The Chief Blog
The Citywide Performance Evaluation System
By Stu Eber, President, New York City Managerial Employees Association
The iconic business leaders of our time realize that success with any endeavor involves more than one person. A standard operating policy or strategy must be in place that allows employees at all levels to understand the importance of their contributions to the company’s profitability. From line worker to supervisor, to manager, to company CEO, each person must feel they are a part of something. In the private sector, there is generally a financial incentive to drive individual and team performance. In addition to the profit motive, successful businesses frequently find other ways to let workers know how they are meeting expectations.
In government, in the absence of the profit motive, a consistent plan must be in place in order to evaluate each worker’s contribution to efficiency, innovation and goal outcomes. Because there is no long-range compensation motivation, elected executives and agency heads have found it difficult to replace the profit motive with a reliable substitute. The best option is the performance evaluation. Yet, even knowing that, there is little support for an annual performance evaluation process. The Citywide Performance Evaluation System is being revised, but what it really needs is some backbone.
Specifically, each manager should meet at the beginning of the year with their supervisor and draw up a contract that details the measurable deliverables the manager needs to produce to help their agency better serve the people of our City. During the year, the two should meet to complete an interim evaluation. At the end of the year, the written final evaluation should be presented to the manager for acknowledgment and comments.
Preparing performance evaluations is not a high priority for many agency heads. Performance appraisals can be used as an effective tool to provide an assessment of a manager’s performance, as well as strengths and ability to remain aligned with an agency’s mission, vision, values and goals.
Evaluations can also provide a basis for promotions or salary increments. While the purpose or function of evaluations is clear to us, this is certainly not what has taken place in agencies throughout the city.
During the past several months, several city agencies developed and implemented plans for restructuring or reorganizing. Performance reviews have been utilized as a management tool towards these goals. The managers welcomed the idea of finally receiving an evaluation, but were disappointed that they had no input into the criteria being used to evaluate their performance. They felt disrespected receiving a performance evaluation at the same time as being informed that they were being demoted, reassigned or terminated.
For example, one city manager employed for several years had consistently received performance appraisals that were rated as superior or exceeds expectations. Within the agency’s revised strategic plans, new leadership and greater expectations were established. This manager’s performance review for the 2010 – 2011 rating period reflected Needs Improvement in several categories, with an overall rating of Needs Improvement. But the manager did not know this until receiving the final evaluation. The manager had not agreed to the criteria and had not been consulted prior to receiving the final evaluation.
In another example, a manager received a Needs Improvement rating and demotion. This manager had never received an evaluation during the 10 years of employment with the agency! In each example, no dialog took place between the managers and their leaders to discuss performance expectations and outcomes, departmental changes, or training and development. No corrective action plan to improve the manager’s performance was provided.
Unfortunately, too many managers wait for their leaders to initiate this communication effort. The Citywide Performance Evaluation System is in critical need of “restructuring”. A top down enforcement mechanism is needed. While this strategy is being considered, there are steps managerial employees can take to ensure a successful evaluation and review. Recognition and assessment of the contribution each manager makes toward the success of their agency is critical. Managers, however, must also be proactive using the following methods:
-Prepare subordinates’ evaluations
-Initiate discussions with your supervising manager about the performance of your area
-Focus sharply on your part in the agency goals
We urge all managers within city government to embrace and enforce the managerial evaluation process.