July 6, 2004

Evaluation system redesigned


By Michael Terrazas

In an effort to tie annual pay increases more closely to job performance, Human Resources has revamped Emory's Performance Management System, doubling the available indices for work quality and requiring employees and supervisors to work together to set objective performance goals.

The revitalized system was developed with the help of an advisory committee and focus groups of supervisors and employees, according to Alice Miller, vice president for HR. Though the new system won't be required until next summer's employee evaluations, the forms will be available this year to help people become acclimated to them and to begin goal-setting for the coming 12 months.

"Some departments may choose to use the forms this summer, but it's not going to be a requirement," Miller said. "It's meant to give them tools to plan goals for the next round. It's going to be an evolving process, based on where departments are in their current evaluation processes. For some, it will be a cultural shift; for others, it will be a reaffirmation."

Emory's old evaluation forms allowed supervisors to rate whether employees met or did not meet standards, with space for subjective elaboration. The new forms have a four-point scale: exceptional, successful, marginal and unacceptable. Each performance metric (for example, "work results," "customer satisfaction," "interpersonal/communication skills," etc.) asks both the reviewer and reviewee to subjectively list goals; beginning next year, both also will subjectively describe how those goals were met.

"Also," Miller said, "supervisors should communicate performance expectations to employees and give them regular feedback. Mid-year reviews are encouraged as a way for employees to know if they are on track.

If an individual department wishes to design metrics specific to its job functions, it may do so, as long as the specialized measure complies with the overall system's design, Miller said.

This summer, HR is holding a series of "train-the-trainer" sessions, in which designated supervisors from all departments will be instructed on how to use the new forms to set performance goals for the coming year. Those trainers then will be responsible for communicating the new system to the other supervisors in their departments. Finally, HR will hold open information sessions for employees from Aug. 23-Sept. 6.

Ultimately, the redesigned system accomplishes what President Jim Wagner first endorsed publicly at the Employee Council town hall last November: a true pay-for-performance system, in which superlative productivity is commensurately rewarded. "Some of you may hate me for that," Wagner said at the time.

Miller said the president and the President's Cabinet have been heavily involved in the promulgation of performance management revitalization.

Further, new Provost Earl Lewis, who officially took office last Thursday, July 1, has encouraged faculty to participate, specifically those faculty who supervise staff employees.

"Evaluation and assessment remain critical components of feedback across academic units; we use such evaluations to assess student learning, teaching effectiveness and overall performance," Lewis said. "All are encouraged to embrace evaluation and assessment."