Program puts FOCUS on communication
"Communication, communication and then, more communication" -- that's the secret to the success of the performance management program now in place at the Yale University Library, according to Diane Turner, associate university librarian for human resources.
The Yale Library is one of many departments that have found that integrating the University's FOCUS program into their employee review systems has improved supervisor-staff communications.
FOCUS -- which stands for Feedback and Ongoing Coaching for University Success -- aims to make it easier to provide consistent feedback to staff.
"Performance management is critical for improving Yale's effectiveness because it opens the lines of communication between supervisor and employee, clarifies expectations, and provides honest and thorough feedback at least once a year," says Laura Freebairn-Smith, director of the Organizational Development & Learning Center, and project leader for FOCUS.
The initiative was created by a cross-campus committee in response to the Yale Workplace Survey which indicated that only 45% of respondents agreed they receive a thorough and thoughtful performance review each year. Seeing a need to improve the usage rate and quality of Yale's performance management system, John Pepper, former vice president of finance and administration, and Robert Schwartz, associate vice president and chief human resources (HR) officer, sponsored the development of the FOCUS program.
Key components of FOCUS include training classes to support supervisors and employees; consultations by HR generalists; and a website (www.yale.edu/focus) that offers information on systems to track and monitor the use of performance management, and forms that can be customized to meet the needs of different departments.
The FOCUS program encourages departments to implement performance management in a manner that supports their culture and opens the lines of communication between managers and employees.
One of the major cornerstones of the Yale Library's program, says Turner, has been the incorporation of the Learning Plan, which identifies specific skills and learning activities that will support the achievement of an employee's stated goals.
"The staff members at the Yale Library will now know where they stand, how their role fits into the structure, what specific skills are needed in order to develop and what contribution they make to the overall success of the library's goals," she notes.
The Yale Library is completing the first cycle of its new staff performance management program. For the first time, clerical and technical (C&T) employees will be included in the appraisal process, something already familiar to the department's managerial and professional (M&P) staff. This collaborative process, from goal-setting through the year-end review, encourages a true partnership, says Turner, and is helping the Yale Library to become truly high-performing.
Like the library, the School of Management (SOM) has made several enhancements to its existing performance management system.
At SOM, the first step in the annual performance appraisal is completing a self-evaluation form, which offers staff members the opportunity to reflect on their goals for the year, to assess how well they have accomplished their objectives and to evaluate the behaviors that led to those results. Then staff members meet with their supervisor to discuss their performance and overall contribution to the departmental mission for the previous period, and to determine the goals, objectives, and professional and personal development plans for the next year. In addition, SOM has customized the list of "University Competencies" (available on the FOCUS website) to reflect its particular goals and mission.
Diane Palmeri, associate dean at SOM, says, "Over the past 18 months, the School of Management has worked with clerical staff to prepare for the implementation of new business systems and changes in technology as well as enhancements to their roles." SOM has worked with external resources to provide the training to support those changes, she adds. Also, as at the Yale Library, this year both C&T and M&P staff will be evaluated using the school's enhanced performance management system.
The School of Drama has used its creativity in customizing Yale's performance management program to reflect its core values, competencies and mission.
According to Katherine Burgueño, business manager, "Evaluations and critiques are integral to every aspect of the productions and classes at the School of Drama." Therefore, the school's performance management process has been in place for a number of years for both M&P and C&T employees. This year the School of Drama has melded the language of its existing program into the FOCUS format.
The School of Drama's performance management process starts with a review of the position description. This allows the employees to see where their roles fit into the overall structure and mission, Burgueño says, adding, "We provide a consistent opportunity for feedback." Both the employees and their supervisor receive the same performance management packet. They fill it out separately and then come together to discuss it.
New to the performance management process this year is the integration of training and career plans. Since personal growth is inherent in the School of Drama's mission and values, the appraisal includes a discussion about the type of training the employees need to excel in their position and, ultimately, to move forward in their career. The supervisors then work to make the training possible. Professional and personal development of the staff is becoming part of the foundation of the School of Drama, says Burgueño, and creates a win for both the employee and supervisor.
Departments can learn more about how to become part of the FOCUS program by visiting the website at www.yale.edu/focus or calling their HR generalist.
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