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Strengthening performance management in the Public Service

Performance management is an essential component of sound human resources practices in the Public Service of Canada. It helps employees understand their individual contribution to the business objectives of the Government. It also helps them realize their full potential which, in turn, results in better service to Canadians.

Both the Prime Minister’s Advisory Committee on the Public Service and the Deputy Ministers’ Committee on Public Service Renewal recognize that performance management is important for employees at all levels and that it can help federal organizations attract, inspire, develop and retain talent.

“As the largest employer in Canada, the federal public service should have an effective performance management regime for all its employees. Rigorous performance management enables the alignment of skills and talents with the top priorities of the organization, and allows managers to deal with the full spectrum of performance (i.e. excellent, good, average and poor). Well implemented, performance management drives excellence and helps improve organizational results.” 

Prime Minister’s Advisory Committee on the Public Service, Pursuing a High Performance Public Service, February 2008

Strengthening performance management

Through the Clerk of the Privy Council’s leadership, the Public Service is committed to strengthening performance management. A phased approach is being used with an initial focus on senior positions.

As a first step, a more structured and rigorous performance assessment regime for deputy ministers and their associates was introduced in 2006–07. Then, in June 2007, the Deputy Ministers’ Committee on Public Service Renewal approved a proposal to revise the performance management regime for excluded managers and unrepresented employees to make it more consistent with the strengthened regime for executives.

Lessons learned from these efforts will lead to further steps to strengthen performance management. The goal is to expand to a broader population of senior excluded or unrepresented managers in 2009–10 and, potentially, to represented managers in subsequent years.

Current focus: Certain senior excluded or unrepresented managers and specialists

In 2008–09, a new performance management approach will be introduced for the approximately 1,900 excluded and unrepresented employees who are currently subject to the provisions of the Performance Pay Administration Policy for Certain Non-management Category Senior Excluded Levels.

The new approach is outlined in the Guidelines on Performance Management for Certain Senior Excluded or Unrepresented Managers and Specialists (E/U PM). The guidelines establish clear expectations and criteria for performance ratings. They are modeled on the Performance Management Program (PMP) for executives.

This population includes the following groups and levels: AS-7, AS-8, ES-8, FI-4, IS-6, LA-1, LA-2-A, LA-2-B, PE-6, PM-MCO 1-4, PG-6, TR-4, TR-5 and WP-7. Most are managers (approximately 1,500), and the remainder (approximately 400) work as senior specialists.

Why this particular group?

This group is seen as a logical next step for strengthening performance management because a majority of its members manage people and are already under a performance pay regime. In addition, their performance management regime has not been adjusted since the 1980s.

What does the new approach include?

Under the new approach, managers and specialists will:

  • establish ongoing and key commitments at the beginning of the performance cycle that are aligned with government and departmental priorities
  • have clearer expectations established for them related to the Key Leadership Competencies Profile for the Public Service, particularly with respect to people management for those who are managers
  • be assessed based on the following rating structure and criteria, which is the same used for executives: Level 1(Did Not Meet), Level 2 (Met Most), Level 3 (Met All), Level 4 (Surpassed)
  • have at least two feedback discussions with their immediate superior (at mid-year and the end of the performance cycle)
  • have their performance reviewed by a departmental review committee/mechanism to ensure equity and consistency
  • have an action plan to improve performance when performance is below expectations (e.g. Level 1 Did Not Meet).

How will the new approach differ from the existing policy?

Currently, managers and specialists in this group fall under a policy that is not administered consistently across the Public Service. Some departments have used this policy as a base to implement a more rigorous performance regime than others. Therefore, some individuals will experience more change than others when the new, more robust approach takes effect.

At a minimum, under the new approach managers and specialists will experience
  • a new rating structure and criteria
  • increased emphasis on leadership competencies, especially those related to people management
  • a shift from seeing their performance management handled as an annual appraisal process to one that includes regular dialogue and a mid-year review
  • a change in the way performance awards are applied.

What are the benefits of the new approach?

  • It gives managers and specialists a clearer understanding of what is expected from them — both in terms of the results they must achieve and, for those who manage people, their people management responsibilities.
  • It closely follows the Performance Management Program (PMP) for executives, thereby bringing the core public administration that much closer to having a consistent approach to performance management for all managers.
  • It introduces a culture of continuous improvement in people management through open, supportive and ongoing communication that includes honest and respectful feedback.