One of the most difficult and stressful events in any organization is the personnel evaluation. In our last three entries we discussed an overview of tying City Council Strategies to performance evaluations, working with Council to develop strategies and working with department heads to create Plans/Goals to carry out the Council Strategies.
There is still a step to talk through before we get to the exact evaluation considerations. The next step is to actualize the Council Strategies with the non-supervisory staff members. This may be the toughest part of the system. As managers, we are used to just assigning or delegating tasks to department heads and merely ask for their periodic updates so that we can forward them to the Council at a regularly appointed interval. We are going to be held accountable for the strategies and for department heads’ abilities to implement them AND for the communication of these items to employees performing the work. This has to be done carefully and respectfully with the department heads, as part of the direction will be for the department heads to work out the Plans/Goals with the employees of that department.
The City Manager should introduce the Council Strategies to the respective department employees. This conversation will include information on the city council retreat, and the delegation of creating Plans/Goals to accomplish the Strategies to the respective Department Heads, and providing the opportunity for the employees to participate in the Plan/Goal design and implementation. Of course, this is going to cause some consternation: “That’s not my job” and other such replies. In today’s economy there is not much that a manager can offer as an incentive for employees to participate in this type of program; further, when informed that the work will be tied directly to their annual performance evaluation, additional resistance may be encountered. As simplistic as it may sound, we just have to ask them to help us. Let them know that their help is needed to accomplish the City Council Strategy, appealing to the intrinsic aspect of their nature.
It should be pointed out that the supervisors may need to receive additional training to work with employee participation/involvement programs. Leaders within the rank and file may also need to be identified for such training as well. In organized labor environments, the union stewards/officers should be provided this opportunity. It cannot hurt to ask the Local to consider contributing to the training as well.
In the meantime, communication to the City Council that the employees will be directly involved in the creation of the Plan/Goal to meet the Strategies, will more than likely be positively received. It is an opportunity for both the Council and employees to appreciate the role of the other. The manager/administrator should meet directly with all agency employees. A colleague of mine shared the story that he provided a tri-fold brochure to employees to share the strategies developed by the City Council. He also provided a Q&A period with employees as well.
Once the Plan/Goals are created, there is a need to identify the core competencies needed to accomplish the tasks. A useful source is the ICMA website (http://icma.org/en/university/about/management_practices/overview). One way to look at the Core Competencies is to first consider the Strategies, Plans/Goals and identify the skills as needed to accomplish the specific tasks needed to meet the Plans/Goals.
More specifically core competencies can be defined as the characteristics of individual employees and making better use of their expertise and develop that expertise further. We can get a little confused at this point asking, “Well, isn’t that what is in an employee’s job description?” To a certain degree, the answer is, “Yes.” In this case, we are looking at the skills needed to (a) accomplish the aforementioned tasks related to the Plans/Goals; and (b) perform the tasks listed within the traditional position description. In some cases, it may be appropriate to re-write/update position descriptions with the newly identified core competencies. Also included with the new evaluation form should be the mission of the agency, the Strategy of the Council and the Plans/Goals appropriate to that department.
As part of the feedback loop, these personnel system changes should be shared with the City Council so that they can see the full relation of their strategies to the personnel system.
In these past few posts, we have walked through a Council Retreat, Strategy Development, creating Plans/Goals and then the evaluation program. As much as these have been meant to be prescriptive, they are also meant to engage discussion. Please feel free to respond and share your ideas and thoughts.