contact should have a clear understanding of how to manage

underperformance effectively and the strategies available to managers.

ƒ

Identify, in consultation with managers, whether they need to take over the

management of the underperformance matter where it becomes a serious

disciplinary matter.

ƒ

Follow up promptly with managers who give ratings of 1 or 2 as part of PMDS to

ascertain what action is being taken to facilitate the jobholder to improve

performance to a satisfactory standard.

ƒ

Be proactive in following up probation reviews for staff on one-year probationary

contracts and staff who are recently promoted.

ƒ

‘Audit’ the steps taken by the manager and the documentation relating to each of

the steps to ensure the manager has followed correct procedures.

Figure

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References

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