Line managers guide

The performance management process places many line managers in a difficult position, as well as creating additional workload and pressure. Line managers need protection and support in dealing with a discredited system of appraisal.

PCS has prepared a checklist to assist members with line management responsibilities through the performance management process.

Member managers are encouraged to join the PCS Professional and Managers' Association.

We have prepared a checklist to assist members with line management responsibilities through the performance management process.

The performance management process places many line managers in a difficult position, as well as creating additional workload and pressure. Line managers need protection and support in dealing with a discredited system of appraisal.

PCS has prepared a checklist to assist members with line management responsibilities through the performance management process.

At the start of the reporting year

Line managers are advised to hold an objective setting meeting with each member of staff that they are responsible for.

Where teams are remote and geographically dispersed this requirement is even more important. Where necessary you should discuss with your own manager the time that you will need to undertake this work and what the implications are for other duties and responsibilities that you are required to undertake.

You should consider whether holding a meeting with every member of staff is likely to significantly increase your workload or imperils other core work. If you are concerned you should raise this with your manager as a concern.

You are also entitled to ask for a risk assessment to be carried out focused on work organisation and workload.

Managers are in any case advised to record the time spent on administering the performance management system and to highlight other work that needs to be put off or postponed as a result.

Each objective setting meeting should be a fairly informal meeting with both parties focused on the following outcomes:

  • A set of objectives that fairly reflect what the member of staff can be reasonably expected to undertake
  • How both of you will capture the evidence to demonstrate that the objectives have been met
  • Are there any adjustments that the member of staff will require because they have a protected characteristic
  • An agreement on what support you can provide to the member of staff and to also identify other possible avenues of support
  • How you can help your member of staff develop their skills and develop themselves as part of the process
  • Most importantly you and the member of staff should both be clear that you understand what the objectives require, what needs to be done to ensure that they are met and how you can work together to meet these objectives
  • Identify how and when catch up meetings will be held between the objective setting meeting and the mid-year review point.

It may be worth speaking to other managers in your span and agree to work together throughout the year to ensure a uniform approach, to adopt an approach that meets fully the Civil Service Employment Policy (CSEP) policy, to promote best practice, to ensure that there is no forced distribution in your area, to be collectively clear about how you will present your evidence to validation groups and so that any concerns over the operation of the system are raised together so that concerns are raised as a grouping and collectively.

You should also speak to your manager to ensure that the standards you have agreed with your staff are consistent with those at the same level within your organisation.

Finally, do remember that you have your own performance process with your own line manager. You should prepare for this and think carefully if
managing and appraising staff should form part of your objectives and what adjustments you should seek in respect of workload and other tasks.

At the mid-year point

Once the objectives are agreed, both you and your member of staff should sign these off and both keep a copy. Both of you should rigorously focus throughout the year on collecting evidence to prove that the member of staff is meeting the objectives set.

You should ensure that you meet or discuss with your member of staff regularly to ensure that the individual is able to deliver these objectives, is doing so and that you are content with progress.

Where these discussions identify that adjustments or refinements are required to ensure that staff are meeting their objectives these should be discussed, agreed and recorded.

If despite this you feel that a member of staff needs to be placed in the 'must improve' category at the mid-year point then the imposed performance management policy requires that you do this and then:

  • Identify the reasons why the member of staff has not met their objectives
  • Discuss these reasons honestly and openly with the member of staff
  • Identify the steps that the member of staff now needs to take to move out of ‘Must Improve’ by the end of the reporting year
  • Record these steps in detail and agree a ‘performance improvement plan’ that if met will mean that the member of staff can move out of 'must improve'
  • Make time to help and support members of staff in this category.

At the end of the reporting year

It is imperative that you mark all of your staff in line with the imposed CSEP product. This means that you should:

1 Mark in line with policy – and do not seek to meet ‘quotas’ written or otherwise. You are not required to forcibly rank people or find a certain number of people to place into box marking categories.

2 Once you have arrived at your mark ensure that you document everything diligently to protect yourself and the member of staff

3 Ensure that this evidence is presented to the validation group/panel

4 While staff in ‘Must Improve’ might not like the fact if you have followed the steps in this guidance then you can be assured that:

  • No one will be surprised by their box mark
  • That the box mark is backed up by a wealth of evidence
  • That you and your member of staff have had regular discussions about their performance and their objectives throughout the year
  • That you have done as much as possible to help and support the member of staff concerned.

5 Where your box marking is challenged you are perfectly within your rights to challenge the rationale of validation groups for two reasons.

Firstly, you have provided detailed evidence to support your marking. Secondly, validation groups can only overturn a marking if they can evidence that line managers have not given markings in line with the CSEP product.

If you have followed the guidance above you can be certain that you have done this and the role of the validation group can be challenged

6 If you feel that carrying out your duties and role properly has had a detrimental effect on your own performance management report you must challenge this

7 Finally, if you feel that your being placed under unacceptable pressure from the managers above you to forcibly distribute staff in to separate box markings you should immediately speak to your PCS representative – in confidence if necessary – who may be able to help.

We are aware that some line managers fear being labelled ‘negative’ if they challenge elements of the system that are unfair or highlight poor practice.

However, such an approach is absolutely challengeable by producing your evidence.

Join PCS

Member managers are encouraged to join the PCS Professional and Managers' Association.

If you are reading this and you are not already a PCS member – join PCS or phone 0800 317 464.

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