The Government’s Public Service Reform Plan contains a commitment to strengthen performance management across the public service. Good progress in this regard has been made in the various sectors.
In the Local Authority sector, a performance management and development system (PMDS) has been operating since 2005 and periodic reviews of the system have been undertaken. In line with recommendations of the most recent national PMDS Review of 2011, a local authority competency framework was implemented and PMDS has been linked to other HR policies. In December 2012, further improvements were agreed for implementation in 2013, namely, a 5 point scale for the evaluation of performance; a protocol for dealing with underperformance, including performance improvement plans; and linkage of the system to incremental progression, grievance and disciplinary procedures.
In the Education sector, a key proposal in the latest action plan for the sector is to link performance management systems in Universities, Institutes of Technology and VECs to the awarding of increments and incremental progression. To this end, it is envisaged that systems will be put in place, or existing systems adapted, in advance of the commencement of the 2013/2014 academic year, with links to incremental progression to be in place before commencement of the 2014/2015 academic year.
Turning to the Justice sector, a new performance management system– the Performance Accountability Learning Framework (PALF) – has been introduced on a pilot basis for the sworn members of An Garda Síochána. The Irish Prison Service implements the Performance Management and Development System (PMDS) in operation in the Civil Service.
The HSE performance management system was developed in 2011 and implemented for management grades in 2012. It is anticipated that the system will be extended to professional and administrative grades during 2013.
Finally, in relation to the Civil Service, my Department has been working with management and unions to strengthen performance management. Over the past three years, significant changes to the Performance Management and Development System (PMDS) in operation in the Civil Service have been agreed. These are being introduced on a phased basis.
The Phase 1 changes introduced for 2012 were aimed at streamlining the practical operation of PMDS. Management accountability was also strengthened, and a manager who fails to manage the performance of their staff effectively over the course of the year must themselves receive a rating of ‘Needs to Improve’( a rating of 2 on a 5 point scale, 5 being the highest).
The changes under Phase 2 for 2013 are designed to strengthen fairness and consistency in how performance is evaluated. Calibration of performance evaluations will be introduced on a phased basis, commencing with calibration by Assistant Secretaries and Principals in respect of their direct reports. Under Calibration, managers at the same grade who are responsible for conducting performance evaluations meet to discuss staff performance with the aim of making sure that managers apply similar standards for all staff members. The fairness of the system will also be underpinned by strengthening the process through which individual members of staff can seek a review of their evaluation, and introducing a process for external review.
The system of ratings has also been revised, with improved descriptions of performance levels which make explicit reference to the requirement for a Performance Improvement Action Plan in cases where performance is not satisfactory and for subsequent disciplinary action to be taken where performance has still not improved. An evaluation of ‘Fully Achieved Expectations’ (a rating of 3) will now be required for the award of an increment.
There has been substantial progress on strengthening performance management in the public service. However, we must continue to foster a culture of effective management of performance and to deal effectively with underperformance where it occurs.