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Performance reviews take center stage at June 20 brown bag

What’s the big deal about performance reviews?

“This is one of the most important things we do at the university,” said Dwaine Duckett, UCOP vice president for human resources. “At the core of UC is people, and at the end of the day, people need to know how they’re doing and how they can improve.”

Duckett was speaking to about 50 attendees at the June 20 brown bag session on UCOP’s 2011 performance review cycle. Another 65 viewers tuned in via Ustream to hear HR staff explain how and why UCOP is putting so much emphasis this year on performance reviews.

The event can be viewed at

“One of the comments I get is that we don’t need reviews because there’s no money for merit increases,” Duckett continued. “But they’re even more important if merit dollars aren’t available. If you can’t recognize people monetarily, you want to be able to give them feedback and acknowledge their contributions to the organization.”

Also speaking were John Fox, executive director of UCOP Human Resources, and Linda Klink, learning and development coordinator. They described the details of the process and resources available to help managers, supervisors and employees complete reviews by the due date of September 16, 2011.

Following brief remarks, the speakers took questions from the audience on everything from merit increases to standards for rating performance.

Questions and responses will be posted later this week on the Performance Appraisal Resources website, under Frequently Asked Questions. (See the bottom of the page under “For more information.”)

Historically, Fox said, performance management was not treated as a priority at UCOP, and there was no central responsibility or standard procedures for it. The goal now, he explained, is to cultivate a robust performance management culture, where feedback is a daily routine rather than something done just when reviews come due.

What does a performance management culture look like? There is a clear understanding across the organization of core competencies for various positions. There are specific definitions in each competency of what constitutes a “meets expectations” performance and how to improve it. And there is a frank level of comfort with ratings to distinguish those performing at a high level in order to provide strong incentive for improvement.

Such a culture will take several years to achieve, Duckett acknowledged, and there will be fits and starts as UCOP evolves in that direction.

In response to a 20-year UCOP staffer who questioned why her evaluation last year had no space for her to add her own comments, Fox said he believed this year’s forms did have a space for employee comments. But upon returning to his office, Fox checked the form and found that he was mistaken. He promptly remedied the situation, and the forms on the HR website are now corrected.

Another question that came up was whether staff will see a merit increase this year. The current UCOP budgetary plan does include a merit component, Duckett said, but the UCOP budget and merit funding are not yet final due to uncertainties about how the state budget will impact UC.

With or without merits, making distinctions in performance is important, he said, adding that a “meets expectations” rating should be considered the standard UCOP-wide to give people room and incentive to improve.

Ratings of “exceeds expectations” and “exceptional” should, by definition, be rare compared with most ratings in order to be meaningful, Duckett said. He encouraged everyone to regard the rating not as a grade, a label or a judgment of the individual but as a “snapshot in time” that is descriptive of the year’s performance.

Klink mentioned classes, consulting services and other tools that can help everyone do a meaningful review and consistently train individuals and departments on the process UCOP-wide. (For a listing of classes and services, go to the Performance Appraisal Resources website.) HR staff will help departments track their forms to make sure evaluations get done.

“We want to be your resource,” Fox said, “but we don’t want to be policemen for this process.” He said employees should take an active role in their own reviews, and that everyone can make the process easier by keeping notes throughout the year on goals, accomplishments and professional development.

If you have questions or concerns, contact your HR Business Partner, Isabel Chen (, Rene Jackson (, Venus Kirk ( or Annette Mora (

Link will publish updates about classes and other important notices, and the FAQs will be updated to answer any new questions as they arise.

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