By Dan LaBonte, PSU member
The Performance Management Program (PMP) provides a formal means for professional employees to plan, discuss, and evaluate performance goals with their supervisors in an annual cycle. PMPs have been used in Amherst and Boston since 2001 for Unit A members with a different process for members in unit B. Before the PMP was negotiated, the review process can only be described as ineffective. UMass Boston Grievance Secretary Tom Goodkind says, “There were no goal-setting meetings, no self-review or interim reviews, no performance improvement plans, and no guidelines—the process did not foster encouragement or constructive criticism.”
What do I need to know about the PMP process?
In the PMP there are several core performance categories: work results and quality, organization, learning and development, communication, respectful relationships and community building, and job specific competencies. Supervisors are also reviewed on three additional criteria focusing on leadership capabilities. Although there are established evaluation criteria embedded into an annual process, “PMP isn’t just about producing an annual document,” says UMass Amherst Secretary of Grievances Robert McDowell, “it’s about facilitating an ongoing, productive dialogue and feedback loop between supervisor and supervisee, culminating in an annual document.”
Step 1: Performance Planning
For the first step, employee and supervisor work collaboratively to establish three to eight SMART goals (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, Trackable) that align with the work unit’s mission or strategic direction, positional job tasks, and/or skills and knowledge development to achieve work priorities. While the supervisor should initiate the goal setting process at the beginning of each performance cycle, the employee has the right to do so if not started in a timely manner. If the employee initiates and the supervisor does not respond after 90 days of the start of the performance cycle, the employee's proposed work priorities become the goals for that evaluation period. If the supervisor and employee cannot agree upon goals, the supervisor shall determine employee goals. Collaborative planning is a crucial component to reaching successful goal outcomes. Goodkind advises that employees and supervisors should not only “mutually determine goals that are reasonable and realistic given current resources,” but also check in on goals consistently throughout the year.
Step 2: Coaching and Ongoing Feedback
During the middle six months of the annual performance cycle, it is strongly recommended that the supervisor and employee have a minimum of one meeting to conduct a review of the performance plan. Ongoing, two-way discussion with continual feedback is just as critical as planning. McDowell says that performance concerns should be communicated as they arise rather than discussed and documented for the first time at the end of a performance cycle. He also notes that our contract indicates the need for supervisors to proactively provide improvement plans. More specifically, section 15.3 states, “If an employee is likely to receive a less than satisfactory evaluation, his or her supervisor shall, whenever practicable, inform him/her of this likelihood approximately 90 days before the evaluation is to be done. At the same time, the supervisor must inform the employee what specific improvements in job performance must be made in order to receive a satisfactory evaluation.” Should an employee perceive supervisor comments to be either misrepresentative of their performance or included in the review without any prior performance issue discussion, the employee should speak directly to their supervisor about the specific concerns and/or contact their PSU grievance secretary to determine best next steps.
Step 3: Performance Review Meeting and Form Submission
At the end of the performance cycle, the final step of PMP is the submission of the performance review form. Goodkind says, “I advise members to take the self-review seriously and respond directly to anything and everything with which they disagree in the evaluation, providing documentation wherever possible.” Once complete, the signed performance review form is remitted to human resources. An employee’s signature indicates that a performance discussion has been conducted and does not necessarily imply agreement. As part of the annual PMP, a new performance planning worksheet with performance goals for the
next performance cycle year must also be developed.
A 52-page PMP Handbook is available at: www.umass.edu/humres/sites/default/files/PMPHand.pdf. The document is also posted to the PSU website.