Early in 2015, PCS and the VOA agreed to implement an in-year cash bonus scheme replacing the annual non-consolidated performance pay award. This effectively severed the tie between performance and pay in the valuation office. PCS negotiators were not convinced the bonus scheme was necessarily the best way forward, we were able to agree to it in order to break that link.
Throughout the following performance management year, PCS consistently raised the question: what is the purpose of the PMR and related box markings when there is no link to pay? Why are members and their managers wasting time collecting copious amounts of evidence, attending validation meetings and reviews and then being placed in a box-marking through “guided” (forced) distribution for no purpose?
In March 2016, PCS and senior managers in VOA discussed a new pilot performance management process. This pilot would build on the progress made the previous year (separating performance and pay) by establishing a process that was solely related to managing performance. The pilot would have no time-consuming mid and end-of-year meetings and validation; no guided distribution; no box markings; and, again, no link between performance and pay, realising almost all of PCS negotiating aims.
PCS indicated broad support for the pilot provided we were involved in monitoring and shaping it. We agreed a monthly update meeting and a seat on the project board.
Early indications are that the new performance achievement scheme (PAS) is proving to be popular with members. A monthly 1-2-1 meeting between line manager and job holder forms the basis of the scheme. A record of that meeting is agreed, and any successes or areas of difficulty are noted. The scheme should be able to identify members with potential and those who need additional support. The thrust is very much geared towards improving members, rather than a tool to get members “out of the door”.
Through the monthly updates PCS addressed some concerns, specifically diversity data and whether or not groups are treated fairly through the process. These concerns are being addressed as the meetings go on.
The VOA placed all box 3 marks (formerly “needs improvement”) into the “needs support” category for the beginning of the pilot. PCS was opposed to this as it meant those previously placed in box 3, just to make up the guided distribution quota, would be included in this group (representing 9% of staff at the start of the PAS pilot). PCS stated we wanted to see this number reduced substantially by the six-monthly review. Initial figures show a reduction to about 3%, nearer the previous VOA average of 1%-2% poor performers.
Discussions on the PAS pilot continue as we approach the year end. These discussions include national PCS, with the aim to roll this system out across the civil service.