Performance Management for Managers
Performance management process is more than just the annual performance review. The process includes setting clear expectations, and providing specific and ongoing formal and informal feedback. Columbia University provides an online tool called ePerformance to support the performance management process. The ePerformance tool is integrated with People@Columbia (PAC) and can be accessed using your UNI and password. The online tool supports individual and team goal setting, feedback notes and annual performance reviews. Contact your local HR representative for more information about the performance management process.
The University's Performance Management and Appraisal policy requires all Officers and Non-Union Support Staff (NUSS) receive an annual performance review.
Performance Management Process
The performance management process is more than the annual review. The process includes setting clear expectations and providing specific and ongoing formal and informal feedback. When all elements are completed thoughtfully with active engagement of both manager and employee, the results for all parties (including the University as a whole) are very positive.
This critical dialogue between managers and their staff sets the platform for ongoing coaching, and ultimately the final performance appraisal, at the end of the fiscal year.
Key to being a good performance manager
As a performance manager, you can be confident that you are being fair and consistent with your staff if you:
- Use data and observations as the basis for recognition and reward decisions
- Create an environment where employees can grow and develop their skills—enhancing their contributions and commitment to the University
- Ensure your Team is working toward the University’s and your school or department’s strategies and goals
Benefit of performance reviews
The annual performance review process provides the University community with a framework to recognize the achievements of employees over the past year, and begin the conversation about new and ongoing performance goals for the upcoming fiscal year.
Performance appraisals are a powerful motivational tool, engaging employees on the goals of the department. A clearly defined set of expectations and an understanding of how their goals fit into the overall goals of the department/school/administrative unit encourages employees to succeed. The performance appraisal process is an opportunity to measure performance against the objectives and behaviors (performance competencies) required for success.
Performance appraisals allow managers to provide staff coaching and support in a structured way. Writing performance appraisals allows the manager to document an employee's strengths, areas of development and opportunities for career growth. A key component of supporting and elevating an employee's performance is the relationship with their direct supervisor. More than a written form, the dialogue between managers and their staff members will help reinforce target goals for the individual, team, department and University at large.
- Review School/Department Goals
- Define Performance Criteria (goals, competencies, etc.)
- Ongoing Check-ins
- Professional Development
- Annual Performance Review
Review School/Department Goals
As a manager, it is your responsibility to clearly communicate to your staff the relevance of individual performance goals with the overall school or department goals (or your own performance goals). Questions to ask yourself include:
- Are the goals I'm setting for my staff member clearly linked to the overall goals of the school/department?
- Will my staff see how their work contributes to the goals of the school or department?
Define Performance Criteria
It is important to establish a clear performance plan by identifying key elements or actions the staff member will complete and demonstrate during the fiscal year. There are usually two components to creating an employee’s performance plan for the fiscal year:
Goals: The staff member’s performance plan should include goals for the performance period. Consider the staff member’s job description and work with the employee to identify three to five goals for the year. As noted above, these goals should align with the goals of the school/department.
Competency: To ensure employees understand the skills and interpersonal behaviors that are essential to meeting job performance standards, it is important to include key competencies as part of the performance criteria during the goal-setting process. Competencies represent the basic knowledge, skills, abilities and behaviors that enable staff to be successful in their roles. Managers may indicate or define target competencies or select from a predefined list within the online tool.
Agreement on Goals
Your role as a manager is to identify and communicate your department's overall objectives to your staff, and translate them into individual objectives.
Discussing and reaching agreement on objectives at the beginning of the cycle, in addition to providing periodic feedback and modifications as needed, will lead to a successful end of the cycle performance appraisal discussion with minimal anxiety and no surprises.
The number of goals (typically 3-5 for each individual) should reasonably reflect the most important accomplishments required for success. Consider the work to be done, and the desired result. Describing the goals using the three elements below will increase the probability of you and your staff member having the same understanding of the goal.
Outcome: An outcome describes what needs to be achieved. Outcomes will vary in scope. Some performance goals may be single tasks. Other performance goals may be large scale projects. For example: To improve the response time required for student inquiries.
Measurement: The measurement describes how both you and your staff member will describe the work to be done and assess whether the goal has been successfully completed. For example: Reduce the response time required for student inquiries from the current 10.5 hours to 7.5 hours.
Timeframe: The timeframe establishes a specific target date for the results to be achieved. Establishing a clear timeline enables the staff member to set appropriate priorities when completing multiple tasks. It also avoids differing assumptions between staff members and managers about the priority of the task. For example: Reduce the response time required for student inquiries from the current 10.5 hours to 7.5 hours by the end of the fall semester.
Questions to ask when writing goals:
- How does this goal support school/department goals?
- What do you expect to be accomplished?
- Why is this important?
- Who does this benefit?
- Who is involved?
- Due date?
- How (i.e., action steps)?
- How will you know when the objective is achieved (e.g., measures, observations, completion, accuracy)?
- Is there any room for misinterpretation on the part of the employee?
Identify Key Performance Milestones
The extent to which you detail the specific actions you expect the employee to take will depend on the requirements of your school or department performance management process, and your assessment of the staff members' current performance on tasks similar in nature to the defined goals.
The ePerformance tool will allow you to indicate the percentage of work already complete at the time the performance plan is established, target due dates and other key details to clarify and confirm successful work standards.
For staff members with lower current performance levels, you will want to have a direct role in specifying the actions required to meet expected performance standards. Staff with higher levels of performance will be able to develop their plans more independently.
The probability of performance goals being achieved increases significantly with detailed planning. Consider who should own building the action plan. Whether you, the staff member, or both of you build the plan, it is the manager's responsibility to ensure that a viable plan is established.
Key Points to Remember
- Effective performance planning considers both the day-to-day job focus as well as project-oriented goals.
- Performance goals should be stated clearly and succinctly. Both the manager and employee should have a clear picture of the expected outcome, how success will be measured and the timeframe in which the work will be done.
- Managers should be able to describe to staff how their individual work contributes to the goals of the school or department.
- The probability of performance goals being achieved increases with detailed planning.
Determine Coaching Requirements
Coaching is providing ongoing feedback to your staff members and can be positive or constructive in nature. As a manager, you have a responsibility to provide ongoing coaching to your staff members based on their needs in either formalized meetings and/or on an ad hoc basis.
Coaching requirements are not the same for all employees. In fact, coaching requirements are not even consistent for one employee working on different tasks. Employees have differing levels of skill for all the tasks they perform.
As an effective coach, you need to be aware of the skill gaps, opportunities, guidance and support each employee may require.
Employees who have lower levels of performance may require greater coaching support. Employees who have higher levels of performance may require less coaching support.
Coaching takes place throughout the year. How frequently you meet to discuss progress will depend on two things: 1) the expectations of your school/department; and 2) the performance levels you identified for each of the tasks required to achieve the performance goals.
Confirm with your staff how frequently you will meet to assess progress. Be explicit about whether you or the staff member is responsible for establishing your meetings. Continue to discuss development needs and keep ongoing documentation of both accomplishments and development needs.
Tips for both formal and informal coaching opportunities with your staff:
- Focus on the most important priorities
- Describe specific situations and behavior
- Focus on the work, not the individual; relate feedback to goals and expectations
- Balance positive and constructive statements
- Try to see things from their perspective; share your own experiences, if relevant
- Present corrective feedback in a positive, action-oriented way
- Ensure that the individual understands by asking him or her to summarize
- Follow up to monitor improvements and set follow-up dates
Provide Ongoing Coaching and Feedback
People need reinforcement, especially when developing new skills and abilities or addressing new challenges. A key responsibility of a good coach is to find the situations where staff members are doing well, and provide detailed, positive feedback. Similarly when coaches observe ineffective work or behavior, they have a responsibility to provide feedback which highlights what is not going well and how it can be addressed.
Ensure Professional Development
Professional development initiatives may include new projects, stretch assignments, project team leadership, job shadowing, cross training, multi-disciplinary team initiatives, relevant higher education, job role or industry conferences and professional development courses available through the Learning & Development team.
Clear the Path: Providing What They Need
As part of the coaching and feedback process, managers must ensure the employee has the time, resources and information required to execute the requested assignments. There are two aspects to clearing the path for your staff:
- Resolving any barriers that are impeding progress
- Leveraging enablers that will accelerate achievement of results
As managers work to resolve barriers and leverage enablers, they create a supportive environment for their staff.
Key Points to Remember
- Managers should determine how much coaching every employee needs for each of the tasks or goals assigned. One employee may need significant coaching on one task and be able to complete others quite independently.
- Coaching is an ongoing process which takes place in formal meetings, as well as in ad hoc conversations.
- Managers have the responsibility to clear the path for their staff – removing barriers and leveraging enables of success.
Seek Additional Input
Throughout each step of the performance management process, provide direction, feedback and support to your staff as they progress through their assigned work.
- At least once a year you will be expected to formally review the performance of your staff and provide written feedback.
- The final step in performance Management is to formally document a review or summary of the employee’s performance throughout the fiscal year. The employee’s review is heavily dependent on the previous two steps. To be able to provide accurate and balanced performance reviews, it is essential that managers take time to establish and update performance goals or criteria and provide coaching, development and feedback.
- The notes you create about initial goals and progress throughout the reporting period will enable you to approach the final performance review with clarity and confidence. The final feedback should contain no surprises for either the manager or the employee.
- Both manager and employee should provide input into documenting the employee’s formal review, with the manager having responsibility for documenting the final documented review.
Provide Feedback on Results
Feedback you provide to your staff should:
- Reflect the time available for each type of work. If an individual is expected to spend 90% of their time on daily job responsibilities and 10% of their time on projects, then the feedback should reflect that ratio.
- Be balanced with input from both staff member and manager, and with acknowledgment of both positive and negative experiences through the review period.
- Include performance review input from both the manager and employee. The purpose is to assess what has happened, but also to identify ways in which the staff member, the manager or the school or department could have created even better results.
- Be based on your direct observations or on validated input from reliable sources, including other colleagues who can provide a fair assessment of the employee’s work.
Determine Performance Ratings
Managers must assign ratings consistently for all staff members. To do this, you must first clearly understand the University's rating system. Explaining the rating method to staff members prior to discussing individual scores will allow them to understand their results in an appropriate context.
The Columbia University rating system in the recommended Performance Appraisal form is below. You must understand, and be able to explain, how you determine the overall rating for the work you are reviewing.
- Level 5: Outstanding: Performance levels and accomplishments far exceeds planned expectations. This category is reserved for the employee who truly stands out and clearly and consistently demonstrates exceptional accomplishments in terms of engagement as well as quality and quantity of work that is easily recognized as truly exceptional by others.
- Level 4: Exceeds expectations: Performance frequently exceeds job requirements. Accomplishments are regularly above expected levels. Performance and engagement is sustained at a level beyond expectations and the quality of work is uniformly high.
- Level 3: Meets expectations: Consistently demonstrates effective performance. Performance is reflective of a fully qualified and experienced individual in this position. Viewed as someone who effectively prioritizes work and can accomplish planned goals. Contributes to the overall objectives of the department and or the organization. Achieves valuable accomplishments in several critical areas of the job.
- Level 2: Needs Improvement: Working toward gaining proficiency. Demonstrates satisfactory performance inconsistently. Achieves some but not all goals and is acquiring necessary knowledge and skills. Opportunity for improved engagement. For new employees: this rating can be used when still coming up to speed expectations, performance and interpersonal conduct within the new role.
- Level 1: Does Not Meet Expectations: Performance consistently below expectations. Reasonable progress toward critical goals was not made and/or interpersonal conduct does not meet University standards. Significant improvement is needed in one or more important areas. A plan to correct performance, including timelines, must be outlined and monitored to measure progress.
It is helpful to allow the staff member to assess their own performance, including their view of the rating score because:
- Encouraging discussion about why they selected the rating can lead to productive insights.
- It allows the staff member to articulate the things they did well, that support a positive rating. It allows the staff member to examine ideas about the tangible differences that would have allowed a higher score.
- These insights can be used in the final element of Reviewing Performance, as you both consider opportunities for this staff member's ongoing development.
Lead the Performance Review Discussion
The manager should schedule a formal performance review meeting to debrief the employee and manager's written or online feedback. Both the manager and employee should compare what the employee achieved against the stated performance criteria or goals, using the Outcome/Measurement/Timeframe model. Additionally, you should review how the employee achieved those results. Consider your school or department's stated or generally understood values.
- Are there particular behaviors your school or department promotes – integrity, collaboration, valuing diversity, continuous learning, etc.?
- What actions did the staff member take to achieve the results?
- How did the staff member behave with others to achieve results?
- Were there special circumstances that made the goal particularly challenging?
This assessment of results allows you to provide feedback about:
- What was achieved;
- Strengths that can be recognized and leveraged; and
- Challenges that require further coaching and improvement.
Build Plans for Further Development
Building plans for further development is a logical and positive final step of the review process. The employee’s perception of this activity is derived from the manager's approach throughout the whole performance management process because:
- If the manager has consistently used the performance management process to guide and enrich the capability of the staff member, this step will be viewed with enthusiasm and interest.
- If the process has been judgmental and not supportive, then this step will be viewed as an administrative requirement which will not receive attention and action.
The areas that are selected for development should be clearly defined, in much the same manner as the original performance goals that were established using the Outcome, Measurement, Timeframe format.
The staff member should be able to see how the new skills or knowledge will be acquired, and how they are expected to be applied—to the current job role, and as preparation for future job roles. Specifically:
- If the planned development is a requirement to achieve satisfactory performance in the current job role, then the specifications for achieving the development must be very precise, with tightly controlled timelines.
- If the development efforts are focused on longer-term staff, for a job role that may not yet be determined, the timeliness may be more relaxed.
Key Points to Remember
- Involving staff in each element of reviewing performance will allow greater engagement and acceptance of the final performance review.
- Reviewing results at the end of the performance cycle should be focused on facts.
- Consideration should be given to how results were achieved, as well as what was achieved.
- Managers must be able to explain the overall performance rating they assign. They must have a clear understanding of what would have made the performance scores higher or lower.
- Plans for future development may include addressing specific requirements for current job performance or longer term development for future roles.
Annual Performance Review
The annual performance review process provides the University community a framework to recognize the achievements of staff over the past year, and begin the conversation about new and ongoing performance goals for the upcoming fiscal year.
Performance appraisals are a powerful motivational tool, engaging employees in the broader goals of the department. A clearly defined set of expectations and an understanding of how their goals fit into the overall goals of the department/school/administrative unit encourages employees to succeed. The performance appraisal process is an opportunity to recognize performance against the objectives and behaviors (performance competencies) required for success.
Performance appraisals allow managers to provide staff coaching and support in a structured way. Writing performance appraisals allows the manager to document an employee's strengths, areas of development and opportunities for career growth. A key aspect of supporting and elevating employees' performance is the relationship with their direct supervisor. More than a written form, the dialogue between managers and their staff will help reinforce target goals for the individual, team, department and University at large.
ePerformance, the University's online performance appraisal tool, contains a library of 20 competencies that managers can select. Managers also have the option to design or load their own competency into the online tool.
ePerformance summarizes plans for development in the staff member’s current role and career. During the initial performance planning step and as part of ongoing coaching and feedback discussions throughout the year, managers should identify core skills for further development and provide resources for staff continued learning and growth. Professional development initiatives may include new projects, stretch assignments, project team leadership, job shadowing, cross training, multi-disciplinary team initiatives, relevant higher education, job role or industry conferences and professional development courses available through the Learning & Development team.