This year, like every year, thousands of civil servants made the Government’s presentation of the Budget seem effortless. Behind the scenes collaborations, across the various departments, over many weeks came together smoothly yesterday. Meaning that as the Chancellor sat down, a comprehensive suite of Budget publications appeared online .
How will some of those civil servants feel, should they now learn that they ‘must improve’ their performance to meet their work objectives? It is a knock to one’s self-confidence to be judged in that way by a line manager. More so if that outcome bucks the trend of years of evidence-based good performance.
Guidance on ranking staff for appraisal purposes
This year a ‘must improve’ judgement will flow from the strict application of guidance in the new Civil Service Appraisal system. The system is one part of Civil Service Reform (whose goal is delivering better services for less money).
The guidance – available to managers across different Departments, Directorates and teams – is to use the sector-wide appraisal system to determine who has had a successful year. The system seems to mean that appraisal markings can be distributed along a curve. On that curve approximately:
- 20 % of staff in a grade will have exceeded their objectives
- 70 % will have achieved expected outcomes
- 10% must improve
One appraisal system but two perspectives on how it works
The dialogue around performance management is led by the Head of the Civil Service, Sir Bob Kerslake. He has blogged about the new performance management system, which he believes, reflects consistency across the organisation and looks at what civil servants achieve and how they achieve it.
Many Senior Civil Service (SCS) staff and their junior colleagues have replied to the blog (although it seems the distribution curve does not to apply to members of the SCS). In unusually frank replies staff express their views about the system’s apparent use of quotas and its effect on morale. They also note that HMRC staff downed tools over this issue in February. So seemingly there is one appraisal system, but two perspectives on how it works.
It is also worth noting there may be an impact on workplace equality, since the sector employs more women than men below SCS level. Black and minority ethnic staff, and disabled staff, are also concentrated in the grades where must improve ratings will appear.
3 steps to take when your manager says your work must improve
Are you someone whose performance ‘must improve’ this year? How about rising to that challenge? Once that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach subsides, you should focus on moving forward. Here are 3 actions to help you to move forward beyond your appraisal:
- Review the evidence of your previous successful, or above successful, reports (to highlight your favourable customer feedback, transferable strengths and as a reminder your present rating may be quite subjective)
- Record the specifics of your strategy to take an immediate, positive, next step to achieve a short-term win (something constructive you know you can do well, within your present role, or one that allows you to reassert your ability to achieve good quality results)
- Recruit a skilled ally, ideally a coach who: understands the significance of your work-life goals; recognises the importance of your values; will remain supportive as your performance returns to its former state.
Civil Servant or not, how will you improve the quality of your work this year? Why not dip into the Archives, to the right of this post, to get some inspiration as you move forward.