Confirmation of changes for 2018 PDR cycle

You may be aware that we have been undertaking a comprehensive review of the performance and development review (PDR) process. This has involved extensive consultation since January with staff, trade union colleagues and heads of department. Working with all stakeholders has been important to maximise people's confidence in, and the effectiveness of, the PDR process.

Following the consultation, the trade unions have jointly commented as follows:

We affirm that the proposed new version of performance review is a significant improvement over the previous version. We welcome the positive process of extended consultation with union representatives that has taken place. We welcome in particular the resolution of the issues previously surrounding confidentiality. We are pleased to acknowledge that a genuine spirit of partnership has been evident in a matter of such importance. We do though wish to express some misgivings over the use of performance ratings. We are of the view that, however affirmative and nuanced this rating element may be, it may for some colleagues detract from the developmental potential of the performance and development review. We therefore propose that the question of performance ratings be included in a comprehensive joint review to take place after the next two annual iterations of performance review

Campus trade unions

We will ensure that the training and guidance (for reviewers and reviewees) for the PDR process will strongly emphasise the importance of the two-way developmental dialogue within the performance and development review. We will also work with trade union colleagues to review the implementation of the new PDR arrangements, both after the completion of the forthcoming cycle and also more formally after the second cycle, as requested by the trade unions.

Themes from the consultation

The consultation yielded plenty of discussion and ideas, many of which have been incorporated into the new PDR approach. The themes that emerged through the consultation, and the responses, are below.

Yes, underperformance will be dealt with separately to the annual PDR process. Underperformance may be discussed in the PDR, but it should not be the first time it is raised.

  • In order to do effective PDRs, we recommend that individual reviewers have no more than eight to ten reviewees
  • Departments should allocate reviewers based on
    • the reviewer's experience of carrying out PDRs
    • knowledge of the reviewee's work
    • time and ability to take forward the outcomes of the PDR meetings

Individuals value receiving feedback from a broader range of colleagues. Reviewers should ensure that they seek input from people who work closely with the reviewee. Similarly, the new PDR actively encourages the reviewee to seek feedback before the PDR meeting.

Many individuals have action plans/objectives that span periods longer than those covered by the annual PDR. While some call this the 'three year plan', other departments are not familiar with this term. Therefore the PDR just refers to 'longer term plans'.

Currently we do not have a set of institution-wide values and behaviours/ways of working. However, the new PDR will encourage the discussion of the 'how' as well as the 'what' of performance. The forms and guidance will encourage individuals to consider things such as:

  • setting personal high standards of performance
  • working with integrity, openness and honesty
  • promoting an inclusive approach
  • working well with colleagues within and outside the department
  • striving to enhance student and staff experiences

All of the new PDR forms now include a prompt to consider Athena SWAN and equality, diversity and inclusion contributions.

  • A constructive and holistic conversation about performance is very important. Performance ratings give clarity to this qualitative feedback and ensure that there is a clearer agreed outcome to the discussion
  • Performance ratings also enable an analysis of equality data against protected characteristics
  • There is no 'right' answer to this! There are arguments for and against each format. We have settled on the ratings being assigned on a five-point scale: Excellent; Good; Satisfactory; Needs some improvement; Needs significant improvement.
  • The language reflects the change in focus from objectives to a more holistic consideration of performance.
  • The review is confidential to the reviewee, reviewer and the reviewer's line manager - and if this is not the Head of Department (HoD), then the HoD may also review the PDR form for consistency, to review future plans, and learning/ development needs.
  • HR will collate some information on PDR outcomes to do an equality impact assessment. This will require use of employee data, but all reporting will be presented anonymously.
  • The practicalities of this means that HoDs may nominate trusted individuals to assist with the administration involved in providing this information to HR

Yes. It is the reviewee's PDR form and therefore they should have a copy of the final completed form.

In order to coordinate learning and development programmes, the HoD may ask their nominated administrative support to collate training needs at a departmental level.

Forms will be made user-friendly to allow for the easy copying and pasting of previous objectives etc. Google Doc versions will also be available.

The form will be clearly marked to indicate who should complete each section, including which parts should be completed by the reviewee before the PDR meeting.

The PDR is not directly linked to these processes, but there may be circumstances where relevant references could be made. For example, if an individual has demonstrated excellent performance through their PDR the reviewer may decide to trigger a Rewarding Excellence nomination. Alternatively, if there are any capability or conduct issues it would be relevant to consider these as part of application / nomination processes.