UW launches new performance management policy and program

April 21, 2015

As part of the new HR Design structure (and as described in the HR Design Strategic Plan), the Office of Human Resources (OHR) is rolling out a new performance management policy and best practices program. Implementation will begin in July 2015, and full compliance is expected across campus by July 2016.

OHR Director Robert Lavigna says research shows effective performance management encourages employee behaviors that align with organizational goals and objectives. “We have tried to develop a program that allows a great deal of flexibility in how performance management is administered across campus, yet provides a reliable and consistent framework,” Lavigna says.

Photo: Robert Lavigna

Robert Lavigna

“By clarifying expectations, recognizing high performers, addressing performance issues, and identifying developmental needs,” he says, “performance management systems drive improved employee performance.”

Over the past year, OHR’s Patrick Sheehan and Angela Rosas conducted focus groups, met with governance groups and sat in on listening sessions to incorporate employee suggestions as they developed the program.

“At the heart of the program are conversations between employees and supervisors,” says Sheehan. The conversations are intended to enhance ongoing communications and provide employees with insights about the things they’re doing well and suggestions about what needs to be worked on.

“The program is designed to benefit employees — to help them improve their job skills and do their best work,” Sheehan says. “Flexibility is a key element. Schools and departments are free to design and implement their own PM program as long as it satisfies the required elements of the policy.” Sheehan says the programs can vary to meet the needs of any given unit, with the flexibility to do what works best for them. OHR will support these efforts with training, resources, tools and consulting.

The new PM policy will include four elements, which have not previously been required in all units. The policy will also mean more frequent conversations between supervisors and employees about a broader range of topics.

“The program is designed to benefit employees — to help them improve their job skills and do their best work.”

Patrick Sheehan

The basic components of the new program are:

    • Expectations and goal‐setting conversation. Managers and supervisors should have initial expectations and goal‐setting conversations with employees who report directly to them within 30 days of their start dates and at the beginning of every performance year after that. These discussions should cover major duties, work priorities, criteria for successful performance, developmental needs, and strategies to meet those needs. The date of the conversation, and the goals and expectations identified in this meeting, must be documented and provided to the employee.
    • Informal conversations. Managers and supervisors should conduct regular informal conversations with all employees who report directly to them. These meetings should consist of coaching, feedback and support to employees about their work-related challenges and accomplishments. Informal conversations do not need to be documented.
    • Mid‐point conversation. Midway through each performance year, managers and supervisors must identify whether an employee’s performance is meeting expectations and document his or her feedback (for example, complete a checkbox form to show that performance is meeting expectations).
    • Summary evaluation. All managers and supervisors should conduct summary performance evaluation conversations with employees who report directly to them at the conclusion of their probationary or initial evaluation periods, and at the end of every performance year. At a minimum, this conversation should include a discussion of: 

—Whether the employee’s performance met expectations
—Whether the employee achieved annual goals
—Professional development needs and opportunities
—Options to develop additional skills and knowledge to foster career growth.

Goal-setting, mid-point, and summary evaluation conversations must be documented, but OHR is not prescribing the format of this documentation. It can range from a comprehensive written evaluation to a signed checklist that confirms the discussion covered all of the necessary elements of a performance evaluation.

Informational resources and training opportunities are being developed and will be rolled out over the next few months. There is also a brown bag on the performance management policy on Tuesday, April 28, for campus managers and supervisors. Further information about each of these can be found on the performance management page of the HR Design website.

Phil Davis