Emory Report

Mar. 29, 1999

 Volume 51, No. 25

New ITD program rewards superior job performance

Some Emory employees may see their salaries get a small bump every year and conclude that such an increase is guaranteed, that it is a standard cost-of-living raise. But in fact the University's yearly salary increases are intended to be rewards for job performance, and the principle behind this has led one Emory division to change the way it evaluates its employees.

Last fall the Information Technology Division implemented a team-based approach to evaluation, quantifying job-performance measures and setting clear goals for improving that performance. Though part of every ITD employee's evaluation still depends entirely on individual performance, a good part of the equation rests with how the employee's team meets its goals.

For example, the Customer Support Center team decided it wanted to improve call response time. In conversation with team leaders, the employees set a reasonable goals for answering customer calls more quickly (software in Emory's telephone system can measure this automatically). If the team meets its goal, its salary increase at review time will reflect that; if not, there may be no salary increase.

"This is not just about salary increases," said Paul Morris, vice-provost for Information Technology. "This gives employees a target to aim at. If they're not making their target, they need to make changes. The customer benefits, the team benefits--it's a win-win situation."

Morris conceded that not all job performance measures are so easily quantifiable, but that's why everyone involved participated in the discussions to determine what the numbers would measure. And there are some bugs still to be worked out; how accountable is a team for not making its goal due to circumstances clearly beyond its control, such as weather-related damage or even terrorist attacks? These are questions that will be worked out as they come up, Morris said, but so far the system is working well.

"Teams can see how they're doing throughout the year," he said. Indeed, in many instances anyone in the University can see, as ITD is posting its customer-support performance data on its web site.

During the year ITD spent designing this evaluation system, Morris said, one question from both Human Resources and the Board of Trustees was if the numbers-based approach could be applicable to other areas of the University, for both faculty and staff. HR Vice President Alice Miller thinks the answer is yes.

"Of course it is," Miller said. "There's no question it takes a lot of work, but if departments are willing to sit down and identify variables to put together and establish some programs, it can be done."

Miller said other departments have explored options for implementing new employee performance measures like ITD's, but none has taken action. She also said Emory "has not aggressively communicated the fact that the University's pay rates are extremely competitive with the market rates, and when there are changes in that market rate, we make adjustments."

Edie Murphree, associate vice president for administration, said that while most departments tie pay raises to supervisors' employee evaluations, there are some whose de facto policy is to award uniform salary increases with little or no measurement of job performance. This is not, she said, how the yearly increases are intended to be used.

"A department could use the salary pool dollars for a combination of cost-of-living and merit increases, but the pool is intended to reward and encourage performance that meets or exceeds job performance standards," Murphree said.

--Michael Terrazas

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