Evaluation Process Under Fire

Posted: December 18, 2002 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Michelle Nery

When implementation of the new state compensation plan began in March 2001, there were more than a few grumbles heard university-wide. Changes in the plan included a new probationary period extended from six months to one year and a new form called Employee Work Profile (EWP) to replace the Position Description and Performance Planning and Evaluation form. One of the biggest changes with the new plan was that the rating levels dropped from five to three with the new levels set as contributor, extraordinary contributor, and below contributor. With the new rating scale, the Commonwealth of Virginia anticipated that the majority of employees would be rated as contributors.

In response to staff dissatisfaction over the new evaluation process, the Staff Senate established a Compensation Plan Review Committee, chaired by Ida Barbour, database manager/programmer, and Stacey Remick-Simkins, program coordinator and Staff Senate chair. The committee conducted eight months of research to develop recommendations for improvement, which they delivered to Steve La Nasa, interim assistant vice president and chief human resources officer, and Maurice Scherrens, senior vice president, on Nov. 7. Members of the committee also included Peggy Aldrich, graduate services coordinator; Joycelyn Bourelle, admissions coordinator; Eric Brown, fire safety engineer; Jeannie McNeil, DoIT telecom coordinator, and Ilse Riddick, compensation manager.

Barbour and Remick-Simkins are scheduled to meet with La Nasa in mid-January to discuss their report. “I think Human Resources will be receptive to at least two of the four recommendations,” says Barbour. “I believe there is a strong possibility that they will change the current three-level rating system to our suggested five-level system due to the number of complaints at George Mason and statewide.” Barbour also feels that the committee’s suggestion to offer ongoing EWP completion training will also be accepted due to the number of staff members who experience difficulty filling out the form.

The committee’s five-level rating system better recognizes the performance of staff members, Barbour says. The five levels the committee developed are extraordinary contributor, high contributor, contributor, low contributor, and below contributor. The committee suggests that the high and low contributor ratings be reported to the Virginia Department of Human Resources as contributor ratings in order to comply with the state’s plan.

The committee began their study in February 2002 by first reviewing the commonwealth’s Human Resource Management Manual and George Mason’s Salary Administration Plan to determine the feasibility of changing the evaluation process at the university level. They developed and distributed a survey to all faculty and staff and researched the evaluation process at several universities, including James Madison, Old Dominion, Penn State, and South Carolina State.

The survey results showed that some staff members find the current three-level rating system limiting and poorly named and the EWP form lengthy and complex. The committee also found during their research that staff members do not understand the evaluation process, do not receive feedback about their job performance on a regular basis, and some supervisors do not return evaluation forms in a timely manner.

In addition to the rating system and EWP training, the committee also suggested that supervisors continuously assess staff performance through interim evaluations, and that the university decentralize its evaluation process by assigning senior administrators the responsibility of reporting overall performance ratings to Human Resources. During their eight months of research, Barbour says she was “surprised by how some staff were not aware of what is expected of them, and that’s why we included having interim evaluations in our recommendations.”

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