April 30, 2001
Review system builds teamwork
Kitty McNeill is the Oxford College librarian
For many individuals, performance reviews have a negative connotation.
The mere mention of the word review causes fear and trepidation.
Others believe performance reviews are meaningless rating systems that
have no true connection to the work of the individual and the organization.
During the past two years, I have led the effort to develop a new Performance Development and Review System (PDRS) for the staff at Oxford College. Why would the college librarian be interested in developing a new review system for staff? More on this question later.
All review systems have their strengths and weaknesses. How-ever, I believe
an effective, positive review system can serve as a framework that supports
the work and the mission of the institution. To be effective, the system
must be designed to fit the needs of both the organization and the individual.
In August 2000, I attended the Association of College and Research Libraries
Harvard Leadership Institute. In one of the primary texts for the institute,
Reframing Organizations, Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal describe
their four-frame modelthe structural, political, human resource
and symbolicfor understanding and leading organizations. They believe
that by understanding the human resource frame, organizations can
. . . be energizing, productive and mutually rewarding.
The PDRS we developed at Oxford benefits both the individual and the
organization. We framed the process around a key statement from Oxfords
strategic plan: Oxford College is a community of learning characterized
by intellectual vitality and freedom, individual responsibility, personal
care and mutual trust.
In support of this statement, we wanted a system that would foster open
communication and trust,help individuals understand their important roles
in accomplishing the colleges educational mission and goals, empower
individuals, and provide growth and development opportunities for our
staff. We developed a set of key objectives, everything from communicating
goals and objectives to defining individual roles to coaching and mentoringalong
with, of course, evaluating performance. In order to accomplish these
objectives, we identified three key components: self-reflection, goal
setting and feedback.
The review process begins with self-reflection. Staff members reflect
on their work of the past year, record major accomplishments relating
to their goals, comment on their strengths, identify areas they would
like to enhance or improve, and list professional development programs
they would like Oxford to offer.
Next, employees set goals for the following year by reflecting on their
roles within the department and determining how they will personally contribute
to the accomplishment of the colleges goals.
Why was the implementation of this new process at Oxford successful?
We have a dedicated, stable staff of 81 people committed to the mission
of the college and to the support of our students and faculty. We involved
staff at all levels in the development of the new review document and
process. During the second year, we continued to ask for input and responded
to suggestions by shortening the document and simplifying the process.
With the assistance of Sonji Boston, training associate for Human Resources
on the Atlanta campus, we helped both staff and supervisors understand
the new review process, goal setting and (most importantly) how to give
and receive constructive feedback.
In the second year and with the expert assistance of Jim Brown, Oxfords
director of academic computing, we developed an electronic performance
review document and an easy, convenient and secure submission process
using LearnLink. (Incidentally, as an added benefit, every Oxford staff
member now has a LearnLink account; again, we provided training and clear,
written procedures for support.)
We committed to providing development opportunities on the Oxford campus
so individuals from our various departments could interact with and learn
from each other. This year we offered the Frontline Leadership
and Working for Excellence programs to signify the importance
of staff development and the integral role each individual plays in Oxfords
Most importantly, we are committed to following through with suggestions
and needs identified during the PDRS and to finding ways to reward exceptional
What are some happy endings to this story? The performance reviewonce
an annual form that was completed, filed and forgottenis now a positive
process that guides and supports our work throughout the year. Individuals
are identifying and receiving the support they need to enhance their performance,
growth and job satisfaction. Building on new relationships formed during
development classes, individuals from different departments are communicating,
sharing ideas and collaborating on new ways to support the college.
To answer my original question, why would I be interested in developing a new review system for staff? I believe each individual plays an important role in the success of our institution. Developing this new program is one way I can help find positive ways to support and develop our vital human resources at Emory.