Performance Management and Staff Development
Performance management was discussed at the level of the UN Secretariat with the revision of the e-PAS system and in a working group of the ICSC. The new e-PAS electronic tool is being introduced on a pilot basis and there are considerable changes in the system. In the meantime, some changes are already introduced in the current e-PAS, such as four ratings instead of five.
The Staff Union was active in both situations and provided substantive comments. We reiterated that there is the need to review the focus of performance management (PM) to ensure that it is not only an "appraisal system" of performance but also management of the performance of staff that includes also staff development and motivation.
One of the most recent innovations in some performance management systems in the UN system has been the introduction of "multi-rater" systems (otherwise know as 360 degree or reverse appraisal). These systems have some positive elements. For example, by involving peers, supervisees or clients in the evaluation of the performance this become less personal and more "objective". Also, the multi-rater system (particularly when collecting the view of supervisees) could be a useful instrument in the evaluation of the managerial skills of supervisors and used to develop plans for improving them. However, even though there are some positive aspects in adopting this approach, there are issues related to anonymity of the opinions and others that need to be considered before going in this direction. In addition, the experience of some funds and programmes and specialised agencies has shown that this approach may be time consuming for staff and managers and make the process of appraisal more cumbersome. This aspect is part being tested in the pilot that involves a number of UN Departments in HQ and in the field.
The focus of the performance appraisal system on the ratings has been one of the major problems for its effective use. Staff and managers continue to focus essentially on the ratings aspect of PM. Some PM systems have become a useful planning tool to a certain extent but they have not developed into a tool to improve dialogue and communication between staff and managers and to create an organizational culture that recognizes communication, teamwork and coherent work planning. The new system simplifies the ratings and the hope is that they will be used in a consistent manner across the system. In this connection, the Staff Union has asked for appropriate joint monitoring mechanisms.
Since performance management and the eventual appraisal has administrative consequences (renewal of contracts, etc.) it is clear that in some circumstances the process may require a mechanism for resolving differences of opinion. We believe that before going to a formal process of litigation on the administrative measures, informal resolution or recourse to rebuttal should be attempted.