Skip to main content

Performance management – addressing your concerns

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Civil Service Reform, People survey

We are now starting the End Year Review period for the new Civil Service-wide performance management system. This system has introduced a consistent model across our organisation, which now looks at both “what” civil servants achieve and “how” they achieve it. Feedback on this has been positive, and I’m very proud that we now have a system which reflects our values as well as our achievements.

I am confident that introducing new performance management arrangements, done well, will radically improve the way in which we are all managed, and raise our overall effectiveness – whether that’s identifying and recognising high performers, or supporting those who need to improve. The facts show that several departments who implemented the new framework last year have seen a significant increase in their staff survey results on people management. For example, in DWP significantly more people feel that poor performance is addressed well and that they are managed fairly and recognised for the good work they do. This is encouraging news, and shows what can be achieved through this new approach.

However, I know some of you have concerns about how these changes are being applied on the ground – people have raised this with me through the blog and on my recent visits. I recognise that any change can be unsettling as people get up to speed with new processes and requirements. Your department will be able to provide you with help and support so you are clear what is expected of you, as an individual yourself and, where that applies, as a manager of others.

A key role for managers

Some of you have expressed concern over the way people will be assessed into different performance categories. As I have said before, the intention is that these ratings are guided not forced. There is a key role for managers here to ensure the system is applied fairly and consistently and that is why work is already underway to make sure they have the capability they need to run the process properly. I want to emphasise, the ask of all managers is to make sure they equip themselves with what they need to understand the system and make sure they have really rich and honest performance conversations with their staff, focussing on what has gone well as well as areas for development.

I know that some of you are also concerned about what it means to be in the bottom category (‘must improve’ in most departments). This doesn’t mean that you are automatically subject to the formal procedures for managing poor performance, or at risk of dismissal. What it means is that you, your manager and your department have a responsibility to take steps to improve your performance. Once again, I’m committed, alongside Permanent Secretaries, to making sure that managers have the capability to support people who need help.

This is a new system, and departments will be reviewing their progress and strengthening training and operations where needed. I have asked all HR Directors to ensure there are opportunities, for example through intranets, conference calls and face to face sessions, for those of you that still have questions.

Stay in touch. Sign up now for email updates from this blog.

Related content:

Blog post A look at the performance management system

Blog post Civil Service reform- taking your feedback forward

Blog post Civil Service Reform- the year ahead

Sharing and comments

Share this page


  1. Comment by Paul Everett EDIA Calais posted on

    I am sorry to say that I am not convinced. I know of many members of staff who have not had mid year review/talks with their line managers. Some still have not had last year's end of year review/talk. Bottom 10% has led to increased stress and depression. I am still waiting to find somebody who once in the bottom 10% has had guidence to help them improve. There is a large amount of members of staff in the bottom 10% who are in one of the protected groups under the Equality act. On paper the system looks good but in practice the system is not being followed. Please train staff to write reports fairly and train staff to write their own reviews.

    • Replies to Paul Everett EDIA Calais>

      Comment by Keith Grieve, CSHR Communications Manager posted on

      Paul, As Chris Last says in his comment below, there are resources for managers and staff on the Civil Service Learning website and on departmental intranets. We can also learn from each other in how we make the time to have and prepare for good discussions with those we manage - and with our own managers.

      • Replies to Keith Grieve, CSHR Communications Manager>

        Comment by Peter Glaser posted on

        This all sounds good in theory...but in practice it is never followed. At my last post in Romford JCP I was disciplined for being critical about my line manager in a communication to a member of the District Management Team (London and Home Counties Division).

        • Replies to Peter Glaser>

          Comment by Steve posted on

          I echo this sentiment. I am reminded that behaviours are part of the guidance curve, and anything that I am critical of I am accused of being negative. It seems in DWP we must have painted-on smiles and pretend everything is fine even when we have problems. The 'favourites' still get the top markings, those working hard are often passed over. I am told if I am to achieve the top marking I must frequently work outside of my day job. As a personal adviser when do I have the chance to do this? If there is that much downtime then our staffing must be wrong, in reality there is rarely any downtime as people leave the organisation and are never replaced.

          For anyone of EO or lower grade it is usual to hear from HEO or higher grades to say the lowest markings are possible even if you are good at your job. The reasoning is you can be a great performer, change your job role, still do good but if you're not quite as good as your colleagues that can be deemed poor performance. How on earth is this way of performance management right?

          When box markings are challenged they are rarely overturned. Last year I understand for all the grievances put forward against box 3 markings, only one decision was overturned in the whole district and even that was on a technicality.

          Sir Bob, this system is wrong. It allows perverse behaviour to reign supreme, it rewards favouritism, challenging performance markings does not result in changes and staff do not have faith in the system. We all know why you ask the poor performance question in staff surveys, and that is to get the result you want in order to say the staff want poor performance tackled - in turn you argue this is why you have this system. How about next time you leave out the loaded performance questions from staff surveys and put in protection to stop favouritism. I will sadly never be a box 1 from my manager's inferences - I'm a great performer, respected in the office, seen as reliable and positive - but unless I am best pals with the bosses it's hard cheese.

    • Replies to Paul Everett EDIA Calais>

      Comment by Kathryn Maynard posted on

      I am not convinced that the new process is any fairer than last years. I have been a Civil Servant for 10 years and every year the PAR form has changed. I can honestly say that this years format and the various forms to complete are the worst. I have cascaded my thoughts through the chain of command and complained. I understand that a PAR is necessary. I work in a pay office so valuable time was lost and customers turned away as I had to complete my PAR by the set deadlines. Mr Bob Kerslake who does your PAR? Do you do it yourself or does someone else do it for you?

      • Replies to Kathryn Maynard>

        Comment by Adrian Williams posted on

        If this new "stacking system" is so wonderful, then why has it been binned by the private sector years ago ?

    • Replies to Paul Everett EDIA Calais>

      Comment by Paul posted on

      I feel sorry for Managers who follow the guidance, hard work and put those employees in the 'must improve' (as we probably all know of people who aren't up to the grade/job'). As where I work its the other way, everyone is put into the majority and there is no one in exceeded as 'you have to walk on water' and exceed in everything all the time. So this demotivates everyone as you are all classed the same. But its the same people who get called upon to deliver results. Surely the time for feedback from your workers is required as they can give an honest assessment as work with you 24/7 especially as most managers are now remote so never see you.

      When we are in a time of efficiency savings I can't believe how much money must be wasted in lost time with employees writing up evidence, meetings with managers and the consistency meetings. There must be an easier and fairer system out there.

    • Replies to Paul Everett EDIA Calais>

      Comment by Andy posted on

      The problem with the new PAR system as I can see it is that each employee is being compared to their peers. Surely, the whole point of a performance system is to meet targets and for your line manager to measure your perfomance against your objectives and competencies. The distribution curve means that a department can have each member of staff performing to a satisfactory standard, but members being marked down to meet the % requirements of the curve. The whole thing turns into a league table.

    • Replies to Paul Everett EDIA Calais>

      Comment by Ken Frost posted on

      The three tier performance management system will fail.

      This is not a new concept, many "successful" private sector companies have used this technique (or variations thereon) eg Enron and Arthur Andersen (the failed accountancy firm that audited Enron). Seemingly the fear of "failure" is meant to be "motivational".

      • Replies to Ken Frost>

        Comment by Tartan d'Artagnan posted on

        I agree with you 100%. It's corporate bullying. They officially call it 'guided distribution' to make it sound nice, but it's bullying nonetheless.

    • Replies to Paul Everett EDIA Calais>

      Comment by John posted on

      I would add that the most divisive and upsetting element of the new framework for staff - the percentage distribution - is being rigidly enforced in Home Office Immigration, rather than used as a guide as indicated in the blog. Managers have been and continue to be forced to place individuals in percentage bands which are wholly inappropriate - this demeans both managers and staff both personally and professionally. Distribution curves of this nature are less and less used in private industry, often having been discredited unless applied to very significant data sets - not to groups of hundreds or even tens of staff. It is a process that appears to be broadly reviled and feared amongst the rank and file; however it also appears this was not intended to be a forced ranking, even though it is widely being applied as such.

    • Replies to Paul Everett EDIA Calais>

      Comment by F Kelly posted on

      Good point from Paul Everett wrt to the Equality Act 2010. This is covered in the EHRC code of practice which tribunals refer to when deciding discrimination cases. Appraisals are covered from page 262 but also useful to also read the chapter on Reasonable Adjustments. Failure to put in place RAs could be the cause of poor performance. This could expose an employer to a disability discrimination claim.

    • Replies to Paul Everett EDIA Calais>

      Comment by Jeff posted on

      As an employee of HMRC, I think it would be a good idea to invite Nita Clarke back to conduct a follow-up study concerning engagement within the department. I recall that in her findings, she found that within HMRC, middle managers did not want to pass bad news up the chain. It appears this blog has confirmed the findings in the most spectacular manner! In addition, the new PMR will discourage any bad news from being passed up the chain due to the 'behaviours' element - can't be seen to be negative!

      And one more thing, I have viewed guidance within HMRC stating that directors will need to *ensure* the guided distribution is met. Just think on that.

    • Replies to Paul Everett EDIA Calais>

      Comment by Elaine McClune posted on

      In my building we have several different areas of work and we are not all part of the same validation groups. I have found that no one is working from the same hym sheet. Every cluster is asking for evidence in different ways. There is no consistency, which makes it unfair. My cluster have tried to learn from the fiasco of mid-year and we have put in place forms for evidence gathering and we have asked for the same criteria from every member within our groups for EOY. However, not every cluster of validation groups have this kind of organisation.

      I also need to say how unfair this system is when a member of my team can work hard all year, caused no problem, have volunteered for extra work and looked to develope themselves. They will have had no comments from me to say that I am unhappy with their work or their behaviours, so I will have not have put a plan in place. Yet at EOY, because business heads have told us that we 'WILL' meet the guided distribution, the bar is raised so much to ensure this that my team member falls into the must improve. Then FLMs are being forced to take ownership of these markings and have to manage the fallout, i.e. grievances & appeals against the manager. Our clusters have been told that we will meet the guided distribution except under exceptional circumstances, but these exceptions will be so exceptional that there will not be any.

      When you have gone through this process for your own performance marking, then come back and tell me how fantastic it is.

    • Replies to Paul Everett EDIA Calais>

      Comment by For obvious reasons, I'd rather not say posted on

      Whatever the point of any of that is. It's not even taken into account when you apply for a job. The entire point is to cut salary costs.

      On that when you apply for a job issue, can I mention the people I have seen securing promotions, don't even write the application, which is not just ludicrous, but completely unethical. They draft something and a person who is trained in sifting "looks it over" and makes it acceptable.

      The same people train their friends in how to undergo interviews.

      I refuse to apply under these conditions.

      You should consider rooting out this corruption, while you are dealing with the rest of it.

    • Replies to Paul Everett EDIA Calais>

      Comment by Katie Gibbons posted on

      Why are managers not allowed to share what marking they feel their team member should receive? Personally, I dont like that I have had my year end review but I dont know what my manager rates me as and wont until a benchmarking meeting has taken place. Similarly I cannot do this for my own team.
      I do like that more emphasis has been put on the the person subject to a performance review in terms of gathering evidence and the write up afterwards - as a supervisors of a large team this has saved me considerable time.

  2. Comment by Michael Kavanagh posted on

    The changes in Land Registry, yet to be subject to proper consultation with the unions, are around identifying a greater number of poor performers. Currently, poor performers make up less than 1% of the workforce, which is not unsurprising when one considers the performance of the organisation. It now looks as though management will try to force through guided distribution and the figure mooted is around 10% of staff being deemed poor performers. If this goes through (which it won't without challenge) this means a massive hike in those on inefficiency and those subject to punitive measures, such as no pay rise etc.

    When we look at the other end of the spectrum (outstanding performers) we see the higher grades receiving disproportionately higher markings and part-time workers half as likely (to receive outstanding marking) as full time colleagues. I understand the matter has been referred, for a second time, to EHRC. The point being that individual performance markings do not accurately reflect individual levels of performance, across the organisation.

    So, if guided distribution is to be applied to the bottom end, we will find ourselves with real problems. This is not about sorting out perceptions around how we deal with poor performers. I would argue that survey results actually illustrate that people don't believe that poor performers receive the right support to achieve better. What you are doing, by implementing changes to identify poor performers, is to punish people, not help them. Control freakery at its absolute worst.

    Happy to discuss.

  3. Comment by Patrick Martin McGroarty posted on

    Good morning Sir Bob,

    Thank you for your views on the new performance management system. I was especially interested when you stated that you are aware that there is "concern over the way people will be assessed into different performance categories. As I have said before, the intention is that these ratings are guided not forced". Working for HMRC, I can assure you that this is not the case. 10% of the staff falling into the must improve catagory is being ridgidly imposed by senior management on staff.

    The last time that I recall this particular style of staff management being imposed on staff was when decimation was introduced into the Roman legions to encourage the troops to do better. The system failed to work and I cite the fall of Rome as evidence of this HR error to support my point of view. The new system is a disaster to the service and demoralising to staff. The only result that we will see form this is a dramatic increase in the number of appeals against the system.

    Regards, Patrick McGroarty.

    • Replies to Patrick Martin McGroarty>

      Comment by Joe Dugdale, Director, HR Policy & Operations, HMRC posted on

      I am surprised by Patrick McGoarty's comments on the guided distribution in HMRC. We have consistently stressed that the distribution of assessment ratings is based on guided distribution and not a forced distribution system. This message is clearly contained in the guidance to managers and individual members of staff and has been repeated and reinforced in three masterclasses attended by all managers, answers to "hot seat questions" and in detailed discussions with our trade unions.

      • Replies to Joe Dugdale, Director, HR Policy & Operations, HMRC>

        Comment by Ken posted on

        Re the comments about the guided distribution not being enforced in HMRC, the general impression given to managers in their 'masterclass' is that if it is not achieved the managers will be given a "must improve" rating (regardless of their performance in the rest of the year). My line manager was specifically told this.

        • Replies to Ken>

          Comment by Lesley Miles (HMRC) posted on

          In HMRC we have been absolutely clear that no ones performance rating will be changed either up or down, purely to meet the guided distribution percentages and records that must be kept at all validation meetings will provide evidence to explain the outturn of each validation group which will be assured by Directors.

          • Replies to Lesley Miles (HMRC)>

            Comment by steve posted on

            Lesley, well said but having worked in a Dept that introduced the new system 2 years ago, I can absolutely assure you that in practice it will not work like that on the ground. Hope you can ultimately prove me wrong but I doubt it. Sorry!!

      • Replies to Joe Dugdale, Director, HR Policy & Operations, HMRC>

        Comment by Guided or Steered posted on

        Mr Dugdale appears unfamiliar with HMRC's Guided Distribution.

        It is EXPECTED that each Directorate WILL MEET the guided distribution and Directors are accountable for ENSURING THAT THIS HAPPENS. The chair is responsible for ENSURING THAT THE GUIDED DISTRIBUTION IS MET in each validation group. IF the guided distribution is NOT MET within a validation group this MUST be supported by strong evidence and a written record of this must be created by the chair.

        Guided Distribution? The 'guide' being the distribution allocations WILL be met! This 'guide' is threatening and bullying managers.

      • Replies to Joe Dugdale, Director, HR Policy & Operations, HMRC>

        Comment by Ian Willis posted on

        I fully agree with both Ken's and Patrick's comments in respect of the 10% must improved markings in HMRC. We have all been told as AO's that there WILL be at least 10% of us getting must improve markings regardless. It really annoys me when Senior management try to put some corporate spin on this matter and say that this isn't the case, well I'm sorry but it is the case and goes to show what an unfair system this really is.

      • Replies to Joe Dugdale, Director, HR Policy & Operations, HMRC>

        Comment by Andrew posted on

        There may well be plenty of published guidance that managers should be following, the reality though is that artificial under performers are being created at mid year and end of year validation meetings. Some and possibly most (if like Land Registry previous under performers was only 1%) of these "under performers" will not have been aware they were under performing until, they have had or even after they have had their end of year PMR.
        It is well tried and tested that giving people credit for doing good (work) encourages them to excel even more. The reality of the current PMR system is that staff become anxious, demoralised and stressed with little likelihood of improving the service provided to society.

      • Replies to Joe Dugdale, Director, HR Policy & Operations, HMRC>

        Comment by Cammy posted on

        Joe, I am astonished that you are surprised by Pat's comment. Considering the SCS i.e the bit that you're in is taking industrial action over PMR and guided distribution you really are trying to defend the indefensible. As we all known the first casualty in war is usually the truth. HMRC Business Directors want 10% per unit irrespective of any instruction\guidance from Sir Bob. The lines were moved to get 10% but not 1 minute was spent in the validation meeting trying to get the 20%. No decisions were evidence based the Grade 6's & 7's had a hit list for Band 0 and HO's and that was only mid year. PMR is a discredited system.

        • Replies to Cammy>

          Comment by Dave posted on

          No-one in HMRC will believe you because we have all been told that the 10% distribution MUST and WILL be adhered to.

      • Replies to Joe Dugdale, Director, HR Policy & Operations, HMRC>

        Comment by Debbie posted on

        Joe you state that "We have consistently stressed that the distribution of assessment ratings is based on guided distribution and not a forced distribution system. This message is clearly contained in the guidance to managers"

        If that is the case why does the guidance for all say "It is expected that each Directorate will meet the guided distribution and Directors are accountable for ensuring that this happens. The chair is responsible for ensuring that the guided distribution is met in each validation group. If the guided distribution is not met within a validation group this must be supported by strong evidence and a written record of this must be created by the chair."

        And the guidance in HR71018 say "The chair is responsible for ensuring that the guided distribution is met ..."

        The syastem is a mess and creating too much work, pressure and anxiety for too many.

        • Replies to Debbie>

          Comment by Craig posted on

          What a shambles Sir Bob!
          In HMRC the time lost, yes lost to this farcical politically driven system is nothing short of scandalous.
          The sheer weight of admin placed upon staff frankly beggars belief. But for what purpose?
          Those at the top continue to create a cottage industry 'manufacturing' tales as to how vitally important and great they are. Those in the middle (the vast majority) plod on trying to do their jobs in improving the lives of UK citizens. These unsung heroes don't seek out limelight,nor need their egos massaging as to how well they are performing.They just get on with it week in week out, year in year out and do not need or require a 'war and peace' paper effort to support their job effectiveness.
          Sadly, those at the bottom continue to under perform, under achieve but hang on to their jobs under the guise of anti bullying, political correctness or lazy managers.
          Please wake up and smell the coffee?
          This system stinks from the top down.

      • Replies to Joe Dugdale, Director, HR Policy & Operations, HMRC>

        Comment by Ian Hough posted on

        See below, whatever you say I'm afraid it's not reality. Therefore some people at a higher level can't be performing wel in rolling out forced, sorry Guided distribution.
        HMRC don't believe in it, that's the problem. The Cabinet Office told them to do it. We aren't naive. If it it was truly believed in by Departments it would have have been on the table years ago.

      • Replies to Joe Dugdale, Director, HR Policy & Operations, HMRC>

        Comment by ARC member posted on

        Sir Bob,

        Joe Dugdale identifies himself as HMRC's HR director. If there is any shred of inegrity in the comments in your blog, surely you must arrange to contact Mr Dugdale and ask him some very serious questions over why he is either fundamentally out of touch with a system he is supposed to be presiding over or deliberately misrepresenting the situation in this public posting.

        Others have posted quotations from HMRC's guidance. The quota is "required" to be met by every HMRC director. Evidence does not feature in these discussions or the ratings. People are being singled out for every vague or nonsensical reason under the sun purely to find 10%. It is causing stress, depression, sleeplessness and a massive decline in the already appalling level of trust and morale in HMRC.

        The appeals process will be swamped and even more departmental time will be distracted from our important work. If HMRC's response is to make the appeals process a whitewash, people who've been treated completely unfairly and can readily demonstrate this WILL resort to other methods of pursuing this issue such as formal grievances and employment tribunals.

      • Replies to Joe Dugdale, Director, HR Policy & Operations, HMRC>

        Comment by Paddy posted on

        Well, let’s look at the evidence. Staff saying management are not doing what's expected of them. In reality the manager is either not being supported or on most occasions is over stretched and undertrained. Changes for changes sake is rife in the civil service as a whole and most changes are imposed without prior notice or any training what so ever. Changing the playing field because you have an oval ball and everyone else has a round one is never going to work until senior management stop trying to force a square peg in a round hole. On paper and theory it may look the bee’s knees but stop and ask why you are making these changes. What you think is the best way forward is just that, your idea. Stop and ask, listen to people when they say they are underpaid, under pressure, not listened to, and making themselves ill because you think it will work. Again I ask WHY.
        There are rotten barrels never mind apples so start at the top, not the bottom. But then again will you have the balls to tell your boss he is the problem, I don't think so you enjoy picking on vunerable small people. COWARDS the lot you.

      • Replies to Joe Dugdale, Director, HR Policy & Operations, HMRC>

        Comment by HMRC FLM posted on

        In response to Joe Dugdale's comments on 07 march regarding the guided distribution not being a target. if thats the case why, after we attend vaidation meetings to discuss our staffs final marking, does the official documentation have boxes that show a provisionally agreed marking that states below it, "This mark in not finalised until signed off by the directors"? The directors have never met the staff, do not know how they work on a daily basis and therefore cannot have any input into individual markings, the only reason they are involved is to confirm that we have enough people in the three categories of marking!
        At the validation meetings I, alonf with my fellow managers, where asked to take in teh nam es of staff on the borderline of achieve/improvement needed and achieve/exceed. Unsurprisingly many of those in the area of achieve/imrovement needed ended up being droppedi nto then lower category, the ones in the area of achieve/exceed did not even get discussed!!!

    • Replies to Patrick Martin McGroarty>

      Comment by Janet posted on

      I have been a civil servant for over 40 years and have never known staff feel so demoralised or demotivated. The "new" appraisal system is nothing new but a rebrading of relative assesment which was scrapped as it didn't work. The relative assessment process resulted in "bun fights" wasted time and was devisive not positive. Scrap this performance appraisal syatem and let managers manager their staff, taking the necessary measures to deal with poor performance. The majority of staff are commited to giving good customer service and the time spent on the appraisal process takes them away from the core business of actually paying people benefits!
      Let the people that want promotion work towards it but leave the backbone of staff, who actually do the work, well alone to get on with it. None of the staff are averse to change, there has been much of it of late, as long as it is for the better, this certainly isn't If the intention of the process is to make staff so fed up they will leave encourage them by offering packages and not through a bad a process scrapped by outside industry. Yet again we follow their lead when they have found the pit falls and dismissed the idea.

      • Replies to Janet>

        Comment by Ian Arnott posted on

        About 20 years ago HM Customs and Excise introduced a similar system - it soaked up a huge amount of management and staff time to operate it, it was discredited - indeed the then chair of HM Customs Dame Valerie Strachan was quoted as saying "There are different ways of defining absolute and relative performance ... the system is unworkable ... the problem comes when you tie it in to the pay system ... if pay and appraisal are separated then relative appraisal is satisfactory" and HM Customs and Excise ditched the system - so why are the modern mandarins so convinced what has been patently shown not to work trying to turn back the clock?

      • Replies to Janet>

        Comment by Ste posted on

        here here David. I have been told by my manager that it is no longer sufficient to do a good job and work hard. Anyway , why should people over stretch themselves for zero monetary reward - all stick and no carrott. Private companies (Microsoft for example) have abandoned PMR as it demotivates staff and causes chaos. It is laughable that due to managemewnt's endless pay austerity everyone is having to apply for promotion just to get a pay rise and pay their bills - even those unsuitable for the next grade are applying clogging the system up , and being allowed to make up fairy stories about their (in)competances.

    • Replies to Patrick Martin McGroarty>

      Comment by PW posted on

      I can concur that as leaders we have a quota to meet - it is not 'guided distribution'. we cannot leave the room until we find our numbers. Forcing people into needs improvement is happening, as is rewarding people with exceeds based on a league table. PMRs were based on your personal objectives and if you met them. This is no longer the case. You can meet everything you set out to do and still be forced into a 'needs improvement'. Teamwork will start to disintegrate as our staff realise they are competing against each other. I don't relish working in HMRC when that happens 🙁

      • Replies to PW>

        Comment by HMRC Employee posted on

        Mr Dugdale - The HMRC Guided Distribution Policy is clear

        It is expected that each Directorate will meet the guided distribution and Directors are accountable for ensuring that this happens. The chair is responsible for ensuring that the guided distribution is met in each validation group. If the guided distribution is not met within a validation group this must be supported by strong evidence and a written record of this must be created by the chair.

        expected will meet, accountable for ensuring this happens, if not met must be supported by strong evidence. The guide is 'meet our quota'.

        The message in July from Donald Toon, Director of Criminal Investigation is equally clear (almost parrot-like) following the 'guide' - "I am accountable for assuring the right objectives and expectations are set, and if the guided distribution for all performance ratings isn’t met, I’ll need some very clear reasons why not."

        It does not take an investigator to work out what he means - hit the quotas, or else!

  4. Comment by Carolyn Roberts posted on

    I would very interested to know where the positive feedback for the PMR system is coming from. Working in a large office in HMRC and a Manager I have only heard negative feedback. I am also in the process of attending a Leadership course where I mix with other managers from other parts of the country within HMRC and again I have heard no positive comments about the PMR system. Having completed nearly 40 years in the Civil Service I am considering retirement and having been involved in this system I will definitely be retiring as soon as possible. This is not a negative behaviour just a realistic one.

    • Replies to Carolyn Roberts>

      Comment by Angela posted on

      Sir Bob,

      I was shocked to read that there had been positive feedback on the new Preformance proceedures. I work in the MOD and every one I have spoken to about the new reporting system are both unhappy and disillusioned by the whole process. The stress this is causing is massive, the lack of direction even more so. People are scared and worried about the whole procedures and the threat of the bottom 5% here is heading for an influx of grievances.

      we have been told that we have to meet a quota, and to do this that no matter how well you preform you could still be selected for the bottom 5%. I personally hope that the goverment have a large pot of money for the compensation of these indaviduals. As I can see this going further, and rightly so. I preform my job well, and yet the risk is for me that I will still end up in the bottom 5%. As I don't shout loudly about my achievements. There are then the ones that do shout about everything and because they are seen they will be recongnised for this. the whole system is unfair, demoralising, and boardering on illegal.

      • Replies to Angela>

        Comment by Robert posted on

        I have been in the Civil Service just over ten years. This is the worst Performace Management system I have experienced yet. To claim it has recieved positive feedback is rediculous. I haven't heard one person at any grade claim it was anything but bad. All I have heard is apologies for how shocking it is and sorry we can't do anything about it. It's hideously burecratic has no lasting value and lacks details just leaves meaningless numbers.

        These are three things I feel important things with Performance Management:

        - Have a system that assists Staff Development.
        - Have a system that has minimal impact with ACTUAL work.
        - Have a system that is consistant over a period of years so that ability and progress can be monitored over time.

        I could go on, but im sure Bob doesn't read these comments as he would have read others on previous blogs and pulled the reporting system in favor of last years better one.

      • Replies to Angela>

        Comment by Peter Ryan - MOD HR Transformation Director posted on

        Countersigning Officers are agreeing the standards expected, across all grades, in part to counter the previous failings that staff in lower grades fared less well than those in higher ones. By focussing more on how people do their jobs than on what they do and by seeking feedback from a wider range of stakeholders than line managers alone we are seeking to recognise and encourage good behaviour, including those who make their contributions quietly and selflessly.

        • Replies to Peter Ryan - MOD HR Transformation Director>

          Comment by Martyn Holt posted on


          I am surprised at your comment "Countersigning Officers are agreeing the standards expected, across all grades." I am aware that some areas of the MOD has Countersigning Officers that don't even know they are Countersigning Officers three weeks before the end of the reporting year.

        • Replies to Peter Ryan - MOD HR Transformation Director>

          Comment by paul posted on

          I have worked for the Civil Service for twelve years. I am extremely hard working and have "exceeded" my objectives by a considerable margin for the past two years. However, owing to the new "forced distribution" (because that is what it is) I have missed out on high performance awards for two years running. I have been told that this is because I don't come across as "corporate" - i.e. I respond truthfully when senior managers ask for our views on things. When I've asked for examples of this "bad behaviour" none can be given. When I joined the Civil Service I signed up to the Civil Service Code of "Honesty, Integrity and Impartiality" - but the new "behaviours" are being used as a way of stifling criticism and an easy way of moving people between box markings so that the forced distribution percentages can be met. How are you supposed to argue or appeal against such a subjective assessment? No-one in my department now dares to speak the truth. When the SCS ask for staff views literally no-one speaks up anymore. The PMR system is broken and discredited. Hard working staff are being shafted and are hugely demoralised. Hugely damaging things are going on in departments but no-one is willing to raise the alarm. The problems with Universal Credit at DWP are just one example.

    • Replies to Carolyn Roberts>

      Comment by Joe Dugdale, Director, HR Policy & Operations, HMRC posted on

      There have been a series of contributions from HMRC staff and some have made their concerns very clear. I did just want to summarise the position on some of the points raised. In HMRC everyone will be given a performance rating based on their performance against their objectives, what they have achieved and how they have worked during the year. This should reflect their performance over the full year and will be validated within their validation group and supported by evidence. There is absolutely no requirement in the performance management policy to rank staff and as I said in my previous reply I believe we have communicated widely and clearly that the guided distribution is just that – guided and not forced.
      Performance expectations are set at the start of the year, are reviewed at mid year and form the basis for each person’s objectives.
      At the end of year validation managers will discuss the performance of their team members. The purpose of these discussions is to ensure that performance expectations have been understood and applied consistently, and that no one’s performance has been over or under-estimated. Someone’s rating may change based on the validation discussions, but no one’s rating will be changed purely to meet the guided distribution. The expectation is that overall we will achieve the 20, 70, 10 distribution of ratings and in an organisation as large as HMRC I don’t think this is an unreasonable expectation.
      On the specific issue of disputes with our trade unions, ARC member at grade 6 and 7 are in dispute with the department and I am very disappointed that we are in that position. ARC members of the SCS and PCS are not in dispute as one or two comments may have suggested.

      • Replies to Joe Dugdale, Director, HR Policy & Operations, HMRC>

        Comment by Ian Hough posted on

        Sorry to disagree again Joe. You are choosing words very carefully because it's a public blog I expect.
        Yes PCS are disputing the system if not "in dispute".
        The expectation is 10% must improve, "expectation" is Civil Service management speak for "it will happen".
        You are addressing many Civil Servants with 20 to 40 years experience of enormous and regular changes and long experience of performance management.
        Insisting Guided Distribution is not compulsory doesn't match with what Ministers have publicly said they want and it doesn't match with what is happening.
        Maybe if you publish here the Equality Impact exercise and the direction given on Guided Distribution by government to a Departments that will help the cause of convincing you colleagues that the system is a genuine attempt to improve everyone's skills.

      • Replies to Joe Dugdale, Director, HR Policy & Operations, HMRC>

        Comment by Tarby HMRC posted on

        I can't understand HR whif whaf about "guided distribution" in the face of cold hard facts to contrary. You can guarantee HO's will force O's to mark certain "types" in the 10% (see below)

        I work as an AO in a HMRC Contact Centre, I can guarantee we will get no where near the time to complete our end of year as others in the department. We'll be lucky to get an hour of our investment time for it. You know, bums on seats, take calls, taxpayers (oops I mean customers) come first. In fact what are advisors meant to bring? "Oh hi manager, here's my evidence, it's the stuff you have to give me every month including my QA/QC results." This is due to the fact that there is no scope for anything other than call taking yet we have to provide the same rubbish fitted to the PMR descriptors as an AO in compliance, RFTU, NIC&EO etc.

        Seems to be a trend that part timers and part year staff take the brunt of the 10% (you aren't at work enough to be as productive as full timers). Throw in the disabled staff (you aren't as quick) and TU reps ("mark you on union duties? Try taking more calls lol" tends to be the prevailing opinion of managers).

        The only people "positive" about this are people who are scared to even give constructive criticism, just in case they are marked down on their behaviours by the zampolit for not toeing the party line. Or people who are more focused on promotion and advancement than they are doing a job that benefits HMRC and society. I know a few of them types...

        The Daily Mail will be over the moon at the excellent use of taxpayers (customers?) money. I hope the TV crew is in offices for PMR.

        • Replies to Tarby HMRC>

          Comment by ed posted on

          “Weakness of PRM Accountability being discharged to typically to lower grade rather than proportionally allocated based on the proportional of in put that led to the outcome. If an error is made by an advisor what proportion of this error is caused by poor or badly arranged guidance or by poor system design and what part by advisor?

          If a poor process is follow and blame could be apportioned at say, 60 percent advisor 30 percent guidance 10 percent IT design. But advisor takes all accountability the final user is penalised taking full accountably for things beyond control.

          If advisor has to full l accountability including the proportion for system failure poor guidance, then who is decision maker in charge of system is not taking there share of accountability. “

          I got banned for writing this from the internal forum seems reasonably dry and sensible to me.

          It’s strange really with some “crackpot”, nonsense rants and silly comments on the network get banned for something relatively sensible.

          To a certain extent think there is a lack of confidence in this system as appears to be generally regarded as old hat in the commercial sector. Its defo "sacrid cow" if something cant stand up to reason would tend to think should go.

          With slight irony, tend to think the PMR is sort of waste activity that should be cut.

      • Replies to Joe Dugdale, Director, HR Policy & Operations, HMRC>

        Comment by ARC member posted on


        Again, others have spelled this out eloquently. These comments are by no means outliers or representing rare examples of poor practice. The system as operated in HMRC is NOT evidence based, people are NOT receiving a marking based on their performance against their objectives - that's exactly why we are so stressed and unhappy about the new system. It's not rocket science. Please stop living in denial and deal with this slow motion train crash before it gets even worse.

        PCS are fundamentally opposed to this system, as you are very well aware, they simply haven't balloted for action on it ... yet. The only reason SCS members were not involved in ARC's industrial action is because they have a separate performance management system and so were not legally entitled to participate.

        If we can deal with the truth of this situation that is more likely to lead to correct conclusions and positive action going forwards then misrepresentation and burying our heads in the sand.

      • Replies to Joe Dugdale, Director, HR Policy & Operations, HMRC>

        Comment by Dave posted on


        Like I said earlier, no-one is going to believe you.

      • Replies to Joe Dugdale, Director, HR Policy & Operations, HMRC>

        Comment by BigHarry posted on

        Joe D comments about "expectations" says it all. He "expects" the hmrc department to meet the 20 70 10 markings. As this is not a scientific experiment or fact on what evidence did he come to this conclusion? I am no scientist but even my basic memory of school science lessons taught me you start an experiment without prejudging the outcome. You may have an existing theory or research that suggests that the outcome will be 20 70 10. You then test with more experiments to see if the original was proven.
        The new PMR system is an experiment where the outcome has already been determined! If the outcome does not materialize the experiment has failed and that simply will not be allowed to happen.
        Where I work we were told if you do not volunteer to do something beyond your business as usual you cannot ever qualify to be in the top 20. Everyone is now looking to volunteer to do things and therefore helping to cover staff shortages. A lot of us work in offices where business as usual is the main and only work and there is no opportunity for volunteering.
        Lesley from hmrc says that validation meetings cannot change markings in which case why are staff not being told their markings after their discussion with the manager? Clearly this is because they want the flexibility of adjusting the markings to meet the 20 70 10 breakdown. Telling someone before validation they in the middle band but following validation need to be shifted in the bottom band will lead to appeals and grievance action.
        I hope those who are actively supporting this new system will put their hands up and explain why they were so enthusiastic when the system is wound up as not working

      • Replies to Joe Dugdale, Director, HR Policy & Operations, HMRC>

        Comment by Janet B posted on

        It has been stated that, "In HMRC everyone will be given a performance rating based on their performance against their objectives, what they have achieved and how they have worked during the year. This should reflect their performance over the full year and will be validated within their validation group and supported by evidence".
        Anyone that believes that will really happen in practice is deluded. People who are doing a fantastic job are being marked down for a variety of trivial reasons and nothing to do with their overall abilities or performance but a reflection of their managers failures or bias. This incredibly subjective PMR system can stand or fall by the individual abilities and integrity of the managers. Therein lies the problem. This system raises far more questions than it could ever answer. To me the validation arena conjures up the horrendous concept of pitting manager against manager where the strongest survive and the weak crawl into their shell. I am afraid that in practice this system will prove to be unfair, unmeasurable in reality and a bully's charter for the worst managers.
        Help the managers to facilitate, suppport and free their staff to carry out their core jobs to the best of their abilities not continually burden them with time consuming, statistic gathering and demotivating demands. You don't need a system you just need good managers with the freedom to get things done.
        Let us see the true cost v benefit analysis reflecting the approximate time spent on performance management this year, particularly in HMRC when every hour lost is reflected in the yield brought in. Can we really afford for the staff and our managers to spend so much time on this? Please keep it simple!

      • Replies to Joe Dugdale, Director, HR Policy & Operations, HMRC>

        Comment by Steve Taccagni posted on

        It is certainly true that HMRC has repeatedly stated that everyone will be judged purely on their individual performance and that no-one's marking will be altered just to meet a guided distribution percentage. But HMRC has also repeatedly stated, often in the same communication, that Directorates will be expected to "ensure" that the guided distribution percentages are met. These two statements are surely contradictory, unless it is HMRC's position that they have introduced a completely fair, open, transparent PMR system the outcome of which will exactly match the outcome that HMRC pre-determined before the year even started. Isn't that a little like how the Soviet Union used to run elections?

        Finally, what kind of organisation regards classifying 10% of its staff as not up to the job at the end of the year as an 'achievement'?

  5. Comment by Mike Booth posted on

    Stack ranking has been totally discredited in the private sector . So why are you confident it will now be a success ?

    • Replies to Mike Booth>

      Comment by Jason Lynch posted on

      A Civil Service high-level planning board has assessed that this policy will succeed. Trivial details such as its toxic failure in previous applications, and the serious impacts on morale, performance and organisational efficiency identified when it has been used, have been dismissed as irrelevant: it will all be different this time and the policy will work.

      Should the policy not work, it will of course be the fault of revisionists, wreckers and hooligans who are deliberately undermining this excellent, carefully-planned and beautifully executed policy as a result of their selfish personal agendas.

      Am I alone in feeling a nostalgic whiff of the old Soviet Union here, where the ruling elite issue diktats that are less and less correlated with reality, and are endlessly praised and congratulated on their successes by obsequious underlings who know that telling The Boss the truth is a sure career-ender? I'm just waiting for a CS press release to tell us that tractor production in Chelyabinsk is up three thousand per cent this year...

  6. Comment by Mark Richardson posted on

    I was wondering what other sources of information you have that prove feedback on the new performance management system has been positive. The results of the people survey can be interpreted as you wish. The fact that poor performace has been dealt with better is not a reflection of the PMR system, as when I answer that question I am not thinking about waiting a year for someone to get an 'improvement needed' marking, also, I would not consider that dealing with poor performance. I believe people answer that question on a more personal level, in that someone who isnt as adept at their job or does less work get dealt with immediately. The questions on the survey are so vague that the answers can be twisted to prove anything you want it to. From every single person i have spoke to, I am yet to meet anyone who even thinks this system is o.k, let alone a success. The overwhelming opinion that I get from people is that every single one of them hate it.

    • Replies to Mark Richardson>

      Comment by Gary Dagg posted on

      I agree with you, guy. One thing is i wouldnt say i hate it, i mildy dislike or disaprove of it. As Martin Luther King Jnr once said "hate is too great a burden to bear".

  7. Comment by Ed posted on

    Sir Bob,

    Whilst this post is welcome it completely fails to acknowledge the **deep** level of disatisfaction and cynicism felt about the new PMR system. Our managers try their best to 'sell' it, but privately they too are as cheesed off as the rest of us. Dare they express those views publicly to their staff or the managers above them? No, because then they fall foul of expected behaviours.

    I rather fear you're being fed a filtered view of how those of us at the bottom of the food chain really feel about PMR, changes to Pension arrangements, loss of some entitlements if you're promoted, and little or no pay rises - all while being asked to deliver more with less resources to do so. We all continue to deliver what we're asked to as professionally and expertly as we can, but feel there is little reward for doing so. In the end, people ask 'why bother to go above and beyond - our employer doesn't for us, so why should we for them?'


    • Replies to Ed>

      Comment by Mike posted on

      I think Ed here has completly hit the nail on the head. Now all we need is for someone to actually read these comments and act on them.

  8. Comment by Nathan posted on

    The introduction of a ranking system has affected staff in a negative way on an individual and team level. There is a consensus of opinion across all grades that it achieves more harm than good and has increased stress. I could go into the arguments against this new appraisal regime but just refer to Microsoft.

  9. Comment by not reality. posted on

    The performance system in my experience in the DfE positively discriminates against and therefore demotivates the “good, solid performer”. In the performance grid, these are the people who exceed in one of outcomes or behaviours but not in both. They are lumped into a performance box along with those who just come in and do the basic job. It’s very demotivating to tell people that they’ve had a great year, achieved loads gone the extra mile on a number of occasions and then to say you are in the “achieved” box. There really should be a “good performance” category to recognise the performance of those who exceed in either outcome or behaviour but not both.
    The other issue in my area (and I am fortunate enough to have “exceeded”) is that managers are being asked to force a distribution. I and a number of other senior colleagues are being asked to rank people so as to identify the bottom performers regardless of the category their performance falls into. We have been through a selection exercise which was successful in selecting out the vast majority of poor performers. I am not saying that we have no poor performers, but putting people who do a good job, to and above the standard required, into the must improve box because they are the poorest of the very good is not fair. Good people should not be penalised for working in a high performing team. I am certainly seeing good people leaving the organisation and you only need to look at the staff survey results to see the impact of this system being poorly implemented.

    • Replies to not reality.>

      Comment by Kirsty posted on

      The worst part is that's exactly what we used to have!
      Lower, majority, higher and top. All those in Lower were expecting it as their performance had naturally been discussed with them. Those in higher had excelled in one area and those in top both. You can't sell us a system that increases the number of 'tops' but in actual fact just adds most of the 'higher' to the majority. Add to that the fact majority and top were only £50 apart in bonus and there is no reason to try and achieve a top knowing that even if you some how made it you'd have slaved away more than everyone else for an extra £50.
      If you do less most of the time and then randomly do good things every now and again you'll get a £25 voucher so you're better off doing that!

    • Replies to not reality.>

      Comment by Neil. S. posted on

      I have to agree with some of the views that the system does not work; i've lost count of how many times i've been recommended for a Box 1 by my line manager only to be told "but you were in the top of the box two category but didnt quite make the box one" following PRT review. This is particularly true when you are in service service function and up against colleagues in poilcy and delivery, that are much more in the limelight.

      As well as the ranking mechanisim there is the reward, this varies hugely across the Civil Service, some departments will have a nugatory non-consolidated bonus whilst other will receive 10% of their salary as a non-consolidated reward, This needs to be addressed as well as the common framework.

      At the end of the day, why am i going to go those extra miles, be a top performer, for little or no reward knowing that the top box mark is all but a myth to many in my organisation.

  10. Comment by Richard Bolton posted on

    I've been in the Civil Servce 25 years and seen how various systems and approaches have evolved.

    I think evaluating performance on a balance of the 'what' and 'how' is a good move that people have embraced well. Having one standard competence framework is also a positive move.

    The bit that I know people are struggling with most is the form. Whilst pragmatists will fiddle with it to make it work for them, people feel that its too confusing trying to match individual bits of the how on the right column to the personal goals in the left 'what' column. Surely the 'how's' (how you operate) should underpin all the 'what's'?

    I appreciate that its not all about the form but this needs to be made as easy as possible for people to use. It's also proving difficult to get an exemplar to help people see what good looks like as so many people have widely varying opinions. When we ask our HR people all they say is that 'its a national form' - very frustrating!

  11. Comment by Neil Caine posted on

    I'm sure our customers will appreciate that we spend more time taliking about how we do the work, what we do and what extra things we can do other than doing the actual work (which we don't actually want to do) than dealing with casework

  12. Comment by Roger Cowell posted on

    I think the real worry isn't about disciplinary or managing poor performance but about any negative impact on pay. There is also the concern about a widening improvement needed box in years to come, going up from a 10% to 20% guided distribution . This could mean that someone improves but will remain in the improvement needed grouping indefinitely. If this has an impact on pay it could mean no pay increase for years to come or very small increases. I recognise that the Department wants to improve engagement but putting employees into a demoralising category however it is dressed up is unlikely to achieve this objective.

  13. Comment by Lester H posted on

    Save the public purse a lot of money and stop using this system. Use the resources freed up to target smugglers and get the revenue in.The current system is causing a lot of defensive records to be kept. All staff feal persecuted. Plus people are becoming selfish. I have only got 35 years service in an I know what I am talking about!

  14. Comment by Steve Redden posted on

    Quote :-

    (Feedback on this has been positive.)

    Ha Ha, the selective nature of the comment defies belief but comes as no surprise, I wonder which climbing the greasy pole higher grade's comment this was !!!!!! From what I have seen of blogs including this one, and talking with Staff/Managers etc, the system is universally hated.

    During my near 40 years service and in particular within the last 10 years, I have seen nothing but accelerating changes each of which has led to my department (HMRC) sliding (like staff morale) further and further downhill year on year.

    As my parting shot and after providing another comment for them to ignore, will today's senior management ever listen and learn ? - The answer to that one is a resounding NO !!!!!!

    Quite happy to put my real name etc as I am escaping this madness on 31st March, the way the departments are going makes me despair for the unfortunate souls left behind !!!!

  15. Comment by Paul Tidey posted on

    Quite right. There's nothing quite like being reported on by someone you don't work with, and has no idea about civil service grading or competencies to make you feel that there is an improvement in the way we're being managed!

  16. Comment by Steve Lintern posted on

    This sounds like justification after the fact to me. The reality on the ground is that the directors of our department have been told they must ensure that 10% of staff are in the must improve category - so it's forced, not guided. That seems to have trickled down so that there is pressure, or encouragement, to ensure those targets are achieved at every level.

    What a counter productive, cynical, and demoralising way to treat staff. You don't need to be Sherlock Holmes to see how it links with the impending further staff cuts for all departments. An organisation might want to estimate the likely figures of staff performance. But to state at the start of the year what those figures will be and to instruct the directors to ensure those figures come true is unreal. Then to try to tell staff that it's for their own benefit is adding insult to injury.

    Suppose you are the manager of a football team. At the end of the season, you look at your players and see that not all of them has scored the same number of goals. The defenders have scored very few. The goalie has scored none! So you state that their future depends on how many goals they as individuals score next season. What happens? Everybody is tackling everybody else – members of their own team. All in the headlong rush to look better than their colleagues. The result? Even fewer goals than last season are scored. Perhaps some own goals. The team does worse than last season. Nice one.

    Please rethink this as soon as possible. Don’t be inflexibly attached to a discredited concept. Look at what has happened in the outside world with organisations that have set staff against each other. You can make a difference here. When future generations look back at the UK civil service changes that have happened over the last ten years they will ask how it was allowed to happen. How did we sleepwalk into this position? Why did no-one speak up?

    • Replies to Steve Lintern>

      Comment by Janet Darlington posted on

      As mentioned in Steve Lintern's comments I hadnt heard that 10% must be in the 'must improve' category - is that across all dwp or just your department? Whichever its a dreadful way of marking, does that mean if 12% should be in that category then 2% are not put in or the other side of the coin is if 8% should be in that category then they put an extra 2% in to make up the numbers?

      • Replies to Janet Darlington>

        Comment by Colin Herring, DWP Employee Policy and Services posted on

        In DWP, we have a guided distribution of around 25% 'Exceeded', around 65% 'Achieved' and around 10% 'Must Improve'. This is only a guide, intended to prompt managers to reflect on why their results may be above or below this guide. In her Intranet message to all employees today, DWP's Director General for Human Resources, Debbie Alder emphasized that no employee will have their rating changed simply to meet the guided distribution.

        • Replies to Colin Herring, DWP Employee Policy and Services>

          Comment by sylv posted on

          And the band played believe it if you like! In my mid year I was given and exceeded by my line manager supported by the team leader plus contributions of excellent work from various external stakeholders. At moderation I was marked down..... I asked for written evidence - none available. When I pushed there was some wishhy washy verbal comment and when challenged further it turned out that the comment made about me wasn't about me but another colleague. Guess what - still marked down.

    • Replies to Steve Lintern>

      Comment by Alex posted on

      Love Steve Lintern's analogy with a football team. We all have vital tasks to contribute to the success of the team, but some of these cannot be measured directly against KPI's and targets. Yet if we keep on giving the goalie / key team member a "Must Improve" they're soon going to push off elsewhere.
      As to why no-one will speak up - well, that would now be a "negative behaviour" rather than being accepted as constructive criticism.

    • Replies to Steve Lintern>

      Comment by Mike posted on

      I am leaving in 2 weeks. I am a RICS qualified surveyor. have worked at the VOA for 5 years following an earlier spell of 3.5 years. I am returning to the private sector.

      Funny enough the new employers didn't seem too bothered about box markings, compentency interviews or indeed whether they felt I was a "solid contributor" (whatever that means). They seemed more interested as to whether I could do the job or not.

      I dont know any of my colleagues who think this system is fair and you risk losing your workforce if this complete and utter nonsense doesn't stop. The appraisal does not even conform to CIPD guidance, is undertaken by unqualified managers and "moderated" by a remote manager who has barely visited my offices let alone know the people there and what they do.

      Of course, if the hidden intention is to downgrade staff, pay them less and achieve a 10% reduction in staff levels as they leave or retire, then I think these policies will exceed even your wildest expectations.....

  17. Comment by Graham Suggett posted on

    Dear Bob,

    You say that feedback on the introduction of PMR 'has been positive'. Are not ARC and PCS in dispute with HMRC about the introduction and application of PMR? If so, I'd be interested in your definition of 'positive'.

    Kind regards,


    • Replies to Graham Suggett>

      Comment by Gareth posted on

      I think you'll find the feedback is from Ministers, maybe some from Permanent Secretaries who are reporting back that all is well in their Departments, because otherwise they will be seen as being "too negative" and straight into the bottom 10% with them.

    • Replies to Graham Suggett>

      Comment by ARC member posted on

      Absolutely right, Graham.

  18. Comment by Kevin Stall posted on

    This process takes too long. Requires too much prep time. My Line Manager knows the job I do, I shouldn't have to prove it to him. I have many projects to work on and it takes time away from them. I should be able to go into my EOY review, Have my boss tell me what I need to improve and have that it. Should take no more than 15 minutes. Instead of 4 hours. We waste so much time writing objectives and setting education goals, when these are just a mechanism that is more for appearance than for actual use. We need to stop wasting time and go back to basics. Don't try to do the latest trends in HR.

  19. Comment by Paul posted on


    How about actually addressing the concerns of commentators on the previous blog rather than regurgitating what you said.
    This stack ranking system is a disaster and by all accounts is being abused by departments just to meet their quota. Its quite frankly shameful.

  20. Comment by Andy posted on

    You state that the distribution is guided, not forced, yet at a leadership meeting this week the HMRC Director RIS was asked directly if they were quotas and replied 'yes'.

  21. Comment by Andy G HMRC posted on

    I'm all for trying to make this better, but has any serious thought been given to the amount of time this all takes to do? Staff are now asked to write their own mid/end of year & as far as I can tell no allowance or time away from core tasks has been given or made available, the net result being that we know fit this is in with everything else! I agee with Paul's comments above about the need for proper training & this needs to accompanied with the right balance of time to do it.

    • Replies to Andy G HMRC>

      Comment by Andrew posted on

      Andy G
      I hadn't realised it but you are right people are not given the time to prepare so when they do they automatically become under achievers warranting an MI, what a brilliant system :(, I don't think so.

  22. Comment by Joseph K Allie posted on

    Great information. This is actually needed to put staff on their toes for carrying on the process smoothly without fair.
    My concern is the fiarness of most line managers in assessing their staff, and whta could be done to help the bottom 10% improve their performance in subsequent years.

  23. Comment by Steve Cooke posted on

    Concerns within my Department among some HEO Managers and Senior Caseworkers is that the 400 words end of year review is almost becoming a writing competition as opposed to who has achieved the most during the year. Those who can more readily craft a expressive summary of their work appear to have an advantage when the reports go through moderation. A clear list of achievements against objectives would much better demonstrate who has achieved the most during the full operational year rather than a creative 400 words of text.

    • Replies to Steve Cooke>

      Comment by Steve Goodwin posted on

      Steve Cook,
      400 words? In my part of HMRC, 2000 words for the mid year and another 2000 for the end of year is viewed as about right.

    • Replies to Steve Cooke>

      Comment by Ed Kase posted on

      It my area it is:
      Objectives = 5 x 250 words
      Competences = 6 x 250 words
      Development = 3 x 250 words
      Total evidence wordcount (max) = 3,500

      For the last week or two, writing evidence is pretty much the only thing that people around here seem to have been doing.

      • Replies to Ed Kase>

        Comment by John posted on

        Exactly the same here in the MOD.
        The performance appraisal system as it stands is not fit for purpose.

      • Replies to Ed Kase>

        Comment by Graeme R (MoD) posted on

        So if each colleague takes a week on the process, that is 2% of the paybill on performance management. How much does this amount to across the Civil Service?

    • Replies to Steve Cooke>

      Comment by Andrew posted on

      I have said about the ability to write / sell yourself being the determiner as to whether someone gets an MI or not.
      I dislike selling myself and have no idea how to do so on paper so am guaranteed an achieved from my line manager who knows my work but an MI from the validation meeting who have never seen my work other than a badly written PMR - badly written because I will not sell myself.

    • Replies to Steve Cooke>

      Comment by Team Player posted on

      In DWP we have 300 words mid year and 300 at end of year. We accompany this with copious amounts of evidence but only the 300 words goes in. This doesnt seem at all consistent across the civil service.

      • Replies to Team Player>

        Comment by Colin Herring, DWP Employee Policy and Services posted on

        Managers in DWP will ensure that every employee has a high quality end-of-year discussion. This is one that recognizes the employee’s main achievements and behaviours, identifies their improvement or development needs and highlights career aspirations. The end-of-year report form indicates that 300 words should be sufficient to summarize the main achievements. But this is only a guide to promote conciseness. In some cases it may be necessary moderately to exceed this.

        • Replies to Colin Herring, DWP Employee Policy and Services>

          Comment by Sick of it! posted on

          Re Colin Herring - DWP - 07/03
          You are out of touch about what really happens with DWP Performance Review Meetings and the subsequent report. I had a frank and fair meeting with my staff member, submitted their 305 words, rejected, submitted 302 words, rejected, submitted 299 words, initially accepted but then returned by the countersigning manager, completely altered and containing statements which the staff member did not agree with and had not formed part of the review meeting. This was then insisted upon and submitted for validation. The mid year marker was subsequently set using words they had not written, evidence not directly witnessed by the countersigning manager who had no part in managing that person for the previous 6 months. The whole system is shambolic, managers are scared to death to report fairly, and, without question (confirmed by a senior leader grade colleague), in DWP Operations and other DWP silos, the curve is forced not guided!
          At one of the DWP Story 4 events, (a DWP initiative to try to raise the staff engagemnent score), the entire 2 hour session was dominated by heated and negative discussion (initiated by very unhappy a Grade 6 not a junior grade) about performance management. Despite feedback at director level, typically nothing has happened and probably never will.
          Directors are too scared to tell the Perm Sec the truth, too scared to tell Sir Bob the truth and all of them are petrified of telling Ministers the truth.
          As has been mentioned already, this stack measuring system was totally abandoned by the private sector years ago because it wastes, time and money but above all destroys morale and simply doesn't work. Typical of the CS to buy into something that is proven to fail, perhaps they were advised by our IT Contactors!

        • Replies to Colin Herring, DWP Employee Policy and Services>

          Comment by Stella posted on

          If my mid-year was anything to go by then it will be anything but a quality assessment. I also agree with others who say that it will be the quality of our writing that will win out. I'm afraid that the competancies and key work objectives or whatever they are called are quite unintelligible to me. I have a complete mental block in understanding how the equate to my job and so feel unable to do myself justice. Those that can b*** s*** their way through it will always succeed as they can utilise the right buzz words. It is a totally unfair and unrepresentative way of assessing people.

  24. Comment by WM Johnson posted on

    PMR masterclass 3 has the focus on how to describe the quota of 10%, little or nothing positive about it at all about the 20% exceed. Staff are very upset about PMR and how it's being implemented. We are cowed into agreement not encouraged by the system. How you can claim the PMR with quotas is the way forward just baffles us all.

  25. Comment by Stephen Taylor posted on

    Lack of training in how to complete the process for both the staff and the management and the rushed implimentation of this process has lead to the whole thing being a confusing and stressful mess. It appears there are approximately four ways differing ways of completing the process in the one office where I work due to this lack of training, which most certainly is not consistency. I am uncertain where the positive feedback as I have heard and feel nothing but negativity for the manner in which the process has been rolled out and the process itself. It also appears to be a process designed to promote the negative rather than the positive.

  26. Comment by Joseph K Allie posted on

    Great information. This is actually needed to put staff on their toes for carrying on the process smoothly without fair.
    My concern is the fiarness of most line managers in assessing their staff, and what could be done to help the bottom 10% improve their performance in subsequent years; and what more, why 10% bottom? To me this sounds like whether you like it or not 10% of staff should occupy the bottom-is that fiarness?

  27. Comment by Elaine Thomas posted on

    I too have concerns over the 'guided' distribution - it is being imposed. We got rid of one of the most unfair systems when we removed 'moderating meetings' but have now reintroduced these - all be it by another name. As an EO the guidance states my marking is between my line manager and my countersigning manager, with a consistency check being done but that is it. However, I am aware that meetings have taken place both at mid year and again just after Christmas about the 'guided distribution' and am also aware that three of my 121 monthly reports have had to have been submitted to ensure that what my manager says about me is also shown. I only found out my box marking last year by looking on RM at the end of May, as my line manager was not allowed to tell me!
    My plea is to get rid of performance pay, put it back in the paypot and give everyone a decent pay rise. Allow my manager to manage and mark me correctly, rather than comparing me to someone else, in a different part of the country who does a job as far removed from mine as you can get, all for the sake of a difference of £50!

  28. Comment by Marjorie McMechan posted on

    My comment is that, although this new report has made it easier for the Line Manger/RO's it does not allow your manager to actually say exactly what he feels of his employer. I believe a little box added to this report for a comment from your line manager, a pen picture etc would be worth thinking about. The report doesn't reflect, or let the individual know what there line manager actually feels about them, as individuals, or as a team leader. This report is very dissappointing, and so matter of fact and I don't think gives an individual any feedback on them personally. Every year these reports change, why can't our report be on a simlar format as the Military, where your graded and have a pen picture entered.

    As I said this report is only good for the Line Manager as he has nothing to report on, just a click of a box which decides on a bonus or not, not really well thought of especially for the individual themselves.
    The cost of keep changing these reports every year must cost a small fortune, why can't you just ask the people being reported on of how they would like the form set up.

  29. Comment by Miles Nelson posted on

    I don't recognise any truth in these bland comments. My mid-year marking was unexpected and based on minor issues escalated on the day for the purposes of imposing the marking, by a manager whose interest and responsibilities lay elsewhere. Further discussion was out of the question, and I was left feeling hurt, betrayed and with little faith in management and none in the PMR system. I face the EOY review with this marking hanging over my head, and have yet to see any evidence for the basis on which it was imposed. Over the intervening months I have heard from and of many others similarly tricked into a "must improve" marking. I expect the managers told you it was a great success, another HMRC self-fulfilling prophecy. At least it has provoked a few early retirements and resignations, so job well done, I suppose.

    • Replies to Miles Nelson>

      Comment by ARC member posted on

      Miles, the only crumb of comfort is that, as you are already aware, you are very far from alone. This is a near universal experience in HMRC for those facing "must improve" markings.

      It is good that departmental HR directors are engaging in this comments section, but the situation is very similar to many mid- and end of year performance discussions. They are making assertions which are directly contradicted by the mountain of evidence, reflected in virtually every other comment in this thread, building up against them.

      In HMRC, the diversity statistics alone were sufficient to demonstrate that this system should be abandoned immediately. The level of discrimination against protected groups is appalling but sadly predictable.

      • Replies to ARC member>

        Comment by Quinton posted on

        There is an interesting post on the HMRC diversity forum about PMR “The diversity implications of a zero sum game”

  30. Comment by David posted on

    It is sad to see such a naive post from the Head of the Civil Service. As has been made clear in comments and my experience the distribution is forced not guided, you are more likely to get a high mark at a higher grade, and adding the how to the what is totally irrelevant. Overall this is not performance management, as in helping people, but ranking them. I will respond appropriately and with sharp elbows to try and get my own personal ranking. This has nothing to do with a fair evaluation of performance.

  31. Comment by Paul Farr posted on

    THis blog is nothing more than spin. All of the feedback that I have received from colleagues is that this system is awful. Cherry picking what you want to hear from People Surveys is shameful behaviour. I for one will stop completing the people survey if this is the way that it will be used.

    Sir Bob, you really ned to talk to the Home Office -no element of the system is guided in the Home Office it is completely forced.

    The Civil Service has introduced a policy that good employers either rejected outright or scrapped years ago. We are awful, truly awful

    • Replies to Paul Farr>

      Comment by Kevin White, Home Office HR Director General posted on

      Paul and other HO commentators,

      I do not agree that ratings in the Home Office are forced. Our guidance, which is quoted elsewhere on this blog, sets the expectation that the distribution will be met in each business area. However we have also clearly stated that if two staff have a similar performance and if a decision can’t be made to differentiate between their performance levels, then both individuals should be placed into same performance ranking. We want managers and Directors to be mindful of the overall performance distribution but no individual changes to ratings will be made based solely on achieving the distribution.

      As you know, the Home Office reviewed the performance management system after its first year of operation and, based on comments from a wide range of staff, made a number of changes to the process which are reflected in the end of year guidance. We are also holding a series of Transformation events across the Home Office estate and I would encourage staff to use these opportunities to continue to provide feedback.

      Kevin White
      Home Office HR Director General

      • Replies to Kevin White, Home Office HR Director General>

        Comment by ARC member posted on

        I was told that at FDA grades, 100% of appeals were successful at the end of the first year. I suppose it is comforting that the appeals system appears to be working - but it clearly demonstrates that the performance system itself is fundamentally broken?

      • Replies to Kevin White, Home Office HR Director General>

        Comment by Pauline posted on

        Is the Kevin White from the Home Office the same Kevin White who was Head of HR for DWP in 2000 when this system was last brought in - and the same who was Head of HR a year or two later when it was scrapped and we had the grovelling apology on Headline News for the distress and time wasted the system had caused - and promising that lessons would be learned. This version is no different - it's still labour intensive, it's still devisive and your marking is still determined by who shouts loudest in the moderating meeting rather than how your Line Manager thinks you've performed

      • Replies to Kevin White, Home Office HR Director General>

        Comment by Dave Kidson posted on

        Thanks for the reply Kevin however, I'm unable to find on the intranet where the situation you refer to has been clearly stated. Perhaps the wording you used in your article of Wednesday 5 February may have mislead staff and managers into thinking that the distribution will be forced?

        "The process MUST confirm relative performance ratings across peer groups AND ENSURE THE DISTRIBUTIONS – Top 20 per cent, Mid 70 per cent or Lower 10 per cent – ARE MET." (emphasis mine).

  32. Comment by Annoyed at hypocrisy posted on

    The assertion that the distribution is to be "guided not forced" is not the way it is implemented in my Department. The top of the office says that it is guided, but if I come back with a distribution which does not have enough people in the must improve category, the distribution is rejected and enormous pressure is then brought to bear to add additional people to make up the numbers. So at the mid year last October I had to add someone who we had no concerns about at all, but because she was new to the post it was true that her performance was at that stage not as good as the others in her grade. So on a relative ranking basis she came into the category. And last year, at the end year moderation for G7s in my group, I had already put forward two names for must improve but my director insisted that I came up with a third. And when I was reluctant to do so because I had no more names that met the criteria, he said that if I didn't came up with another name he would pick one himself. Absolutely disgraceful.

    • Replies to Annoyed at hypocrisy>

      Comment by completely agree posted on

      I completely agree with this post. As a manager in HMRC I can tell you that we've been left in no doubt that the distribution at the lower end will be forced. We haven't had the same message about the exceeded category. We've also been told that when we go to our validation meetings we will stay until we meet at least 10% for the must improve category. My issue is less with the system than the way we're being forced to administer it.

      • Replies to completely agree>

        Comment by Tartan d'Artagnan posted on

        In a nutshell: "You will find your 10%, "or else!!!" It's nothing more than corporate bullying!!!

  33. Comment by Paul Sherratt posted on

    I feel that many truly dedicated people will recieve an average rating in this scheme due to the fact that they have no interest in filling in boxes in a way to impress. Rather they will just get on with the work which is important to the organisation. Others who are less dedicated but good at wording their reports will shine. This is especially prevalent when reporting officers often do not personally know their reportees. If A direct manager gave an honest and structured report on his/her employees then a more realistic report should be produced. If a manager was un-interested in the reporting system then this should in turn reflect badly in their own report. Some feedback from staff about their own managers would not go a miss in the reporting system too. Overall I agree very much with peoples previous comments on getting on with the real work and not spending excessive time on ineffective reporting.

  34. Comment by Neil posted on

    Where on earth did the posative feedback come from? I have not met one Civil Servant who agrees with the new system, I have not met one LM, RO or CSO who agrees with the system. Yet again I had no mid tearm assessment, so no constructive feedback throughout the year. The system has not been agreed by the Trades Union. A trained monkey could have come up with a better system. SHAME ON YOU!!!!

  35. Comment by Steve posted on

    Performance mgt system - no sign of any efficiency - it is a waste of our time. Not transparent - it is based on subjective 'judgements', whatever that may mean. Not evidence-based. So, certainly no accountability involved. Guided, not forced? that is really insulting everyone's intelligence. It is forced. There is no such thing as 'guided distribution'. We would not allow our examinations system to operate on such a principle, so why is it used for performance mgt? to make sure that a significant number of people are removed from the Civil Serrvice, no other reason. Stop trying to spin it. We are all grown-ups and some of us are better statisticians than you.

  36. Comment by Peter G Kane posted on

    I fear Bob you need to step out of your Ivory Tower and speak to those at the coal face, both staff and managers. In my office and when speaking to colleagues in other offices there is universal contempt for the system and comments of senior management to try and justify its existence. It did not work in the American corporations where it was initially sold and will not work in the civil service. The time wasted to try and make it work impacts on our ability to deliver results. The validation groups are in my case a nonsense due to the disparate nature of the jobs being performed and the fact that numerous managers across offices spend their time horse trading to try and meet the imposed distributions. I could go on but frankly it is depressing enough to have to live with this rubbish.

  37. Comment by Ross Cumberland posted on

    I note the football team analogy with interest. If the PMR system was applied to all European club teams, we might see Lionel Messi marked as must improve - in his validation group he's not had quite as good a year as was expected. Whereas Albion Rovers' (look them up if you don't follow Scottish football) star central defender headed in a magnificent 2 goals while being sent off 3 fewer times than anticipated. In his validation group, he exceeded expectations. I echo previous comments - nobody I speak to has anything good to say about PMR; it is loathed.

  38. Comment by Mandy posted on

    Debbie Adler, Director General of Human Resources, comments today on "Headline News" that
    "Whatever the context, everyone rated ‘Must Improve’ should have a written performance improvement plan and be given support".

    However, Sir Bob you state in your blog that
    "I know that some of you are also concerned about what it means to be in the bottom category (‘must improve’ in most departments). This doesn’t mean that you are automatically subject to the formal procedures for managing poor performance, or at risk of dismissal"

    Which is is correct because as far as I can see from guidance, to have a written performance improvement plan means that you are subject to formal procedures.

    • Replies to Mandy>

      Comment by Colin Herring, DWP Employee Policy and Services posted on

      In DWP, employees can be supported swiftly with a written improvement plan as part of normal, day-to-day performance management. Use of a plan is not confined to formal 'managing poor performance' action. The purpose of using a written plan is simply to ensure that support is provided and agreed actions are carried out on time and are reviewed.

      • Replies to Colin Herring, DWP Employee Policy and Services>

        Comment by steve posted on

        Colin - is that can or must? My understanding of DWP guidance is that it is NOT an absolute requirement for all in the MI group to have a PIP.

  39. Comment by sylv posted on

    Positive!!!! None so blind as those that will not see......

    • Replies to sylv>

      Comment by GJMartin posted on

      I cannot understand where the statistics are that show the vast majority of the civil service is happy about the new changes. For one we have been denied the right to object to the mid-year markings and another is that the supposed guide marks are being enforced trough each team and departments and so the managers are having to find 10% improvement needed-indeed in most cases they have to find close to 20% so that they can show that they have been effective by ensuring that 10% of the needs improvement rise to Good so that they can evidence what a good job they are doing lest they be put in the needs improvement pile themselves. I would think that maybe someone should check what statistics are being provided to Mr Kerslake and question their provenance and not our hard work and efforts

  40. Comment by Shaun Reid posted on

    So, that sums up the support from the staff but no, it is the staff that are mis-guided! Imagine a row of swings where 5 kids are swinging in sync. The one that isn't shouts "hey, you're all out of sync". That's what we are up against.

  41. Comment by Andy M posted on

    Although I agree with the dual emphasis on "what" and "how" there is a clear and evident danger here. Already some managers are interpreting any challenge as an example of "must improve" in terms of behaviours. This system positively militates against teamwork since it requires staff to show they are better than someone else. Also it destroys the intrinsic link between the job and performance assessment -- it's no longer about how well I do my job but whether I can get ranked higher than others. This would be an acceptable system for bonus awards but it is unsuitable for its current use.
    I think Microsoft used a stack ranking system up until a few years ago and it is generally credited with being a significant contributory factor in their poor market performance.

    With this system I won't know my end of year mark until it's too late for me to do anything about it and I won't know how much to improve by since I have no way of seeing the "performance evidence" of others in my validation group.

    To pick up on the football analogy used elsewhere -- it's a bit like telling all the players they have to score goals without putting up the goal posts and nets. Then when the whistle blows for the end of the match the posts and nets are put up and the counting begins.

  42. Comment by Martin Lucas posted on

    Sir Bob, thanks for the clarification about "guided not forced" but I feel that I have to inform you that this is not how it is being interpreted where I work. One of the things I can't grasp about PMR is, I understand how you can get a bottom 10% of staff in the first year, but I can't understand - if the system is working as designed to actually improve performance - how you can get a bottom 10% in the second and later years - surely if the system itself is working, the numbers of failing staff should fall over time? When I put this objection forward at a meeting with a higher manager, I was told that my assumption was wrong because there would always be a bottom 10%, regardless of any actual performance improvements, i.e. the grading is being assessed not relative to the individual's own performance but relative to colleagues in the same area. In other words, the grading is forced, and an individual can fail not because their standard of work is not acceptable, but because they fall at the lower end in an otherwise high performing area. While I thought this was unfair, I accepted the explanation because it was at least logical - it explained why the 10% bracket couldn't shrink year on year despite the improvements the system was designed to produce. Now what you say about the distribution being "guided not forced" is clearly very welcome, and if adhered to it ought to be a fair system, BUT it raises again the question of the logical contradiction within the system itself. So, please be so kind as to explain: if an individual can only be marked down in relation to their own performance, and not in relation to their colleagues, how then can the "bottom bracket" be maintained at a constant level over several years? Surely if the PMR system is achieving its own stated goals, we should over time see fewer and fewer people failing to meet expected standards? OK, I know the very worst performers may never improve, and I know some who achieve may later slide back, and I expect that the height of the bar will be raised, but nevertheless the PMR system itself needs to point to some statistical evidence of its own success, and what better way to demonstrate this than seeing more people exceed and fewer people fail with the passage of time? Or have I misunderstood again?

  43. Comment by Michele Fryers posted on

    I agree with all the above especially the boss knows my job. Mine does because she sits with me every day to every other day so I don't understand why we have to justify ourselves. And to justify ourselves it would be nice one year to be given the time to complete the our appraisal. Also if I am not competant in my work how come I've been doing the job for 12 years?? Confused and angry? You betcha!!!

  44. Comment by Ken Hill posted on

    I have yet to see any positive comments about the new PM system from any source or individual. The system is both devisive and demoralising and just adds to the current attack on the civil service. I have yet to see or be convinced of any benefits to the new system and Sir Bob is obviously ignoring the opinion of the vast majority of civil servants.

  45. Comment by Sean Nelson posted on

    Staff in DWP are certainly right to be "concerned about what it means to be in the bottom category" because it means you don't get a non-consolidated bonus as part of the yearly pay offer.
    This is a significant sum to low paid civil servants.

  46. Comment by Liz posted on

    Sir Bob I have worked out your plan, that PMR is a mechanism to get frontline staff to leave as they cannot cope with this latest fad - thus reducing the numbers! What a waste of money and resources on an already depleted workforce. What a morale booster this is, you should be proud!

  47. Comment by Colin posted on

    Another form, another process and another watse of time that no doubt someone got promoted over.
    If managers are not dealing with poor performance, deal with their poor performance rather than changing the whole system.
    Stop trying to fix things that aren't broken and focus on things that matter.

  48. Comment by Darren posted on

    Similar to colleagues in HMRC, my department is imposing the distribution. I received an email this week stating that the distribution MUST be met and there is a no local discretion to flex it in any way. Perhaps those at the top are pulling the wool over Sir Bob's eyes, including his own HR director.

  49. Comment by John Tauwhare, CO, ERG, GPU posted on

    Implementation in Cabinet Office at mid-year was strictly forced not guided. This led to bizarre results where people with good performance, as well and joiners, and leavers prepared to take-one-for-the-team were boxed as “must improve”. CO-HR are still unable to confirm that we should apply guided not forced at year-end. Encompassing this level of dis-function as “any change can be unsettling” is just trite. And continuing failure to get the message clear is discrediting both the process and the senior people imposing it.

    • Replies to John Tauwhare, CO, ERG, GPU>

      Comment by Dan Coughlin, Cabinet Office, Head of HR Expert Services posted on


      Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry that you feel that the communication in the Cabinet Office has been suggesting that the distribution is forced and not guided.

      Within the Cabinet Office we were very clear in our communications at mid-year that the distribution was guided. The guidance states that the validation process is about performance differentiation between peers using a guided distribution and ratings will not be changed or forced purely to fit the distribution. An indicative end of year performance marking will be based on a manager’s honest assessment of an individual’s performance. At end of year there should be an honest conversation between the line manager and the individual, using the performance wave, based on considering both what has been delivered and how, against stretching objectives and the core competency framework, and any feedback received. A validation meeting will consider this marking, based on an individual’s performance in relation to their peers, in line with the guided distribution.

      • Replies to Dan Coughlin, Cabinet Office, Head of HR Expert Services>

        Comment by steve posted on

        Is that right Dan? What you describe sounds like moderation and I understood the new PMR to be about validation against standards\achievements - NOT fellow employees. Might be worth a re check of your CO guidance!!

  50. Comment by Paul Savin posted on

    I got as far as:-

    'Feedback on this has been positive' and chose to read no further. I'm not anti the PMR system: I think it can be a useful way of engaging with people and helping to drive performance but to suggest the feedback has been positive tells me that Bob doesn't know what feedback is being given.

  51. Comment by John McKee posted on

    I thought it was just DWP that was having problems with this "guided" curve. Apparently not!!.
    I am glad that Sir Bob Kerslake's reading of the situation is so positive. This is the Civil Service,the minute figures are "suggested" or "guided", someone somewhere will make sure that their business unit meets this "target" just to show how effective they are. The staff appraisal system is no different, it is patently obvious that these curves are being forced. If they are not then why the secrecy at the end of the year? On a slightly different but related topic. I recently applied for vacancies in two different departments as the vacancies where broadly similar I submitted the same competency statements for both. The range of the feedback differed so significantly that it has , in my opinion, totally discredited the competency based system. Each individual department clearly rates competencies in it's own unique manner -I was under the impression that the new system was Civil Service wide and as such the same standards apply across the board- clearly not.

    • Replies to John McKee>

      Comment by Colin Herring, DWP Employee Policy and Services posted on

      In her ‘Headline News’ message today, DWP’s Director General for Human Resources, Debbie Alder, explained that the following distribution percentages are to be considered but must be used as a guide: around 25% Exceeded, around 65% Achieved and around 10% Must Improve. The outcome from this guide in 2012/13 was 19% Exceeded, 73% Achieved and 7% Must Improve.
      On your related point, the Competency Framework has made it easier to apply for jobs by increasing standardization. Applicants no longer have to understand individual departmental frameworks which they may never have used before. Despite this improvement, competency examples will still score differently for different vacancies. This is because the people who evaluate examples must agree the standards for the particular exercise based on what the vacant role entails. Inevitably this will differ from role to role.

  52. Comment by Andrew posted on

    Lack of training, lack of incentives, misinformation, enforced amendation of line managers' assessments - how is anyone supposed to feel positive about this? How is it an improvement?
    Statements like this seem to arrive in my inbox every day. I just shake my head and feel more and more demotivated.

  53. Comment by Chris Stone posted on

    All the negatives recorded about the PMR system heartily endorsed by this correspondent! It's is very worrying that such nonsense can be written by the head of the Civil Service - no wonder everyone at the bottom feels lost. Performance goalposts moving again and again - relationship of marking system to PMR (i.e. what you actually signed up to do) lost. Concepts such as team working lost, etc. etc. I have not heard one positive comment about the new PMR system from anyone (outside of 'official' gatherings where senior managers toe the party line whilst speaking through gritted teeth) so who are all these positive people? Perhaps they could be employed as roving missionaries to bring the rest of us out of the darkness and into the PMR light.

  54. Comment by Theo Pressner - HMRC posted on

    I’ve always believed that two characteristics of a fair performance management system were:

    a. The end of year performance mark should come as no surprise
    b. It should always be possibly to work your way out of a poor performance mark through addressing specific areas that need improvement.

    Yesterday we were told by three levels of management that the new system could no longer guarantee this.

    This is because

    a. The guided distribution of performance markings combined with the post end of year moderation means that an already agreed performance marking may be over ruled.

    b. As the guided distribution refers to the bottom 10% a second “needs improvement” may still be awarded despite someone meeting all their improvement objectives. This is because they may still remain in the bottom 10% of performers.

    I would point out that the three layers of management were as upset about this as their staff, but this is how they have been told it works.

    • Replies to Theo Pressner - HMRC>

      Comment by Julia Rabbitts posted on

      This is exactly the problem I am now in. I received a needs improvement at the first quarter review, therefore there has never been any doubt that regardless of what I did during the year I would be in the 10% at the end of the year. However, I'm on a development programme, my work, according to my manager at our last discussion last month, has improved sufficiently for me to pass the next programme review but he has agreed with me that it will be nearly impossible for me to not be needs improvement until the end of the programme because once in there is no way out. No matter how hard I work or how much I improve, as the other people on the development programme will also be improving I am unlikely to get anything but needs improvement until the end of the programme and my promotion. How is this meant to increase morale or make the needs improvement marking anything other than a joke? This must apply in other places as well, once in you are condemned.

  55. Comment by Craig posted on

    There are inevitably some people who will fall into the lower bracket, but to guide (= force) it into a certain percentage (I assume guide is like aspiration = target) seems stupid. I personally work in an office where more than 10% of people seem to cruise along, doing little work and not much correctly. However, as they're quiet, they are allowed to beaver along with only the more vociferous people recieving any unwanted attention from management as they are viewed as causing a disruption. As a result, people deemed to be trouble-makers who may well be some of the most productive members of staff we have are penalised. The quiet churchmouses continue to get by despite underperforming.

    In my particular situation, I have been trying for a number of years to reach exceeded. However, I was informed that unless I could deputise regularly this wouldn't be an option, as just doing your own work to an excellent standard is not enough. So I asked to move to a team where I could deputise, but was told business needs dictated I stayed where I was. Essentially, I am stuck in a cycle which means I can never attain that exceeded marking.

    At it's heart, it is just a numbers game. There should be offices where everyone is performing well. There are inevitably offices where half of the staff might not be performing well. But both will have a similar percentage of awards. I have been deputising for a few weeks now, and I can tell you in that short amount of time who is performing well and who is underperforming. But as it does not fit into the guided distribution, I guess it counts for nothing.

  56. Comment by Stuart Holttum posted on

    I was most encouraged by your blog, especailly your reiterated point that "these ratings are guided not forced", a fact which has now been spelled out time and again by yourself, and is also made quite clear in the guidance.

    Given the clarity of this point, I sure you would agree that any managers - of whatever level - who are still coming from the "we WILL find 10% for the Must Improve category" position are not simply doing it wrong, but are wilfully going against the spirit and the letter of the guidance.

    Can I ask what you would expect to happen to any manager - and I assure you they are out there - who are still at this point pushng for staff's marks to be changed, simply to meet the guided distribution?

    • Replies to Stuart Holttum>

      Comment by Jackie posted on

      Stuart - In the MOD it is quite clearly forced, not guided although the MOD managed to negotiate a 5% must improve quota. The MOD PM Guidance states "Moderation panels will have the task of allocating every person by grade into one of three performance groups: Box 1 (no more than 25%), Box 2 (some 70%) and Box 3 (no less than 5%). No room for mu=isunderstanding there.

  57. Comment by Bob Watson posted on

    "Feedback on this has been positive......."

    If this is truly the message you are getting, then you need to be concerned about the integrity of the "yes men" who are passing you this feedback.

  58. Comment by David Layton posted on

    Under this system, staff are expected to collect and present the evidence of their own performance to their manager for assessment, yet there seems to be no mechanism, in many roles, for the manager to verify whether the evidence presented is accurate. We thus find ouselves in the extraordinary sitaution where staff are effectively monitoring and managing themselves. How this can result in an objective assessment of individual performance escapes me. Furthermore, the arbitrary placement of 10% of staff in a category for underperformers is absurd. What happens if all staff produce the same output and quality of work? Do you then choose those for decimation on the basis of how tidy their desks are or whether they shine their shoes every morning? We need managers to manage using objective verifiable criteria, not some sort of boasting contest with a lottery at the end!

  59. Comment by Darknorth posted on

    Sir. Bob,

    Hearing your views on our new Performance Management system, and your response to our feedback, I am strongly reminded of the story of, "The Emperor's New Clothes."

  60. Comment by Frustrated posted on

    The above says it all really. Demoralising, divisive and demotivating. Additionally no matter what performance improvements (if any) are squeezed out of this process, the experience amongst my colleagues is that they are being massively outweighed by the faintly preposterous amount of time that the new PMS takes up.

    Of course it may be asserted that only those who feel strongly against this system are commenting, however I would encourage you to include specific questions on the current PMS in this year's people survey so that you can then assess the depth and breadth of just how universally loathed and unworkable this system is.

  61. Comment by Steve posted on


    Good morning Sir Bob

    After 38 great years of being what I believe to be a decent civil servant who has worked extremely hard and carved out a resonable career, I have decided to leave the CS at the end of March.

    Never once in that time have I considered writing in the way I am today. I was however disappointed by your assessment that findings from the staff survey assure you that the new PMR system is a success! I don't really think that you can honestly believe that?

    I am absolutely of the view that the principles of PMR and having a differentation between individual performance levels (and associated reward) is the right thing to do for any successful business. However, where I think we have got the current policy wrong is the 3 Box system which does not allow for a sufficient enough differentation within the Achieved group, where the top end and bottom end achievements of that group can be enormous. It is totally demoralising for those striving to be exceeded being assessed the same as those just doing enough to keep out of MI group. Most organisations who have introduced 3 box system have found it a blunt instrument and dropped it for an alternative approach. HR should be advising you and colleagues on such matters.

    The other issue that we need to address is the issue of guided v forced. Yes everyone uses the guided terminology but in practice it is being forced and that is the message that is clearly given out by senior and line managers alike.

    Again I have no problem with that but let's be honest with our people, they are far too intelligent to not see through the subterfuge.

    One of the bed-rocks of the CS reform plan is having strong leadership. Well here's a chance as leaders to provide clear and strong leadership. Yes people might not like the message but they can at least respect the clarity and honesty.

    Good luck and I look forward to hearing about some inspired leadership decisions and changes being introduced.

  62. Comment by Maddie Quigley posted on

    Last years end of year review in June put me in the middle (average) box marking, the interim review 3 months later in September put me in the failed to achieve category, I did not receive regular reviews and was utterley surprised by this box marking, the reason? 'Relevant to my Peers'?? despite numerous emails to my former section managers I am still in the dark about what this actually means, my New Line Managers haven't a clue about how to support me to get back to an average or top box marking, as they don't know what it means either, there are no specifics, no action plan has been put into place as my previous Line Managers do not appear to know either, I thought that transparency was the key to this form of appraisal but not so, I am still 6 months later still pressing my former Line Managers as why this box marking was applied, and their recommendation for improvement, My overall impression of this system is totally negative I'm afraid, not because it is a new system but because it seems to be a matter of luck as to whether you work in an area where it is applied fairly correctly and consistently.

  63. Comment by John posted on

    Do SCS really believe PMR is addressing our concerns....

    Feedback from your previous blog:-

    -The system is divisive and does nothing to encourage team working.
    -You can say that there are no quotas and distribution ratings all you like, but the fact is these exist, and will continue to exist.
    - Stress is already endemic throughout the civil service due to staffing reductions and this system will increase stress and sick absence, and the costs incurred in dealing with these issues.
    -The new system is extremely labour intensive, as are the costs of dealing with appeals against the outcomes.
    -There are better and more positive ways to deal with staff development / poorly performing staff.
    - We are being told to act more like the private sector – Well this approach to performance appraisal has been widely abandoned by it- numerous examples include Microsoft.

    Please actually listen and stop spinning the results of the staff survey.

  64. Comment by Martin Day posted on

    The comments on this page are feedback, and are 100% negative, so how can we trust our leader when he says feedback is positive? What evidence is there for his statement that feedback is positive? All the comments I have heard are similarly 100% negative.
    I think Sir Bob would be marked in the bottom 10% as he appears to be unable to analyse evidence - sorry, no pay rise for Sir Bob!

  65. Comment by Chris posted on

    Sir Bob,
    Do you honestly believe the words that come out of your own mouth? Any system where it is mooted that 10-20 % of people will be deemed as poor performers without taking into account what they actually do is an absolute disgrace. Are you subject to the same reporting system, I doubt it? As Mr Kavanagh states above, the Land Registry year on year achieves fantastic performance reults, which are the envy of private secor outfits. Yet, the thanks staff will receive for this, is to know that year on year, 10 + % will be found to be inefficient. Let us not kid ourselves about why this system has been brought in. it is to get rid of staff. Please start trying to be honest for a change and stop treating us all as fools, we find it highly insulting.

  66. Comment by Margery posted on

    I would like to see your PMR Sir Bob but why should I since it is all about "do as I say and not what I do". The bottom line is 10% whether we like it or not. Please advise me on where exactly did your so call positive feedback come from?

  67. Comment by Disgruntled and disillusioned posted on

    Dear Sir Bob,

    Where exactly are you getting your information from???? I have dialled into numerous telekits with senior managers over the last year to hear staff from various different areas of the department stating how absolutely awful the system is. It is a complete wast of time and proves nothing. To read my monthly one to one reports, one would imagine that I am one of the most motivated individuals on the face of the department, when in reality, I am doing what I am doing because I need to tick boxes on my end of year report and not because I have the least shred of interest. I am interested in coming in to work and being able to do a good job. This is not one of the things I ever actually do as my time is taken up attending meetings and dialling into telekits which hold absolutely no interest for me but which look good on my monthly report. Is this positive??? Obviously the fact that my "behaviour" looks good is much more important than the fact that I have no interest in the trivial nonsense in which I take part. Can you tell us exactly who thinks this is a positive system??? Have you seen any positive comments on this blog??? Do you actually read any of the comments on this blog or pay attention to the content???? This must be the single most demotivating and demoralising system and it would appear that this is exactly what it was designed to do as senior managers think it is so positive!! It has created an environment where staff are unable to speak freely and give an honest opinion for fear of reprisal on their "behaviour" and the common name for this is bullying.

  68. Comment by Alphonso posted on

    agree with these comments, this system has caused such unrest, fear as they know people have to be marked into bottom category which is happening to people who have never been poor performers previously.
    Concern is management have to find someone to put in there and trivial things are put in reports, exaggerated and funnily enough no plan put in place to show how they can improve

  69. Comment by Matthew posted on

    You say that feedback has been positive but all the feedback on here appears to be negative. Please could you respond how you are going to reform the system in light of this feedback? My main concern with the system is how it does not incentivised people working together as a team, quite the opposite in fact as there is a distribution.

    • Replies to Matthew>

      Comment by Aidy posted on

      Matthew, indeed that is true. I have moved roles within the last year into a team of 11. I wanted to provide feedback for a couple of members of staff who have helped me become effective in my role. However, I didn't do this as highlighting good work by other team members increases my chances of being the one who gets the Must Improve marking.

  70. Comment by Paul Hibberson posted on

    I've just wasted 20 minutes of my work time reading this blog and comments. It is clear that the system is inefficient, unpopular, unfair and is not working, whilst senior management have their heads in the clouds. Its purpose is clearly to restrict pay increases and allow future shedding of staff without having to pay redundancy. End of.

  71. Comment by Jayne posted on

    In brief we are 'Lions led by donkeys'. The only people who need the 'IMPROVEMENT NEEDED' boxes ticked are the donkeys.

    • Replies to Jayne>

      Comment by Jayne posted on

      This comment has been awaiting approval since 7th. Could something be done about that please. Thank you.

  72. Comment by Stuart A posted on

    Sir Bob

    I am sorry to say that you must not be listening too, or receiving, feedback from the front line. There must be around a hundred people on the floor that I work on and I can show you a vast majority that have NO positive feedback on the PMR at all. I hope that you are not only taking feedback from senior managers who are under pressure to make sure that the system works.

    It is divisive, even worse for staff morale (which is already poor), extremely labour intensive (is it right that we have to spend hours putting together evidence to support our PMR, time that we could be spending actually WORKING?) and a system that has been ditched by other high profile companies (I believe that Microsoft used it, found it didn't work and ditched it).

    I am in a 'validation group' of 60 officers. However, not all of these officers do the same job - so how can you objectively compare and contrast performance? 10 of these officers WILL receive a 'need to improve' marking. Can you seriously tell me that they will all deserve that?

    Please abandon this scheme before it causes too much damage. It is only a few weeks now till year end and your managers are going to be inundated by complaints once the horrors of validation kick in.

  73. Comment by Sad but true posted on

    The performance management is a process that has forgotten what it’s purpose is. An individual should review their year, celebrate their successes and understand how these were achieved both as an individual and as part of a team. It should then identify the areas where improvements can be made agreeing the whats and hows and timescales, support available etc. If the conversation is honest, open and evidence based then the individual will know where they are on the grid. I have worked in high performing teams and this has always been the case.
    There is an old joke about two people trying to out run a lion.. one says to the other “we need to run fast if we’re not going to get eaten by that lion” … the other guy says .. “I just need to outrun you”. With this system in place first and foremost you need to make sure you look after no.1 Forget team playing, forgot doing the right thing. Do what you’re told, jump through the hoops and invest the time (significant time) to evidence all of this ….
    The system is destroying teams and placing a huge rift between the senior leadership and “the rest”… I heard someone describe their end of year review as a parole meeting …

    • Replies to Sad but true>

      Comment by Team Player posted on

      I'm sorry to say the example of outrunning the lion is spot on. Team working is lost, competition is unhealthy and those that can sell sand to the desert will shine through. I have gotten many achieved box markings over the years and as a result never fear any performance system as I work very hard and it has been recognised. However I notice a clear difference in the culture. People dont share information or best practise or coach colleagues in quick wins at they need to stand out as the best. I too am leaving at the end of March so the performance system doesnt affect me this year and am sad to say that I just need to get out after several decades (I am not over 50) to find alternatives. Having been told over the years that I wont find as good terms and conditions as I have in the civil service I find this is not true and I wish I had taken the plunge earlier. Sir Bob, please dont believe what you are being told. Good luck to you all...

  74. Comment by Kerry Fairless posted on

    Dear Sir Bob

    Thank you for comments, I am not however sure I recognise the system you describe with the system we are being subjected to. I do know that in the echelons of higher management it is bad practice to say something is a really bad idea, but let me tell you that is not just a bad idea, it is the worst civil service HR policy I've ever seen in nearly 30 years of service.

    You claim feedback has been positive. So positive that the senior managers union in HMRC took industrial action. So positive that an on line survey on the front page of the HMRC intranet site received 10000 more responses than any previous survey with a massive (around 85%) and overwhelming number of people saying there were no benefits of the system. So positive that in many areas, work on core business such as collecting tax, has stopped because of the never ending and ever changing requirement to fill in a slightly different form in a slightly different manner. It has resulted in increased amount of stress and worry, not just from staff but from managers as well.

    You say that the system has introduced consistency across Governement. I can tell you that we are not even consistent on my floor, with different business using different systems.

    I am worried that you state the system reflects our values. If our values consist of identify 10% people as needing improvement based on spurious behavioural aspects, then I am concerned as to what has happened to the Civil Service.

    I could go on and on, with examples of just why this system isn’t working, wont work and can’t work, but others will no doubt make these points.

    In a nutshell, you have introduced a system that pits individual against individual on a foundation that is based on how well you can write about yourself and how good an advocate your manager is with a view to identifying 10% of staff as needing improvement. I have had my EOY, my manager cannot tell me what my performance is, because, despite seeing my and my work every single day the final decision will be taken by a panel which will discuss 41 other individuals and that will decide based on a 3 minute submission.

    Microsoft used this system. Their workers state that it was the worst thing that Microsoft ever brought in. I am in no doubt that in the coming years someone at a senior level in our organisation will finally come to the same conclusion.

  75. Comment by Chris Last posted on

    Thank you to those who have commented on Sir Bob’s blog so far.

    It’s important to bear in mind that all large organisations have a similar performance management system to our own. It’s also good practice to allow any new system time to become part of how we work. And in some of our largest departments, the changes have seen improvements in the views of staff on performance management.

    But the key objective here is about improving performance right across the Civil Service. And, in the bottom category, we should all be giving all the help we can to those who need and want to improve. There are lots of resources available to managers and staff alike on the Civil Service Learning website and on departmental intranets. Please make the time to use these and talk to colleagues about what worked best for them in, say, preparing for the end of year discussion.

    Too often, though, the focus can be on the bottom category. Everyone should be thinking what they can do where they are to improve their performance and that of their team. And that includes the top category too.

    Chris Last, Head of Civil Service HR

    • Replies to Chris Last>

      Comment by Helen posted on

      Dear Mr. Last,

      Do you really think that given the deep seated level of disgust and dislike against this system, that staff views will ever change? If so, it would appear that you are living in cloud cuckoo land with the rest of the senior managers. Listening to staff's views is obviously an outdated idea, but perhaps you should consider the old adage of "behaviour breeds behaviour" and when staff are treated with the level of contempt and disregard which now exists in the civil service as a whole, how do you think they will react? Perhaps you should also consider that you are actually dealing with human beings who do have the capability to think for themselves, regardless of what senior HR and managers think.

    • Replies to Chris Last>

      Comment by Francis Evans posted on

      Dear Chris,

      I am afraid that the replies to this blog simply illustrate the disconnection and lack of trust that exists on this issue. I am sure that Sir Bob will not have written the article himself; I hope he will take a moment to read the replies and understand that whoever drafted it has misjudged the mood.

      Three quick points:

      On feedback, I cannot comment on the supposedly positive results from other departments. I know that in my directorate we carried out our own survey, at the request of our local management. The results reflect exactly the concerns and frustrations that you see in these responses. This is real evidence and I hope we all believe in evidence-based policy making. Whoever drafted Sir Bob's article has made him sound hopelessly complacent.

      Second, you wrote "It’s important to bear in mind that all large organisations have a similar performance management system to our own." No, they don't. I work in BIS in an area that happens to put me in contact with HR directors (or 'Director for People' as they are more often called now) of FTSE 350 companies. There is a range of performance management systems, so any generalisation is by definition wrong, and I would say that the trend is moving away from the kind of categorisation that is causing the trouble here. The aspect of the new system which is in line with good private sector practice is consideration of 'how' as well as 'what'. That is not the aspect to which people are objecting, by and large.

      Third, as others have said, the 'guided distribution' is being enforced as a quota. That may not be the intention but it is happening everywhere. In my department it is not 10% but 20-25% for Category 3. Of course this is the area on which people are focusing. They feel vulnerable and powerless. I will not say more since there are dozens of eloquent comments here that explain it very well. I hope you will take them seriously, and act.

    • Replies to Chris Last>

      Comment by John Robinson posted on


      Thankyou for at least responding.
      Yes I agree that we all need to coninue to strive to do our best and improve but the current system - as has been described many times in many different ways on this blog - does not seem to be designed to produce the results you say you are looking for - unless you are looking for lots of people to leave the Civil service of their own volition and so save on redundancy payments.
      Also detailed are many examples of major industry who have dropped this system as not fit for purpose and have seen massive increases in productivity to boot.
      I believe the downward trend started with forcing HR work on local managers. These managers - and I am one - are now multi hatted with no extra time to complete any of their tasks. This means that they can no longer concentrate and excel in any of their roles. This in turn also means that they are less likely to flag up under acheivers due to the extra time required to bring them up to standard or indeed start proceedings to remove them.
      You talk of making time to go through the learning available on the intranet - not easy as the intranet is slow, woeful at searches and I have more than enough normal work to complete - I do like to get home to my family at some point.
      Before you preach to us on this the IT across the whole civil service needs to be brought up to scratch. Come out to some of the places outside London and see what we have to work with.
      Once this is done then look to other issues.

    • Replies to Chris Last>

      Comment by Stephen posted on

      "It’s important to bear in mind that all large organisations have a similar performance management system to our own."
      No they do not.

      Also, how can you possibly defend a bottom 10% regardless of whether it is forced or guided? If everyone performed briliantly there would still be a bottom 10%. Quotas are a ludicrous way of measuring anything.
      Based on over 20 years experience of Government HR departments, it surprises me not a jot that the only people defending this unfair, counter productive, costly and hastily introduced piece of political dogma are those from HR.

    • Replies to Chris Last>

      Comment by ARC member posted on


      The union for senior managers and professionals in HMRC is taking ongoing industrial action against this system precisely because it is so hugely counter-productive in terms of improving performance. We absolutely support this objective, there's nothing we'd rather assist you with.

      But the system is being applied without reference to performance or evidence because it has become a giant sub-industry of following a time-consuming series of processes with the only main objective being to fill the "must improve" quota.

      It is hugely demotivating to the vast majority of staff (because it DOESN'T encourage them to focus on improving their performance and exceeding KPIs), is destroying trust between staff and managers being pressured to treat their teams unfairly in order to hit the quota, and is consuming huge amounts of employee time that should be being better spent.

      If you think there is anything fair about this system in practice, please refer to the diversity stats from HMRC's mid-year markings.

      If you remove the quota, managers may be able to focus on evidence of performance. With the quota it is just turning into the opposite of what it is supposed to be. Please talk to PCS and FDA and let them help you to put this right as a matter of urgency.

    • Replies to Chris Last>

      Comment by Sean Whitfield HMRC posted on

      With all due respect, I can't really quite believe how you can come back with a post like this? I have never had a poor performance mark, always good or on a couple of occasions top. I don't fear any system but I can be outraged at the totally unacceptable waste of time and resources that has resulted in it's introduction.
      I'm trying hard to understand why you can't see what the vast majority of people see, surely you have read the posts? Are you too removed from operational activity maybe? I don't mean that in any disrespectful way either. I will repeat what I've said in a previous post:
      I for one come into work to focus on WORK, I don’t have staff (thankfully) so HR should be very low on my list of priorities, I also (crazy though this may be) expect my “Manager” to write my report because I would hope he/she would have some sort of idea regarding my attitude and performance! Also that used to be what a Manager spent a great deal of time on, reporting on and developing staff.
      The team leader or Manager should write reports on his staff, the staff should provide as much information as possible to help with this, keeping evidence logs is fine providing it's not war & peace (monthly 121s are fine as well).
      The Manager must know the following (If not there is something seriously wrong):
      Who can be depended upon
      Who cares about the work
      Who cares about the success of the team
      Who strives to improve efficiency and looks for better ways of doing things
      Who just wants to get by
      Who doesn’t really care
      Who could/should work at a higher grade & who shouldn’t.
      Also, a word we hear quite often is DIVERSITY
      To me “Diversity” also means recognising that we are all different,
      Some people are quiet & unassuming
      Some people work at a fast pace
      Some people work at a slower pace but are meticulous
      Some people are loud
      Providing everyone is a team player, conscientious and works toward continual service improvement they should all be able to achieve top marking, not be bullied by the new HR divisive dogma.
      I think the deluge of HR material is incredibly time consuming, intolerant, bullying and bureaucratic.
      I really hope some of the views put forward which have been provoked by the statement "positive feedback" will be listened to and acted upon.
      Also PMR does not actually fix what it used as an excuse for it's introduction to fix, poor performance. People with time on their hands can still produce great PMRs with evidence, even though they may contribute less to the organisation or be chocolate teapots.

    • Replies to Chris Last>

      Comment by Mrs C posted on


      Thanks for replying, but I really don't think your grasp the frustration and deep unhappiness that this poorly thought-out system has actually created. I can obviously only speak from my own personal perspective, but I know that I, and my line manager, find that my hard work is completely unvalued by the system.

      I'm new in my grade - I was promoted 6 months ago. Completely disregarding the PMR of this year, I would have said of course I need to improve. I want to get better at my job, and learn, and grow. I’m currently doing an MSc, and am working towards my project management qualifications. I think the majority of people within the civil service are the same – and many of the others are the ‘solid contributors’ happy with their role, and willing to simply put a good day’s work. However, just because I WANT to improve doesn’t mean I MUST improve. I've achieved all of my objectives for this year, and am performing very well in my new job. My ‘improvement’ should be achieved through a sensible performance management process by which my line manager and I agree objectives that will stretch me as an individual throughout the year.

      This new PMR quota (and it is a quota, as every other comment on this blog has proved) means that the only real objective I have each year is 'be better than at least some of the others in my grade in my team'. Of course, to meet this, I still have to achieve all of my objectives, but where is the incentive to stretch myself within those objectives? I am being assessed against a peer group who all have at least 5 year’s seniority in the grade, and so I’m going to try make sure those objectives are as easy as they can be so I look good in comparison. I’m also going to spend all of my time working to achieve those objectives only rather than completing the myriad of other tasks a real job in the civil service requires. (Of course I won’t – I’ll work hard because that’s the sort of person I am, but that’s beside the point.)

      How is it fair that I get the financial penalty and stigma of being in that bottom 5% (I’m MOD, I really feel for organisations with 10 – 15% quotas) when I’m doing a good job for my team? The only thing that I can do to ‘improve my performance and that of my team’ by the standards of this process is to hope that another person is promoted, so that they can take the can for a little bit. But I know this won’t be for a while, because of the low staff turnover we have as a high-performing and effective team. Perhaps we could instead all draw straws to be the lowest performer every year, to pass the penalty around.

      Bob’s post states that it’s surprising that there’s only 1% poor performance in the civil service, and I’d be interested to know where this seemingly arbitrary figure of 10% came from. I’d suggest not picking up poor performance is actually related to poor objectives management. Even if the 10% figure is robust, I wouldn’t expect the poor performers to be spread evenly across teams, as is being enforced through this process. They would be clustered around the managers who don’t write objectives properly, because they’re too lazy, too busy or too ‘nice’ to think about it properly. Too busy and too nice are both problems exacerbated by this process, not fixed. I’m not saying anything about the chances of the process picking up those that are too lazy as poor performers.

      This system cannot and does not improve performance. It penalises those that do not deserve it, and as a result will fail to identify those that actually need the support.

  76. Comment by Alan Wilson posted on

    If everyone in the bottom 10% improves, there will still be a bottom 10%.

  77. Comment by Mark posted on

    This is a very disappointing blog as you seek to blame staff for finding 'change can be unsettling as people get up to speed with new processes and requirements'. I'd agree that change can be unsettling, however we all deal with change in all aspects of our lives and get on with it. The actual issue with the new PMR system is the dreadful implementation and lack of engagement by senior leaders.

    For example, why has this blog been written now at the beginning of March when end of year process is beginning rather than communicating on a regular basis, the need for which has been clearly evidenced by repeated feedback on PMR in your previous blog posts.

    In my own department, quarterly performance markings were introduced without consultation (my marking wasn't discussed with me before being submitted). Also it's been announced that guided performance marking ratios for next year will be the same as this year, however there was no explanation or evidence given to staff to support this decision. It's this lack of engagement and poor implementation that is damaging morale.

  78. Comment by Alex Scott posted on

    As a team leader of ten years, I endorse all of the above, and for the head of the Civil Service to state that feedback on this system has been positive quite frankly leaves me bewildered. In HMRC the system has been a muddled, confused mess from day one, with conflicting advice & guidance given from senior management, whom I suspect are receiving poor advice themselves. We have been left in no doubt (all through the year) that the 20/70/10 split WILL be met, so to say that this is guided, not forced, is misguided at best. It's truly the 'blind leading the blind'. The system's two main achievements have been; a) demoralising staff & setting them against one another, undermining hard fought for team spirit, and b) making good people in grades O and above leave management as they don't want to be part of administering such a destructive & stressful system. If that's what the Civil Service wants, then job done. Myself? I've got less than a month left in management before I move on to pastures new. It can't come quickly enough.

  79. Comment by Andrew Tolfree posted on

    Dear Sir Kerslake,

    I find this blog site fascinating - mainly for the sheer proportion of negative comments to most blog postings (significantly any that are connected to pay and performance).
    I guess it is difficult with many people just to say what it is they mean, which is usually, "Hello, my name is Steve, and I am scared."

    Although, I too, am wary of what change means; that is not to say that I resist or denigrate the detail or the intention in as comprehensively a fashion as other civil servants are clearly able to do far better than me, (I like to think I am still too young to know how to resist properly); I would however suggest that we make guidance across the civil service much clearer and reduce the ability for middle management to utter the nails-on-a-blackboard phrase of: "What I think The Board are trying to say......" - I would never be that presumptuous.

    In any case, I know that I rock and my achievements this year have been awesome (and working for HMRC I don't mean by this that I have raked a load of money from taxpayers) - so I am looking forward to seeing just how the Civil Service is "identifying and recognising high performers" when I received my End-of-Year Performance marking and any subsequent payslip.

  80. Comment by sylv posted on

    Its very clear that civil servants have no confidence in this system and may I suggest, in your own behaviours and competencies. I wonder if your line manager will put you into the must improve category cos I bet there are a large number of civil servants that would suggest you and a number of managers/SCS most definitely deserve to be marked as such.

  81. Comment by Peter posted on

    As with many of the other respondents. I am concerned the feedback received by the head of the civil service has been positive. Who is the head of the civil service receiving that positive feedback from? I believe the comments reflect the fact that the feedback from the "shop floor" from both workers and managers is far less positive than the opening paragraph suggests.
    As a taxpayer, I am also extremely concerned by how many man hours the implementation of the process has cost/is costing. And does it identify the weakest or best? With a degree of reliance on self-assessment, it is quite possible that the weakest will spend a disproportionate amount of time "proving" that they are able. Whilst the strongest will spend less time, because they are more inclined to get on with the job in hand. Making the judgement of the manager all the more critical.

  82. Comment by John posted on

    Just unbelievable - positive feedback from who? Not here in the MOD.
    It is a bureacratic nightmare.

    • Replies to John>

      Comment by Peter Ryan - MOD HR Transformation Director posted on

      Applying any performance appraisal process across a Department which is as organisationally complex as MOD is inevitably challenging. Any new approach intended to address MOD’s longstanding deficiencies in performance management will inevitably take time to work through. Jon Thompson and his top Civil Service leadership group have overseen the work of the dedicated HR team who have developed the new processes in consultation with representatives of the business. There is plentiful supporting guidance and a variety of communications which should enable managers to implement the new processes effectively. There is lots of information available on the MOD intranet, with links on the home page.

      • Replies to Peter Ryan - MOD HR Transformation Director>

        Comment by JR posted on


        Nice management speak.
        The guidance you refer to has only been readily available for the last 2 months - 9 months into this reportinig year.
        The HR team who presented the roadshow could not convince the atendees that it was good, worthwhile and working for the best as they could not connect with the new system that way themselves, what does that tell you?
        I do hope that at a very senior level this goes onto some annual reports, makes up part of the end of year review and then explanations can be given as to how the who reporting procedure has been managed in such a bad way. This should then also lead to those people being in the bottom group and therfore must improve.
        we can only live in hope.

  83. Comment by Dawn posted on

    Seriously...this just goes to prove that nobody at the top of the greasy pole listens in this organisation. Staff hate the PMR system!!! Surely time spent fannying around with this is time lost on doing the real job!

  84. Comment by Graeme posted on

    I've worked in the Civil Service for 10 years and am 6 years away from my statutory retirement age. I love many aspects of my job and I have always worked hard to deliver the best I can deliver, but I can't wait for my retirement day to arrive so that I can walk away from this culture of constantly eroding staff morale and the tweaking, tweaking, "ain't broke so let's fix it" approach that we're subjected to on a daily basis. It is grinding me down, and every single person I've talked to about moderation, and the "not forced but we have to have someone in the bottom 10% bracket" in particular, detests it. This approach isn't going to get rid of the perceived poor performers all that quickly but it is going to make more and more people think seriously about what they do for the Civil Service and what they get in return. Sir Bob, I'm sure your heart is in the right place but you are being seriously misinformed about what staff think of the new performance management system. And yes, it's been discredited in the private sector and it's appalling that no lessons have been drawn from that.

  85. Comment by Andy W posted on

    Feedback has been positive?

    Chasing and writing feedback, writing reports, having performance meetings, twice a year...
    I've now had to take yet more time out of my job to read your blog, and leave a comment in the hope that you get the message. It would be hilarious if it wasn't so grim.

  86. Comment by Simon posted on

    Sir Bob,
    After reading all the comments above I hope you realise that perhaps you are mistaken is your assessment that ‘feedback has been positive’. It clearly has not. This system is divisive and unfair and has created such anger amongst staff. I find it extremely patronising to be told also that ‘change is difficult’ and that’s why people are upset. People are upset as the system is so bad and has been totally discredited in private industry. Instead of building team work and motivating people it only achieves the opposite. Even the ‘spiritual home’ of such systems, Corporate America, is realising that they don’t work and are moving away from them, just look at Microsoft.
    I would urge you to listen to staff, not just senior managers who probably tell you what you want to hear, and abandon this system. It would create a better civil service if you did.

  87. Comment by Patrick posted on

    Thanks Chris. Which Depatrments are you talking about ?

  88. Comment by John posted on

    I've read the comments above, and even though there are only 79 (at the moment) these people will be echoing a large number of opinions about this newer system.

    I agree that poor performance should be addressed. I've seen managers become hamstrung by wily poor performers because they get the full force of a union on their side, leaving the manager incapable of taking any action.

    People are worried/stressed/concerned (pick whichever term you think is best) by the three box markings. We had the training about this system at the start of the year, and the trainers couldn't properly answer the questions about the 10%/70%/20% split. "It's a rating system, not a ranking system" is what I was told. What's the difference? If you're in a team of 10, you'll consider being 'rated' ninth as a success, because one person will be worse off than you. The new system is already discouraging teamwork, as you'll be striving to prove you're better than someone else, rather than working collaberatively with them. Even if you're compared with other (not even similar) teams, it'll be the manager that talks the talk best who'll get the best results for their team. And where there's minimal/no money available to reward the top 20%, what's the point?

    I'd be very interested to see where this positive feedback has come from. My team thinks it's divisive, my manager cannot convince us it's a good idea, and the trainers couldn't fully justify it either.

  89. Comment by Tony Gray posted on

    Far from convinced. I work in a unit where we are consistently told we are all working above grade. So where does that leave the bottom 10%? I am also interested in the comments from Sir Bob on DWP. I have two relations (both high performers) who have recently left DWP because of a lack of confidence in the whole system (for achievers as well). You risk losing good staff as well by imposing systems which have been descredited elsewhere. This quote was made shortly after Microsoft dropped the system last year "Forced ranking does appear to be out of favor," Kerry Chou, a senior practice leader at WorldatWork, an association of human resources professionals, said in an interview. "More organizations are ending the practice where you have to have, for example, 10% or 5% of all employees in the lowest-ranked category.""Forced ranking does appear to be out of favor," Kerry Chou, a senior practice leader at WorldatWork, an association of human resources professionals, said in an interview. "More organizations are ending the practice where you have to have, for example, 10% or 5% of all employees in the lowest-ranked category." [Computerworld 15/11/13]

    • Replies to Tony Gray>

      Comment by Colin Herring, DWP Employee Policy and Services posted on

      DWP does not used forced ranking. In her ‘Headline News’ Intranet message to all employees today, DWP's Director General for Human Resources, Debbie Alder, said that the ‘guided distribution of ratings of around 25 per cent ‘Exceeded’, around 65 per cent ‘Achieved’ and around 10 per cent ‘Must Improve’ is a guide to encourage fair, realistic differentiation between our bottom, middle and top performers’. Nobody’s rating will be changed simply to meet the guided distribution. Performance ratings are based only on achievement of objectives and demonstration of required behaviours.

  90. Comment by Ian posted on

    You clearly have not listened at all. [Frankly - no surprise there!].
    The new system is unfit for purpose - it will not work this year or ever. It is a universally discredited process - business moved on long ago. You are in very tiny minority if you believe anything else - no one else in management does [if they are honest about it]
    In addition it is inherently discriminatory and divisive - I thought the civil service was trying to reduce discrimination! - Ha ha !
    The PDR form requirement to 'blow your own trumpet' is clearly much more favourable to those of an extrovert, even boastful personality and is acutely discriminatory against those who are more introverted, quiet and modest - even tho the latter may well be the more honest and effective performers!!!
    Is the CS really trying to populate itself with the loud mouthed exaggerators who just talk the job in preference to those who modestly & efficiently get the job done? - Then again maybe that's how you got your own post!
    Please, have some common decency and scrap the process before you are totally discredited [oh, sorry - too late!].

  91. Comment by Dave posted on

    The staff survey question is now an impossible one to answer. If I answer yes, poor performance is being dealt with effectively, this will be taken as meaning I approve of the 10% guided distribution target. I don’t approve of it. But, if I answer no, then this may be interpreted by management to mean I want them to go even further and move to a forced distribution. I don’t want that either. Can we please have a new question which cannot be twisted by management to justify changes that they have always wanted to bring in, for their own reasons. How about “Forced or guided distribution will improve my performance? Strongly agree or strongly disagree?

  92. Comment by PETER DEWHIRST posted on

    As an employee and a manager I welcome the new Performance Management System and appreciate its aims. What has disgusted me this year is the way in which it has been rolled out in the most unprofessional, shoddy way - rushed through at every level - I am today attending my "masterclass" for the year end stage which I will then deliver to the team leaders for whom I am responsible who then have to put into practice in a totally ridiculous time frame.
    Sir Bob - your words appear very self congraulatory - unfortunately many managers are embarassed by this and at times feel ashamed of they way they have to steam-roller things out in such a rush

  93. Comment by Andy posted on

    In a Department that is under a lot of Ministerial and public scrutiny over it's supposedly 'failing' Programmes, I would be interested to see how many in the Higher Grades (above G6) receive a 'must improve' rating. It seems to me that under performance in these higher grades is normally addressed by a move away with the comments from SCS saying "they have moved on to bigger challenges elsewhere".

  94. Comment by Gill posted on

    I also feel the same as many of the views here. I have worked here for 39 years and this is definately the worst system that has been introduced.There is a ridiculous amount of time that is being spent on it and at the end of it we are reliant on our managers to prove that we are worth our marking at the validation meeting. The 10% guidance is not as a guide it is a quota because it says on the intranet that the chair of the validation meeting has to write and provide evidence to justify why they have not met the guided quota of 10%. Considering that the majority of people working in HMRC -well at least where i am are all over 35 and the average age is probably about 50 and that most of us been here a long time one would hope that there would only be say 1-2% in the need improvement box at the most as we have all been doing a good job for a long time. Surely we should have a guide that encourages everyone to be in the achieved box!! Also it would seem this system was dropped by the private sector because it was so devisive. I have not heard any positive comments about this system at all and I work in an office building with probably about 1200 people! In fact it has become a big cause of extra stress and worry!!!

  95. Comment by Alex R posted on

    I have read and agree with most of the comments above. I am bemused by the ridiculous amount of time and effort required by all to complete these reports. As a LM, I discuss and agree with my JH objectives and competences, see my JH every day, know exactly what they do, need to do, how they do it and see, first-hand, all the outcomes and responses from 'customers'. I cannot understand or think of a single good reason why my role as RO has been given to some unfortunate RO (in my case at the other end of the country). Despite the RO being very kind, positive, conscientious and helpful, that RO has no idea or understanding of the job my JH does or even the esoteric technical language or details of the job. That RO has 12 other JHs to report on and, I guess, has no or little knowledge of thier jobs either.

    Now, instead of writng the reports with first-hand experience and expert knowledge, the JHs and LMs must write exhaustive explanations of what they do and how they achieve their outcomes. I must do the same for my own LM. The drop-down boxes were, I think, supposed to help improve and ease the process. However, the process must now be backed up by an excess of supporting evidence (JHs are very wary of not providing enough evidence - how much is enough?). My JH does a very busy, challenging and intense job very well. However, we have had to spend an unacceptable amount of (wasted?) time (for her, a total of about 3 days, excluding the stressful, unpaid work she did at home) sending out and collating questionnaires, finding, reviewing and writing evidence. We have struggled to keep pace with our actual work and our real outcomes have suffered. The reporting process has actually stopped us doing our jobs properly.

    These are not only my concerns; up and down the corridors of my building LMs and JHs alike are exasperated and despairing of this laborious, wasteful and pointless reporting system. Where did those positive responses come from? It needs to change.

  96. Comment by Diane R posted on

    Clearly, by virtue of the fact that they went on strike, the Grades 6 and 7 in HMRC First Division Association are not happy with the PMR system. Sir Bob - you have a problem if these people are not engaged and are telling you you've got it wrong. The new PMR system is not only not good for the staff, it is not good for the business, as it is lowering morale, causing stress and anxiety among staff and managers alike, and is taking an INORDINATE amount of time. I have no problem with addressing poor performance - as a manager I always have done this and don't need a forced guided distribution to tell me to do so, thanks. It's wrecking the business, not improving it, and is frankly, a disgrace. Nothing wrong with the system - keep it by all means, but introduce more then 3 boxes rather than lump 70% people in a box called "average", and get rid of the guided distribution ( that is not a GUIDE - it is enforced, so let's stop pretending shall we?). I'm sick of the whole damn thing. It's not helping anything. Heaven knows where the "positive" feedback came from. It's also hugely distracting from all the good things in Civil Service Reform, like increased development opportunities and investment in the staff.

  97. Comment by Roger Harrison posted on

    This is an interesting concept:-

    "I know that some of you are also concerned about what it means to be in the bottom category (‘must improve’ in most departments). This doesn’t mean that you are automatically subject to the formal procedures for managing poor performance, or at risk of dismissal. What it means is that you, your manager and your department have a responsibility to take steps to improve your performance"

    If it really is your manager that has the responsibility for improving your performance, surely the poor performance was on them in the forst place for failing to manage you properly. So should it not be the manager that should be receiving the lower box marking? After all they were supposed to tell you at the half year review if you ned to improve and put an action plan in place.

  98. Comment by Joseph A posted on

    As the Civil Service is shrinking, it seems to me that the 10% is looking bigger!!

  99. Comment by Tony posted on

    We have seen a tremendous amount of effort in encouraging inter-departmental activity, to encourage ownership to 'one Civil Service'.Yet the new performance system for the 'lower 10%' will reflect those people who have moved to a new post. How does this encourage staff movement within a Department, or indeed across Whitehall ? The very capacities that you need for a nimble modernised civil service are restricted through a continued archaic assumption that 10 % of all civil service staff are poor performers.

  100. Comment by Martin posted on

    There is a fundemental unfairness in the PMR system: a member of staff (and their manager) can go through the whole year in the belief that they have 'achieved' only to be told after validation that they 'must improve'. With the year over there is nothing they can do to address this.

    The principle that the end of year marking should not come as a surpise has been abandoned. With this, 'forced' distributions and the huge amount of time the process takes, is it any wonder that staff are thoroughly demoralized by the whole system?

  101. Comment by Miles Nelson posted on

    Sir Bob

    Go on then. Address my concerns. Begin. Scratch the surface.

    This is my second comment but I am angry, demoralised and have wasted many a long hour brooding on the way I have been treated. I was a committed, enthusiastic person who turned up early keen to help. Not without faults, but a preparedness to be a willing dupe is not one of them. Now we are supposed to accept these bland assurances as putting it all right? I cannot understand why we are trained to be enquiring and sceptical in our work but expected to be gullible and subservient about our own treatment. I'm so pleased that so many people are sharing their experiences and voicing their concerns, though of course it is pointless to do so.

  102. Comment by Keith Stoddart posted on

    Sir Bob: like many others I am struggling to imagine where you are receiving such positive feedback. This has the whiff of "Emperor's New Clothes" around it. Certainly, within HMRC there is a pervading sense of pessimism and alarm that such a mechanistic system- taking up masses in resource time better spent on closing the tax gap- is being imposed. Is it posible to illustrate where stack ranking has proved successful within other public sector organisations, with clear exemplar models, so that staff can see that the current toxic effects on morale may yet be justified? Thank you for listening.

  103. Comment by Anthony Gray posted on

    One of the fundamental flaws in the PMR system is that, far from being a developmental tool, it discourages any attempt by management to address poor performance.

    If somebody is identified as must improve at the half year stage and management address this to lift them into the performing bracket by year end, then they have failed in their job to identify the 10%. For every must improve adressed by the end of the year another must fall from performing down to must improve to meet the guided distribution. But if management do nothing to help the member of staff classified as must improve at the half year stage, in order to meet the guided distribution at year end, then they have failed as a manager to address the under performance.

    Catch 22

  104. Comment by Steve posted on

    Perhaps Chris Last would like to tell us how much time he thinks should be spent on the nonsensical performance mgt system? I have an alternative plan: the people who spent the most time on it obviously have nothing better to do, so just sack them. That would be fair, honest and evidence-based, unlike the stupid system that HR are trying to promote. I share an office with people who are already spending hours and hours writing their reports, having training sessions and meetings about it. I do not have the spare time for that. I am busy doing my job.

  105. Comment by Tak posted on

    No colleague I have spoken to has anything positive to say about this years PMR process. This includes my line manager and RO who are both openly vocal in their disdain. Since they have to travel all over the country reviewing evidence for people they don't know on subjects they have no experience with, I can't say I blame them.

    This whole "bottom 10%" thing is a joke. All it will do is put unwanted stress on every employee, not to provide a better quality service to the customer but to focus all their effort on making their report look good.

  106. Comment by Slightly Miffed posted on

    At my last EOY I was told I has just made it into the 10% that must be in the must improve section. However seeing as they were moderated and mixed in with other local jobcentres I may escape as otyhers will be worse, and just hope that there were enough to lift me into achieved.

    That doesn't sound like guided to me, it sounds like a forced distribution. I am achieved as long as there are enough other under achievers?

    PS, are there any positive comments about the system? I have read most and there were none.

    • Replies to Slightly Miffed>

      Comment by ML posted on

      I'm a manager and I hate the system. All my staff hate the system. All my peers hate the system. Members of the SCS that I talk to candidly hate the system. Everyone hates the system.

      It is as intensive and as stressful as applying for your job twice a year but without any point. It certainly has nothing to do with peformance or development. All it succeeds in doing is demotivating the majority of staff and diverting resource from actually delivery.

  107. Comment by Mike H posted on

    It isn't just those being forced into the bottom category that concerns me, the ratings ratios are also applied at the top end with high performers being removed from the top bracket to fit the profile. I know this from personal experience as I had to take out a grievance against middle managers for removing my name (along with others) from those put forward to the moderating panel. I only found out about this unofficial pre-moderation selection by accident so it makes me wonder how much of this process is shrouded in secrecy.

    Sir Bob's previous blog on this topic generated a huge response, it seems he didn't pay any heed to the comments than and probably won't this time. His message is simply that this system is going to be made to work, regardless. The real questions are 'what' are the objectives for PMR and 'how' are these being achieved? From the comments above it seems to me PMR falls into the 'must improve' bracket!

  108. Comment by Anne Anderson posted on

    Supporters of PMR often refer to the question in the Staff Survey, which asked whether poor performance is managed well in our department.
    When this question first appeared, I looked at the colleagues in my team. I have never seen anything to suggest that any of them are poor performers, so this left the quandary of how to answer. If I said yes, I was accepting that some of them must be poor performers; if no, because I'd never witnessed any action since none was needed, then the managers must be at fault.
    At the time, I thought the survey designer had made a mistake by overlooking the obvious "do you see any sign of poor performance?" but now I realise they had not.

  109. Comment by Andrew posted on

    Sir Bob,

    I think you have been misinformed. The new MOD performance management system is horrendously bureaucratic and extremely complex. The focus on penalising the poorest performers has completely undermined any expectation of genuine assistance, while the general confusion means that the prospect rewards for the highest performers are being seen as a lottory. Surely this fiasco cannot be what ministers envisaged when they gave direction for a more rigorous performance management system.

  110. Comment by Julie Ragsdale posted on

    I can only assume that Sir Bob is surrounded by Yes people who tell him what he wants to hear. I have heard nothing but negative comments towards the new PMR system. It has caused fear and demoralisation throughout our office and at every meeting I have attended in the region the comments have been mirrored. The amount of work involved to complete these forms has taken staff away from the core business in an already understaffed office. If this has been discredited in the private sector why are we doing it?

  111. Comment by Ian posted on

    This is yet another example of evidence based truth coming from the leadership. (Sarcasm!- not evidence of positive feedback.)

    Welcome to the Ministry of the Flat Earth. Even as I type this response I am loosing the will to argue as it dawns on me that clearly you have no intention of listening to your staff (whos only intention is to challenge poor behaviours), but the good news is that it only took 5 minutes to respond to this. The PAR on the otherhand will lose you days per person (already happening) as people start to compile "War and Peace" to compete with their peers. The irony is that those with less demanding jobs/Management have more time to compile/manufacture the evidence needed in order that a CSO that doesnt know them can make a fair and informed decision about how well you have done. Genius! (Also sarcasm.)

  112. Comment by John Gilbert posted on

    As someone who comes from management in the private sector, I feel that the Civil Service has it’s eye on anything other than the customer. We are fixated on statistics and percentages and the treatment of our staff reflects this. People who take a little too long handling a customer enquiry are put on personal improvement plans and their call times are judged against the average. If individual customer cases are looked at then there is a pattern of calls where little or nothing has been done for the customer to address the reason for the call and this triggers other calls by the same customer.

    If everything we did was in consideration of our customers and, our procedures were focused on service and efficiency of effort, then I feel that many of our current procedures would disappear as efficiency of effort has largely been replaced by paperwork and red tape.

    The amount of work involved around the new PMR actually detracts from the time we used to spend working with our teams.

  113. Comment by Rob posted on

    Bob – if as you say “the intention is that these ratings are guided not forced,” then why was the word forced referred to in your Civil Service Reform Plan – One Year On Report i.e. “As part of this, we are introducing a forced or guided distribution system.” I've dicussed the PMR process with numerous colleagues and have yet to encounter one that considers this to be anything other than unwieldly, discredited and forced.

  114. Comment by Dave posted on

    Here at DfT we will be using this system for the second time this year. This is the first time I have heard that box 3 denotes "Must Improve". Previously we have been told that all poor performers should be identified during the year and given an improvement plan. Staff identified in this way would not be included in the 10%. We have also been informed that only box 1s will get any pay increase and bonus, thereby removing any incentive to get a box 2. Not being stupid, we have worked out that this means there must be a disincentive applied to a box 3 mark. Some comments on here have referred to an improvement plan being given to recipients of a box 3 - we have heard nothing of this in DfT - improvement plans apply only to poor performers who have been removed from the relative assessment. Can someone please be honest and clear about what it means to be given a box 3? I won't be holding my breath as I don't believe I will get an honest response though...

  115. Comment by John W posted on

    Concerns? More than concerns, everyone hates this 'guided' distribution nonsense. What's more, because no-one wants to end up in the bottom 10%, people are spending much more effort on the the end-of-year review than ever before - I hope you weren't expecting anyone to do any actual work round about now?

  116. Comment by John Leek posted on

    Lets see what the HR websites have to say about guided distribution - although they call it 'stacked ranking', it is the same thing.

    “this practice of “stack ranking,” of being forced to rate every single one of your team on a bell curve from excellent to poor (even if the whole team had, in fact, performed excellently) has been singled out by everyone from HBR to Vanity Fair as one of the reasons for Microsoft’s inability to foster high-performing teams, a major cause of its “lost decade.”

    “Adobe's Stock Up 68% Since It Dumped Stack Ranking”

    “Ultimately, stack ranking creates local-maxima seeking behavior of the top performers, which is probably the worst behavior that an organization can encourage. Eventually you find top-talent start actively discouraging other top talent from joining the organization since it will threaten their ranking.”

    “Forced Rankings Are Institutionalized Stupidity at Its Worst”

    "You have described my exact experience at Hewlett Packard and it's no mystery why they are struggling so badly right now."

    "When employees compete, they steal credit, excessively criticize or torpedo peer projects and engage in other behaviors you'd rather not see in an entity called a "company" where folks are expected to cooperative. You thus have a process that institutionalizes performers in a way that the majority of employees are at or below average, while those who effectively cheat are rewarded"

    Not looking quite so positive, then.

    You really ought to substantiate your assertion that feedback was positive. How big was your sample group and drawn from where? Senior managers may be victims of 'confirmation bias' so it may be unwise to rely totally on that. They will not wish to be SEEN to be negative, as that will damage their careers.. and that is the problem with 'behaviours'.

    The behaviours issue is potentially catastrophic; Let's imagine, say, you are a crew member standing on the deck of the Titanic, and can see the waters rising. The belief (let's call it 'the orthodoxy') is that the Titanic is unsinkable. However, you deduce, correctly, that the ship is sinking, and say so to your officer. The danger is that will be looked upon as a 'negative behaviour' because you are questioning the orthodoxy (the 'unsinkability').

    In fact, it is no such thing; Titanic is made of steel, and is perfectly capable of sinking. The negative behaviour is reinforcing the orthodoxy by ignoring the rising water. The positive behaviour is to get as many people as possible into lifeboats. Your attitude to the ship sinking is actually pretty irrelevant; only your actions are positive or negative. Until managers understand this behaviours will be little more than a brainwash technique used to reinforce an unproven orthodoxy.

    'Behaviours' are not simply 'Attitudes', and whilst this misconception of Behaviours feeds into the PMR system, the whole system becomes corrupted. Even if you believe stack ranking works, the current implementation based on an incorrect understanding of behaviours makes it unworkable.

    Under Pacesetter, you were allowed to question anything, including targets. There were no sacred cows. Now we have to factor in 'Behaviours' and at that point you start undermining Pacesetter, because if you question the received but unproven orthodoxy, you risk being seen as exhibiting negativity - even where you are correct to do so.

    So... Is this a negative post, OR am I simply pointing out the gaping hole that is letting in water?

    • Replies to John Leek>

      Comment by Sad state posted on

      It is a shame we are now in a world where people have to paint bleak pictures of others to make themselves look better. I have found the groundswell of opinion to the blog fascinating. Can someone perhaps point out a positive, because (no matter which lens I look at PMR through) I can not see how this improves performance (or morale). What our cistomer would make of this is interesting

    • Replies to John Leek>

      Comment by ARC member posted on

      On the contrary, it's an excellent post.

  117. Comment by Bill Parsons posted on

    If the new system reflects our values and achievments then what does it say about us?
    That we are happy to punish staff for moving jobs.
    That we are hapy to penalise people despite their doing a good job.
    That morale is irrelevant.

    Some organisations consider that staff confidence and morale are good things. No doubt their managers got their MBA's in another era.

  118. Comment by Pat Edghill posted on

    Like the respondents here I do not understand where this "positive" feedback is coming from. The whole thing is a disaster as far as I can see. I am not scared of or resistant to change but it has to be the right change. I am happy to be part of an agenda to improve how the Civil Service works and to root out poor performance and inefficiency. However, how is imposing a 10% poor performance target fair or equitable? Sure the aim should be to deal with poor performance wherever it sits and at what ever level, if it is 10%, 5% or 20%. Imposing an arbitrary line is a nonsense. This whole thing smacks of senior management being wholly disengaged from staffs on the ground who are impacted on by ill thought out change. Sir Bob, please talk to some real people.

  119. Comment by Sarah posted on

    The "bottom 10%" category is ridiculous. The fact that there HAS to be 10% of staff in that category leads managers to nit picking at staff and finding the smallest fault to be put in there. It’s completely unfair and has a very negative impact. Makes us feel like all the hard work we do is just disregarded while managers try to find fault with us as they have to meet this 10% quota. I think you'll find that there is probably only 1% of staff, if that, who would fall into the bottom category of "must improve". Forcing management to find another 9% is unfair on them as well as us. This needs changing now.

  120. Comment by Gillian posted on

    Sir Bob,
    I have read your latest blog with interest. Your first paragraph states - 'Feedback on this has been positive, and I’m very proud that we now have a system which reflects our values as well as our achievements'. Can I please ask that you 'evidence' who/where this positive feedback comes from as I have read all the responding 'blogs' and have not been able to identify any positive comments at all. Is the positive feedback you referred to being given by Senior Managers only? Surely, if you have received positive feedback then this should be available for staff to see, along with the negative comments made by staff, to protect your credibility. I understand that there is a need for a performance system and we should all be continously developing ourselves but, in my opinion, this appraisal system is dividing teams that previously worked so well together and will, in the long term, have a negative impact on targets. The exact opposite of the Department's aims - 'managing a quality service' & 'delivering at pace'. At a recent open forum with our Site Based Communications lead we were reassured that our concerns would be fed up to senior management, if this did indeed happen then it appears that our concerns have been totally disregarded. The majority of staff that work in the Department strive to provide a quality service to our customers are diligent and hard working, a workforce that should feel valued and motivated and indeed rewarded. The current appraisal system is demotivating, demoralising and counter productive. and does not, in my view, address any improvement needs or poor performance.

  121. Comment by Pete C. posted on

    The only way this system makes sense is if it designed to failitate staff cuts. From that point of view, it is neither absurd nor unworkable. It is not designed to accurately assess performance, but to bracket a "block" of staff that can be abandoned - perhaps to make privatization a more attractive prospect to would be investors (applicable to where I work).

    That is the bigger picture; an idealogical worship of the private sector, or another way to put it:

    "The end justifies the means"

  122. Comment by Tom Parr posted on

    Sir Bob,
    I found your blog profoundly dispiriting.
    If the feedback you receive suggests that PMR is positively perceived, then you need to question how that feedback is collated. In HMRC, PMR is universally regarded as a blunt instrument which has done nothing other than create a climate of fear and anxiety. We're becoming an organisation in which any dissentient opinion is viewed with suspicion with the result that ill advised initiatives aren't properly challenged. It's not healthy and it doesn't help us develop as an department. I see no evidence that PMR has improved any valid measure of performance; the only thing it has led to is an increased levels of staff dissatisfaction.

  123. Comment by Jean posted on

    Sir Bob
    I very much doubt any of our comments will make a change. This system has been imposed on us and it will stay until we have another change of leadership and another draconion idea for 'improving performance' emerges from some bright spark trying to impress. I did challenge the way this system had been worked out on my section and found the 10% had been taken from all Tier 4 caseworkers (excluding agency staff). The fact that the teams were dealing with different workstreams; ICW (an automated system which is apparently quicker); Paper stock work (which is more complex and can be up to 2 years old); Straight forward work (paper applications) seems to have been ignored in the assessment of the bottom 10%. You can only make a correct assessment of anything if the same thing is being worked on, using the same process and the same opportunities to succeed have been afforded (the football analogy is spot on). I have heard various explanations of what we have been assessed on, some say it is purely on stats some say it is on attitude and behaviour, I particularly object to being assessed in this way and most staff I speak too are of the same opinion but many are too scared of reprisals to speak out. The bottom 10% system as a whole is demoralising, devisive and demotivating.

  124. Comment by John Robinson posted on


    Not only is this system hated by anyone who has to complete it (that is anyone at the coal face with the balls to speak up) but as well as not being terribly fair it has also been mismanaged from a very high level.
    In MOD we did not get the first version of the form unitl well into the reporting period, we then received verison two of the form after the mid year review with extra forms to complete to provide evidence. Then ten months into the reporting period we received the training and guidance to complete the report effectively. Now at the end of the year we are mandated to complete and submit version three of the form and other aspects have changed.
    What a waste of time and resourses.

    This poses some very serious qusetions:-
    1. Is the system being managed or pushed out regardless
    2. How was the system trialed or are we all the trial
    3. Where is the clear support and guidance for managers
    4. Who is actually in charge of this 'train wreck' system delivery
    5. How can we set the guidlines for the year if we do not get the tools we need as managers before the start of the repoirting year
    6. How as managers can we sell this to staff if we do not have the information we need to understand the system fully.

    My current role is one of a project manager - if this was one of my projects it would have failed long ago due to poor communication, poor execution, late delivery and product not to the correct standard.

    As with everyone else from the 'coal face' on this blog I and all of my coleagues are upset, unhappy and greatly concerned by this new reporting system, this is regardless of what you are being told.

    Please please please take the time to actualy read these blogs and understand that the people who drive the service - at the coal face are not happy and as such cannot be as efficient as they feel they should be.

    • Replies to John Robinson>

      Comment by Kathy Barnes, Civilian HR Director MOD posted on

      I do understand that this is a significant change for MOD. Any new approach intended to address longstanding deficiencies in performance management will inevitably take time to work through – and there were clear problems with our old system. In 2012/13 only 1% of people were found to have any development needs within MOD. As I mentioned in my message on the Defence Intranet last week, experience elsewhere in Government gives me confidence that a more rigorous approach to performance management will lead to significant improvements to MOD as a whole and to the people who work here.

      Our PUS, Jon Thompson and his top Civil Service leadership group have overseen the work of the dedicated HR team who have developed the new processes in consultation with, and taking account of feedback from, representatives across MOD.

      There is a raft of supporting guidance available and a variety of communications, which should enable line managers to implement the new processes effectively. For example, we’ve recently published a special edition of Defence People looking at the end of year processes and have just completed a series of ‘roadshows’ in the main Defence locations, which have involved senior members of my team talking to Countersigning Officers to help them ensure they are fully prepared for the end of year.

      You mentioned issues with different versions of the PAR form. I can confirm that all versions of the report form will be accepted by Defence Business Services, who will provide the management information necessary to allow final moderation to take place. The outcome should be fairer assessments than has been the case in the past.

      • Replies to Kathy Barnes, Civilian HR Director MOD>

        Comment by John Robinson posted on


        Took me a while to calm down and reply as you have completely incensed me.
        You state that only 1% of people were identified as having training needs last year.
        We are constantly being told by Jon Thompson what a good job we are doing in difficult conditions and a changing environment.
        You then force this reporting system on us.
        Please read all of the evidence linked above as to why industry has binned this style of reporting - due to its negative effect on the workforce.

        Also we have been specificaly informed from DBS that only version 3 of the current reporting form will be acepted at end of year - double standards or more confucion.

        I refer you to one of my comments - My current role is one of a project manager – if this was one of my projects it would have failed long ago due to poor communication, poor execution, late delivery and product not to the correct standard.

        This rings even more true.

        By your very comments and the way you distance yourself from the workforce it is plain to see that management at your level do not care one jot about the rest of the lower grades.
        As you are on a similar reporting procedure are you now just providing the correct possitive feedback to your superiors in order to remian outside the bottom 5%

        This may seem to be dramatic to you but this is the level of felling in the workplace.
        Perhaps coming out of the ivory tower and out of london to the sticks every now and then to get a feel for life in all departments would help you create a much more complete picture of what is happening in MOD. better still stay in your office, read all comments in this blog and then make up your mind.

        If you really do believe that this system will work as you hope then please point everyone else to the evidence of where and when it has worked so we can evaluate this ourselves.
        Also please explain why we will have very similar issues in the next reporting year as I can only see cahnges coming when the 'lessons learned' are promulgated probably around December.
        It certainly makes line mangers roles more difficult
        Thaks for that

      • Replies to Kathy Barnes, Civilian HR Director MOD>

        Comment by Jeff posted on

        "In 2012/13 only 1% of people were found to have any development needs within MOD"

        Isn't that a good thing? Do you know for a fact that there are another 4% that need rooting out? Or are you just after another 4% to meet a spurious quota? You should be proud that MOD falls far short of the 'guide' Sir Bob gives for poor performance across the CS in general.

      • Replies to Kathy Barnes, Civilian HR Director MOD>

        Comment by John Robinson posted on


        Thankyou for explaining the system and who is responsible for its role out.
        However you have completely failed to answer any of the concerns and issues raised in this blog either by myself or the many other posts here.
        As for the info to help complete the PMR - this has only just come on line so not much use for therest of the year.
        You may also like to talk to the rest of your department because I was told that only issue 3 of the form would be accepted not as you say any of the forms.

        Can I also ask why you beleive that only finding 1% who need traiining is incorrect. we have done so much downsizing over the years that there is no fat left in the system to trim.

        Can we actualy get some answers to help or not.
        If not then what is the point of the blog.

        I would lie to quote you a poem, written by a soldier long ago which sums up the possition in MOD very well:

        We are the willing
        Led by the unknowing
        Doing the impossible
        For the ungrateful
        We have done so much
        With so little
        For so long
        We are now qualified
        To do anything
        With nothing

        Please listen to your staff, their concerns and be a senior mangeer and look after thsoe below you.

  125. Comment by Jon Lane posted on

    When the Civil Service does its weekly shopping, it follows a cracking new strategy: It selects only the 'value' products (it does of course have to mind the purse strings) but then returns 10% of them with a complaint, such as "The 'cream' on this sherry trifle contains vegetable fat" and "The cuts of beef in this meat pie are clearly not prime".
    Oddly, since the new strategy has been introduced, the shop manager has each week become less and less apologetic, his response changing from "I'm sorry to hear that the product does not meet your exacting standards, through "You do get what you pay for, you know" to "I really think you should consider shopping elsewhere".
    Fortunately the Service does not take a similar approach with its staff. Although it still shops at the 'value' end of the market, it accepts that as long as you have a clear idea of what 'good enough' represents, especially for staff doing a thankless job that few people, especially senior civil servants, would be prepared to do, the public is getting what it pays for.

  126. Comment by Gillian Dean posted on

    Sir Bob,
    I have read your latest blog with interest. Your first paragraph states - 'Feedback on this has been positive, and I’m very proud that we now have a system which reflects our values as well as our achievements'. Can I please ask that you 'evidence' who/where this positive feedback comes from as I have read all the responding 'blogs' and have not been able to identify any positive comments at all. Is the positive feedback you referred to being given by Senior Managers only? Surely, if you have received positive feedback then this should be available for staff to see, along with the negative comments made by staff, to protect your credibility. I understand that there is a need for a performance system and we should all be continously developing ourselves but, in my opinion, this appraisal system is dividing teams that previously worked so well together and will, in the long term, have a negative impact on targets. The exact opposite of the Department's aims - 'managing a quality service' & 'delivering at pace'. At a recent open forum with our Site Based Communications lead we were reassured that our concerns would be fed up to senior management, if this did indeed happen then it appears that our concerns have been totally disregarded. The majority of staff that work in the Department strive to provide a quality service to our customers are diligent and hard working, a workforce that should feel valued and motivated. The current appraisal system is demotivating, demoralising and counter productive. And does not, in my view, address improvement needs or poor performance.

  127. Comment by Malo Harvey posted on

    I agree with all the above comments which I think on any objective assessment would be called "negative". My main reason for being negative is that guidance in Department of Health is quite clear that each Directorate must have 10% of staff in "need improvement" category. When challenged about this, our SCS go all sheepish and try to say "no, that won't happen" and talk like a second-hand car salesman. I have never known senior civil servants be so shifty, but clearly they are embarassed.
    I have spoken to one senior HR person who told me they had no idea what the figure of "need improvement" would be in DH. That just does not fit the written guidance.
    I know of an HEO in my Directorate who has been told by his line manager that he has done a good job, just like he did last year, but his annual marking is down because an HEO in another part of the Directorate has done slightly better than he. That is not tackling "poor performance", that is just a numbers game and it is plain wrong. The Department of Health is being dishonest with its staff.
    Finally, I do not know where Sir Bob is getting all that "positive" feedback from ??

  128. Comment by Andy posted on

    Mr Kerslake,
    PMR is the greatest case of Corporate Bullying I have ever seen

  129. Comment by Fay Donaldson posted on

    Cleverly written piece. I'm sure feedback on assessing against both behaviours and outcomes rather than just outcomes has been positive, this is a good change and should have come about. However, thats the most praise I can give the new system. Despite earlier responses, HMRC has forced the distribution to ensure a minimum of 10% of staff fall into the must improve category. I appreciate some staff may need improvement, however, I don't believe it is necessary, true or appriopriate that the lowest performing 10% of staff automatically fall into the must improve category. I believe you can be doing a perfectly good job but still be within one of the lowest 10% of achievers, why must the 2 (must improve and bottom10%) be so intrinsincally linked?

    Private sector companies have moved away from the idea of grading staff against each other, having found it leads to a demotivated workforce with little or no team spirit and capacity for joint working. The push within the civil service is to become 'thought leaders' - taking forward innovative and unproven ideas for technology and working practices so why are we using such an old and obviously flawed system to assess, motivate and (supposedly) reward our staff? Is this just another cynically implemented mechanism to decrease head count? If so you need to realise it is our highest performing staff who will be first to jump ship to a more rewarding environment.

  130. Comment by Doug W posted on

    I read with amusement your description of the new performance management system with classic misleading descriptions such as "Feedback on this has been positive", you have obviously been getting your "feedback" from a chosen few.
    The one that I found most ridiculous and deceptive however was "a consistent model across our organisation".
    This flawed system is as far from being "consistent" as it is possible to be. It is entirely subjective and makes it more than possible for those who are underperforming to finish in the "top 25%" and those who are doing a good job to finish in the "bottom 10%". If it really was consistent, then most of high and top level management would have had their P45 before now.
    I am delighted to be taking your money and getting out of this shambolic organisation at the end of March.

  131. Comment by Rebecca posted on

    It seems that the Performance Appraisal system changes every two or three years and, in my opinion, this is not one of the better versions. I found it rather challenging to complete the forms in the right way and found the former objective based forms more straightforward. I for one can't wait until someone reviews it again and replaces it with yet another new version.

  132. Comment by Antonio Acuna posted on

    This is interesting, going by my experience using this system at Defra, the demoralisation that it garnered there was staggering, it may not be the tune HR and senior managers sold, but for the 99% left, it was an abysmal failure.

    Stack rating has been largely abandoned by the private sector and has in fact, rather publicly, been identified, as one of the driving internal failures that made Microsoft loose a decade of market leadership

    This evidence is not tangential, stack ranking has been directly linked with failure, loss of trust amongst employees and an procedural inability to distinguish between different types of high performance (comparing a successful salesperson with a successful lawyer, because they both fall under a unit and are moderated together, where differentiators used to trim down candidates to the allotted number allowed can be as silly as ' John did the same thing as Eloise, but Eloise did it with a smile - and this is from a moderation I attended in the past, real stuff).

    performance has two aspects, the personal aspect, that is, my boss feeling satisfied that I am doing a good enough job or not and the corporate status of actually being one of the best across the business. Achieving that is a hard process and many people truly try to be fair, but the system imposed (stack ranking,managed curve, etc) makes it impossible to arrive at a fair outcome.

    take 5 Nobel prize winners in different fields, put them through a stack ranking process and at least one, by virtue of the system, must come out a poor performer or at best a middle box and there is no way all could be top performers, although in fact they are.

    Hopefully proper thinking could be done this time around by those above, to make sure that A) Those who truly are not performing at an acceptable level can be dealt with accordingly B) Those who may be facing issues that make them poor performers get the help they need to improve and those who are outperforming get recognition

  133. Comment by Sarah posted on

    I work in the MOD and have been tasked as a reporting officer for 12 staff, not one of whom was previously known to me, is in my business area, does a job that I have any pre-existing knowledge of, or is even in my immediate geographical location. The staff on whom I report are dispersed over two counties with 6 line managers between them. To be fair to my group and visit them at least twice during the reporting year, at the mid and and of report point, as well as meeting with their Line Managers (who, at the end of the day, are the only ones able to accurately assess performance), I need to take a minimum of 10 days out of my work schedule. Something has to give - and it is my annual leave. The system, as operated in my department, simply does not work.

  134. Comment by Ruth posted on

    i've never been so demoralised in 25 years as a civil servant. I've witnessed colleagues and managers more than happy to throw others under the bus to protect themselves. I've seen previous top performers now languishing in or near the bottom 10%. I don't know of anyone who is in the top 20%.

    Positive feedback - sorry I can't think of any to give you.

    • Replies to Ruth>

      Comment by Team Player posted on

      Agreed Ruth, after the same amount of time - I'm off. I cant take any more. Sad. Very sad. I am a top performer (scored as such not just opinionated), I love a challenge and change. I have been scoring my staff on objectives and behaviours before it became fashionable, but will not doubt not be listened to as I will be deem negative.

  135. Comment by Another Ed posted on

    Staff get cut so you're left with the staff who perform well. Then you arbitarily decide 10% of them must be performing badly anyway. And then you brag about positive feedback received from someone clearly afraid of being dumped in the bottom 10% (but probably deserves to be).

  136. Comment by David posted on

    As the comments already submitted indicate, you'd have to go a very long way to find people who view this system positively, and if it really reflects the values of the Civil Service, it doesn't say much for those values. The comment in the blog ascribing any unhappiness to people getting used to change is frankly insulting to staff - falls in the same category as referring to the confiscation of accrued rights as 'reform' and to worse terms and conditions that penalise ambition as 'modernised'.

    I have worked within this type of peformance system in Defra and then DECC for several years, and it is pretty much universally regarded as counterproductive and a drag on performance. Relative appraisal, particularly with a forced distribution (and it is always forced - the 'guided' bit means at best some minor flexibility at the margin) destroys honest communication with staff and therefore undermines the whole point of performance discussions. It makes staff reluctant to admit to anything going less than perfectly or to development needs, and managers hesitant to record such things for staff they believe are doing a good job. Even worse when the outcomes are linked to pay and to selection for redundancy (as they were in BIS for example). I have sat in many moderation meetings now and know how team leaders (myself included) will seize on any indication of weakness in others' appraisal reports to try to make the appallingly arbitrary distinctions that the system requires and get a less-bad result for their own people. The effect on morale for most members of staff has been consistently grim - most people who do a good job do so by trying to get over the system and concentrate on the things that have always motivated them as civil servants (desire to do a good job for the sake of self-esteem and to serve the public, desire for the respect of our peers and managers etc). But relative appraisal does make it a whole lot harder to get our people to do a good job...

  137. Comment by BIlly D posted on

    I'd just like to thank all those civil servants who reported that 'poor performance is not dealt with effectively' for giving senior management the license to apply forced distribution. Years of hard work and loyalty and I'm now lumped in with miscreants based on hazy management perceptions and anecdotal evidence. Bitter is not the word. Development opportunities in a time of austerity and downsizing? Laughable.

    • Replies to BIlly D>

      Comment by ARC member posted on

      "Years of hard work and loyalty and I'm now lumped in with miscreants based on hazy management perceptions and anecdotal evidence."

      Could Sir Bob and HR directors reading this thread please take note of comments like this? I don't think I've seen a better summary.

      This is the system you are imposing and championing in a nutshell.

  138. Comment by Caroline posted on

    I dare say Sir Bob will be most gratified by this outpouring of positive and supportive comments in favour of the new system.

  139. Comment by Mark posted on

    I have three points or concerns to raise:

    1) The fact that the "bottom 10%" is guidance not forced has not been properly received by all management. It is being widely misinterpreted as a quota and there is a danger it will implemented on the ground as such.
    I have had numerous meetings with fellow managers where there is talk about how people will be marked down in order to meet the 10% "quota".
    This may indeed not be the intent, but that is what is happening in practice. The message is clearly not being received correctly for whatever reason.

    2) There is also a degree of cynicism (which I share) that the 10% underperformance band will be used as a justification to withhold any pay increases from 10% of workforce and therefore save enormous amounts of money. In my organisation (MHRA) we were told that there the performance management scheme would have no impact on pay, but on futher reading I found that it will indeed have pay implications which is gravely worrying.

    3) I believe there is often not fair equality in how people are evaluated, with higher grades and more senior managers receiving far more leniancy or praise than justifiable. This may be due to their own managers having less understanding of their real performance and day to day work (for example a director will likely receive most of his information through the managers directly under him and so be oblivious as to how those managers performance/behaviour are impacting those below.)

  140. Comment by Lynn Brown posted on

    "Disgruntled and disillusioned" what on earth is a "monthly one to one reports" as I have never heard of it? MoD is behind the curve again I suppose! We have had pretty much zero support from HR. And yes everything is imposed or forced it seems.

  141. Comment by Jon posted on

    I am getting increasingly concerned about unwarranted positive spin being put on negative aspects of the civil service. There was a time our senior managers could be trusted to make a statement based on evidence they have to hand. In this respect where are the facts to support your “positive” statement? In my experience it does not reflect the view of the vast majority of staff who can speak freely.
    The transition from the civil service being lead by experts within their organisation to "yes men/women" has been a rapid and worrying trend. I work for HMRC and I've just found out the number of cases I'm expected to open next year is to double. Targets in certain parts of the business have gone from demanding (which is positive) to unachievable (which is negative) but this message is not being fed back up the chain largely because of the PMR process. The reason being staff/managers are concerned they will be seen as negative if this message (or any other) is fed back and this may mean they fall into the improvement needed banding.
    My concern on a personal level is some of those people falling in the bottom 10% will be competent and working to the best of their abilities but for reasons out of their control they are forced into the improvement needed bracket. What sort of effect will this have on morale?
    Ultimately this banding has been introduced for a reason and I suspect the reason is two fold;
    1. The long term plan would be for the Civil Service to use this to reduce numbers in a “cost effective” way. Staff may feel this won’t apply to them now but at some stage over their career (and lets not forget we’ll be working until we’re nearly 70) its statistically almost inevitable you’ll fall into that bottom 10% at some stage.
    2. By setting us unachievable targets whilst at the same time reducing staff numbers this opens up the opportunity to privatise certain areas of the civil service.
    The only people within the Civil Service that I’ve heard put a positive spin on the PMR process are those at the top. I suspect that’s because they are tasked with reducing staff numbers, achieving targets they signed up to and (it also seems) putting a positive spin on everything good/bad. The process has certainly not been seen positively by the majority of staff.
    I suggest an anonymous poll on the matter should be commissioned and any future statement be based upon the outcome. This would enable the civil service to properly assess the process, its impact on staff and outputs and base future statements on fact and not conjecture.

  142. Comment by Frances posted on

    I've never felt quite as unhappy as I do working here now. Ive been in the Civil Service for 18years. This is from a point of view of being a member of staff being assessed by my Manager and assessing staff as a Manager myself. My staff deliver a good days work, granted they dont all have the same skills at the same levels but just as a team should do they compliment each other and the 'team' effort is stronger than the individual. I, while what I perform is excellent (my managers words, not mine) the way I perform (or rather the way I challenge things that affect myself, my team, the customer) will always see me fall short of exceeded. We are being forced to meet the distribution at the bottom end, these people aren't poor performers they are core staff who deliver their key work objectives with a smile on their face and I doubt the same dogged persistence will be used to meet the 'suggested' exceeded distribution!

  143. Comment by Neil posted on

    Well the PMR doesn't seem to be universally fair, consistant & raising overall effectiveness as Sir Bob seems to have been told it is. I see there's no appeal against a half year review box marking but there is for a full year review I must point out that I didn't get a start of the year review either.
    Looking at the "bonus" one is awarded if one get an Exceeded marking, it's hardly an inspiring amount, but a "Must Improve" marking is no doubt seen as more of a badge of shame by the individual awarded it just because they fell into the bottom 10% - whether they deserve it or not, usually not.

    • Replies to Neil>

      Comment by Peter Middleman posted on

      Spot on. Funny how the "my department doesn't deal with poor performers effectively" outcomes always seem to get priority action over entirely legitmate complaints about pay, career progression, resources, job quality, senior management performance and so on.

      The utter detatchment from reality demonstrated above by Sir Bob and his SCS apologists does nothing to reassure staff that their concerns about this divisive and damaging performance management will be recognised or taken seriously.

      I've designed appraisal systems that are objective, developmental and, if decoupled from pay, ultimately rewarding. This system is none of those things and the only correct response is to scrap it.

  144. Comment by Peter G Kane posted on

    Chris Last's comments indicate just why we are in this predicament. A failure to grasp the fundamentals of human nature. Why are colleagues going to advise what worked for them when they are in direct competition? Why are managers going to all the trouble of lifting improvers out of the imposed distribution range when at the end of the day it will come down to a horse trade as to which poor sap will end up needs improvement. Similarly at the top end of the scale what influence will a manger have when in a group considering the representations across disparate teams and job holders that have been shoe horned into validation groups. Is it only the sycophants in the SCS who are so blind as to make the sort of comments we see from Mr Last whilst ignoring the simple mathematical result of having imposed distributions. As I suggested Sir Bob if you wish to have any level of credibility with civil servants you need to open your eyes and listen to what is happening on the ground. Will PMR provide a real performance shift across the civil service? I know what the workers reply will be.

  145. Comment by Concerned posted on

    Staff have been made aware they are in direct competition with each other. I fail to see how this helps teams work together and support each other. The amount of manhours it takes to administer and deal with the new system is absurd and it has had a profoundly negative effect on morale for staff and managers. The system is absolutely hated and it astonishes me that anyone could think the staff survey shows positive feedback. The Staff survey can be interpreted anyway a statistician wishes to, the questions are poorly worded - why not ask an unambiguous question in the next staff survey 'do you think the appraisal system is fair' and then see the response.

  146. Comment by Ray H posted on

    The PMR system is counterintuitive it is predicated on personal performance objectives which discourages team work. The system is very time consuming and relies too much on printed paper copies which drives up cost. The system is not standardised and the curve system is dubious at best, the marking system is bias.

  147. Comment by Alexis Bailey posted on

    I find the PMR process time consuming and stressful, and have certainly not heard any positive feedback from colleagues. If only a certain number of people can be 'exception' then some people are likely to be unfairly marked down. I've heard the manager's moderation meeting described as a bun fight where those who shout the loudest get the best results for their staff.

    A statistical analysis of DCLG's 2008/09 box markings by consultants Mott MacDonald showed significant ‘potential bias’ in the award of the ‘exceeded’ box mark by grade, ethnicity, disability, working pattern and age. The report revealed that white staff are 65% more likely to receive an ‘exceeded’ marking than their BME colleagues. I'm not aware of any action that's been taken to address this potential bias and would be interested to hear if anything is being done about it.

  148. Comment by David Nicholas posted on

    Leaving PMR to one side for a moment ..... what is alarming here is that it is clear that the true feelings about this system are not being communicated upwards and I'm afraid that is down to a culture of fear.
    i heard of one conference where a solitary manager had the courage to stand up and say that this system would not deliver the outcomes hoped for. No one supported him .... until the next tea break apparently where his colleagues unanimously congratulated him on his intervention.
    Of course the outcome will be that the business leaders at the event could dismiss these views as a lone voice. To be honest I can't blame all those other managers for not speaking up because they exist in the same culture and it is doubtful whether anything will change despite everyone expressing their views honestly be they at conferences, in staff surveys or on this forum ..... so why get shot for no reason!
    Unfortunately the result of this from an organisational point of view leaders will become increasingly remote from the organisation they lead

  149. Comment by James posted on

    Purely at a statistical level the concept that 10% of all civil servants need to improve their performance is probably a valid argument. However the way this is being applied in practice by "encouraging" individual departments, divisions and teams to each take on a 10% quota is fundamentally flawed.

    10% of 100,000 Civil Servants probably need to improve. 10% of a specific group of 1,000 Civil Servants may need to improve. But saying that exactly 10% of a team of 10 staff need to improve prior to reviewing performance is bound to generate erroneous results on a frequent basis.

    I have seen examples where staff have been given a lower performance rating than their manager thinks they deserve just to meet the quota. I have had this confirmed to me off the record by a number of managers involved, though the official response from senior management is that there is no quota and that performance should be measured on an individual basis.

    How can giving training to line managers about making fair assessments work if senior managers are going to continue putting pressure on them behind the scenes to meet an unofficial quota?

  150. Comment by Lee posted on

    I agree with 99% of the posters on this blog, probably only Sir Bob and Chris the HR chap who differ from the general thrust. But I would be interested to know Sir Bob's and Chris's opinion on the 140 (and counting) other posters. Are they committed Civil Servants who just want to do their job and serve the public to the best of their ability. Or are they a minority of negative cynical subversives, desperate to try and derail this new system which will find them out for the "poor performers" that they really are.

  151. Comment by JED posted on

    There seem to be a fair few professionals commenting on the issue of guided not forced distribution but my question is why have a guided distribution in the first place? why would managers need 'guiding' towards an appropriate proportion of staff in each category. To back up the comment that its guided and not forced is surprisingly naive and shows no understanding of how our minds really work. I can guarantee that the 'guide' will have an immediate effect on the proportion of people in each category with departments working up to that percentage. indeed, having sat in moderation panels, that is exactly what happens. People are anchored by the 'guide' and simply work up to that number. I would love for someone to provide a sensible rationale for the existence of guided distribution other than only having a finite amount of money becasue if thats the answer, there are other solutions.

    However, there is a more corrosive effect at work here. When we approach mid / end year reviews, people end up playing a positioning game, making themselves and their actions more visible. Their actions are driven not be efficiency but self interest. There is a jostling for position which can only lead to reduced levels of co-operation, sharing and in the end, trust.

    I am not a disgruntled employee, i was placed in the top category but can still see the negative effects on what is actually a performance management system that is diametrically opposed to the most recent psychological research into human motivation.

    Finally, i would add that the terminology we use in our performance management system is also unhelful. what kind of message does it send if you 'must improve'......must? what? or else? or else what?...its not the language of a supportive system but a punitive one. A new employee finding themselves in the lower catergory simply becasue they have not got up to speed yet may find them selves in 'must improve'.

    Its actually quite baffling how a government department in 2014 in one of if not the most developed country in the world with all of the research at our fingertips can get things so wrong. I'm not even being facetious, it is genuinely baffling.

  152. Comment by Barry posted on

    There are some very honest and constructive comments, and have to say I am committd to my job, but have seen the stress in colleagues and tensions increase substantially since the introduction of the new PMR system, and have not personally heard a positive comment, it has caused increased anxiety levels and fractured working relations pitting staff against each other, even amongst line managers who are almost apologetic for having to enforce the new system, possibly in fear of being marked down themselves, and concerned about speaking out, in fear of being given a ‘must improve’ as a punitive measure. I’m sorry to have to say this but this is the reality within HMRC anyway. There is an increasing disconnect between senior management/inner-circle structures, and staff G6/7 staff and below, even at SCS levels.

    Regardless as to how it is dressed up a 'must improve' marking is taken, and seen as one not being up to the job (it also needs to be declared on any job application within the CS). It has devastating consequences on morale and self- confidence, which flows into performance, evidenced by staff surveys, staff forum comments, resignations/ early retirements, even strike action by senior staff which is unusual.

    I now work with some of the brightest diligent colleagues I have ever known during my career, in both the public and private sectors, and I'm genuinely saddened to witness the effects of this system on an important organisation, which should to motivate performance by developing passion and pride in the socially responsible work we carry out within the civil service, being very different in many ways form the private sector, which has other forms of incentives and opportunities to motivate staff, often attracting different people, with different aspirations than those working within public service.

  153. Comment by Kev posted on

    Dear Sir Bob,

    One of the common criticisms of the Senior Civil Service during the 70's, 80's and 90's by its employees centred around how out of touch they were with the pulse of the general workforce. You may see it as an "achievement" to have a single staff appraisal model throughout the Civil Service, but the workforce's most reviled system in years clearly demonstrates that senior Civil Servants have made no progress in closing that gap. However, all is not lost. Given that the proportion of senior Civil Servants to the rest of its workforce is roughly 10%............well, I think you can see where I'm going with that.

  154. Comment by David | Cyncial and Fed Up posted on

    Does anybody here really believe that Sir Bob actually writes these blog posts himself, let alone reads the responses?

    If I'm wrong and you are reading this, and all the other comments, Sir Bob, it would be wonderful to see you reply, and quickly, right here in the comments stream.

  155. Comment by Teresa posted on

    I have spent some time reading all these comments and felt quite sad as a result. Do our senior leaders in the Cabinet Office actually know what is happening in departments and how people are feeling? Do they care? Are we being pushed into implementing changes too quickly without having time at a departmental level to work through the impact of change and how people are feeling? Does that matter: well, yes it does because we need motivated and committed people in the Civil Service, performing to a high standard to deliver public services. Does being labelled "Must Improve" feel motivating, when a different label - "Needs Development" - might have been a more constructive way of dealing with gaps for some people? Everyone has development needs, some more than others, and there will also be some whose performance is poor or unacceptable and firm action must be taken. Equally, people recognise that some people are better than others - not everyone is outstanding (although we should strive and be encouraged to be so). There are many aspects of the new performance management system that are excellent but these have been overshadowed by an insistence from the centre that we must adhere to an inflexible timeframe and approach and a failure to compromise on elements that might have avoided some of the reaction reflected in the comments of contributors here. For change to be successful, there needs to be ownership - and this is lacking here. We should not ignore that way that people are feeling about this - even if some people are happy with the new system, many are not and this needs to be accepted and addressed by all senior leaders.

  156. Comment by David Rennie posted on

    Sadly, Mr Kerslake will ignore the above comments.

  157. Comment by Mars posted on

    Some of the highlights of the MOD version of the new system, from the point of view of the staff on the ground. A Reporting Officer (RO) you had never met before, who doesn’t understand your work and visits a few times a year. Dumbing down of objectives to accommodate the RO’s lack of understanding. Different methods of recording evidence depending on where in the MOD you work – nothing like a joined up system. Hours agonising over the minuscule word allowance for each competence/objective – use of a home grown evidence form has been mandated. Teamwork now second place to personal glory. Stress and tears in the office. Maintaining defensive logs against RO’s & Line Manager’s ‘just in case’ - and this is people who should really have no worries about finishing in the bottom percentile!

    Make no mistake, there is a mandated ‘bottom 5%’ which will be met, our ROs are working to ensure this. Never has a reporting system been so unpopular with both staff and management. Well done Sir Bob, quite an achievement, perhaps it’s time to consider your own performance?

  158. Comment by Robert posted on

    I suggest that anyone who finds themselves in the 'must improve category', consider i) joining a trade union and take out a grievance, or ii) gather your evidence and consider taking out a grievance.

    Remember, throughout the reporting cycle, any requirements to 'improve' must have been spelt out, backed up by management notes which you are entitled to inspect. You should have had regular meetings/discussions at regular intervals. Of course, your objectives were agreed 12 months or so ago -this is requirement of effective management.

    • Replies to Robert>

      Comment by Charity (not in HR or Policy just one of the workers) posted on

      Since when does "needing to improve" in one of more aspect of ones job suddenly equate to having formal "Restoring Efficiency" action? This system has certainly not been received well and is potentially a huge number of grievances waiting to happen, but the idea being put about by some staff that a Box 3 means "Restoring Efficiency" and the sack is frustrating the heck out of me.

      A Box 3 very well might mean that at some point an individual will be on "Restoring Efficiency" and you are correct, John that Restoring Efficiency should come as no surprise to anyone. But a PIP is not the same thing at all.

      I might be naive but I have no fear of a PIP. If I end up in the bottom 5% then I will welcome a PIP - if only that it would ensure that the management chain had to engage with me about my work load and how I could go about tackling it better.

      My problem with the new systm is the way that it has been rolled out in the MOD. The policy feels incomplete and has therefore been drip fed. A lot of people have ended up very confused and have filled in the gaps in the policy from their own imagination at times. I have heard people saying that the bottom 5% will be sacked or put on Restoring Efficiency. I dont believe this for a second but I would happily support anyone who ended up on Restoring Efficiency *purely* as a result of being identified as bottom 5% and I would assist them in drafting their grievance. But if you end up in the bottom 5% and on a PIP then crack on and work with your line manager.

      Noone is perfect and I'm certainly not. And I believe most people can improve in at least some aspects of their achievement of objectives or competence behaviours.

      So in summary, in my opinion the new system is a good idea just very poorly implemented

  159. Comment by Richard posted on

    Whe I read the first paragraph of the blog, I thought that it was April Fools day! Were you told that feedback on the system was positive at the Head of Departments event that you mentioned a few weeks ago? Everyone that I have spoken to in my department really has disdain for this system. It is not because of change that it is so disliked, and I think it is rather disingenuous to suggest that it is; to be frank, we've seen so many variations on a theme over the last few years in the Home Office (including a very short-lived version of guided ranking) that I think we are used to change! It is primarily because of the issue over the "guided" rankings and the time that is spent on such a bureaucratic system at mid and end year. In many peoples' eyes this outweighs the benefits of the "what" and the "how", both of which I actually believe are positive elements of the system. As many have indicated, the "Lower 10%" marking is very demotivating. Poor performers are no longer included in this category in our organisation which means that more of those who have a satisfactory marking will surely be drawn into that rating. NO system is perfect as it so often depends on those operating it. But so many of us believe that this system is less perfect than others. Performance is not solely managed by use of a system. It is managed by people and they need the skills and confidence to deal with performance issues. Maybe this is where you should be directing your attention when you talk about driving up performance.

  160. Comment by Sue posted on

    Sir Bob

    'Going above and beyond' - does this mean that as an AO year on year I will have to 'improve' until I am working at the level of a Grade 7 (but being paid as an AO!) and 'running not walking' to enable me to achieve a 'good' performance marking and break out of the 10% at the bottom end. Where is the cut off point?

  161. Comment by Stuart Leach posted on

    I can only speak for the section I work at HMCTS Fine Enforcement
    It was obvious from the start that Management did not understand the new Performance Management [PMR] they probably did not want to say as such to their own line management for fear of appearing inept, and I suspect this has been the case from the very top down.
    The only people who understand this type of speak e.g." capability for all" are the training gurus who constantly attempt to re invent and re hash Denning and Jung with the latest heavy Toyota influence.
    Toyota I remind you is manufacturing and marketing company and not all manufacturing and marketing concepts and control processes can be simply dovetailed into the civil service. Having worked for a manufacturing and marketing company these concepts are not new to me as I did many training sessions on them in the early 1990's.

    The many PowerPoint scripted briefs we received on PM and the PMR were read to us stating in October 2013 Not one staff member understood them and most were not even relevant. I and others asked for an example, [not a UN reasonable request] to be told NO.
    Eventually we completed the PMR form, the form its self would not expand when you wrote in it, so we had to cut and paste and try to add additional box’s to write in, personally If I were a manager I would have thrown it back at that point and ask that it be fixed by the person who conceived it.
    We soldered on - I have lost count of the amount of times we have all had to go back and "tweak" the thing, eventually in December it was decided the form content including objectives was incorrect for all of us, and we had another one issued. We had to start all over again- we could not even cut and paste in most instances from the original PMR form to the new PMR form, as the context of the "What & "How" objectives has substantially changed.

    So we all started again in late December. In early January we all had our one to ones again to see if any "tweaks" were required - guess what! They were and for ALL of us
    too. So either we are ALL inept - which I very much doubt or the whole concept is seriously flawed.

    If this is a standard PMR for ALL the civil service I can only presume that you ALL have the same experience and ALL had the PMR form and contents changed?
    What an absolute waste of time and tax payers money MY money too and also ALL of YOURS.
    If you were lucky and did not have a change of PMR form midway through the exercise then “What” happened to the standard PMR that we should all be working to across the Civil service.

    We have also had our review meetings continually cancelled and moved to another day, as there is no free office or someone is off. I am sorry to say this but if I have a date for a review then my expectation is that I have my review on that date, sadly you don’t exceed my expectations in this matter, and you don’t even meet them!!
    If it’s not important for management to keep the pre arranged PM review date, then guess "What" it’s not important to me either, and it’s as simple as that.
    With the picture you are painting and the lack of clarity and cohesion "How" do you expect my thought process to be any different?
    I may also add we have not had a pay rise in over 3 years.
    Our enforcement section of HMCTS is up for sale - many 1000's of us wont even be in the civil service shortly - having worked for a blue chip company in the private sector for over 25 years I for one can not wait to get back to the private sector.

    All of us can complete the PMR until the end of time, but we wont get a pay rise based on it, we wont get a bonus based on it [or not one worth while] we will get nothing, and then sold off. "How" realistic or credible is it - to even think any of us actually care. I for one don’t...
    This is very SAD - it means you have not sold it to me, and my own personal experience of completing it has been heavily tainted to say the very least. Will this cure poor performance? In my opinion NO.
    It has been introduced in the vein attempt to help those managers who find it difficult to tackle poor performance [probably the majority of managers in the civil service]

    One thing I have learnt in over 39 years of working - 10 years of which have been in HMCTS only about 5 years for the Civil service. The Civil service use knee jerk reaction for a transient employer [The Government] - which changes every 4 years, and changes its mind almost daily as do the civil service. It wastes’ huge obscene amounts of my money as a Tax payer, and then wrings its hands and claims its better to privatise, as the private sector are better and more experienced at doing the job, what a damming indictment to admit that despite all the money all the managers all the training all the systems and infrastructure YOU still can not get it right so lets sell it off.

    • Replies to Stuart Leach>

      Comment by Chris Ball [HR Director, HMCTS] posted on

      Thanks for your feedback Stuart. We had a quick call to talk through where this has gone wrong for you and more importantly, what would be helpful in getting this right.

      We talked about removing the jargon in the new material and forms. We did test all three of the Performance Management training sessions and supporting materials with a cross section of MOJ staff (including HMCTS Voice of the Customer representatives) and our implementation team have been responding throughout year to feedback from staff and line managers about clear guidance and a simpler form. The form now expands to allow more text to be entered and we have some examples available now. I'm sorry that you don't wish to be part of a user group to help us continually improve but the team would welcome any more feedback at:

      We talked about the outsourcing of the Compliance and Enforcement Service and I was pleased to hear that you are being kept informed of progress. I appreciate that this may mean that you won't see the benefits a full year of the new performance management process but I hope you'll agree that should not be a reason to treat you differently.

  162. Comment by Judith posted on

    I would like to open up a discusion around feedback. We have been encouraged to seek feedback and this was emphasised in the end of year PMR presentation to everyonein the department. Since then a small industry seems to have emerged! My view is that feedback is something that underpins performance throughout the year and it should be meaningful, constructive and timely. I am also of the view that unsolicited feedback is worth more that the solicited requests that seem to coincide with the end of year appraisals. I speak from experience having received a number of requests about events that took place some time ago. I have seen colleagues in a real dilemna where their manager has asked for feedback. Really do you really expect any of your team members to say that your time management needs to improve, you're never available and now that you've asked you seem to be incapable of making a decision! It doesn't even appear to be optional and puts the indivividual in an unenviable position. On the other hand you may think that the manager is being 'honest' in seeking feedback but this should be throughout the year so that you can act on that feedback. Not as it appears to me as an end of year exercise to take as evidence. Feedback is important and maybe we need to get better at giving and receiving feedback and more realistic. But lets be genuine not just at the end of the year as part of an exercise.

  163. Comment by Andy Scripture posted on

    Albeit a newcomer to the Civil Service (6 months), I am a bit older (52) and have some experience in both private and public sectors, Performance management is an extremely important tool in improving standards, and needn't be overly onerous. The 20/70/10 system was devised by Jack Welch, who turned General Electric from a loss-making joke of a company into what it is today (incidentally, the 20% got a bonus, the 70% were acknowledged and the 10% were sacked). Those of you who say that it has been discredited are partly right - it isn't appropriate for an organisation where everyone is performing well, or for really small groups. Does that describe the Civil Service? Good PM systems require proper engagement by all parties - I spent about three hours preparing for my one-to-one, my line manager was also prepared and we had an interview that lasted about 30 minutes, was very helpful and a good steer for the forthcoming year. It is for the individual to prepare evidence of performance - it isn't hard or time-consuming and if I don't take an active interest in my career, why should anyone else? The Janus face of this is that lazy, incompetent or disinterested managers will have a fairly major problem if they underrate you in the face of the evidence you produce - if I produced evidence showing I was a high-performer, but was graded in the bottom 10%, would I just accept it or would I escalate it? The best way to demotivate good people is to fail to address underperformance. Although the lazy should fear this, the people with most to worry about are poor managers - their performance includes motivating and improving their people, so failing to do so will bring them to unwelcome attention.

    • Replies to Andy Scripture>

      Comment by billy d posted on

      I find it rather unnerving that such a draconian system is being implemented on BIS while ineffective managers exist. By the time that manager is tackled somebody could already be out of a job. PMR is not a precise science and therein lies the danger. Jack's system is a disaster which sadly the Cabinet office are forcing on everybody to get rid of people on the cheap. We all recognise the hidden agenda.

  164. Comment by Darknorth posted on

    When I look for my previous comment I am still greeted with the message "Your comment is awaiting moderation." although I sent it in quite some time ago.

    Although it was not insulting or offencive, perhaps it was a bit close to the mark?

    The fact is that there are serious problems with the PMR system but higher management don't seem to hear negative feedback, or don't want to.

    How much negative feedback will it take before something is done about PMR?

  165. Comment by David posted on

    Dear Bob
    I'm sorry but many Managers will feel if they don't fill the bottom 10% then they themselves are being questioned. The message is not always clear on this. Today on the front of DWP homepage we have a message from Debbie Alder which includes the comment about the 10% box. ‘Must Improve’ will be a mixed category that includes people who have improved, or are improving by the time they are rated, they may be new into a role.
    If you are new in a role you should be able to attain even the higher box markings because your work objectives would reflect lower expected outcomes and your performance in training, although this rarely happens. Sometimes Managers argue that a colleague has got a lower box marking because they are new in the role and Debbie's comments could be read to mean this, but that's against the guidance on setting SMART objectives. I do wonder how much time we spend on this annual runaround with appeals, grievance etc. We have enough tools to deal with under performance or development throughout the year and this should be continuously done. The end of year review is often unnecessary battleground for us all.

    • Replies to David>

      Comment by Colin Herring, DWP Employee Policy and Services posted on

      In DWP it is not pre-determined that new employees will be rated ‘Must Improve’. When employees’ whole performance is assessed at the end of the year, we will see that some people are where we would expect them to be on their learning and development programme; some would have exceeded expectations; others might need to improve. Managers will use the full range of performance ratings to reflect this reality. Our guide called ‘How to: set performance standards consistently at the start of the year’ has been improved to provide clearer advice on setting ‘SMART’ work objectives.

      • Replies to Colin Herring, DWP Employee Policy and Services>

        Comment by David posted on

        Colin- That's what should happen. Debbie Alder should make that clear when she says in her article today:

        Must Improve’ will be a mixed category that includes people who have improved, or are improving by the time they are rated, they may be new into a role.

        Some Managers will read this as implying that staff new in a role will not perform as well, and often new members of staff are just given the same objectives and targets as everyone else. These meetings are really just the old moderating meetings with Managers looking to fill quotas so they can be seen to be doing what's required. The amount of time we waste on this process is in indefensible.

  166. Comment by Steve posted on

    I read with interest the subsequent comments made by the head of CS HR (Chris Last). While I acknowledge the wider point Chris makes about not just focusing on the MI aspects it is misleading or an over simplification to suggest that all organisations have a performance management system similar to the one we are using. Of course all organisations have a form of performance mangement/appraisal system but many have 'dropped' the stacked type system that we are deploying. Mainly because it has been viewed as devisive and lacking in any added value. Perhaps Sir Bob, part of the issue lies in the advice you are receiving from your HR profession colleagues? Can we honestly say that this procedures/processes are at the cutting edge of current HR policy.

  167. Comment by Gill posted on

    I totally agree with the many comments around the imposing of box markings. I am personally aware of an area within a large HMRC workplace where, if you have not met just one of your targets, by no matter how small a %, you have been given a must improve marking. This has had a catastrophic effect on morale and motivation and makes a mockery of the PMR system, where we were told it's fairer because you're writing your own evidence! For example, one member of staff was just 3% under her target, had yet to receive training on the target in question, had exceeded all other targets/her productivity by quite a high percentage and has been given a must improve. This is the reality of the system. The word 'guided' has been reinterpreted as 'enforcement'. Decisions are being made and markings applied and enforced without even considering the evidence. I have no idea who is providing the positive feedback, but it's no-one that I've spoke to.

  168. Comment by Disgruntled Civil Servant posted on

    The main problem with a quote system is you are left to "pick on" the part timers and those with disabilities, when you're getting stuck to fill your quota.

    • Replies to Disgruntled Civil Servant>

      Comment by billy d posted on

      ......Or those who work outside the main centres where the range of training and opportunities is very limited.

  169. Comment by Trevor posted on

    Managers have a crucial role to play in effective performance management, since they help (or hinder) us in delivering our best performance. Any process which makes this difficult by focusing on the worst performance only serves to drag expectations and motivation down. There is an alternative. Strengths-based performance management puts strengths at the heart of the management process. When people use their strengths they are more likely to achieve their goals and objectives (and be happier, healthier and push their own performance upwards). What we need is a way to enable managers
    - help people find out what they are good at and what energises them
    - move into a role that matches this and which aligns to the organsiation objectives (e.g. via a balanced scorecard)
    - give them the space and confidence to job and reward them for their achievements, including how they have accomplished them.
    Not everything that can be measured should be (paraphrasing Einstein), and its much easier to see progress and high performance when you look for it, in a way which acknowledges everyone's individual contributions through their strengths.

  170. Comment by Donna posted on

    My concern with the new system and the increase in "poor performance" identification is that if your line manager is a poor performer, it will inevitably impact on your own performance.

    It seems unfair that a line manager who is a poor performer him/herself, may be adjudicating on the performance on a subordinate who may be perfectly capable, IF they were being managed by someone who was themselves competent.

  171. Comment by Paul Cunningham posted on

    I'm glad Bob Kerslake has posted his blog in support of the insidious Performance Management System and, again, has wheeled out the staff survey to justify its implementation. Hopefully Civil servants, in growing numbers, will draw the conclusion that they should have nothing to do with the staff survey or any management driven exercises connected with it. Bob Kerslake and Joe Dugdale tell us that the distribution ranges are not forced. Overwhelmingly (and from their own experience in their own workplaces) people know better than that. I am reminded of the quotation attributed to Lincoln that 'you can fool all of the people some of time and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time!' In reality, as most know, there is a pre-determination on the part of Management that 10% are 'must improve' and such a pre-determination cannot possibly be consistent with the objective and evidence based assessment of the performance of any working population. The message (which I expect you to ignore) is loud and clear from the clamour of protest that has been caused by Bob Kerslake's blog. PMR is detested across the departments and across the grades for the gross unfairness that it creates, for the absense of integrity that it necessitates and for the damage done to the lives of working people by the craven and disreputable act that implements it.

  172. Comment by Brenda Miles posted on

    It's not possible to fairly apply a system that presupposed a proportion of people 'must improve'. If a team is performing well, doing a good job and meeting their objectives, who's to be put in the 'must improve' category?

  173. Comment by Chris posted on

    The only possible reason for this system is to hack staff numbers to where they want them. And that is what stinks if someone is not good enough then have the guts to get rid of them, don't waste all of this money to be able to say " Computer says Noooooooooooooooo"

  174. Comment by Neil Atkinson posted on

    "Feedback has been positive" - are you having a laugh? Get your head out of the sand and find out what people really think.

  175. Comment by Frustrated with Process posted on

    The forced ranking system has failed in many industries, and is only workable when there is a clear motivation to strive for success - notably sales roles or banking-type industries with huge bonuses for the top and lay-offs at the bottom. However, this only works when people are primarily motivated by the monetary reward of being at the top (which may apply in those organisations). Even where it succeeds, the system is short-termist and destroys social capital - the focus on individual performance measurement fails to encourage good teamwork.

    Particularly in an organisation that is shrinking, the affects of this forced system can be destructive. The simple maths says that when staff are removed from the bottom of the system then, in future years, people who are continuing to deliver at the lower end of “good” performance must now be re-labelled as poor performers. Similarly people at the bottom of the top level slide into the average category – this destroys morale and willingness to strive for success. See the 2006 MIT article “Punishing by rewards: When the Performance Bell-curve Stops Working For You” (

    And let’s be clear, this system is not implemented as a “guided fit” – it’s a forced fit to the bell curve, with individual performance ratings amended to fit an overall target. To quote from the Home Office HR process for end of year validation panels:

    "The flexibility of the final rating assessment has been removed: it is expected that the distributions - Top 20%, Mid 70% or Lower 10% - are met across each directorate and, as far as possible, at each grade"

    Following the mid-year review process, one DG communicated to staff that managers “were not doing their job” if they failed to identify the bottom 10% performers in each team.

    And this madness is made worse by the organisation’s unwillingness to deal with genuine poor performance. Where performance has been identified as unsatisfactory, these people are removed from the assessment process. This guarantees that the bottom 10% will be populated by staff whose performance is considered satisfactory … can this lead to anything but demotivation? Again I quote from the Home Office HR year end process:

    “Unsatisfactory performers’ are removed from the relative assessment process. Therefore, they are no longer counted in the lower distribution category and poor performance procedures must be applied. Satisfactory performers will be relatively assessed against their peers via either validation panel or consistency check, and be awarded a rating of either Top, Mid or Lower. This means that ‘satisfactory performers’ who are awarded a lower rating are not compared to official poor performers.”

    Let’s highlight that statement from HR:

    “‘satisfactory performers’ who are awarded a lower rating” – ie people who have achieved their objectives and performance targets are to be placed in the poor performance category (mandatory).

    I don’t know how the messages reaching Sir Bob can be positive about this system. The Home Office runs “ViewPoint” events to engage senior managers with the organisation. At every event I have attended, the subject of the performance management system has come up … and the feedback is universally negative. This system is demotivating staff, driving satisfactory workers out of the civil service, and preventing managers from using an effective system to improve performance in their teams.

  176. Comment by Mike posted on

    Further to earlier posts, if 10% has to be found then a mid year review identifies those who "fit". There is then the following "self defeating" outcomes usually result:

    1. Those in the box marking 3 become demotivated thus defeating the object in the first place!?

    2. It is not in managers interests to improve staff as for every box marking 3 that they improve (to say 2), then they need to find another "victim" - human nature is such that people usually prefer to only upset one person rather than 2?! Therefore they will remain inactive to remain the status quo (avoidance) or spend even more time finding ammo to direct against the identified "victim" (bullying / discrimination / victimisation etc).

    3. Those best qualified to judge are those qualified individuals who know how difficult their job is so will be less judgemental - hence they will not do the judging because they will probably only identify 1-2% say. They are also very busy doing their job ! Instead it will be left to remote, generalist managers who do not understand what they are looking at / judging, and / or those whose jobs are based on quotas and / or those who do know it is a "rigged system" but want to get on within such a system.

    None of the above can ever improve performance.

    • Replies to Mike>

      Comment by Andrew posted on

      Mike - The only thing with 2. is that if the manager has the same 10% in box 3 (must improve) then the manager themselves qualify for a box 3 (must improve) as they have not improved the 10% and so it keeps escalating.

  177. Comment by Shelley posted on

    All of these comments make for very sad reading but I think they echo how the majority of civil servants feel at the moment, I really hope senior management will rethink this system.

    It’s quite clear that distribution is compulsory rather than guided since managers have justify to the Chief Executive if the ‘guided’ distribution is not met. What if a team is made up of long serving civil servants? It seems unlikely anyone would be under performing, if someone has been in their job 10+ years and they are under performing you have to ask why they are doing the job at all.

  178. Comment by Chris Edgecombe posted on

    Agree with the majority of negative comments here. Your guided and not forced comment is amusing for what is effectively a quota system that must be reached. That is certainly the case here in the MOD at least. Not sure I understand the positives of this new system.

  179. Comment by KAREN JCP posted on

    Sir Bob
    I think using the results of the staff survey to guage the opinion of staff on the staff Performance system, is out of touch with the reality of the situation. The fact that staff have said that they feel that under performance is managed does not mean that they are happy with the system.
    Under performance is managed, but at the end of the year all are required to fit the curve or be as close to it as possible.Managed or not.
    As a Department we are improving our Services with an ever reducing headcount and greater challenges, this cannot be attributed to an answer on a staff survey and have a direct correlation to performance improvement.
    Perhaps this is interpretation to suit. A true measure of whether the current Performance system tackles under performance is to ask that question directly in the staff survey and not ones where the result is open to creative thinking..
    What is wrong here is not the Performance appraisal system but the immovable distribution curve which staff must be forced into.

  180. Comment by James posted on

    This about not being a forced ratings system is rubbish. I was even in a meeting last year where we were pretty much forced to move 1-2 people to the must improve marking in order to fit the 10%.

    Only way to stop this scrap the meetings and managers award people a marking they deem fair or scrap the system all together. Those given lower markings get no bonus, trying to sugar coat must improve as not being a negative is seen and always will be as anything but.

  181. Comment by If you tell yourself a lie over and over again it doesn't become true... posted on

    Sir Bob's profile states - "The Head of the Civil Service leads nearly half a million public servants" - evidently he is enormously out of touch with the staff he "leads".
    The new PMR system has had positive feedback - who from? Isn't it correct that results relating to the new PMR weren't issued? I wonder why.....
    It's astounding how out of touch our Senior Management are. How many times have we had assurance they're going to make themselves more visible and listen and take our concerns? I don't think any of us are actually surprised by his comments - we've come to expect exactly what he's written.
    This is our leader - we have no hope.

  182. Comment by Joanna Griffiths posted on

    The Civil Service Reform Plan: One Year on Report says, with reference to appraisal, "we are introducing a forced or guided distribution system". So which is it, Bob?

    Yet again, we find that the Civil Service has taken up a system which has been used several years ago elsewhere and discredited. The distribution system, whether forced or guided, is logically flawed. What happens if everyone in the 'must improve' group does indeed improve to the required standard? Who goes into the 'must improve' group next year?

    This system was introduced in response to the fact that 25% of respondents in the Civil Service survey thought that poor performance was not dealt with effectively. This supposed level of poor performance is not one that I recognise from 25 years in the Civil Service. Even if it were correct, the problem has been approached from the wrong end of the telescope. That level of poor performance suggests either that recruitment and selection processes are flawed or ineffective management. It is in those areas that attention should be focused; you do not change culture simply by tinkering with bureaucratic systems.

    • Replies to Joanna Griffiths>

      Comment by Alan Viewing posted on

      Like many who have taken the opprtunity to comment here, I find it amazing that Sir Bob is apparently satisfied with the new PMR process, and has even had "positive feedback".
      This demonstrates perfectly the gulf between those running the Civil Service and ordinary workers trying to actually carry out the work.
      The PMR process is an administrative nightmare for those reporting and being reported upon. As a caseworker, working for HMRC, I am now having to spend significant amounts of time reviewing my work, collecting evidence and attending reviews throughout the year, all of which takes me away from my core work, where I am also under presure to achieve increases in outputs,results and quality.
      Sir Bob should be under no illusion - if he took the trouble to consult with the grass roots he would find "positive feedback" in very short supply indeed.

    • Replies to Joanna Griffiths>

      Comment by Tarby HMRC posted on

      I used to indicate that I was dissatisfied with how poor performance was handled HMRC, not because they weren't heavy handed enough, it was because they were too heavy handed. "Improve or else" was the mantra, no improvement plan, no indication of what was expected of you, That's why I thought it wasn't done properly. More ideological nonsense that WILL be used to get rid of people come the cull. Seeing as my part of HMRC needs to shed 10,000 staff it's easy to see how...

  183. Comment by Steve V posted on

    It is good to see ownership of this new process from the top - 'I am confident that introducing new performance management arrangements, done well, will radically improve the way in which we are all managed, and raise our overall effectiveness'
    Please can we have the numbers behind the words - what are the distribution of ratings from departments that have already implemented the system (particualrly those involved in developing and deploying the scheme). What effectiveness improvements have been seen in those departments?
    What measures are in place to check that the new PMR is meeting its objectives (and what are those objectives?) and when will the benefits check be undertaken?

  184. Comment by Conan Doyle posted on

    Sir Bob (not that you'll get to see this in all probability, but convention dictates...)

    "Eliminate the impossible and whatever remains, however improbable, is likely to be the truth"
    S. Holmes, Consulting Detective.

    So, what are the options?

    1) This PAR system is a tried and tested method of appraisal, trusted by industry and widely used. We, as Civil Servants, simply don't understand the potential benefits and are being recalcitrant and obstructive in complaining about its' implementation.
    Er, don't think so. See the myriad comments above and elsewhere.

    2) Nobody within our organisation's higher echelons has realised just how inefficient, demoralising and universally despised this system is and when they do an immediate apology will be issued followed promptly by a swift u-turn.
    Ha. More chance of winning the lottery. Twice. In a row.

    3) All the feedback on this, PUS's and many other blogs has been read, digested and understood, but there is still a genuine belief that with the correct application and perseverance the system can be made to work to everyone's benefit. Even though every year prior to this the system has been tweaked, fiddled with, or changed root and branch - this year 'we're sticking with it - it's here to stay'.
    I cannot bring myself to imagine that such breathtaking naivete or chutzpah could possibly exist.

    4) 'THEY' know it's bad. Divisive. Demoralising. Likely to instill fear, mistrust and uncertainty. Likely to convince a significant number of staff that leaving the Service, without the incentive of VERS, generous redundancy packages, pension guarantees etc is the only viable option. Thus saving the organisation a tidy sum and not exposing 'THEM' to risk of public and media opprobrium as a result of compulsory redundancies.....'they left of their own accord...'


    Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get you.

    So, Sir Bob, unsheath your 'simple sword of truth' and convince me, and the rest of the CS, that I'm wrong. Please. The evidence so far is overwhelmingly to the contrary.

  185. Comment by J posted on

    In my part of the CS management are required to supply on the same section of the return the numbers of Box 3s, the number of staff sacked and those undergoing poor performance management during the last year. Clearly a Box 3 is the first step to dimissal...

  186. Comment by Mike Preston posted on

    I too am staggered at the idea that feedback on the new system has been positive. Apart from anecdotal evidence and the industrial action over the issue, the results of the HMRC weekly staff poll conducted in December 2013 surely give a flavour of real feeling. The poll asked what were the biggest improvements over the old system and attracted an unprecedentedly high response level (26120). 83% rejected each of the 5 proposed advantages suggested by the poll in favour of 'none of the above'. I think it very unlikely that the 21600 or so involved were voting in favour of some other benefit that had not occurred to the poll designers.

  187. Comment by s walker posted on

    Sue - The new PMR system is not fair at all. At the beginning of the year the managers pick out who will get top/excelled markings, and irrespective of how much evidence you submit at each stage of the process if you are not a favourite then no matter how much discussion there is you will not get the marking you are aiming to achieve. Its all very well saying that managers will have monthly meetings with staff so it should be no surprise the marking you get, but what support are the managers giving to staff who need to improve, NONE at all.So the PMR system is totally flawed. Another fine example of how to demoralise staff and get rid of staff.

    • Replies to s walker>

      Comment by Tartan d'Artagnan posted on

      I feel bullied and intimidated by this performance management system because I am a trained specialist carrying out specialised work but I know of no-one in the validation panel, management layer or management chain who is familiar with, or has any technical competence in or basic understanding of, the specialised work that I do and upon which my performance is to be judged and supposedly "validated". Surely a modern civil service can do better than resort to a kangaroo court system to judge/validate staff performance? It's not very professional when the credibility of the validation panel itself is of doubtful validity.

      • Replies to Tartan d'Artagnan>

        Comment by billy d posted on

        Feel exactly the same.

        • Replies to billy d>

          Comment by Ian posted on

          Here! Here! - exactly what I've been saying too

  188. Comment by Laz posted on

    From what I am hearing
    Each section of each area to put forward their top and bottom performers in order to spread he scoring evenly over the entire department.
    Must be no more than 25% Bonus Earners and no less than 5% " We would really like you to work elsewheres" put forward from each section.

    or the Moderation Panels will do it anyway.

  189. Comment by PAUL LUNT posted on

    Absolute shambles...I will say no more..just be prepared for the longest grievance process you will ever see...

  190. Comment by david posted on

    Sir Bob, please act on the feedback you have received on your blog.

    • Replies to david>

      Comment by Darknorth posted on

      Senior Management seem unwilling or unable to listen to our feedback. One is reminded of a certain Emperor with new clothes...

  191. Comment by Patrick posted on

    Bob, you and your colleagues have got it wrong on this, pay and how the work-force feels.

  192. Comment by Gordon posted on


    I got so fed up of looking for a positive response to your blog I though I'd simply ask have you had any?

  193. Comment by Peter Burton posted on

    Hi Sir Bob

    Well, at least your blog is provoking plenty of responses – precious little evidence of positivity though. Hopefully none of the ‘negative’ responses will be used against those who have bothered to express how they feel, by manoeuvring them from an ‘Exceed’, to ‘Achieved’, or to the rather insultingly named ‘Must Improve’.

    I started reading your latest blog hoping, perhaps naively, for some new found realism, for evidence of being in touch with grass roots staff. Then I reached ‘feedback on this has been positive’. Was it an intentional red rag? A simple question: if the feedback is so positive, why feel the need to address our concerns?

    This stack rating approach for performance is a divisive and already discredited system. It seriously undermines good team building principles; sets staff up against one another and is indisputably already a major cause of demotivation. Just read these replies. Manipulation of performance quotas is what the system is all about and that is what is so fundamentally wrong with it.

    The extra cost in staff and management time geared towards reaching the pre-ordained quotas of performance markings almost beggars belief. The relentless stream of propaganda from our senior people desperately seeking to inject some ‘positivity’ reminds me of the mantra from the Star Trek series ‘This is the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile’.

    Because I still care, I am left feeling frustrated and rather sad, that so much pain and wasted costs will have to be endured, before you and our ideologically driven political masters realise the serious error of your ways. As for the ongoing propaganda – please forget it. Hopefully these responses will help you realise what the overwhelming majority view actually is.

  194. Comment by Dave Stephenson posted on

    I read your article this morning in utter disbelief and after reading it several times I am still astounded by the comments that you have made. Are you trying to demoralise your workforce even more?

    You seriously need to read these comments from the workforce that you represent and take them onboard. Every area of the Civil Service is telling you that the PMR system which you are 'very proud' of is not fit for purpose and is definately not 'a consistent model across our organisation'.

    Furthermore, may I suggest that you question the information you have been given to write this piece as it smacks of one of delusion.


  195. Comment by Andrew posted on

    I think an FOI request may be submitted in June / July asking for a break down by:
    * grade
    *employment type
    of the spread of Must Improve and Exceed across each of the Civil Service departments

    • Replies to Andrew>

      Comment by Simon posted on

      We should also include time and T&S to that FOI request. I have strong personal views on this system, but they have, in the most part already be expressed more eloquently by others in this and other blogs. I wish to highlight the appalling waste of resource created with this system. I lead a team of 20 personnel spread across sites in the south of England; I am also a CSO for a cluster that currently contains 16 E2s. The RO and I are located in the same site and building. Less than half the members of the cluster for which we are responsible work on our site. The remainder are spread across a 120 mile radius. Neither the RO, a C2 equivalent, nor myself, a C1 have business at some of the sites included in this cluster. I also now understand that I will also be called upon to be a member of a moderation panel. The total costs associated with this duty will be considerable, upfront costs are simple to quantify e.g. T&S and travelling time, others are more difficult to establish but would include affects on staff morale. This system would score poorly if considering the ‘return on investment’ across all Government departments. Evidence from other global businesses indicates that it is highly unlikely that the overall cost of implementation will deliver increased output. On the contrary, evidence indicates that if anything it may well decrease overall output.

  196. Comment by Tom posted on

    Sir Bob

    Have you ever heard of the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes, where everyone said how wonderful his clothes were until a little boy pointed out that he was naked and then everyone laughed? Now we have Civil Service senior management telling us how wonderful the new reporting system is, until maybe an AA somewhere points out that it’s all rather useless and isn’t going to achieve what’s desired!

    I believe that the increased amount of time that staff will have spent on applying this system (preparation, meetings, providing feedback etc), will negate any perceived improvement that it might have brought and that is before we have even considered the time to be spent on dealing with appeals. In all the comments I have seen (200+ so far), I’ve yet to see one that is wholly positive, so in true PMR fashion Sir Bob, please provide the evidence that doesn’t include a warped view of an ambiguous question within the staff survey.

    I have been in the Civil Service for over 20 years now and it has amazed me at the number of Change Programmes that I have seen started and before they are fully implemented or their impact has been assessed, they have been replaced by another “new idea”, so please excuse me if I seem rather weary of “change”. I’m fed up with hearing how proposed changes are going to make things better or improve my job, whereas my experience has been that these have only resulted in making my job a constant struggle through bureaucratic systems, resulting in me thinking that my career has become nothing more than a meaningless mass of form filling.

    As a taxpayer I am totally disgusted at the waste I see within the Civil Service, but management don’t seem to care, I suspect because it suits them to ignore the commonsense approach and keep the gravy train chugging along, whilst they sit in first class.

  197. Comment by David-DWP posted on

    In DWP, we see the ridiculous situation of small teams, made up of 4 individuals, being told that one will be top performer, 2 in the middle and one must improve. If all four have the same or similar results, this breakdown must still be implimented. Therefore, if you are the one who is most friendly with your line manager, it is likely that you will receive the top marking. Imagine how disheartened the must improve member of staff feels under such circumstances. Last year, the number of grievances raised was enormous. By the way, does this directive apply to Director Generals, Cabinet Secretaries etc? Thought not, but then we are all in it together, ......or not.

    • Replies to David-DWP>

      Comment by Colin Herring, DWP Employee Policy and Services posted on

      Thanks for commenting David. You would have seen from my other postings above that in DWP our policy is that performance ratings will be determined only by achievement of objectives and the demonstration of behaviours, taking the whole year into account. The new system contains checking processes that were introduced specifically to ensure that standards are applied consistently across employees doing similar work – i.e. that unfairness doesn’t result from people being under- or over-rated for what they achieved. Previous DWP systems did not do this.

      • Replies to Colin Herring, DWP Employee Policy and Services>

        Comment by David (another one) posted on

        I'm sorry, but I think it's time to accept that there is nothing that you can say to change the overwhelming opinion of staff. Time to make a tactical withdrawl (we never retreat)?

  198. Comment by Davy McGarel posted on

    Can someone help me, I appear to be missing the link to the page with the positive feedback .

  199. Comment by Paul Dillon posted on

    I despair even more than usual if the 'positive' message has really been accepted as a reflection of the reality 'on the ground'. Demotivating, costly, stressful, unnecessary and already has become a major 'cottage industry' which is, very soon, to mushroom as meetings, requests for notes, appeals, grievances etc. accelerate. Just for once can someone not have the gumption to say sorry, not a good idea,g ot that one wrong and let's try again? Unfortunately experience tells me 'no'.

  200. Comment by Graeme posted on

    Addressing our concerns...or dismissing them? If you give people the opportunity to express their views, and then ignore the overwhelming evidence put before you, what is the point?

  201. Comment by Diane R posted on

    IS ANYBODY LISTENING?????????Please get us out of this mess.

    SIGNED, an experienced manager, committed to tackling poor and underperformance as well as developing and motivating my staff, which is what I thought I was paid to do all these years, and have been pretty successful at. My efforts at being fair and objective totally undermined by the arbitrary nature of the "guided" distribution. Thanks a bunch. Not.

  202. Comment by Reg Bennett posted on

    Sir Bob

    Here is an excerpt from the AHVLA intranet. It sounds like forced distribution (in all but name) to me.
    "Directors are responsible for ensuring that guided distribution is met within their Directorate. Where this is not the case, then individual cases will be made to the Chief Executive for approval before they are confirmed with individual members of staff.

    The guided distribution ranges are:

    Excellent 10-25% of staff
    Good 60-75% of staff
    Must improve 10-15% of staff"

    • Replies to Reg Bennett>

      Comment by David posted on

      On a side note, The exceeded grade was (if I remember rightly) given to 16% of DWP staff last year, not the max of 25%. In other words, as a whole we aren't good (although the % did increase as the grade increased). So our excellent managers are doing a difficult job with substandard staff?

  203. Comment by John Robinson posted on

    Bob, Chris

    I cannot understand how different trades of the same grade can be grouped into the same cluster and be graded the same.
    To illustrate this point I invite you both to visit any of the sites worldwide where I have installed communications equipment and infrastructure to see exactly what it is we engineers do day to day, then back to the office to see the paperwork we complete.
    Then please visit any of the medical staff.
    Then the finance people etc.
    Then please explain how it is that we can be judged to the same level as we all have different jobs requiring different levels of intelect, experience, physicality, qualifications etc.
    Add to this that there is a growing disregard for engineers and the work we do, an inability to hire engineers into the CS due to the pay, conditions and lack of morale and you are creating a ticking timebomb where experienced engineers leave but cannot be replaced.
    I would strongly suggest that you take up my offer of a visit, I am aware that your time is valuable but then so is mine. Until you have a personal understanding of what we do and how we do it you cannot understand how the cluster grouping effects morale and how we work.
    You are trying to compare apples with oranges

  204. Comment by Gill posted on

    Further to my comments earlier I would also like to know what happens over the next couple of years when the 10% quota in the must improve box do improve will the 10% guide go down to 0% or will it be the turn of a different 10%!!!

    • Replies to Gill>

      Comment by Simon posted on

      Gill - we have been told that if the 10% improve, thus meeting their objectives, in order to fill the quota for the next year then more stretching objectives have to be set. So in effect you tell someone they must achieve X, but if everybody achieves X then they make X a lot harder so some people don't reach it.
      In effect this is just setting people up to fail, and raising the bar everytime so that some people fail. Ultimately whatever you do won't be good enough.

  205. Comment by sylv posted on

    Consider this. If the same 'guide' not forced' percentages were followed by the perm secs of which I think there are about 40 - Would this mean that 10 (25%) only would receive the high achiever mark; 26 (65%) receiving good which of the (10%) ie 4 perm secs would be on the approvement needed warning!! Shall we have a 'hands up' for who we would suggest need to improve?

  206. Comment by Mike posted on

    Sir Bob

    I have now read all the "positive" responses.

    I cannot come to any other conclusion that it is a cost saving measure and calculated to reduce the number of staff over time. If it is the intention is to downgrade staff, pay them less and achieve a 10% reduction in staff levels as they leave or retire, then I think these policies will be very successful.

    • Replies to Mike>

      Comment by billy d posted on

      Absolutely correct. It is a centrally driven policy to get rid of people on ths cheap. That is the real agenda and Bob knows it. I could raise the question as to what surety I have that managers are even capable of calibrating such PM measurements but that would miss the point of this exercise.

  207. Comment by Dave Kidson posted on

    In the Home Office there is absolutely no reflection in the departments' policies and practices of Sir Bob's intention that ratings are guided, not forced. The current policy updated in January 2014 states:

    "[One of the] key features of the Home Office performance management system [is]

    Assessing performance on a three-rating system… ensuring Jobholders are assessed against their peers [and] the performance distribution is met and, as far as possible, at each grade"

    This was reiterated by the HR Director General on 10 February 2014:

    "The process must confirm relative performance ratings across peer groups and ensure the distributions – Top 20 per cent, Mid 70 per cent or Lower 10 per cent – are met."

    How and why are departments able to openly disregard Sir Bob's instructions?

  208. Comment by Slightly Miffed posted on

    Just as a side note.

    Sharing this site........

    First why would I, it is mostly about internal civil service procedures.
    Second, if I were to dare to click on the Facebook link, it would create a report as at DWP that site is banned, and on the restricted list.

  209. Comment by Allan posted on

    Joe Dugdale can write that the 10% Needs Improvement is only a guided distribution and not a forced distrubution in HMRC. Who is he trying to kid? You only need to look at those who have responded to his comment to see that at the coal face the reality is the complete opposite. Managers are being "guided" that if they don't identify the 10% Needs Improvement it will be THEIR judgement which falls under review. I have had no feedback from my manager despite submitting monthly reports and attended a mid year discussion. I have spent (wasted) a significant amount of time preparing my End of Year report - all in the hope that I fall in the middle category. Still, at least Sir Bob and Mr Dugdale think that the new system is working.

  210. Comment by Hev posted on

    I have spent hours and hours trying to write up my examples of how fantastically I carried out my job just so my HR manager can argue my case in the bun fight she will be part of when the validation meetings take place. All this effort so I can stay out of the dreaded 10% 'must improve' box which we are so sure will be applied. The hours i spent writing my behaviour examples for my end of year PMR could so better have been spent on doing my job..and clearing backlogs brought about by lack of resources. This system is divisive and makes me feel worthless. I am happy to be judged on my achievements and reaching my targets, but that I have to describe how I did this and what behaviours I used in order to do so is soul destroying..and all this just in case I am up against a close contender for the 10% must improve box. Will my example be better than theirs? I have worked in this department for over 35 years. I feel we ALL need to continually improve..we are always learning and there are always better ways to do our jobs so therefore we should ALL be improving. The term MUST improve is demeaning and to apply to only 10% is ridiculous! .

  211. Comment by Andrew Parrock posted on

    I can see the reason for the new PMR system and applaud it; every organisation needs to actively work on maintaining and improving standards- and this means investing time and money into developing its people.

    But getting PMR accepted in full in HMRC faces enormous obstacles. Embedding new PMR is the biggest organisational change since the creation of HMRC in 2005. It is a cultural change, requiring nearly everyone in HMRC to change the way they think about their own development and that of the people they work with; because the system requires evidence of what we have done and how we have done it. Evidence for “what” is relatively straightforward; evidence for “how” is subjective and depends entirely upon feedback from others. This feedback should be constructively critical for it to really work. That means that a) feedback givers need to know how to do this (not easy- it requires lots of practice) and b) feedback receivers need to know how to take it (also not easy). This is the first obstacle.
    Second, the guided distribution deters people from making any form of negative comment in feedback. The reason is complex and has its roots in the general perception that guided distribution = quota and that managers will take ANY negative comment as an excuse to give someone a “must improve” marking.
    Third, the link with pay is unknown. For 2013/14 there is no link, but there is silence about 2014/15. The real uncertainty about whether pay will be linked to performance, particularly that “must improve” would be the same as the previous bottom marking and would mean no pay rise (if one was forthcoming), acts a disincentive to making any kind of constructive criticism.
    Fourth, there is also real concern that the new PMR system is an excuse to sack people. Statements to the contrary do nothing to remove that concern.

    Most of these obstacles may disappear in time, as the system settles in and people start to see how it works in reality, rather than have worries based on uncertainty and unhappiness with change. This is to be expected- it happens with all changes. But the first of these four obstacles will not go away quickly, whilst the second might, depending on what happens over the next few weeks.

    I want the new system to work, and to work fairly, because I want to work in a department that is constantly working hard to improve itself. We owe that to the taxpayers of this country. And to ourselves, to create a better place to work in. And that is idealistic, but I’m with Oscar Wilde on that one

  212. Comment by Henry posted on

    Stack ranking worked at Enron, encouraging its employees to boost claimed turnover and profits. No doubt it would now be the most powerful company in the world, if it had not coincidentally collapsed in an explosion of fraud.

    Microsoft dumped stacked ranking in November 2013, saying to its employees that it would instead focus on teamwork and collaboration and employee growth and development.

    As the Forbes article says, one of the bad incentives created by stack ranking was that "the winners in the stack ranking game are the engineers and marketers who spend all their time meeting with each manager who will decide whether they get a bonus or get fired."

    Perhaps the good feedback Sir Bob received came from similar meetings with people whose careers depend on how he ranks them.

  213. Comment by Rob Goodwin posted on

    I agree fully with all of the comments in this thread. This system is arbitrary and unfair. Forcing managers to find 10% of staff to be deemed as poor performers even when they may npot have concerns about that many is ridiculous. What happens if half of those improve their performance next year and there isn't any corresponding drop in performance from those above them ? All of a sudden a performance which was perfectly fine one year will drop to 'must improve' the next, for no reason other than to satisfy pointless quotas. This is utterly ludicrous, almost specifically designed to inflict the maximum damage to staff morale for the minimum benefit.

    I'd encourage any members of staff who wind up in the bottom 10% to file FOI requests to demand all of the relevant notes and emails relating to the decision. I suspect in most cases it will be quite revealing.

    • Replies to Rob Goodwin>

      Comment by Robert posted on

      You will need to request a SAR 'Subject Access Request'. Naturally, it will contain full and objective comments as to why you are placed into the lower percentile...

  214. Comment by Francesca posted on

    i wonder what percentage of staff this pmr has totally stressed out? what a waste of time and money, i was told that it would 'sort the wheat from the chaff' however it will do the complete opposite, those who feel the need to 'crow' about all of their achievments (who are just basically doing their job) will be bowed down to and those that do go above and beyond their job on a daily basis (without thinking) and don't feel the need to crow it, will be the ones that are targeted for not being able to prove how they do their job. it is utter wastfulness, on the public purse and on peoples time

  215. Comment by PR posted on

    I have read this blog with a mixture of bewilderment and despair that our senior management can even start to convince themselves that the new arragements are anything other than poorly thought through, inconsistently applied across Depts, TLBs and lower organisations and have been implemented shambolically throughout the year with conflicting advice still being promulgated which should have been crystal clear at year start. In 22 years service I have not known such dissatisfaction with a new appraisal system and I don't know anyone from 1*/SCS down who seriously champions this system. At a recent MOD event our PUS seemed genuinely taken aback with the mood from the floor over this and the afternoon session featured the Home Office PS who reported they had effectively watered down the lower markings as it was considered too toxic (seemingly removing the whole point of the improvment argument). It has also been recognised that where larger pyramid staff structures exist the grade raising of the reporting officer role is totally impractical and were told that this was done as 65% of staff have only one direct report - maybe you should be looking at top heavy management structures instead.

  216. Comment by Larklander posted on

    It is noteworthy that every single response to this blog post has been overwhelmingly negative -- every single response, that is, bar those from a handful of HR personnel evasively pretending that that where one in ten of civil servants have been selected to make up the "must improve" quota this is merely an isolated instance of an errant senior manager who has failed to study or apply the guidance correctly, and that otherwise everything is absolutely wonderful. The complaints that senior management routinely ignores the results of staff surveys, that the competencies are applied inconsistently across departments, that staff are squandering increased amounts of time writing reports on each other instead of doing any actual work, that the new performance management system is massively demoralising and demotivating -- these complaints must be without foundation, Because HR Says So.

    Many respondents ask if their comments will be listened to. This is naive -- it is clear from each of Kerslake’s previous posts that not a single one of the concerns expressed by those who have commented has ever been acknowledged as genuine, and indeed this comment facility exists solely to allow civil servants to blow off their anger at senior management and its self-congratulatory, rosy-spectacled, reality-denying attitude. The new performance management system is simply the latest example of this lack of exchange -- we respond explaining in detail what’s wrong; and we are roundly ignored because of our regrettable insistence on telling the senior grades what they do not wish to hear.

  217. Comment by Chris Patterson posted on

    I am approaching my 30th year in the service, and I have seen performance management in all its shapes and forms. But, puttting aside the partcular concerns about the system we have now, we really ought to go back to establishing what the system is setting out to achieve. I'm not clear that we really know. And even if we did, how would we prove it? In running all of the systems I have never honestly seen anyone's performance improving as a direct result of the appraisal system. The bonuses are tiny and the penalties are not applied. It just sucks in management time and makes people unhappy.Presumably not what the consultants who sold it to us promised.

  218. Comment by Tom posted on

    Sir Bob
    Have you ever heard of the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes, where everyone said how wonderful his clothes were until a little boy pointed out that he was naked and then everyone laughed? Now we have Civil Service senior management telling us how wonderful the new reporting system is, until maybe an AA somewhere points out that it’s all rather useless and isn’t going to achieve what’s desired!

    I believe that the increased amount of time that staff will have spent on applying this system (preparation, meetings, providing feedback etc), will negate any perceived improvement that it might have brought and that is before we have even considered the time to be spent on dealing with appeals. In all the comments I have seen (200+ so far), I’ve yet to see one that is wholly positive, so in true PMR fashion Sir Bob, can you please provide additional evidence apart from your view of an ambiguous question within the staff survey.

    I have been in the Civil Service for over 20 years now and it has amazed me at the number of Change Programmes that I have seen started and before they are fully implemented or their impact has been assessed, they have been replaced by another “new idea”, so please excuse me if I seem rather weary of “change”. I’m fed up with hearing how proposed changes are going to make things better or improve my job, whereas my experience has been that these have only resulted in making my job a constant struggle through bureaucratic systems, resulting in me thinking that my career has become nothing more than a meaningless mass of form filling.

    As a taxpayer I am totally disgusted at the waste I see within the Civil Service and a management system that appears to ignore staff concerns or adopt a commonsense approach to reorganisation or improvement strategies.

  219. Comment by Julia posted on

    I think it's very demoralising that the true feeling on the ground isn't acknowleged. This is the only performance system that's brought about the reaction it has from staff regardless of business area or grade. It brings a huge commitment of time and energy, creates anxiety, encourages perverse behaviours where people end up in bun fights for work for evidence that theyre not 'just' doing the job they're paid to do and to defend themselves against a 'must improve' marking. Managers are stressed having to adhere to unfair forced distribution curves and deal with grievances and the impact this has on their staff. The system does nothing to reward staff for good performance as standards for exceeded are too high and it thoroughly demotivates staff by the threat of being marked 'must improve' purely to fit a distribution curve, because theyre new to a job or because they are part of a high performing team.

  220. Comment by Nick Trodd posted on

    In HM Customs and Excise (now part of HMRC) years ago we had a simple blue form (C&E 1269) for end of year reports. It was clear, concise, had a tick box rating system for all sorts of behavioral and operational abilities with areas to comment and an area for a countersigning officer to comment. There was also an appraisal interview record and forward job plan (C&E 1268) where you could plan development to improve your ability to do the job. From recollection they took minimal time to complete and again from recollection there was no guided distribution of performance ratings that I was aware of. Can I suggest that this simple system, coupled with regular feedback and one to ones through the year, replaces PMR? I feel that mistakes as well as successes should be an opportunity to learn and share best practice. Although I work as best I can with this PMR system, I fear that the PMR system is a mistake. I also think that feedback should be listened to and considered.

    • Replies to Nick Trodd>

      Comment by Nick Trodd posted on

      To clarify, where I say no guided distribution that I was aware of, I dare say that if everyone got top marks or everyone got bottom marks then questions would have been asked - I don't know.

  221. Comment by Jeff Martin posted on

    ''The evidence provided supports that Jeff is currently meeting the agreed standard of performance, with an indicative rating of Mid. However, due to a regional management instruction, in order to achieve the required ratings, when assessed against his team, the indicative rating has been assessed as Lower.''

    Please see the above comment pasted by my manager on my 'half yearly' - and yet we are told that the 10% isn't being forced on us?! Similarly how can it be a structured 'motivational' half yearly review when you are informed that this will be your end of year marking irrespective of improvement as 'someone' has to take it for the team each year?!!!
    After over 35years loyal and dedicated service-originally in HM Customs & Excise, then Revenue & Customs and then UK Border Agency (And now just plain Border Force!!) have I ever felt so angry disillusioned and demotivated than I do today.

  222. Comment by John posted on

    250 comments and aside from a smattering of HR commentators...(no disrespect it is what they are paid for)...the reaction is universally negative.
    Please Sir Bob - Who on earth gave you the impression that the feedback on this appraisal system was positive???

  223. Comment by Viv posted on

    Not a lot to say as most is covered above. However if 100 % response rate is wanted for the staff survey this topic should have been addressed directly. Just ask the question as to what people think about the distribution curve.

  224. Comment by Ian Hough posted on

    Sorry Bob but you are out of step with the majority on this.
    The elephant in the room is forced Guided Distribution. No one believes it will raise performance apart from a select few. By implying you have positive feedback you are further alienating an already mistrustful workforce.
    Better you reflect reality in your blogs.
    Remember the age profile, remember the experience of many of the staff who have lost terms and conditions, the pension we signed up to, no pay rise for years, Union rights being destroyed, offices closing, longer travel etc etc etc
    Stacking on performance is not seen as a motivator and in fact is detrimental to positives in the performance system.

  225. Comment by Jeremy Clarke posted on

    With senior civil servants' unions striking for the first time in many years about a non-financial issue, alongside these comments from many people across an array of grades, surely you cannot assert that you believe the feedback about the PMR/PMS is mainly positive. Your evidence includes the result of the people survey for DWP which will be slightly skewed by the Public and Commerical Service's Union request for members not to complete the survey. Could I suggest that in a Pacesetter manner, we gather data, to determine the truth in an unbiased way, by arranging an in-house HMRC survey on people's opinions on PMS/PMR. Whilst not as cut and dried as a professional outsourced survey, am sure two or so people could be perhaps allowed time off from their PMR writing/reviewing/revisingvalidating/appealing to compile a set of neutral questions. They may even be able to use it as part of next year's PMR. Could I ask that you take time to give me feecback on this comment? Thanks!

  226. Comment by Dennis posted on

    Feedback on the new performance management system has been positive - really?
    No-one in my circle thinks that this deeply unfair demoralising and demotivating system is anything other than a disaster which will ultimately drive out good people.
    Do senior management all live on a different planet to the rest of us where up is down, right is wrong and everything is back to front?
    Do they ever listen to employees views - or just plough on regardless?
    Daft question - of course they just plough on.
    I have been a civil servant for 23 years and have never experienced such a mess.
    I am old enough to retire and have already handed in my notice by way of protest. One colleague has already resigned in disgust, others would like to - but can't afford to.I feel lucky that I can.
    Negativity? - no- just reality.
    Great positive feedack!
    Need I say more?

  227. Comment by RO living the dream ! posted on

    Sir Bob,

    I had you down as one of the few 'good guys' up there in Ivory Towers, London.
    Where on earth did you get the quote 'Feedback on this has been positive...'
    How widely spaced are your lines of text in these blogs - I can't read that much between them !

    PAR as an incentive:
    TOP = Bonus... Err, what bonus ??
    MIDDLE = Pay rise... Err, what pay rise ?? Oh yes, one percent again - maybe, maybe not !!
    BOTTOM = Lots of chats with your LM and some good, high quality training opportunities.. Really ???

    I really didn't think that the SCS had such a low opinion of us mere mortals - obviously I was totally wrong !

    This is simply a method of reducing headcount and therefore costs. If you p*** off enough people, they will leave of their own volition - Hey.. no payout.. Result !!

    Well it certainly stands a good chance of working !!

    As an RO, the amount of time that this system taked up is just ridiculous.
    On my site, we have the situation of a senior military officer having to fly out to Cyprus to conduct meetings with members of his RO group... at the same time, an officer from Cyprus flys to the UK to do the same thing !!
    What a complete and utter shambolic waste of taxpayers money - will it be reflected upon negatively in the military OJAR reports of the officers concerned - I think not !

    I seem to remember the previous PUS offered up 8,000 extra jobs as a cost cutting measure, over and above those that the Government required... or was it more ??

    It is nice to know that we are being so well looked after by our Lords and Masters and that this system is such a roaring success... !

    Thanks Sir Bob !

  228. Comment by martyn posted on

    The manner in which PMR has been introduced in HMRC has left me both sad and demotivated. I have seen colleagues leave review rooms in tears - managers also in tears after telling staff they were 'must improve' even though they personally didn't believe that to be true. Hey ho it must be a dream.

    • Replies to martyn>

      Comment by Sad but true posted on

      I have seen this as well and its quite simply a disgrace..
      there is an old phrase: Don't push loyal people until they don't care anymore.

  229. Comment by kevin posted on

    The shocking silence from Kerslake says it all. Not one single reply, or even an acknowledgment of the strength of feeling. How out of touch can you get.

    Will this debacle be used as evidence on sirs Bobs PMR? is this evidence of effective communication or leadership?

    It is completely untrue to say there is no 10% quota - there plainly is in Border Force, there was last year too (at least there was here), but the problem was management messed up, they picked someone at mid year to get MI, and were then stuck if that person did improve by year end - they couldn't give it to them as they had 'improved' as required and they couldn't give it to anyone else as it was too late in the year. Doh!

    They won't make that mistake again, this year my boss has told 2 out of 5.5 people in my team at my grade that they are in the bottom 10% lol - that way he can just pick whichever one he wants to get it as the other has supposedly improved more. My boss was quite clear about it, either he picks someone or the moderators will - NO discretion, NONE. He also said if he doesn't give a name HE will get a mandatory MI himself according to his boss - as you can imagine this focused his mind no end.

    Is this engaging with staff? is this transparant and honest? will Bob show us his positive feedback?????

  230. Comment by Craig Mars posted on

    Positive- you must be on another planet!!
    In PMR speak- prove it, evidence your claims?
    Were is YOUR evidence then.......we are waiting?

  231. Comment by Craig Mars posted on

    Positive- you must be on another planet!!
    In PMR speak- prove it, evidence your claims?

  232. Comment by Alby posted on

    Sir Bob, i work widely with private sector teams and the subject of your new performance management system is often discussed. The private sector is laughing at us. As usual the CS adopts a system it regards as the best thing since sliced bread 5 years after our private sector colleagues have ditched it as unworkable, devisive and unfair. Coupled with this inescapable fact is the total lack of connectivity that you and your colleagues have with the realities of the working level of the civil service, and the blinkered manner in which the genuine concerns of staff and the massive collapse of morale is swept under the carpet. if we at the lower levels of the organisation were to implement such ineffective systems that were so damaging to the business in our work we would find ourselves in your magical 10% sin bin, and not because of some artificial target but because it was well deserved. I cannot begin to imagine how you think the system you are forcing on your staff is a good thing.

  233. Comment by Lee posted on

    Sir Bob,
    I would beg to differ that feedback is positive of the PMR system. Judging by the overwhelming response to the comments on here (numbering well over 250 at time of posting) absolutely the opposite is true. Indeed on the HMRC intranet an online survey on 2nd December 2013, when asked the question "The new performance management process was introduced earlier this year. Compared to the previous process, what do you feel has been the biggest improvement?" 83% of 26120 respondants (Approximately 21700) replied "None of the Above" incidentally this could be an almost unpresidented number of participants for an intranet survey by some significant margin. I would wager that the vast majority of those 21700 repondants were not entirely happy about what is being forced upon them. Could you supply any cold hard facts and figures to support your statement... not anecdotal? Maybe we could have a survey similar to the 'Peoples Survey' where employees could give their responses to questions about PMR, where the questions and answers are not ambiguously written so they can be skewed to give the desired result. This would give an accurate picture of what HMRC employees really think of PMR. I eagerly await your response.

  234. Comment by Wendy Turner posted on

    Sir Bob (and Joe Dugdale)
    PMR is universally unpopular amongst staff and managers because it is divisive and unfair. I can't be any clearer than that.
    We are consistently told one thing in the guidance, but find the practice is somewhat different. We are told there WILL be 10% Must Improve and to make sure that happens we won't be told our marks until after validation. Already then, our performance is not about what and how we've done, but whether someone else's manager talks a better game than yours.
    The system is also discriminatory, with all protected groups being more likely to be in the bottom 10% and less likely to be in the top 20%.
    Incidentally, I'm not aware of any pressure to reach that 'guided' figure.
    I'm really concerned that despite the overwhelming negative feedback, the ARC strike and the HMRC poll anyone could kid themselves that PMR was welcomed.
    Time to exit those ivory towers gentlemen and see what is happening out in the real world. After 30 years of service I have never felt, nor seen my colleagues feeling, so demoralised or undervalued as now. We deserve to be treated with decency and respect not bullied and harassed.

    • Replies to Wendy Turner>

      Comment by Wendy Turner posted on

      An amendment to my post above, regarding 'guided distribution.'
      I was wrong, every manager is under pressure. I heard it said that Validation groups were told by the Chair that they will not leave the room until the distribution targets are met. Nobody is holding a gun to anyone ele's head, but judging by what I've heard, there are some managers who would love to do just that!

  235. Comment by Chris posted on

    38 years working for the Revenue. It's the most devisive anti-team building, demotivating reporting system I have ever been through. And I have been through a few in my time. Over to you Sir Bob?

  236. Comment by C Thomson posted on

    Sir Bob,
    Thank you for raising this issue and not shying from such an emotive subject.

    I Agree with the 250 or so comments that the the PMS is archaic, divisive, negative, time consuming, stressful, worrying, dumbfounding etc. No need to elaborate, just read previous posts.
    This blog has allowed an honest and powerful expressing of opinions and feedback on the PMS, feedback more relevant than a staff survey?

    If colleagues are opinionated on this topic please encourage them to air them here.

    Sir Bob, how many posts, negative posts are required before you will respond?
    What about 500? akin to a government petition, now there is a thought!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  237. Comment by Ricardo posted on

    The last time I saw my SPDR was 3/4 Years ago.I wonder whos evaluating my work?
    How can my work be evaluated by a Manager,If I keep getting a new one almost every Month?
    I feel that no Manager really knows my work.(Or anyones.)
    Will that "Send" me to the bottom 10%?

  238. Comment by Mark Bingham posted on

    Quite incredible that the most senior leaders in the Civil service are (supposedly) so very out of touch with how PMR is being imposed on the ground.

    As has been said repeatedly, you can tell staff in HMRC (and elsewhere) that no marking will be changed to meet the 'guided distribution' and that the system is about individual performance against individual objectives, not a relative or ranking system. However HMRC's very own Chief Executive told SCS staff in a telephone conference last year that it was a 'quota' and furthermore it is not just the expectation that HMRC will have 10% of staff in 'must improve' as a department, the expectation is that each business unit will have 10% and indeed at validation group level. Must improve outturn in 2012/13 (before the introduction of 'guided' 10%) was 2%; at mid-year 2013/14 it was er' 10% - surprised?!
    Joe Dugdale (HR Director) HMRC has posted here to say "there is absolutely no requirement in the performance management policy to rank staff' and yet only this week we see a Newsletter from a Director of Local Compliance saying to mangers "we must act corporately to judge everyone’s performance objectively and relatively as we seek to establish the distribution of performance markings". Within that same part of the business managers were asked to enter peoples details on a spreadsheet, on which the final column was termed 'rank'. Go figure............

    Perhaps HMRC HR could advise us how they arrived a a 'guide' of 10% needing and while they are at it can they tell us how many working days have been spent on PMR in 2013/14 and what are their intended measures of success that shows the 'cost' will be justified.

    And let's not pretend that the negative effects of this abhorrent system are felt equally by groups of staff in HMRC. The mid-year outturn showed e.g. that if your from an ethnic minority 14.3% will get Must Improve against 9% if White. If staff are disabled 13.4% get Must Improve as against 8.7%. Of course HMRC will say that there are no pay implications, well for Must Improve it's surely only a matter of time and for 'exceed' there are pay implications and the inequality picture is much the same; indeed at mid year 16.6% of full-time employees got 'exceed' as against' 9.8% of part-time staff. Quite incredibly HR won't even discuss this serious equality issue with ARC Union merely because ARC is currently in industrial dispute with HMRC.

    Keep up the good work guys!

  239. Comment by Q posted on

    I read this blog and thought it was a joke! Positive feedback? From where?! The "quotas" are certainly being forced (not guided) where I work. There are anecdotal stories of moderating meetings where managers have taken a vote as to who should be the unlucky 10%.

    • Replies to Q>

      Comment by Worried posted on

      Me too. 99% of comments placed here have been highly critical of the system. I work in DfE so thought I should share with you all my take on how the system is being implemented here.

      The system is divisive and unfair, and not surprisingly staff over 50, disabled, BME, female and with a non-standard working pattern (anything other than Monday-Friday full time) are almost certain to be in must improve.

      I'm a union rep so I get to see exactly how this system is impacting on staff morale on a daily basis. within my branch and the wider education group, I've lost count of how many grievances have been raised against unfair box marks being applied. We've had success in overturning a lot of these decisions, mainly because managers have either no idea of how to operate the system (in some cases they've never been on the training or even read the guidance on how the process is to be carried out) or are simply flouting the rules and making it up as they go along.

      We have directorates each adopting their own approach to the process, and divisions and even individual teams within directorates using differing processes so there is a total lack of consistency across the piece. In my own particular division for example, my own very small team may use one criteria for assessing performance whilst another small team sitting at the next bank of desks another. But of course our performance will then be moderated at a panel and subject to change using another decision making methodology by people who either do not know who we are or what it is that we do.

      In my own directorate, the Director General decided not to use the selection process that took place in the other two directorates to assign staff to posts in the redesigned ways of working. The made it quite clear that he intended to downsize his directorate using performance management and it therefore comes as no surprise to discover that in this directorate, the number of staff in the lowest performance category exceeds the 10% threshold. And the process is frequently referred to as "tough love" and reminded about "raising the bar" to ensure continued rising of standards. We've bene told that just as you get in reach of this mythical bar, it will be raised even higher to ensure that you don't success. Now that in anyone's opinion is totally counter-productive and creates a constant climate of fear.

      Stress levels have increased dramatically, with people constantly looking over their shoulder or wondering what tiny error may be used against them at either mid or end year review as justification to mark them down. Managers are being compelled to place 10% of their staff in the lowest category or be placed in it themselves just for disobeying the instruction to do so. This only serves to completely destroy any positive working relationship.

      And the reasoning for being placed in the lowest performance category gets more and more facrical by the day. If it were not so serious, you would think that I'm writing a work of fiction, but sadly I am not. Reasons that I have personally been told exist for staff being place in the 10% are:

      Not going to the pub after work
      Not attending the Christmas meal
      Taking their full annual leave allowance (despite all leave being requested and approved in the normal way)
      Taking accrued flexi-leave (as per annual leave above)
      A sentence in one e-mail that the LM/CSO did not like
      Taking sick leave
      Time off work because of bereavement or family crisis

      In addition people are being told openly told that it is their turn to be in the 10% but next time round it will be someone else.

      People who have been consistently high performers in pervious years, many with long service are suddenly been told that they do not meet the standard. How this can happen overnight is a mystery to me. And in a lot of cases people finding themselves in must improve are often not given an improvement plan or any indication of what it is they need to do to improve this supposed under performance.

      I could go on and on, but I'm sure you've all got the picture by now. This system clearly does not work and is unsustainable in the long term. Not to mention the potential Health and Safety risk this carries in respect of people becoming ill with stress or more worryingly mental health problems.

      This way of assessing performance has been abandoned by most of the major companies who used it, when it became apparently obvious that it was counter-productive to productivity. Let us getback to assessing performance based on how well an individual does their job - not assessed against peers but against their own individual performance.

      • Replies to Worried>

        Comment by Richie posted on

        I find those reasons to be frankly unbelieveable.

        If any manager or CSO came at me with such reasons as "not attending the Christmas Meal" or "it's your turn this year", I would firstly ask them to repeat the nonsense I "thought I had heard" and once the absurdity was confirmed and I had stopped laughing I would demand that they sign a declaration to those facts and then hound them with a grievance to within an inch of their career.

        As far as I know in the MoD where I work those reasons have certainly not been used as a lever to provide a "drag" on a person's staff report marking.

        • Replies to Richie>

          Comment by Worried posted on


          I wish they were, but the situation that myself and my colleagues are facing is truly unpreceadented. I always encourage people in this position to take the very advice you have given, unfortunately people have been kicked so often that in a lot of cases they have very little fight left. Alternatively they are too afraid to instigate any action for fear that they will be discriminated against any further. Senior management know what is going but appear to be unwilling to do anything about it.

          • Replies to Worried>

            Comment by Jayne posted on

            Sounds to me like diciplinary action ought to follow such shoddy unprofesional managment. That's quite disgusting.

          • Replies to Worried>

            Comment by Paul posted on

            Sir Bob: "It is impossible to answer every question in a blog....."

            How about an answer to just one question which I think is at the heart of what most people are saying:

            What are you, as head of the civil service, going to do about this abomination of an appraisal system that has generated such an "unprecedented response", almost all of which is incredibly negative, from your staff?

            HR will only tell us they are following YOUR instructions on an appraisal system YOU signed off on and that YOU continue to endorse!

  240. Comment by Dave posted on

    'Feedback has been very positive' this merely confrmed to me that the most senior staff consider us to all to be utterly stupid. This system was loathed by employees in the private sector where management found it eroded collaborative achievement and it has since been almost universally rejected. Kurt Echinwald's article in Vanity Fair examines the impact at Microsoft and provides insight into the dysfunctional behaviour the system rewards. I want to work for an organisation where my achievements speak for themselves. I don't want to spend the whole year playing office politics. Under the new system of relative assessment I will undoubtedly benefit if I surreptitiously work to undermine and hamper the efforts of my peers, is this really behaviour that deserves rewarding?

  241. Comment by Mark G posted on

    Like many people posting here, I’ve seen a number of performance management systems over the years. But nothing as divisive, demotivating and downright pernicious as PMR.

    Make no mistake: whatever spin senior management and HR try to place on PMR this is a relative appraisal system based on fixed quotas. Ignore the talk of guided distributions which must be met, of promises that no marks will be altered to meet Must Improve percentages or, risibly, of positive feedback from staff. This is a morally bankrupt ‘rank and yank’ system, already discredited in the private sector – it has nothing at all to do with ‘continuous improvement’ and everything to do with setting employees against each other.

    PMR is universally hated in my Department (HMRC), so much so that for the first time in its history ARC, the senior managers’ trade union, actually came out on strike in protest. This is not a strike about money; it is a principled stand for decent and fair employee rights. Hard-working staff have a right to expect something considerably better from an employer that likes to see itself as decent and modern.

    The PR battle on PMR has already been lost. The above comments – which are merely the tip of an extremely large iceberg - demonstrate that conclusively. You cannot win either the hearts or minds of CS employees over this issue, Sir Bob. Give up PMR now, before it’s too late.

  242. Comment by HonestJohn posted on

    Under previous systems, if you weren't pushing for a top marking or promotion and weren't obviously poorly performing then your performance never really came under detailed scrutiny. it was easy to coast along doing just enough, sticking to what you know and never really challenging or developing yourself. If we are honest, we all know colleagues like this, even if we don't think that we are like it ourself.

    But under this new system everybody's performance is now forced to be under the full glare of the spotlight all the time, through critical appraisal by jobholders themselves and managers. This leaves no place for anybody to hide. The effect of this is that those habitual coasters will be forced out of the organisation, either informally because they get fed up and leave before they are pushed, or formally following two Must Improves and a failure to up their game.

    So far so good. The problem will be in two or three years time once the coasting deadwood has been chopped out. Then the system will start to be counter-productive and it will be time for it to evolve to something less competitive. It is no sort of system to operate long-term, for all the reasons given in the studies referred to in previous posts.

    Finally, when I mentioned our 10% Must Improve forced distribution category to a friend in the private sector he laughed and said "what, only 10%!" - which I think reflects a typical view of civil servants.

    • Replies to HonestJohn>

      Comment by ClanbigG posted on

      Even Honest John calls it forced not guided. Freudian slip HJ?
      Your friend has a not unfamiliar but, in my experience, misguided view of Civil Servants. Most where I work strive hard to get their jobs done professionally. We frequently curtail or omit meal breaks, stay late, start early and take pride in the results. The results we deliver are spectacular. I am currently on a small highly trained and dedicated team doing niche work. Under this system 10% WILL be marked down to fulfill the criteria imposed by a management that have never done the job. I could easily opt to work elsewhere with easier work and take home the same money. Why should anyone volunteer for our team when they could stay elsewhere and not have the fear of being over stressed, demotivated, and bullied? How does this system motivate anyone to look for more challenging work? It doesn't. Read Professor Taylor's report on the new workplace tyranny. There is no evidence that these systems work. Fact.

    • Replies to HonestJohn>

      Comment by Matt posted on

      You are correct John, those systems recognised that if you are doing your job to the standard required then there is no need for you to be scrutinised, you are doing your job to the standard required. Nowhere in my job description does it state that I must "challenge and develop myself" over and above doing my job, I do that on my own initiative because I want to.

      The "habitual, coasting deadwood" as you described them are motivated, hard working, productive people, sure they aren't gunning for promotions or bonuses, but that doesn't make their efforts any less valid or worthwhile or them any more deserving of being "chopped out" as you so eloquently put it.

      Meanwhile the very people that should be on their way out (namely those already subject to performance management procedures because they are performing below the standard required) are as has already been raised in these comments specifically excluded from the PAR process, which means that every single one of the 10% who are going to be "guided" into that bracket are going to be being labelled as sub-standard (when quite clearly they are not) while those that are sub-standard get a free pass, is it any wonder that this system is almost universally despised?

      As to your friend in the private sector, I can hardly say I'm surprised at his response, with the constant attacks on the civil service by the media going completely unanswered by anyone with the authority to tell it how it really is it's little wonder that most people outside of the civil service still believe that we're paid comparable salaries and bouses to the private sector and receive gold-plated final salary pensions on top of that when we retire aged 55.

      • Replies to Matt>

        Comment by HonestJohn posted on

        "forced distribution" - no not a freudian slip but a recognition that jobholders and managers are forced by the system to really confront under-performing. So a "strong expectation" or "strongly guided" distribution might be a better way of putting it. That still leaves room for the exceptional unit or team not to have any Must Improves. If it was truly guided then managers would do what they have always done and fail to challenge mundane performances.

        I don't think management help by down-playing the relative aspect of the system. Clearly, there must be a strong element of relative appraisal. If for instance, you have a team of 20 then there will almost certainly be weaker performers who are nevertheless doing an OK job. As an organisation you would want those staff to improve by taking on the best practices and behaviours of the stronger staff.

        Of course this system is uncomfortable - it is supposed to be. That is one reason why we have had so many comments here against it. But if you do not force people out of their comfort zone there will not be improvement.

        The Telegraph article referenced below puts it well, pretty much in line with my original post although I had not seen it before. I am sure that the civil service has more than its fair share of "social loafers" as the article puts it.

        All this should be taken with a massive caveat though, which is that managers must apply the system fairly and reasonably and this is where I am in line with many of the comments here as in many cases I just don't think that it is. It seems that too many people are more concerned with being seen to do the process and meet expectations to cover their own backs rather than managing properly and it takes real backbone to stand up against that.

  243. Comment by Gregg Eassom posted on

    There is a growing body of psychological evidence demonstrating that performance management of the type applied by the Civil Service is highly likely to achieve the opposite of what was intended for it. Instead of motivating and increasing morale, the people who study this kind of stuff are finding that its actually demotivating and demoralising. Yes poor performance needs to be addressed, so maintain that side of things, but the Civil Service needs to go back to the shop and pick something more up to date off the shelf for rating the performance of everyone else. If you're never going to link performance to pay what's the point of a rating system etc? If you're interested in finding out more have a look around for information relating to the concept that performance appraisals don't improve performance.

  244. Comment by PAC backwards posted on

    Sir Bob
    Lets play the percentage game.
    At the time of writing this there were 293 comments. I have read them all. My unscientific analysis is...
    There is a grand total of 17 (5.8%) defending the new system. Nearly all as replies to previously raised concerns.
    Of these 7 have come from an apparent head of "DWP Employer Policy & Services", 2 from "HR Policy & Director Communications" and "MOD HR Transformation Director" and 1 each from "CSHR Communications Manager", "Home Office HR Director General", "Cabinet Office Head of Expert Services", "Head of Civil Service HR" and "HR Director HMCTS". Only one from what seemed to be an ordinary member of staff. Hardly representative of the vast majority of staff .
    Are you going to be able to find 4.2% to give you a "guided distribution" of 10% in favour of the new system? Perhaps these could be from those who gave you such "positive feedback" in the first place?
    Looking back over your blogs the previous highest number of replies was 264 over the period 23/1 to 18/2.
    You replied to that as follows "Thank you for all your comments on my last blog which has had a huge response. Directors General & Permanent Secretaries meet at the end of the week and I'll be sharing my reflections next week..."
    Can we expect the same level of courtesy given the 11% increase on that blog in just two days?
    To be accepted any reporting system must engage its staff. This new one clearly does not, as strongly stated by the vast majority of postings here, and you need to seriously go back and rethink without delay
    Perhaps a system based solely on what work someone has actually done in the year, as we used to have up to the mid 90s.before management speak tinkering was put in place, could be considered.

  245. Comment by David W posted on

    Sir Bob,
    May I recommend this excellent article in Forbes Magazine - Ten Mad Men Era HR Practices to Ditch in 2014 - at this link
    I am sure you would find Liz Ryan a far better advisor on HR issues than those who have got you and us into this mess.

  246. Comment by MSE posted on

    The PMR system is universally loathed. I have never seen my colleagues so demoralised and demotivated. Private industry has tried the format and it has been shown to do exactly that.......demoralise and demotivate. The validation meetings are seen as feeding frenzies when Managers see a weakness in another member of staff and feel they can sacrifice that person to try and save their own. The response to this blog shows that the staff do not believe in the system. They do not believe in the Management.
    We all realise that Management will not listen to the staff. That is simply not the way the way that this Civil Service works! They will press on with this destructive process for at least five years before introducing the next 'new system' by which time the 'brains' behind this mess will have been promoted and probably knighted.
    Sir Bob and the rest of your Managers why not try something radical?.............actually listen to the staff?? This system sets the staff against each other. To promote themselves by back stabbing and undermining colleagues in order to avoid dropping into the dreaded 10%. Heed the signs. This is dangerous and destructive.

  247. Comment by Chris posted on

    As a manager I had to make sure that 10% of my team were "must improve" direct order from above. Due to my refusal I am a must improve for displaying negative behaviours?! Really?! My job is evaluating my staff correctly & I shouldn't be encouraged to mark them down neither should I have to suffer due to this restrictive Pmr

  248. Comment by basil posted on

    As a civil service manager, I would love to have a performance management system that helped improve performance. The current system has some aspects of that, with regular discussions between people and their managers, a concern with what is achieved as well as with how it has been achieved, and a declared respect for evidence. What is happening in practice, however, is less than ideal. At a recent consistency meeting for managers, we spent no time whatsoever discussing whether performance had been improved and 2.5 hours comparing markings against the guided distribution.

  249. Comment by Steve HMRC posted on

    Sir Bob,
    might I suggest that you ask those who have provided you with this 'positive feedback' what colour the sky is in their world?
    As a member of HMCE/HMRC for 25 years, I feel well placed to comment on what is, without any shadow of doubt, THE most divisive and pointless new process ever foisted upon it's workforce. When one considers some of the other spectacular failures, that is truly saying something.
    Not only is PMR an absolutely discredited process, quickly abandoned my more enlightened employers, it has been introduced here with all the finesse and expertise of a troop of drunken monkeys.
    Like the overwhelming majority of posters on this blog, and I would love to know the average number of replies you normally get for your other, more anodyne blogs, I know of not one colleague who has a positive word to say for this system. This includes everyone in my management chain, although sadly, only in quieter moments and in the right forum, less they are overheard by the PMR Stasi!
    Can I end by saying that I pray for the moment when a freedom of information request lands on your desk, requesting the release of figures on how many staff years have been, and are being wasted, both by managers trying to comply with FORCED DISTRIBUTION ratios, but also staff members doing their best to keep their own heads above water, whilst being forced to do so by ensuring they are standing on the heads of their less fortunate colleagues!
    I for one would far rather be getting on with my job.

  250. Comment by Chris posted on

    I doubt there is anything left to say that hasn't already been said, except to say that I am sorely going to miss using that good old phrase 'If your performance has been managed properly, then there shouldn't be any surprises at year end'. Let there be no mistake, this year will be full of surprises because let's face it, we MUST meet our forced distribution target!!!

    If we must use such a convoluted and devisive sytem of managing performance, at least make sure that people working the same task are validated equally and fairly. I work in an area where the same task is split across different sites, and you can bet your life that there will be an embarrasing level of inconsistency across the groups because they are not being validated as a whole.

  251. Comment by Bluebird2 posted on

    If staff are placed in the bottom 10% its not really the staff who should be looked at it is their manager for failing to develop and manage them correctly. After many years in the service I am still amazed at the amount of bad low level managers we have who have gained promotion not because of what they show they can do, but because of who they know, cronizim still lives on unfortunately. Also there are to many people getting bonuses that are shopping partners or drinking buddies.

    • Replies to Bluebird2>

      Comment by John posted on

      This is why I left the civil service, the sheer weight of paper work to prove that you are meeting at what are at best abstract objectives.
      My last year in civil service my work load exceeded the recommended guidelines by 300% I worked an average of a 50-60 hour week, I deployed out to theatre for a 10 week period of which I was expected to maintain my UK work and deployed work at the same time. I meet all my objectives and exceeded most plus the additional work and at the end of review I got an average rating and no bonus. My logical thoughts at this point, were to leave work the same hours and work load and get paid substantially more for it. Now looking from outside with the reduction of pensions, no pay rises and poor opportunities to develop the performance process seems to be another way for the government to lose even more skilled and what should be highly valued staff working hard under pressure.
      It would be good if the government acknowledged this hard work carried out after years of reductions, loss of rights and uncertainty that the average civil servant has gone through, not throw in more ways to dishearten.

    • Replies to Bluebird2>

      Comment by Steve Hearn posted on

      If staff are in the botom 10% it is probably due to their reporting officer marking them in accordance with the guidence whilst everyone else continues to overmark performance.

      The system is destined to fail and cause a lot of unecessary stress and heart ache.

  252. Comment by Keith posted on

    No positive feedback from me (or many of the people I talk to). I won't waste time repeating the arguments above.

  253. Comment by Stephen posted on

    All this is not good for team moral, team spirit or trying to be efficient in our place of work. Staff maybe taking more time away from actual work by spending more time on how to be even more effective and efficient, which they already do. But after all their hard work and efforts going forward, and not getting anywhere is not good for moral.This system then suggests it contradicts itself with time and recourses spent on finding all the proof and procedures for your line managers. It then only creates animosity and an atmosphere in the work place because of no consistency. Is it all worth it ? does experience not count for anything anymore. there must be a better way of working ! surely.
    Please remember, you gain confidence by giving confidence to others, not by taking it away, and being appreciated for all your hard work, goes a long way.

  254. Comment by IAN DENYER posted on

    Ian As previouslt stated it's all be said. It a shame after over 33 years i am directly competing against friends. What every happened to team bonding and a happy workforce will produce the goods. Shame on you HMRC.

  255. Comment by Mark posted on

    Sir Bob, repeated comments on your blog post (and previous blogs) indicate that the guided performance markings are being operated on a quota basis (contrary to guidance) and that the PMR system is not being operated in a fair and transparent manner. However there is no accountability of these apparent failures, will you be commencing an enquiry to consider this feedback? It'll be helpful if you could publish the positive feedback that you have received (as it is currently anonymous).

  256. Comment by Steve Hearn posted on

    This is a system that has failed in private industry so why would we want to adopt it for public service?

    I am line manager for a team of 22, all of whom perform to a very high standard, I am very proud of each and every one of my team. I could possibly identify a top 25% who go that extra mile and rank them to identify who is the weakest but cannot justify giving them a Performance Improvement plan as even the weakest member of my team is delivering consistantly to a very high standard.

    All this system will achieve is to demoralise a percentage of the workforce, I can see no positive benifits from the implementation of this.

    Whilst reluctant to take part I will complete the process as I am required to do but felt I must voice a degree of concern.

  257. Comment by Andrew posted on

    "Feedback on this has been positive..."
    Sorry, but this is why all trust with the SCS has gone.
    There is no positive feedback that I can see, either within my department or on these blogs - are we reading different websites, Sir Bob?

    • Replies to Andrew>

      Comment by Tartan d'Artagnan posted on

      Dear Sir Bob

      Can you please post a link to the "positive feedback" about PMS, please? Many of us are finding it difficult to find.

      Many thanks

  258. Comment by Angel posted on

    Here we go again.
    Where are you getting this positive feedback from?!
    As usual noone at the top is listening to anything remotely negative.
    In Border Force we are expected to be enquiring and sceptical when dealing with passengers but to meekly accept our treatment with regard to the constant worsening of our terms and conditions.
    The usual notice boxes will get top marks despite doing very little. Those actually doing the work quietly will get ignored and marked down.
    I would like to see change to be needed - not just senior managers fixing what ain't broke to make themselves look good.
    In my over 20 years in the Civil Service NO serious effort has ever been made to deal honestly with poor performers - this remains firmly in the "too hard" basket.
    I agree with a previous post "Years of hard work and loyaltly and I'm now lumped in with miscreants based on hazy management perceptions and anecdotal evidence".
    Wake up Sir Bob and the senior "management" team.

  259. Comment by Sharon posted on

    I have to say that I really am not impressed with this year's 'arrangement' at all. I realise that Roadshows have been conducted for the Countersigning Officers, but I have never even met mine!! In fact I have only met my 1st Reporting Officer once. Even though he has recently moved posts and is geographically closer to me than he was previously, I have not seen him since he carried out my Mid Year Review in December (a bit late!). I think the whole thing is simply an exercise to identify if staff are really in jobs that have been graded correctly, so that if they're not, the MOD can regrade some posts and therefore save some money. I can truthfully say that I do not know any member of staff (both civilian and military) that is in favour of this new reporting process.

  260. Comment by Sean Whitfield posted on

    Below is the result of the “What do you think” poll of 2nd of December 2013. Nothing has changed in my book!
    The new performance management process was introduced earlier this year. Compared to the previous process, what do you feel has been the biggest improvement?
    I’m clear about what to do in the next 6 months - 3.4 %
    My assessment was fair and balanced - 3.8 %
    We identified areas for me to develop - 2.6 %
    Conversation felt positive - 2.4 %
    More open conversation with my manager - 4.8 %
    None of the above - 83.0 %

    Total votes: 26120
    This clearly shows the strength of NEGATIVE feeling regarding PMR, the response was one of the highest recorded, perhaps the highest. I feel that the new PMR system is one of the worst things I have seen since first joining the Service in 1971. The amount of tax payers money wasted is scandalous/outrageous.

    Many of us that come into work actually have jobs to do, I’m not being funny or negative I’m pointing out that the majority of us actually have work to do. That work is actually important, to suggest that I should spend this ridiculous amount of time on PMR is abhorrent to me, the procedure for giving and receiving feedback is also frankly unbelievably time consuming and way over the top, if this wasn’t so serious I would say laughable.

    I totally oppose this system and believe it should cease as soon as possible.

    • Replies to Sean Whitfield>

      Comment by Tartan d'Artagnan posted on

      "The amount of tax payers money wasted is scandalous/outrageous"...

      ...I am a taxpayer too and I am very annoyed that my taxes are being wasted in this manner!!!

  261. Comment by Very Angry posted on

    I have been reliably informed that other than microsoft which ditched this system such esteemed corporations such as Enron and the accounting company Arthur Andersen that audited them employed this or a variant of this too. Dare I say anymore where this is going?

  262. Comment by Richie posted on

    What is really eating people up about this new Appraisal System? Is it that 5 to 10% of staff will be unearthed as needing to improve one or more aspects of their performance? Surely that is a good thing? In the MoD the process will involve being given an improvement plan.

    So you get a plan, you follow it and improve in the aspects that fell short of the standard. Surely that is good?

    So if the Civil Service invented a system whereby no one needs to improve and everyone gets a £1,000 bonus for simply getting out of bed and turning up the workforce would welcome this with open arms? I am afraid life isn't as kind as that!

    In the MoD (and I assume this is the same across other departments) we were all given a score corresponding to our markings from one to six. The total possible score being 66 out of 66. I have recently had my report scored and submitted to the HR branch. Overall I scored 58 out of 66 by simple fact that some areas of improvement were identified.

    At my next objective setting session I will be asking my Line Manager what improvements I will need to make to achieve the full 66 out of 66 points at this point next year and I will ensure they (and me) commit to this agreement of gap filling.

    Incidentally I am also in the "protected groups". I work part time and also have a disability.

    I am clearly in a minority but to be fair have little issue with this system.

    So perhaps anyone here due to set their objectives in April should ask their manager(s) what they need to do to achieve "Exceeded" and "Role Model" in every area of their report. Get their managers to commit to an agreement on the views on the criteria are so goal posts cannot be moved.

    Any managers who cannot "come up with" the criteria for full marks really need to be reminded that the burden of rank includes ensuring their staff achieve their aspirations.

    • Replies to Richie>

      Comment by Sean Whitfield HMRC posted on

      Richie, Sir Bob must be delighted that at least one person can see nothing wrong with this system.
      I too have had a top marking and actually have had a "Bonus", however I believe you are in a very tiny minority, I have not met one other person that can see any benefit whatsoever with this system, I have spoken to managers that doubt very much that it will address "underperformance", as some "underperformers" spend so much time on their PMR.
      Although 83% of people that responded to a recent poll on PMR made it very clear that they think it is no improvement on the previous system, the powers that be appear unaffected by this.
      Give staff management & decision making back to line Managers, line Managers should be experts in their field, they should know the work that their staff are doing, they should not be just HR created clones.
      I for one come into work to focus on WORK, I don’t have staff (thankfully) so HR should be very low on my list of priorities, I also (crazy though this may be) expect my “Manager” to write my report because I would hope he/she would have some sort of idea regarding my attitude and performance!
      I believe the way it should be is:
      The team leader or Manager should write reports on his staff, the staff should provide as much information as possible to help with this.
      The Manager must know the following:
      Who can be depended upon
      Who cares about the work
      Who cares about the success of the team
      Who strives to improve efficiency and looks for better ways of doing things
      Who just wants to get by
      Who doesn’t really care
      Who could/should work at a higher grade & who shouldn’t.

      PMR is proven to be a failed system in other large organisation. In my opinion a total waste of tax payers money and insulting to both managers and staff.
      Richie, Well done for posting though.

      • Replies to Sean Whitfield HMRC>

        Comment by Richie posted on

        So we have a system. We are spending copious amounts of time complaining about how it won't work for us. Why not spend time and energy looking at how we can make it work for us?

        For example engagement with Management in order to ascertain what their expectations are so a person can attain the highest possible marks across their report. And before anyone says "it's not possible to get the maximum marking possible" why isn't it? No one says to a group of GCSE students that it is not possible to attain 10 grade A stars across their results. I has been proven time again that it is possible. If it is not possible to achieve the maximum results in one's civil service appraisal then why is the mark there?

        Pin you boss down and ask what they expect from you in order to achieve the highest possible score. Once they tell you get them to agree this is writing. You then know delivering anything less will give you less than the maximum.

        • Replies to Richie>

          Comment by Simon posted on

          Richie, I understand where you are coming from. However what happens if everyone attains top marks? As has been stated several times, the 20/70/10 is being stuck to rigidly, therefore even if everyone attains top marks there will still be a bottom 10%. Surely if it where like GCSE's then everyone would be in the top 20%?

          As for 'So if the Civil Service invented a system whereby no one needs to improve and everyone gets a £1,000 bonus for simply getting out of bed and turning up the workforce would welcome this with open arms?' I think you will find ANY private or public sector worker would most definitely welcome that with open arms. Having read through all the comments, not one person has mentioned getting a bonus for just doing there job.

          I don't think that 5 or 10% of workers NEED improving though. Quite a lot of people where I work just want to get on with work and do a good job. They don't want to 'get on' or 'progress up the ladder', this works against them as that is seen as a 'negative behaviour'. If you want to get on then there should be systems in place for that person to do that (it seems to be working for you! Which is a good thing.) but don't paint everyone with the same brush.

          As for not believing some of the reasons given to staff such as "not attending the Christmas Meal" or "it's your turn this year", perhaps you are being rather naive with your outlook. Managers are being forced to put staff in this 10%, what happens if you feel all your staff have performed at least satisfactorily? You end up with the ridiculous situation as pointed out above.

          Can you point out for me where Sir Bob has got his positive feedback from? As I am with the other posters on here who would say that by and large the majority of staff are unhappy about it.

          As for a last point ‘So we have a system. We are spending copious amounts of time complaining about how it won't work for us. Why not spend time and energy looking at how we can make it work for us?’. I think you will find that there has been far more time wasted on the PMR than a simple 5 minutes typing a response to a blog, don’t you?

    • Replies to Richie>

      Comment by John posted on

      I would be extremely concerned if I was given a score of 58. If there are more than 2 Exceptional performances against your objectives and/or more than 2 Role model on a PAR, these are likely to be seriously examined by DBS (MOD) - see comment below:

      Could you please point my in the direction, as informed today by my management chain, that they are not allowed to put more than 2 "exceptional performance/role model" on a PAR?

    • Replies to Richie>

      Comment by Aidy posted on

      I wonder how you'd feel about the process if you were marked Must Improve only because others on your team had scored 59 or higher.

  263. Comment by Darknorth posted on

    When I started in HMRC my Manager knew exactly what I was doing on a daily basis and could do my job better than I could.

    If he found I'd been gathering evidence to show how good I was he would have told me to get on with some b... work!

    How times have chanbged!

  264. Comment by Richie posted on

    Further to my earlier comment perhaps if everyone concentrated their energies into making the new Appraisal System work for them rather than assuming it will work against them as a foregone concusion (glass half empty syndrome) people might be pleasantly surprised.

    So take up the gauntlett and when you next have a feedback chat with your manager say "hey guv what do I need to do to achieve Role Model and Exceed your expectations in every aspect of my report".

    And the excuse that there is no time for a chat with the boss isn't really an excuse. Just be persistant. I noted down the time spent on completing the report and it took in total for me about 5 hours. This included meeting with the boss, agreeing objectives and gauging and agreeing to their expectations and gleaning what would be needed to exceed them. This also included the time spent compiling our internal evidence sheet in readiness for the end of year review.

    This was the approach I took at a time when in the MoD there was little in the way of guidance for the new system which was introduced this year for us.

    Good Luck!

    • Replies to Richie>

      Comment by Paul posted on

      So you do all the things that you have suggested, and then your boss, who fully agrees with the conclusions that both you and they come to, goes off to a Validation Meeting, where people who don't know you or your work, consider the conclusions that you and your boss have reached, and rule on whether or not they are the correct conclusions, taking into account the work done by and judgements formed on other people who do similar work but about whom they know nothing and the quality of whose work they are unaware of too. And if you or your boss disagree with the conclusions that are reached at the Validation Meeting? Tough. The new sustem is no better than a Kangaroo Court.

    • Replies to Richie>

      Comment by SImon Dicketts posted on


      Allow me to be persistant [sic]. I don't believe you answered the question "However what happens if everyone attains top marks? As has been stated several times, the 20/70/10 is being stuck to rigidly, therefore even if everyone attains top marks there will still be a bottom 10%."

  265. Comment by losing the will with HMRC posted on

    When will Bob and the upper echelons realise nothing in the garden is rosy within HMRC.
    We are underpaid, overworked, have had our pension decimated, new tems and conditions imposed and a reporting systems that is quite obviously not designed to help the minions!
    The individual gains nothing from PMR....NO PAY RISE and NO HELP TOWARDS PROMOTION. Please tell me Bob and Excom, how does it benefit me!!! and thousands of others! and when will you actually introduce something that benefits the staff. Caring for staff is far far long gone, if it ever existed!

  266. Comment by David posted on

    As a manaer within HMRC I regret to say that I have to echo many of the critical comments about the performance management system which have been expressed above. The guided distribution has produced a huge amount of percieved pressure on the validation groups, but, curiously, only around the 10% Must Improve category. In other words, there is a definite feeling of that part of the distribution being forced, notwithstanding Joe Dugdale's honourable defence of the official HMRC line. I have heard validation chairs say on numerous occassions that the distribution will be met. Having been presented with the model there seems to be a determination to make the real world fit it. The model should aim to reflect reality, not the other way round.

  267. Comment by Ken Franklin posted on

    The system seems very strange. How can it be a good thing to take assessment of my work from a line manager and reporting officer who I work with all day, generally within the same room, and hand it to people who see nothing of my work on a daily basis. While I understand the input of my line manager is important how can a reporting officer under the new scheme who sees you on a handful of occasions really assess your work against those of others? (some of whom they may manage)

    While I can understand the motives are reasonable the implementation seems at best bizarre, certainly within MOD/Land Forces where I have worked for over 30 years and have seen so many attempts to change the system and this has got to be the oddest.

    Surely managing bad performance is down to their line management and should be dealt with when it happens rather as a part of the annual reporting system. If it isn't working why hit the entire civil service with such an over bureaucratic system?

  268. Comment by William posted on

    Functional competancies are completeley left out. i work in GIS (Charting & Mapping) and we have specialised skills. These are not taken into account which is the mainstay of our work. Some people will simply just digitising geographic data but still providing high quality work and so how can you fill out so much evidence?
    The nature of our work relates to events in the world which you cannot predict so this will affect our objectives.
    Talking to others we feel like its an exercise in how good your writing skills are when completing the evidence, so some evidence might come across as more substational than it really is, or might be under-written.
    The time taken to write and understand the system has taken up valuable working time as well.

  269. Comment by CR posted on

    This is quite simply another way of further provoking civil servants and encouraging us to leave.

    The last few years has already been difficult with all the enforced changes (pensions, pay freeze etc) now a system that clearly has failure written all over it, there is no need to further elaborate on why as the vast majority of comments says it all.

    I’m still looking for the positive feedback as are most of us.

    • Replies to CR>

      Comment by Tartan d'Artagnan posted on

      Perhaps Sir Bob could please provide a link to the positive feedback?

  270. Comment by PeteR posted on

    It is early morning in Sir Bob Towers:

    Sir Bob “Bring me someone with ‘Director’, ‘Policy’ and ‘HR’ in their job title.”

    Entering through Sir Bob’s office door is the Director of HR Policy from the Department of Plate Spinners. Somewhat taken aback by the sight before him.

    DHRP-DOPS “Yes, Sir Bob”

    Sir Bob “Tell me how the great unwashed are reacting to the latest performance management system”

    DHRP-DOPS “They are marginally more in favour of the new system than they were to the changes to terms and conditions”

    Sir Bob “and….?”

    DHRP-DOPS “…and as you know Sir Bob, the unwashed were slightly more in favour of the changes to T&Cs than they were to the multi-year pay freeze”

    Sir Bob “and….?”

    DHRP-DOPS “…and as you know Sir Bob, 98% of civil servants were in favour of the multi-year pay freeze”

    Sir Bob “Good. I knew the feedback would be positive. Now what do you think of my new suit, made from a fabric invisible to anyone in the bottom 10%?”

    DHRP-DOPS “Cough!”

  271. Comment by Francesca posted on

    i enjoy my job, it is challenging and every day is different. every day i receive comments such as 'thank you so much' or 'oh that's so kind of you' etc.. . i don't wish to have a career, i just want to come to work, earn money to pay for the things i enjoy at home with my family. if i wasn't doing my job to an expected standard - it would have come to notice by now. i was told by my line manager it would sort the wheat from the chaff! do they not realise 'the chaff' would most probably be telling a few white lies to exagerate their brilliance! i am of the type that does not wish to 'crow' about by my successes (they just happen), i find it embaressing, but i do know of some colleagues that feel the need to tell everyone about every single thing that THEY do!! it is an entire waste of time and money - everyones money. i would rather be doing my job than trying to prove i am! what a way to lower staff morale (more than it already is)

    • Replies to Francesca>

      Comment by Sean Whitfield HMRC posted on

      Francesca, I totally sympathise with your views.
      I know many people that have spent a minimum of 3 days working on PMR and evidence logs, on my team that would equate to 21 man days. If this was repeated throughout HMRC (54000 FTE?) that is a loss to the tax payer of 162000 man days. Bearing in mind that 3 days is a very conservative figure and in some cases 10 days would be closer to the truth if you include the preparation for monthly 121s/evidence logs/feedback recieving and giving forms, so we could be looking at a figures up to 540000 man days! I hope someone can check these figures, I can't quite believe it myself..

      For an organisation so concerned with time lost due to sickness I find this incredible, appalling, mind boggling. Not to mention this time could be spent on collecting tax or preventive work.

      The present PMR system beggars belief in it’s incredible stupidity, after spending all the time mentioned above on your PMRs, you could find your marking overturned by a “validation group” that have no clue whatsoever regarding the work you do or in some cases who you actually are!

      I find the introduction of this PMR system one of the most offensive and counterproductive decisions I have seen implemented since 1971.

    • Replies to Francesca>

      Comment by Trisha posted on

      I agree, The whole system is contrived! I've never been comfortable with 'crowing' about my own achievements & don't intend to change. I guess that's me stuffed then, with my already low self-esteem on the floor. If only I could switch off this PMR stuff and just get on with my job, which actually I'm very passionate about & was enjoying until PMR came along and took over the working day.

      P.S. I started this comment over an hour ago - wanted to say soo much more but took caution from a colleague to be careful as I might be seen as 'negative'.

  272. Comment by Ashley posted on

    It is very evident from the comments already posted that there is a significant difference between what SHOULD be happening, what IS happening and what managers are SAYING is happening. The markings ARE being forced. Reporting managers ARE under pressure to mark down in order to meet a forced curve. The system IS being operated in the same way as relative assessment. Relative Assessment was hated and time consuming. Its not enough to say the markings are not forced because a guide says they are not.

  273. Comment by Martyn Holt posted on

    Doesn't this have to be one of the worst entitled blogs ever?

    Performance management – addressing your concerns

    Doesn't look like there is much addressing of concerns.

    • Replies to Martyn Holt>

      Comment by Tartan d'Artagnan posted on

      It would appear that any addressing of concerns have got lost in the post.

    • Replies to Martyn Holt>

      Comment by Tartan d'Artagnan posted on

      I notice that managers are receiving training in the Performance Management System (PMS) in the form of a whole suite of so-called “master classes”. What about jobholders though? As a jobholder I have received no training whatsoever in PMS and I am not aware of there being any available. I have asked my manager directly about PMS training for jobholders but I was told merely to refer to the appropriate guidance on intranet. I have had a look at said guidance and, frankly, I find it distinctly unhelpful plus it is so labyrinthine who knows where to start? Can you advise me on what master classes or learning support there is available to jobholders, please, or is it part of the master plan to let us to sink to the bottom rather than float? If the latter, then I imagine you'll succeed in achieving your 10% improvement needed target without too much difficulty!!!

    • Replies to Martyn Holt>

      Comment by Tartan d'Artagnan posted on

      Dear Sir Bob

      Mention the new Civil Service-wide performance management system (PMS) in its current form and I cannot help but think of Muda and The Seven wastes.

    • Replies to Martyn Holt>

      Comment by Tartan d'Artagnan posted on

      Apparently there is lots of positive feedback to the new Civil Service-wide performance management system... Emperor's New Clothes anyone?

    • Replies to Martyn Holt>

      Comment by Tartan d'Artagnan posted on

      We have a high-level initiative running in our Directorate called Binning Bureaucracy. Can you please explain how the new performance management system squares with that?

    • Replies to Martyn Holt>

      Comment by Tartan d'Artagnan posted on

      Validation panel... the terms "court" and "kangaroo" spring to mind!!!

  274. Comment by Stephen posted on

    342 posts at the last count (98% of which are negative). How many posts will it take before Sir Bob replies to explain WHY he thinks there has been a positive response and tell us WHAT the benefits will be of imposing a reporting system already totally discredited in the 'beloved' Private Sector.

    If everyone performs brilliantly - there will still be a bottom 10%. Madness.
    This is why Quotas are ludicruous, divisive and moral sapping.

    Everybody should be measured against their own objectives and if they don't meet them, then their poor performance needs to be dealt with. Employee should not be set against employee.

    Finally, some people want to come to work, do an excellent job and go home, i.e. they have NO desire to progress up the career ladder and there is nothing wrong this.

    • Replies to Stephen>

      Comment by Mike H posted on

      Your final point is well made.

      In addition it should be remembered that not all people are good at managing staff. However in the two Civil Service Departments I've worked in the 'team model' is structured so that most people in the team have line management responsibility, often for just one individual. E.g. where I work now of the eight colleagues below the team leader four are line managers. This means additional resource to train them in leadership skills and obviously an inconsistent approach to appraisals.

      I think it would be better for the team leader to line manage the entire team, being a central point for all leave requests, conduct issues, appraisals etc. The main objection to this approach is that people wouldn't get the opportunity to line manage and therefore when managerial positions do become available they have no evidence to support an application. However the current structure would remain with those who are currently line managers being responsible for the day to day supervision of work, as now, but without the distraction of absence management, PMR etc. and as such would have some supervisory experience.
      Let managers manage, supervisors supervise and workers work!

  275. Comment by Marie posted on

    As a C1 (SEO) in MOD within a 'chief of staff' role to a Reporting Officer of 20 civilians, I can honestly say that whilst common processes for recruitment and competences are long overdue, it seems that the commonality has fallen down for performance management.
    Whilst I understand that Line Managers are not doing enough to tackle poor performance, I do not believe that this performance 'management' system is the right way to go about it. Instead we should be educating Line Managers on their responsibilities and the fact that it is a part of the job that you applied for and accepted.
    It is my belief (and everyone I have asked at various levels of the food chain) that there is not enough guidance within the department, and it sounds like that is true of other government departments also. I have spent an awful lot of time asking the right questions, not only within my own unit but also within HR, only to be met with a lot of blank faces. If no-one knows what we should be doing, then there really is no hope.
    I have had to create multiple ad-hoc documents, timelines and meeting guidance dits in order to help the civilians within my team and also my RO/CSO to ensure that at least what my team is doing is consistent. However, this does not address that in order to be totally 'fair' that everyone should be marked using the same criteria, which there is no proper guidance on either.
    I have spent at least 70% of my time throughout the year on performance management, and whilst those that have had it thrust upon us have been doing the best we can with a broken system (that wasn't even released to us until month 2 of the performance management cycle!!), this definitely needs to be reviewed, and not implemented 'off the back of a fag packet' as it appears this one was. Some proper thought and engagement required next time please.....!!!!!

  276. Comment by Mike posted on

    The question for me has always been "what is the purpose of a performance management system". None is perfect and all will face criticism - although that is not a reason to diminish the adverse reaction to this latest scheme.

    The no 1 priority, in my view, is a performance management system that tackles poor performance. There have been endless surveys that staff want this to be dealt with robustly and I am still far from convinced that there has been much improvement over the years whatever statistics might be deployed. For me, the solution is more effort and resource (from HR as well as line managers) to actively manage those in the bottom 5%. This needs to recognise that those caught in this lowest grouping may have been misplaced (because no marking system is perfect) or just need a little encouragement, support or coaching to perform better - as well as showing the door to those not responding to help, subject to the usual employment safeguards.

    As for the remaining 95%, the amount of effort that goes into distinguishing between the good and the excellent is disproportionate. And the demotivational impacts of missing the top box are, I suspect, at least as great as the motivation from getting included. For those performing especially well there are also other benefits: recognition, a greater likelihood of promotion (if any such opportunities exist) and, I guess, job satisfaction. A good manager should be demonstrably valuing the best performance all year round, not waiting until the end of the year. Whereas I sense that a banded system (whether with fixed or guided distribution) can have the unintended consequence of discouraging some managers from lavishing praise and encouragement because of the risk of raising end-year expectations which they cannot then fulfil.

    Let's have more people management and less paper management.

  277. Comment by Julian posted on

    The hundreds of comments in this blog properly reflect how people feel about the thoroughly discredited and unfairly implemented practice of stack ranking. I’ve been told that my performance expectations have been recalibrated (in February) but no-one can tell me what that means. How many thousands of man hours across the CS have been diverted away from the day job on this reporting system? HMRC has said this process may be uncomfortable. It is not. It is agonisingly painful.
    CS reform is aimed at driving down staff numbers and removing benefits judging by what the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, said in July 2013 about ‘40,000 lazy civil servants’.

  278. Comment by Paul posted on

    It has been made crystal clear that the civil service of the future will be leaner, more professional and more productive. Already people at AA grade are under no illusion that their days are numbered and no doubt our AO colleagues must be wondering if they will be the next target.
    PMR is no more than a way of making life so uncomfortable and unfair that people leave of their own free will thus relieving our employers of the costly and time consuming business of making them redundant.
    Some of us might try to push for a "top" marking and/or promotion but what are the incentives? No pay increase or if there is it is too derisory to be worth bothering with, the loss of a day and a halfs leave on promotion and now the likelihood that after being promoted we will probably find ourselves in the "improvement needed" category just because we are less experienced than our colleagues.
    And I thought the stated aim of the new PMR system was to "drive up" performance and to encourage "continuous improvement". As usual the Civil Service wants to emulate the private sector but with none on the financial rewards. All stick, no carrot.

  279. Comment by Peter G Kane posted on

    Chris Last's comments indicate just why we are in this predicament. A failure to grasp the fundamentals of human nature. Why are colleagues going to share what worked for them when they are in direct competition? Why are managers going to all the trouble of lifting improvers out of the imposed distribution range when at the end of the day it will come down to a horse trade as to which poor sap will end up needs improvement. Similarly at the top end of the scale what influence will a manager have when in a group considering the representations across disparate teams and job holders that have been shoe horned into validation groups.
    HR appear to believe team work will be unaffected by the imposition of this flawed system. If so they are deluded.
    I fear that if you genuinely believe that there are positives from this debacle you are being fed such positive comments only from those in the SCS who are blind to the simple mathematical result of having imposed distributions.
    As I suggested Sir Bob if you wish to have any level of credibility with civil servants you need to open your eyes and listen to what is happening on the ground. At present the HR responses do no more than re-inforce the prevailing view that you are not listening and that differant departments are doing their own thing.
    You started with a headline, PMR Addressing your concerns, so far you have addressed none and the powers that be in for example HMRC, have not even paid lip service to the idea of partnership and negotiation with ARC members in this matter.
    Will PMR provide a real performance shift across the civil service? I know what the coal face workers reply will be.

  280. Comment by Ayfer posted on

    I welcome the principle of ‘good’ performance management systems across the Civil Service but sadly this is not it!

    What is even more concerning is the ‘spin’ put in place to ‘cover’ the gaping holes. We can see this from the huge range of ‘interpretation’ to the enormous variation in the implementation of the policy by line managers across our department.

    In the Department for Education we have been told that irrespective of how well everyone has done there will be 10% of staff who will go into the ‘must improve’ category. If this is not forced ranking I don’t know what is!

    I will try to explain this by using real life examples:

    As trade unionist we have seen cases where there has been little or no management engagement with staff in question; staff continue to work diligently only to find themselves in the ‘must improve’ at the end of the year and even when at the end of the year they had ‘achieved’, find yet another decision making body, the ‘Moderation Panel’, overrule the decision and places them in ‘must improve’. We have even seen staff who have met all their objectives only to find that they are placed in the ‘must improve’ because their managers have deemed them not to have met the ‘personality’ traits!

    A flawed system will allow line managers to make personal judgements rather than factual and relevant evidence based decisions and cause rifts in what may already be a strained relationship.

    We have been dealing with cases where the highest percentages of ‘must improve’ are those who are older staff, those with a disability or from minority ethnic communities. What is this saying about the organisation?

    Indeed, this must have been rather concerning to the department as it frantically sets about introducing diversity training to managers! What will be interesting is to see if, following the training sessions and once managers learn to understand diversity in all its colours and ways of working, cases of those staff in the protected characteristics placed in ‘must improve’ are reviewed again, or where they have been dismissed reinstated.

    The process is exposed even more so, where the Occupational Health reports, initiated by the department and funded by the public purse and the Civil Service’s own Ability Passport recommendations are rejected by managers. Even on the face of overwhelming evidence from medical professionals, staff find themselves in ‘must improve’ and are issued with ‘warnings’ as they struggle to have their disability recognised by non-medically trained line managers. I have even had an occasion where a line manager is quoted as saying ‘these are only recommendations’ we don’t have to do them!!!

    The values of an organisation should be measurable by the way it treats its staff and by the way it puts in strong measures to ensure that the Performance Management policy is not used adversely by individuals in decision making to either knowingly or in an unconscious bias discriminate against fellow staff members. On that measure, as the staff survey indicates, DfE is languishing in ‘must improve’.

  281. Comment by Mark Winn posted on

    Interesting book reading at the moment that touched on objective settings for staff it specifically said that box filling creates more tension stress and tension for all. I'm giving you a box 3!. By just presenting people with that you are lighting the blue touch paper immediately. But if you say to them as highlighted by the issue x you will probably agree that we need to look further at your development in this area and then give them the box marking that sounds far better. But unfortunately unless the employee pushes this, or the area in which they work is a good one they will just get the box marking. What's the point in that? how does that help people improve?

  282. Comment by Trevor Colman posted on

    How can any system whereby you give the figures 25%, 70% and 5% be anything other than a quota system?

  283. Comment by Helen BP posted on

    No one would have a problem with a system that genuinely focused on benefitting staff and the organisation, and genuinely improved performance. The problem is that this system does not do that. It does not remotely do that. It has got zero to do with changing performance.

    There have been lots of comments about HMRC - and it's true. 100% of the focus has been on who gets singled out for the humiliation of a "needs improvement" marking. For senior professionals, there's been absolutely no other difference. We are not discussing things with our managers more, we are certainly not getting more training, IT, guidance and support to enable us to do our jobs better. And so if the only thing we do have is the threat of sanction - and that's what it is: a nasty punitive sanction, with the threat of a link to pay in years to come, how does that help? Why is it all stick and no carrot? In short, what does marking 10% of people out as failures do to help them succeed?

    Our mid year results show a depressingly predictable disparity by gender, ethnicity, disability, working pattern. If you force managers to make arbitrary decisions, this is what you get. The personal effect for a sizable proportion of staff stress, depression, feelings of low self worth, being looked down upon by peers. Is this a price worth paying?

    There's been a huge volume of semantics and double speak from our employing Departments and from Sir Bob. Please could we just be listened to? Why do you think there's such a disconnect between what we are telling you and what your stated intentions and outcomes are? Does evidence mean nothing? (I am talking about more that thoroughly ambiguous questions and results in the People Survey - as others have pointed out, staff aren't necessarily asking to be treated more harshly when they say performance is not well managed - "not well managed" is what this system is, we want less of it, not more).

    We are telling you how things are - it isn't just because change is "unsettling" or "uncomfortable". If it was good change, we'd be biting your hand off! There's little enough of that. How about genuinely focusing on enabling us to provide good performance instead of stamping 10% of staff as failing? Do you think the threat of this is, all by itself, going to scare people into upping their game? Even if 10% are going to fail no matter what?

    Are Perm Secs marked in this way? Or Ministers? Surely if it's good enough for us...

  284. Comment by Frank C posted on

    I am attaching a link to an article that was included in a blog by William Hague, HMRC's Chief People Officer, for discussion. I believe it provides an insight into why the CS introduced the system and the likely consequences.
    Unfortunately it offers no solution to how to recover the mess such a system leaves behind.

  285. Comment by Gordon posted on

    Bob, you state that "Feedback on this [Civil Service-wide performance management system] has been positive". This is not apparent from the comments addressed to you via your blog. Please direct us to where we can find positive and supportive feedback from across the public sector. Thanks

  286. Comment by MCM posted on

    Will Sir Bob address the concerns raised in these comments above?

    • Replies to MCM>

      Comment by Steve posted on

      He can't the PMR is owned by Head of CS HR and he has already indicated that he feels system needs time to bed in! Not a man who changes his mind easily.

  287. Comment by Claire Kington posted on

    A number of my Colleagues left a year ago and it has been in their favour that they were Civil servants they were actively Headhunted as they had the right attitude, and all but one due to health reasons have been re-employed. The Civil Service may not value its employees but the message is outside does.

  288. Comment by Peter Burton posted on

    Hi Sir Bob

    Well, at least your blog is provoking a healthy level of response – precious little evidence of positivity though. Hopefully none of the ‘negative’ responses will be used against those who have bothered to express how they feel, by manoeuvring them from an ‘Exceed’, to ‘Achieved’, or to the rather insultingly named ‘Must Improve’.

    I started reading your latest blog hoping, perhaps naively, for some new found realism, for evidence of being in touch with grass roots staff. Then I reached ‘feedback on this has been positive’. Was it an intentional red rag? A simple question: if the feedback is so positive, why feel the need to address our concerns?

    This stack rating approach for performance is a divisive and already discredited system. It seriously undermines good team building principles; sets staff up against one another and is indisputably already a major cause of demotivation. Just read these replies. Manipulation of performance quotas is what the system is all about and that is what is so fundamentally wrong with it.

    The extra cost in staff and management time geared towards reaching the pre-ordained quotas of performance markings almost beggars belief. The relentless stream of propaganda from our senior people desperately seeking to inject some ‘positivity’ reminds me of the mantra from the Star Trek series ‘This is the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile’.

    Because I still care, I am left feeling frustrated and rather sad, that so much pain and wasted costs will have to be endured, before you realise this new system is wrong. As for the ongoing propaganda – please forget it. Hopefully these responses will help you realise what the overwhelming majority view actually is.

  289. Comment by James posted on

    The war of words between Guided and Loaded is just a matter of semantics. They mean the same thing at the end of day. It is a tightening up of the system in place before where each layer down has been told the 10% will be met or there needs to statement why this is not the case.

    In terms of the supporting the manager to understand the system - I had the First Masterclass due in March/April delivered in August and then no further Masterclasses. Therefore left to me to read any guidance myself and deliver understanding to the team. I remember back in the early 90's when we moved from to a new appraisal system the whole team were inducted at the same time at a classroom event. i.e. Manager and team together this meant that there was then no misunderstandings or barriers.

    This new performance system appears to have been delivered on the back of potentially loaded questions in the People Survey. A management decison on staff perception of swathes of poor performers across the Civil Service as opposed to the real situation that may occur on the Front Line.

    The fear is that Validation Exercise (which didn't happen at half year point in my area) will mean Managers that can "talk the good talk" will win through. We will just have to wait and see!

    • Replies to James>

      Comment by Tartan d'Artagnan posted on

      Tartan d'Artagnan — 10/03/2014

      I notice that managers are receiving training in the Performance Management System (PMS) in the form of a whole suite of so-called “master classes”. What about jobholders though? As a jobholder I have received no training whatsoever in PMS and I am not aware of there being any available. I have asked my manager directly about PMS training for jobholders but I was told merely to refer to the appropriate guidance on intranet. I have had a look at said guidance and, frankly, I find it distinctly unhelpful plus it is so labyrinthine who knows where to start? Can you advise me on what master classes or learning support there is available to jobholders, please, or is it part of the master plan to let us to sink to the bottom rather than float? If the latter, then I imagine you'll succeed in achieving your 10% improvement needed target without too much difficulty!!!

  290. Comment by Ian posted on

    Like the other 98% of civil servants I'm either invisible or inaudible, or maybe I'm living in some sort of Star Trek alternative Universe? Bob must have gathered his positive evidence in the space-time warp where I can see both the old Spock and the young Spock at the same time.
    Apart from the ideal principle that everyone benefits from an open and regular dialogue about their performance, I cannot think of a single positive thing to say about either the theory or practice of PMR in the Civil Service. Where is the benefit or motivation from introducing a system that explicitly sets out to have a bottom category which takes from 5% to 25% of its workforce? And worse, requires standards that are flexed so as to deliver those outcomes?
    To then insist that the expectation at senior levels that the distributions will be met is 'not a quota' takes us straight into Alice in Wonderland territory, where words mean what we say they mean.
    And are civil servants so variable in their capabilities that we really can have one group 5 times more likely than another Deprtment to be in the bottom group? What is the impact on teams and working together when helplnig a colleague may tip you into a poor assessment.
    All this might seem like pure management theory, to boldly go where no man has gone before. But unfortunately, others have gone before us and they have ripped it up. When will we?

  291. Comment by Lee posted on

    James- if the people survey is full of loaded questions, which in turn is a basis for justification of saying PMS has been positively recieved- which i suspect many of us quietly think there is , then we can't trust the People Survey either, which puts SCS in even a further bad light. I'm frankly appalled at the mind games that are being played.

  292. Comment by Lee posted on

    Of course i meant PMR...

  293. Comment by Jimbo posted on

    I note from my department's HR policy intranet - "The Performance Management policy applies to all jobholders up to and including Grade 6 or equivalent". Can someone please explain to me why people above Grade 6 - ie people like Sir Kerslake himself - are NOT part of the PMR system? Surely, I thought that "we are all in this together" and that "what is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander".

  294. Comment by Patrick posted on

    What makes me work better? Working with people I like in a job that is challenging but rewarding, occasionally getting the nod from the people I respect saying 'nice one Pat'. Has a performance management system helped me in my 23+ year within the CS develop ? No, don't be stupid. I think the PMR system is outdated and unquantifiable. Surely the only people who should be reported upon are the SCS because isn’t that ‘where the buck stops’ Bob?

  295. Comment by Teresa Clark posted on

    Sir Bob

    Thank you for this blog, and for hosting this discussion.

    Thank you for having read - for I am sure that you will have read - all the contributions posted thus far. Those posts do not offer support for your opening contention that 'feedback on this has been positive'. It will be interesting to read the feedback to which you refer
    ; 'feedback' is one of those useful collective-ish nouns: you may have been alluding to a single instance of positive feedback after all. You will no longer, I'd suggest, be able to state that feedback on the imposed system of, um, 'guided distribution' is positive.

    Thank you for the fact that, having read all of the above posts and those that are to come, you will be about to re-open discussions with PCS and other unions on the whole imposed performance mis-management system. For surely you cannot fail to do so now.

    You tell us that you are 'very proud' of a system that 'reflects our values'. If the current system of mis-guided rankings under which we all now struggle 'reflects' civil service 'values', that tells a sad story of those values. Certainly the way the imposed PM system is working - or not working -here at DfE does not begin to accord with the values of mutual support, encouragement, affirmation and team working of the PCS members whom I represent.

    The system is discriminatory, divisive, demoralising, demotivating and just plain daft. Disabled staff, staff from minority ethnic communities and older staff are over-represented in lower categories. Line managers feel forced to dump previously esteemed and valued colleagues in MI or PP in order to meet quotas, craft a seemly bell curve and avoid being thus dumped themselves. It is a strange system, is it not, and odd values, where to be deemed a 'good' line manager is to have 'sufficient' poorly performing staff?

    DfE has pioneered the new imposed PM system. Simultaneously the engagement index at DfE has collapsed, down 5 points from last year, and down 9 since 2010. PCS used to represent members in occasional grievances, maybe 1 a term. Now it is a rare day when a member does not come to us to explore bringing a grievance.

    It really is time to start talking again. We need to talk at departmental level about ending this system which is harming people and relations so much; we must talk at national level too.

    And, meanwhile, I see that an earlier post has suggested a petition. Now there's a thoughtful and thought-provoking thought.....

    • Replies to Teresa Clark>

      Comment by Discrimination posted on

      Many part-time staff are very stressed as well about this. It is harder for part-timers to gather extra evidence and attending meetings, work groups and doing the ridiculous amount of work for the appraisal itself all takes proportionately more of their time. It saddens me greatly to see very competent part-time workers getting deeply stressed because of an appraisal system. I cannot imagine how this could meet European law on discrimination. I think it might be true too that older workers may be more prone to being put into the bottom marking as I overheard a comment along the lines of 'she is near retirement, why should she care' in respect of an individual who had been told they were likely to be in the bottom category, despite the fact they are a very competent worker.

  296. Comment by Concerned posted on

    Sir Bob

    The Centre has one view on all this, and seems to have allowed Centre LMs to continue to act as ROs/CSOs for their own staff (hence your comments I guess), but the way in which this Reporting strategy has been actioned across the rest of MoD is ill judged to say the least. My RO & CSO are now people who have no idea what I do or how I do it, and have nothing to do with my LM at all (as others have said here). I have had only one 10 minute meeting with my RO in late '13 as no-one had been nominated before this, (so forget about the directive re JH setting objectives with the RO at RY start), and I have never met my CSO. Neither have discussed my end RY performance with my real LM or me to date. How can this be fair, motivating,and quality assured assessment?

    Sir Bob, you also need to take a look at how the Commands are interpreting your Reporting directive, and grouping staff randomly re new ROs/CSOs... quite chaotic. This haphazard grouping approach is affecting grades and various role types up to and including 'B'. Also, how to consistently de-motivate some of your existing line managers in a double whammy of daily PAR implementation threats and strictures, while facing a total lack of cogent appraisal personally.

    The effectiveness of the current Reporting approach, & especially the widespread allocation of external ROs/CSOs for JHs away from the Centre, may well be better measured by the number of related grievances that are received by DBS in the next month or two.

    • Replies to Concerned>

      Comment by Trevor Colman posted on

      Could you please point my in the direction, as informed today by my management chain, that they are not allowed to put more than 2 "exceptional performance/role model" on a PAR?

  297. Comment by pete murton posted on

    As an MOD civil servant who in a past life was a senior manager in the private sector running a large department I have been on both sides of the fence. In the eight years I have been a civil servant there has been no consistancy in reporting, PADR's have flitted from format to format and from online to offline (how can an online system be devised when only approx 75% of the reporting officers had access to the system). This lack of consistancy reflects a less than structured approach to reporting! As for this current system, I have doubled the amount of time that I previously took to report on those that I am an Line manager for, I have doubled the time that I spend on my report (as has my line manager) and the gambit of managing those that I am a reporting officer for is all new work. My countersigning officer is a 300mile round trip away. If you look at just the factors stated above it must be accepted that this system is not fit for purpose. The key aspect is time, how can managers free up the time required to implement the basics of this system, let alone do a good job of it. I accept something must be done, and maybe a less narrative numbers based approach will provide a fairer and more consistant result. But using the line manager as the reporting officer, with all their inate personal knowledge of the individual (and manage their output if the overgrade or are too cosy) must be better than wafting in an ignorant 3rd party to do the job.

  298. Comment by Elaine posted on

    I am a C2 Grade who has worked with the MOD for over 33 years now and I have seen many new appraisal systems introduced. I welcome change and a better way of doing things however I have to say that in theory this appraisal structure looks good but in practice it is the worst reporting system I have encountered in the last 33 years! I have not read the comments on this blog as I really do not have the spare time however, I feel so strongly that when presented with the link I feel compelled to write further and fortunately I am a touch typist so can do this quickly.

    I have seen staff become totally demoralised by this new system and witnessed more upset than ever before from peers and colleagues throughout the CS. I have no idea where the evidence came from to say the feedback was all positive but perhaps this lends itself better to some CS Departments who had poor reporting systems in the first place and whilst MOD's system was never and never will be perfect it has worked. I bet the positive feedback was derived from stats via those who had the time to fill in questionnaires. This is not truly quantifiable unless everyone lodged feedback and I would guess that those who are too busy to fill questionnaires in are the ones who are not supportive of the system thus the feedback is not authentic. Assume all those that did not fill questionnaires in are against the system and you will see the pattern looks quite different - negative equity!

    Where it truly falls down is it is not consistent. Personnel who do not have particularly busy posts have the time to do the "over and above" extras to satisfy the requirements as it is an achievement to just get through what is in front of you every day. Those who work their socks off and have no spare capacity to devote time to projects that may get them more recognition, remain defeated by this new system but deserve more.

    Who did an assessment of the cause and effect before this went live and how competent was this team? This system is naturally going to engender a "kick back" attitude where the diligent personnel may actually stop working so hard when they see that their "underworked" or "less busy" or "lazy" colleagues are getting good markings. Another effect from this report is that it totally discourages team work. It now promotes stealth and insidious working practices as one person will not want to share what they are doing with another to avoid anyone else getting credit for the task. Whilst you may say this does not happen, in the real world I have seen it happen.

    There is too much distance in the moderation process and whilst I am very fortunate in my own area with my line management as well as peers who do work closely and as a tight team, I have also witnessed some of my colleagues who do very little in their digital posts but this is not visible to the chain of command so they will never know this fact. Yes of course if we are overtly busy we should discuss this with our line manager to ensure we are afforded the opportunity to excel but at the end of the day line managers are constrained within their own resources and rather than whinge, those of us who are assiduous and professional just get on with the job - albeit at the expense of our own self promotion!

    Whatever system is in place will not suit everyone - it is the nature of the beast but this particular tranche is calamitous. Now I have taken time out to do this blog I am behind so please excuse me if I get back to work!

  299. Comment by JR posted on


    So from your comments we will have exactly the same issues next year as this:

    1. A new reporting system delivered late.
    2. No real training available for LM, RO, CSO.
    3. No training at all for JH.
    4. Moving goal posts throughout the year as 'lessons learned' are implimented.
    5. More time wasted trying to work with a system which at best seems disfunctional.
    6. LM, CSO, RO cannot motivate team members due to lack of knowledge of the system.

    When are these very basic issues going to be addressed?
    If you are to impliment a new system then those who are repsponsible need to know, understand, be trained and accept the system LONG BEFORE it is due to start. If this is not done you are setting us all up to fail.

    Also to quote from another blog entry above - if we are all in this together why does this system only apply up to grade 6 - do you change into something different above grade 6 and therefore need to be judged differently or is it a case of DAISNAID (Do as I say not as I do) when you get to that level.

    I would alos like to view the possitive feedback that makes Sir Bob so proud.

    • Replies to JR>

      Comment by Kathy Barnes, Civilian HR Director, MOD posted on

      I would like to pick up on your suggestion that the new performance management arrangements do not apply to the Senior Civil Service (SCS). In fact the same principles of performance management do apply to the SCS- and have done for several years. Members of the SCS are divided, by performance, into three tranches at each grade. The top tranche is restricted to the top 25% of performers, 65% are deemed to have achieved their objectives and 10% fall into the third, lowest tranche.

      The new processes are bringing the approach to performance management for the delegated grades into line with that already in operation for the SCS.

      • Replies to Kathy Barnes, Civilian HR Director, MOD>

        Comment by JR posted on


        Thank you for clarifying that - it is something which seems to have been shrouded in secrecy.

        Could you now go on to clarify any of the other points either in my reply or any of the 400 or so others in this blog.
        There is a great depth of feeling - 99% of it negative which needs to be addresses and I can see little of that from anywhere.
        If this stance continues then the current mood can only deteriorate as the lack of response reinforces the idea that the reporting system has not been researched correctly, has been implimented very badly and will not go well.

        I look forward to your reply.

  300. Comment by Jimbo posted on

    Why are only 5% of staff in MOD deemed needing of improvement as opposed to 10% everywhere else? Clearly there is some "good practice" going on there that needs to be looked into and spread round the other departments...

    • Replies to Jimbo>

      Comment by Jeff posted on


      From Kathy's previous post:

      'In 2012/13 only 1% of people were found to have any development needs within MOD.'

      So we're up 4% in a year; clearly not an example to be followed.

  301. Comment by Simon Bowden posted on

    Over 25 years in the Civil Service and PMR is the most dangerous tool I’ve ever encountered. However, it’s not too late. It takes a brave man to admit his mistakes and there is no shame in it. Scrap the whole divisive, underhand PMR system that has alienated 98% of the workforce. Issue a statement stating that due to overwhelming response from staff and senior officers, the system is being “modified”. Then get together with whoever comes up with these things and design a fairer, more user friendly reporting system (if there is a necessity to be one). Why not bring back the consultants who helped with the LEAN process after that was such a huge success.

    Here’s an idea you can have for free:- If you really want to get rid of at least 10% of us in order to meet your targets, you don’t need to do it under this shameful, devious guise of “performance management”. Simply slash our salaries by 10%. I’m sure this will cause a huge number of staff to resign, therefore solving your problem at a stroke. You still get the job cuts you want, it’s much quicker and the upper echelons of the Civil Service will be seen as meeting their targets of reducing staff. I’m sure management would be considered dishonest and cold hearted, but no more so than they are now.

    Just a thought.

  302. Comment by Tack Myatt posted on

    The first paragraph of Sir Bob's blog above immediately makes me suspect that feedback on the new PAR system would have been 'positive' whatever anyone said. I am a military line manager whose entire staff are MoD Civil Servants, and I work in a unit where a significant percentage of personnel are civilian. I have not heard one single, positive comment from anyone, military or civilian, on our site concerning the new PAR system. It is one of the most divisive reporting systems I have ever had the misfortune to witness. My two biggest concerns are that I am no longer in the reporting chain for any of my staff, and I have to rely on the integrity of a Reporting Officer who hardly ever sees my staff actually performing their duties and a Countersigning Officer who is located nearly 100 miles away! Fortunately for me, the RO & CSO for my staff are especially conscientious and I trust them to carry out the role, however I am sure this is not the case across the entire Civil Service. The second, and most important, is the 'mandatory' percentage of staff who must be marked as Box 3 even if they are performing their duties at/above an entirely acceptable standard. As a consequence of these, I have been faced with falling morale and personnel exploring the possibility of employment elsewhere - all because of the 'latest-and-greatest' experiment in annual reporting seems to have been introduced with little, if any, thought. If Sir Bob was actually told the truth about this new system, I suspect he would realise the real situation is not as positive as he has been led to believe.

  303. Comment by Mary posted on

    I've worked in the Civil Service for over 20 years. In all my time there, I have never come across anything as divisive, confusing, stressful, counter-productive, cumbersome, unfair, and time-consuming as the new PMR. It is an absolute disaster, it is universally hated, dedicated staff are being shoe-horned into the bottom 10% just to meet some ridiculous, pre-ordained quota, and we all know it. PMR is a disgrace and a complete and utter farce. That is all.

  304. Comment by Helen BP posted on

    Humiliation serves no useful purpose - we should stop doing it to people with this system:

  305. Comment by Kevin posted on

    I agree with pretty much everything others have said.

    As part of our development we have to do five days "training". However, because PMR has been so time consuming, it has become impossible for us to do PMR and our normal day to day work whilst keeping within pacesetter targets. So we have been instructed to record our PMR time as training, resulting in none of us having any development this year other than learning how to fill in different form in eloquent language.

    I now know how to use a discredited system, but have learned nothing new and haven't developed in my own job.

  306. Comment by Phil posted on

    As a manager who tries hard to instill an ethos of team work and mutual co-operation, I'd like Sir Bob to tell me how setting team member against team member in a fight to avoid the compulsary 10% category (reality) helps build team working and trust between colleagues? This is the worst most divisive system ever introduced, and thats saying something! Scrap it now or engagement levels and staff morale will plunge to even greater depths!

  307. Comment by Dave Guyer posted on

    Why are the panel members who evaluate the PADR's and make the decisions on the bonus awards not accountable for their decisions. All that is provided to the individual is an informal letter stating that you have either been successful or unsuccessful. There is no feedback provided to either the individual or the RO as to why they deemed it unsuccessful. If they did take the time to consider it could prove useful in many ways. I have a serving officer who sits on the panel that considered our PADR's for 2012/13 and I am sure that members of the armed services require and receive guidance throughout their careers.

  308. Comment by Steve posted on

    The rankings are in practice, forced. Senior managers are keen to show that they can be tough, and are afraid of being accused of not managing poor performance if they don't ensure a 10% 'lower' tranche.

    This style of performance system was pioneered by Enron, and is believed to have contributed to the culture that ultimately destroyed that company . Microsoft has recently abandoned a similar performance framework, and industry-watchers say it is blamed for Microsoft's poor performance in recent years.

    I do not want to see the same thing happen to the Civil Service. This performance framework is antithetical to the public service ethos of the civil service. It will demoralise rather than motivate and set co-workers against one another as they scramble up the rankings. It will not get the best out of people.

    • Replies to Steve>

      Comment by Bernard posted on

      There is little more I can add other than my to add my voice to the negative feedback for PMR. I do wonder if the aim is to break the civil service beyond repair. If so then you are going the right way about it, and in the process causing much grief and distress to the staff who deliver the services you are so proud of.

  309. Comment by Jimbo posted on

    Dear Sir Kerslake - you state in your introduction "This system has introduced a consistent model across our organisation, which now looks at both “what” civil servants achieve and “how” they achieve it." I ask you - how is it consistent that only 5% of people in the MOD are to be marked as "needing improvement" whereas it is 10% everywhere else? Either you don't know what you're talking about or the MOD is immensely more efficient and productive than other departments and perhaps you should be investigating to find out to find out what it is that they are doing right, and spread this good practice to other departments. I don't suppose you'll answer this though, just as I doubt that you'll tell us where this so called "positive feedback" came from.

  310. Comment by Helen Hardy posted on

    Ok here's the holy grail - positive feedback... I DO believe it is a good and necessary thing to look at behaviour as well as actions (we have all seen, for instance, people who are 'good at the job' but hopeless managers or worse).

    But that's all. On every other point I agree with the other posts in this chain. 'Guided' distribution is simply a euphemism for forced ranking, which is demoralising and discredited. Senior HR managers who think that this is not what is happening have only to read this chain to see otherwise.

  311. Comment by Mark posted on

    Sir Bob

    I read your blog last week with utter incredulity.

    It made me angry and even more de-motivated than I already was. I am still angry but feel so strongly that I simply must add my thoughts.

    My employer (HMRC) has broken promises and failed its staff too often. I suspect that the “wheels will come off” soon and it will be the public and businesses that rely on HMRC to fairly and properly administer the tax system that suffer, while staff are inefficiently floundering against the myriad of obstacles in their way. (IT systems, PMR, erosion of terms and conditions etc etc)

    If the feed back is “positive” why did senior staff in the ARC union take industrial action over this issue?

    Either you are not getting the real message, or you are choosing to ignore it? Which is it?

  312. Comment by Kathy posted on

    I would like to raise the following points regarding the PMR process.

    First I would like to say that the way our Usher team is spilt into 3 groups, resulting in us in having 3 different line managers and this has caused problems.
    I am in a group where my line manager is the Civil Listing Officer,. my colleagues have 2 Crown Clerks as theirs. Please don't get me wrong I have no ill feeling towards my line manager who is lovely person and would not like any of my concern to reflect badly on her what so ever. However she works in the office downstairs and I do not come in to contact with her apart from asking any listing queries I may have occasionally. My line manager does not come in to contact with my daily work and therefore does not have enough working knowledge of my duties. On completing my PMR, she has to ask others that work closer with me regarding my performance. My colleagues in the other groups do come into contact with their line managers as they see them in court when performing their duties on a daily basis. They see what they are doing to fulfil their job requirements and also the markers that would bring them in line for them to be exceeding in their role. Therefore in my opinion she is not aware of my full duties, she is not in a position to appreciate on how I should be marked.
    I am in the only group that I can see that this effects, as from what I can see the Family section have their own line manger that are responsible and knows the family section and their team within it. This is the same for the Civil and Crown section in the office.There is no consistency for me to perform as an Usher within my team and this cannot be right.

    Secondly, the above concern again has caused problems for the following reason:

    When the PMR process started, as an Usher team we would frequently discuss amongst ourselves what we were being told by our separate line managers.
    We soon realised that through these "chats" we were being told different things. I was given difference guidance advice and a form to fill in than my colleagues. To my horror, I found I had completed my PMR and already handed it in on one particular form to find that my colleagues had been given a different version. I had spent a lot of time putting evidence together and making sure I had covered all the points required . I went home at the end of that day feeling totally deflated, upset and angry. The next day I reported it to my line manager who after making several enquires, told me that I did not have to do mine again and that it would be accepted as it was. This caused me unnecessary upset and stress!
    Why were the 3 different line managers not singing off the same hymn sheet? There seemed to be little thought put in to the process of how this was going to be implemented amongst all of us and did someone not think about the effect it would have on its staff.

    The think the people who have implemented the PMR system should have perhaps spoken to the people who thought of The HMCTS Way:

    The HMCTS Way- We live the HMCTS way and all our decisions are guided by it.

    Our people are coached and developed
    Decisions are made with the future in mind
    We 'go and see' to understand what's really happening.
    We get things 'right first time' and do not create or pass on problems.
    Our people are engaged and deliver value for money.
    We use visual management to expose problems, inspire improvement and understand situations at at glance.

    My last comment is this:

    I am not someone who comes in to work everyday and just goes through the motions and hates being here. I think to myself that I am very lucky...... I have a job as an Usher that I love and enjoy and I feel very proud of what I do, but there is something seriously wrong with this new system!

  313. Comment by Emma posted on

    I have tried to read most of the comments on here but there are far too many. I have to say though from my own point of view this system is causing untold levels of stress. Staff at all levels are having sleepless nights worrying about whether they have written enough, written the correct things, gathered enough evidence, how do they show the evidence that they feel is relevant. On top of very busy jobs it is an extra work load. It is not consistant across the department as I know of someone at my grade who is having to fill in something completely different to everyone else at the same grade, just because that is how the RO wants it! I fully agree with rewarding those who deserve it and helping those taht are struggling, improve but this process is far to involved and for what, the CO doesn't see any of the evidence the RO sees and it is all down to that one person! How are the reports going to be used in the JOBS system as all they are at the end of it all are a set of numbers!

  314. Comment by martyn posted on

    It will be argued that the 388 posts on here only represent a small proportion of the total number of civil servants - it will be argued we do not represent the views of the majority of staff and therefore the comments can be dismissed. Perhaps the purpose of this blog was to enable us to let off steam about the system - and that now we've got it off our chests we will be able to move on. I assume the 'official response' will follow after the reporting period finishes - a review will happen and nothing will proved to have been done wrong.

  315. Comment by Mark Richardson posted on


    I think the response to this blog is pretty conclusive that the new system is most definitely not successful, liked, fair, consistant and I think it's safe to assume that it is not something to be proud of. Feedback clearly isn't positive, despite what you read into the results of the People Survey. This in conjuction to the result of a recent poll, in which 26,000 people responded to the question 'Compared to the previous process, what do you feel has been the biggest improvement?' An overwhelming 86% stated 'None of the above.' (Solely due to a lack of 'No Improvement' option.
    What exactly is going to be done about this?

  316. Comment by David Leach posted on

    I note that our Senior Leaders are confident that our performance will improve but I am interested to know what our baseline performance is and how they will judge whether the system has improved performance against it. How will they know that the improvements are due to the changes in performance management and not to other improvements that departments are making? I think that those who are unsure of the benefits of the change would be more likely to be convinced if they were shown tangible evidence of any improvements.

  317. Comment by Lee posted on

    4 days, close to 400 comments (nearly 50% more than the next biggest response to one of Sir Bobs blogs) and not so much as an acknowledgement with regards to our concerns...speaks volumes doesn't it!

  318. Comment by Diane posted on

    I am an HEO Grade Team Leader I have worked in the HO over 20 years now and I have seen many new appraisal systems introduced. I have to say that this appraisal structure is flawed. I was marked bottom 10% against my peers although their managers were away on leave at the time and had not wriiten their comments or markings. I have to say I have turned this to a positive on my part. When I was asked to cover as SEO, I declined, when I was asked to cover as team leader for a team where their team leader has been absent, I also declined. I find this rather odd being asked to cover the higher grade and for another Team Leader when I am deemed to not be performing in my own grade.

    • Replies to Diane>

      Comment by Paul posted on

      The fact that you have now, given the circumstances quite correctly, turned down two opportunities to cover other posts will almost certainly be seen as "negative behaviour" and you will no doubt remain in the bottom 10% for your next appraisal because of this. You have made yourself an easy target simply because you have a good sense of right and wrong and are willing to stand up to this type of management bullying. And make no mistake this IS bullying, among other things.

      This is exactly how a lot of staff find themselves trapped in a cycle of misery, low morale, apathy, zero career prospects and in the end probably off on long term sick.

      If the people who have allegedly praised this ridiculous system still think it is working or is a good idea after reading these comments I and no doubt many others here would love to hear their reasoning.

      Where are these people? More to the point, where is Sir Bob?

  319. Comment by Peter posted on

    Dear Sir Bob

    What an interesting set of comments. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to make these points, I do hope that you are reading them all.

    This system produces perverse effects. Here is a real example, I have heard several different people say this or something similar:

    "I have someone in the must improve category in my division, and I am comfortable with that because he/she meets the criteria. But the last thing I can afford is for that person to improve or leave. Because if they did, I would have to put someone into the category who does not deserve to be there."

    You know you must be in trouble when people start saying things like that.

    These days we are all asked to be evidence driven and data driven, and I think that is a really good thing. So for me, the most compelling points in these posts are the references to the ample evidence that this system has the effect of depressing performance, and that this has been recognised in the private sector, who have done away with it.

    Sir Bob, I think we should follow the evidence. Don't you?

  320. Comment by C Nichol posted on

    I am reminded of our politicians who claim to be dismayed as to why people are not engaged in politics. Is it not the case that they somehow decide in their own minds to dismiss what they don’t want to hear and so find security in all sorts of reasons and excuses, start tawdry initiatives, but won’t tackle their fundamental causes of the apathy? Why do they not see that the public is sick of them not pulling together over issues of national importance, of attempting to make political capital out of a situation rather than objectively analysing the facts and agreeing on a way forward?

    Of course, it’s only politicians that do this. The senior civil service will always look at all the facts carefully, and consider the pitfalls before instituting a new policy. Whilst in this modern age decisions must be taken quickly, they would always take even a few minutes out to seek wise counsel on whether or not a new good idea is a good idea after all. I really want to believe that any senior staff would challenge their masters and say no to any initiative that would cause real pain and distress to their staff.

    Or something.

  321. Comment by Jimbo posted on

    Dear Sir Kerslake – you state in your introduction "This system has introduced a consistent model across our organisation, which now looks at both “what” civil servants achieve and “how” they achieve it." I ask you – how is it consistent that only 5% of people in the MOD are to be marked as "needing improvement" whereas it is 10% everywhere else? Either you don't know what you're talking about or the MOD is immensely more efficient and productive than other departments and perhaps you should be investigating to find out to find out what it is that they are doing right, and spread this good practice to other departments. I don't suppose you'll answer this though, just as I doubt that you'll tell us where this so called "positive feedback" came from.

  322. Comment by Ian posted on


    Sir Bob, Joe Dugdale and Kevin White must live on another planet to persist in their assertions that this discredited and outmoded `system' is in any way fair. I invite any or all three to attend a selection of panels to witness for themselves the way in which the rankings are `guided'.
    I, for one, cannot understand why three intelligent and educated individuals persist in their attempts to justify a system that was utterly discredited way back in the 1970s - or is there an ulterior motive?

  323. Comment by Employee in MoD posted on

    So is there something wrong with having annual appraisal feedback that suggests one needs to improve in one or more areas of work in order to be the employee the employer wants and pays you to be?

    Since when was the category "Must Improve" ever been "You are now out of the door and on the dole queue"? It never has been. Indeed in the MoD our PUS has vowed this is not the intention.

    This does sound cruel but I often hear the views of Civil Servants and yes I am one too but many seem to think that the Civil Service works for them not the other way round.

    So you find that you "must improve", embrace the feedback and the free training and development that comes with your Improvement Plan and view it as an opportunity to become a more rounded individual and to become what your employer paying you wants.

    Simply because someone has been in the Civil Service 500 years it does not mean that they have no improvment needs in order to keep tempo with the constant moving needs of the employer. Indeed one could argue they have more needs as some can become entrenched and institutionalised and inhibit progress by basking in their salad days.

    Having a scan through this lengthy blog response are there any replies from people who have actually fallen into the "must improve category"?

    Perhaps it would be nice to hear their views on whether the development opportunity was useful to them and more importantly the organisation, if they in fact were threatened with the sack or if they have sucessfully completed their plan.

    I think the key note of this new system is:

    Good, better, best,
    May we never, ever rest,
    'Til our good gets better,
    And our better gets best.

    • Replies to Employee in MoD>

      Comment by Paul posted on

      John, the problem is that it is not an appraisal system, but a Kangaroo Court.

    • Replies to Employee in MoD>

      Comment by Mike posted on

      Having a scan through this lengthy blog response are there any replies from people who have actually fallen into the "must improve category"? Employee in Mod

      Yes – me. I was marked thus at a 6/12 review

      A few points that may (or may not) help.
      There is of course nothing wrong with having annual appraisal feedback provided it is carried out fairly and competently. Unfortunately the last part of the sentence is the most important part!

      This process allows even less interaction with managers – a fall guy manager to collect the appraisal scores, no score is given and it is then moderated by a remote manager who wouldn’t know me from anyone else!!

      Comments were made about me that were untrue and unfair - there is no appeal until the final year btw.

      I am a chartered surveyor – there is no training and development in that sphere just generalist managers who talk about management but seldom practice it.

      There may be some who think the CS works for them – It doesn’t for me anymore, that’s why I am leaving. There are many still here who are like minded, who think very similarly and are considering their positions as well. I think they are all pretty competent by the way.

      I have provided suitable feedback about how I was feeling but I was totally ignored. I have since implemented my own Improvement Plan and I am going to work elsewhere. I have found that my five years post qualification experience counts for something – the last salary review here left me into the same bracket as a newly qualified surveyor with no experience who has just joined….

      The “rounded” individuals you speak off are generally found “in the ranks” who actually recognise a lot of nonsense when they see it and prefer to pay lip service. I don’t want to be cruel myself but in fact managers are the problem – the higher up, the more institutionalised they actually become!

      The latest reshuffle here has led to the appointment of another Director, 3 more high level appointees (to be decided). I am speaking to clients and managers to find out who can do my work when I leave next week.

    • Replies to Employee in MoD>

      Comment by Andrew posted on

      While I'm sure we can all "improve" to some extent (or can anyone claim to have done everything perfectly all year?), this doesn't necessarily mean that 10% of staff are underperforming or not meeting their targets.
      If I do get categorised as "must improve" it should be because my manager thinks I'm not doing my job as well as I should or I'm not meeting my targets, and not because other people in completely different jobs may be perceived to be doing better in theirs.

      If the pass mark in an exam is 40% and I achieve 45% I have still passed. I don't get reclassified as failing just because everyone else has scored 50%+, do I? If, after a re-sit, I improve to 55%, should someone who got 50% then be classed as failing? Certainly not.

    • Replies to Employee in MoD>

      Comment by supporting my colleagues posted on

      Employee in MOD - it's not that staff don't want to improve, or don't appreciate constructive feedback on performance, behaviours and opportunities for training. Personally, I aim to always be better tomorrow than I was yesterday.
      It IS however the inherent unfairness of grading on the curve - sorry "Guided distribution system" that has people standing against the simple injustice of it. Comparison against peers instead of standards will always lead to unfairness.
      I come from a teaching background and If I set an exam for my students where the 'A' Mark is 80%, it should be perfectly feasible for all student in the class to achieve that. The same with a fair appraisal system. The fact that in the forced distribution (and make no mistakes, it is forced - quote from a DWP HEO "There WILL be 10% in must improve") there is someone who is destined to be in the bottom sector, no matter how hard they try, is just plain wrong.
      Of course it is excacerbated by being tied in with wage rises - which aren't the best at the moment - but to have your wage frozen because of the whim of fate is soul destroying to say the least.
      I see HEOs protecting their own empires, protecting their own backs, wiling to foist work off on other already overloaded sections - and this perverse behaviour is a direct result of this system. And of course no-one is going to call them on it are they? As long as stats are met, who cares if customer service, staff morale and real motivation to achieve excellence goes by the wayside.
      I just feel sad about the whole thing....

    • Replies to Employee in MoD>

      Comment by Just another MOD minion posted on

      I would happily accept must improve in some areas, if the people reporting on me were willing, prepared and able to identify exactly what the improvement(s) is/are that are required. In previous years the feedback has been trite when it came to which level of bonus would be received, i.e. a good/great/excellent performance this year but against other colleagues not quite good enough to receive the top award. Feedback so far this year for a report completed at the end of January (not March) due to the timetabling for completion of reports - nothing!

      The "system" (I put that word in quotation marks as the word implies some sort of co-ordinated approach) has been dumped on all levels of the organisation from MOD Head Office, forms and guidance has been so late as to make it pointless, management advice & information has been changing on a weekly basis. Reportees have been scrabbling around for evidence and crafting words for weeks to satisfy managers expectations, only to then be told to revisit it again when subsequent advice comes out.

      To see HR directors on this blog scrabbling to provide positive attitude responses is hilarious, it just shows how appalling this "system" is. I have heard everyone from my SCS to my Band D's saying how terrible it is, then to have Sir Bob come out with such a crass alternative view is stunning.

      I've had it, I'm out of here!

  324. Comment by John Doe posted on

    I have heard no positive comments regarding PMR. As an MOD working for the United States Visiting Forces (USVF) we were advised who our RO & CSO were during November therefore no Stage 1 agreements or discussions occurred. Stage2 Mid Year Assessments similarly were missed. Due to the determination of the USAF to dispense with MOD personnel and replace them with Local National Direct Hires (LNDH) as vacancies occur, the resultant permutations of JH, LM, RO and CSO can deliver anomalies in the view and priorities of key players with alternate reporting procedures of their own as they are slotted into different groups e.g. MOD (JH) LNDH (LM) US Dept. Of Defense Civilian (RO) US Military (CSO). Irrespective of employing organization the PMR is not considered sensible. Just to add to the misery VERS is not available to MOD working for USVF so no jumping allowed, push only." Level Playing Field"?

  325. Comment by HR Viewpoint posted on

    Sir Bob,
    You seem to have stirred up quite a hornets nest here so I can only presume that your managers may be being "less than frank with you" about what is actually going on on the ground.

    To enlighten you, at an operational level and despie speaking to hundreds of managers I cannot recall anyone thinking anything other than this reporting system is a disaster that we will just have to make the best of.

    Certainly within DWP as will be the case with other departments "guided" and "expectation" mean "hit the targets". Indeed Colin's helpful breakdown of last years distributions only confirms that the increased pressure this year is due to a failure to hit our "10%" target last year.

    One point that no one has rasied so far though is why 10%? Are there any figures to back up the suggestion that 10% of our workforce "must improve"? Or is it as most suspect a figure plucked out of the air by the scheme designer with a view to scoring points and furthering their career?

    I strongly supect the latter because with over 30 years DWP service and despite what senior managers may think we aint got them! Granted we probably have the around 2% of poor performers that the old system identified and yes they should be in fromal performance improvement measures but 10%? Get a grip.

  326. Comment by John posted on

    The new system is anything but "Guided". It is to all intents and purposes "Forced" distribution. I know of one SCS who told a Grade 6 that if he didn't find the 10% or was unwilling to, it would signal his own entry into the 10%. Another SCS also told his G6 managers that it wasn't what was written that would be implemented, it would be HIS interpretation of what was written - in other words you WILL find 10%. So get ready for sleepless nights and be grateful that you can now apply for your own job twice annually. No doubt the spin doctors will be well used to portray this shambles as working well. We all know the truth of the matter. Look at what was done to the HMRC staff survey as an example. Whilst the numbers responding fell, the die hards with blindly positive views who did respond were therefore in a higher proportion and this was quoted as a success. It beggars belief!

  327. Comment by Team Leader posted on

    I am sick to death of hearing the phrase "guided distribution". In my area of work senior leaders (at Tier 2 and 3 level) have made it absolutely clear that they expect to see 10% of staff given a "must improve" marking. It is a forced ranking. Unsurprisingly, the most noticeable results of this have been:

    1. A climate of fear in which many people devote a large slice of their time to trying to demonstrate that they should not be one of the "1 in 10".
    2. A further decline in morale (which was close to being rock bottom already).
    3. Huge increases in stress for managers as well as staff.
    4. Individuals with decades of excellent public service suddenly finding themselves labelled as poor performers.

    It pains me to say it, but the blog entry at the top of this page (with its Orwellian title "Addressing Your Concerns") is, at best, staggeringly blinkered and naive and, at worst, dishonest and hypocritical.

  328. Comment by Diablo posted on

    If we introduced a new tax or benefit that attracted such concern from our customers about how time consuming it was, we would be examining the admin burden we are placing on those customers. Indeed we would have considered both admin burden and equality impact before implementation. This is quite rightly standard civil service practice. So how have we got ourselves in this position ?

  329. Comment by Sick of it! posted on

    So, where is Sir Bob's response? Fast enough to listen to the 'yes men' who advised him about being 'positively received' but not so fast to answer 400 genuine concerns and valid criticisms about this ridiculous performance management tool.
    We want to believe in CS Reform, we want a good modern system, we want to have a clear framework for performance, fair terms and conditions and fair and reasonable treatment by the CS as our employer. The problem is, when CS make a mistake, instead of listening to the backbone of it's workforce, it blunders on with expensive, outdated and doomed policies.
    Right or wrong Sir Bob?

  330. Comment by George posted on

    Perhaps next years YourSay Survey should include the following questions:
    'did the new Performance Management system improve performance and deal with poor performers?'
    'has the new Performance Management system had any effect on team working'

    • Replies to George>

      Comment by Darknorth posted on

      A question on the Staff Survey about whether the New Performance Management system is working would end all doubt about what we think and make it impossible to put a positive spin on things. And for that exact reason this is precisely what will NOT happen.

    • Replies to George>

      Comment by Tartan d'Artagnan posted on

      Dear Sir Bob

      Mention the new Civil Service-wide performance management system (PMS) in its current form and I cannot help but think of Muda and The Seven wastes.

  331. Comment by Anon posted on

    Sir Bob

    First off can I say that I do not agree with the new reporting system, it is flawed, little understood and being paid lip service by managers within DWP who are being hard pressed with other priorities in their job.

    However one of the more worrying things I have read is Debbie Adler (Director General, Human Resources) possible criteria of people who may fit the within the 10% ‘Must Improve’ box marking within her Intranet update on the 7th March.

    In it Debbie suggests that people who ‘may be new into a role’ could make up the 10%. Can I say first off what a demoralising statement to make to anyone who attempts to make a positive career move, attains promotion or is moved into a role because they were surplus in their previous role. This could lead to them being an ‘easy target’ when those crucial talks take place about where they belong in the ‘guided’ markings.

    In addition, am I wrong that in this scenario Objectves should be stretching BUT achievable when set? From Debbies statement it would appear that even if you were to meet the objectives (which should be tailored to take into account your learning curve) because you are new in the role this could be a reason why you fall into the bottom 10%.

  332. Comment by Expresso posted on

    How does the PMR system deal with those that may try their best yet still be in the bottom 10% - do they get a must improve even thought they may well have exceeded (relatively) the performance of their colleagues?

    I think there is little doubt targets will be met under PMR.

  333. Comment by Stella posted on

    Sir Bob ,

    I would like you to recognise reality. I was told in my end of year at the beginning of this month, that I was at the bottom end of box 1, but if any of colleagues wrote a better submission then I could be pushed down. How can this be the case? I thought you were either wholly exceptional or you weren't, but it appears when our managers have picked their favourites, two in my team so no hope for me there, the rest of us will be "lumped" in box 2. Bet this doesn't happen in Whitehall but rest assured it is happening at the coal face all over the country. This is the reality.

  334. Comment by Richard posted on

    Forced or guided? Here is the Home Office guidance on what validation means. Very much open to interpretation methinks......

    "Validation is a meeting where you review the indicative performance ratings of a group of jobholders against their peers. The outcome of the validation process will determine the jobholder’s performance rating for the performance year. It is expected that the distribution (Top 20%, Mid 70%, Lower 10%) will be met across each directorate and, as far as possible, at each grade."

  335. Comment by Janet posted on

    Sir Bob

    please have the courage to reappraise the PMR system

  336. Comment by John posted on

    Totally agree with the overwhelming number of comments that highlight the current PMS process as 'not being fit for purpose'. I along with many other colleagues in UKV&I, tackle 'poor performance’, through supporting and encouraging colleagues whilst if necessary providing training and ongoing support. There are rare occasions when it is necessary to go down the poor performance route and I won’t shy away from that, especially if a colleague is unwilling to put a shift in and be accountable! Experience tells me though, if you get the work environment right along with the culture, you normally then have motivated people who want to do a good job - which the vast majority of us who come in to work want to do. The current PMS is flawed – I know many people who work in the private sector and who work with appraisal systems that are the complete opposite to ours, they are succinct, objective and focussed. One example of this happening is a well known pharmaceutical company whose appraisal system consists of a six monthly review, along with a final review and the completion of a report that is just two pages! In the coming months, thousands of Civil Servants will be writing comments, reports, and being involved in moderating panels that are not consistent. The financial fall out is huge – time and money that should be used towards ‘doing the day job’ is lost. The current PMS is divisive, unfair, and doesn’t achieve the Boards aim of improving performance and driving up standards – if the Board thinks that is what the current PMS is achieving, then they have been misinformed. Finally, as other posters have mentioned, I have been fortunate to work with some very good, highly motivated people throughout the last twenty years or so – having to explain to someone who is motivated and are good at what they do, that after being judged against their peers at a moderating panel, it has subsequently been decided that they fall in to the lower category because we need to put someone in there (quotas have to be met and are rigorously enforced), it is unfortunately a conversation that many others will be having in the coming months. The sheer number of negative comments should lead to an urgent overhaul of the current PMS.

  337. Comment by Steve posted on


    Firstly apologies if my comments have been repeated elsewhere but I’ve not got the time to go through all the posts, but as a LM for 28 years I just feel so incensed by this new PADR so please accept my first and only post.

    Whilst I am broadly supportive of the concept of performance bands which hopefully will identify poor performers and provide a better focus on retraining, although a fixed quota is a bit like one a shoe will fit all – it doesn’t.

    However this new PADR is in my opinion fundamentally flawed, and is by far the worst, I have seen in 37 years of service with the MOD. My main issues are:

    1) There is not sufficient written evidence to clearly justify the box marking presented to RO or CSO or the modulation boards to fairly demonstrate and assess relative staff performance levels as such this will become a hated number crunching lottery – hardly a recipe for staff morale.

    2) Reduced reporting timescales – this is fine if you have only one member of staff to report on but in my case I have 8 CSO and 7 RO reports to complete for scarce discipline engineers and my LM has ~50 in total. Logistically this is usually a nightmare even in a stable office environment however my BU directly supports Theatre and as such time wise staff are out on the road for 50% whilst I’m out for 30% which is further compounded by the end of a annual leave year staff dash to burn up leave which also always includes two weeks over Easter which again is a recipe for disaster.

    3) Staff are under additional stress staff due to the way this PADR system has been introduced without real consultation. I just hope I don’t have a further heart attack.

    The real danger in my area after several years of cost of living cuts due to the civil service pay freeze and an improving private sector that this will be the final straw and staff who are fairly mobile with good transferable skills will vote with their feet.

  338. Comment by G Manson posted on

    It is very clear that despite the arguments of the few ( normally the very people who implemented this disaterous system) claiming the quotas are not enforced that nobody on the ground actually believes this is true.

    I note that in most cases they have been very clever with their words with the statement "nobody will have their marking changed simply to meet the guided distribution" a typical comment.

    However I would argue that when it is made clear from the outset that 10% is expected for the need to improve category then managers feel under pressure to find this 10% during the process

    This allows any senior management claim that nobody will have their marking CHANGED to meet the quota to be made without fear of contradiction.

  339. Comment by Jill posted on


    I would like to address your comment 'I am confident that introducing new performance management arrangements.... [will] raise our overall effectiveness'. Indeed I think this will be quite the opposite. By limiting the performance categories to 3 (must improve, met and exceeded) you will demoralise the majority of your staff. It will be virtually impossible to achieve exceeded in all objectives and without an additional categority between met and exceeded people will not 'go the extra mile' in any area of their work if they believe that they will not meet exceeded and will not gain any recognition. Those who may be just about in the met category or below will be more stressed having to go through a formal procedure. Those in the must improve category will feel like they are walking on egg shells for at least 2 years. This is not the kind of environment you want to get the most productivity from your employees. This isn't even touching on the fact that this process will encourage competition amongst employees if you are comparing performance against people's peers. To gain something useful you want your employees to work together to build something greater, not to keep their own knowledge to themselves.

    All in all this system, in my opinon, will reduce the effectiveness of staff and cost the taxpayer more money. You need a performance management system with more tiers and a fairer way of measuring against objectives (and not peers).

  340. Comment by ALI posted on

    Dear Bob,

    Very interested by your comment that the guided distribution ratings "are guided not forced." In my directorate's performance management process notes, it says:

    "The clear and unequivocal message from the Director is that she expects all validation groups to meet the HMRC set guided distribution of performance markings."

    So clearly, my Director is forcing the guided distribution ratings and will see cases of those who are either "good" being moved up to "exceeded" or oppositely, down to "must improve." I agree that poor and good performance should be treated in the right way, but it seems an own goal has been scored by setting targets.

    I am also surprised by Joe Dugdale's (Director, HR Policy & Operations, HMRC) comment on 7 March where he says, "We have consistently stressed that the distribution of assessment ratings is based on guided distribution and not a forced distribution system." My director's comments contradicts Joe's statement.

    With all these mixed messages, how do you expect us to trust the system?

    I've spoken to my contacts in other Government Departments and some are actually not forcing the guided distribution. It was actually demoralising to learn this and I didn't feel like I wanted to work for HMRC. I am therefore delighted that I am leaving HMRC next week and joining a Department that is not forcing the distribution.

  341. Comment by Josephina Walker posted on

    The system is highly flawed and works on the basis of comparing an individual against someone of an equal grade/role type. This is not true. Not all jobs are like those in London (and not as easy when you don't have access to a whole range of office support services which add to the work load). It is like comparing an apple and orange. My manager said she was intimidatede by the moderation panel and felt unable to defend my 'achieved' marking and I was consequently put in the bottom 10%. This made me ill with worry and added to my stress (whilst coping with dying parents). It was impossible for me to work harder or smarter (and included continous long days to cope with workload, and even working when on jury service, and non of this work was taken into aaccount. Because my boss also refused (or was bullied into believing) I could not work any harder to get an acceptable marking I decided to leave my unit during the worst time of my life and whilst ill because there was no way of achieving what the stats wanted. It seemed to me that unless you worked in a) London b) wrote ministerial briefings you would not get a decent marking. The whole business is shameful, I pushed for changes to the PDR process because I was fedup of under performers. What has happened is the under performers with more time on their hands have simply got smarter in hoodwinking the system.

  342. Comment by PeteR posted on

    As has been pointed out to me by a senior person with ‘Policy’ in their job title, this was a very carefully (craftily?) worded Blog, which has allowed all the hundreds of posts suggesting that feedback has not been positive to be ignored because the masses do not understand what was said.

    Looking at the words that have created the reaction:

    … (PMS) now looks at both “what” civil servants achieve and “how” they achieve it. Feedback on this has been positive…

    The claim, albeit unsubstantiated, of positive feedback refers just to one element of the new system, namely looking at the ‘what’ and ‘how’ and does not refer to the system as a whole.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not supporting this Blog, the new system is badly thought through, advice delivered late while revising the form three times and little or no training to help with understanding of the process. It has created perverse behaviors, already well expressed in the hundreds of posts above and consuming weeks of effort by many people. Worse of all, we have yet to be informed of the what and how of the effect it will have on pay.

    I am fortunate as I have never held a ‘Policy’ post in my 42 years as a civil servant, I have always had an engineering job but I know I would be slaughter by my line management if I were responsibly for delivering something with so many flaws, failings and unintended consequences. Also, I would be expected to correct and apologise for my error, not take to defending the indefensible.

    Oh, and finally, I simply would not be able to sleep if I were responsible for creating so much unnecessary additional work, pressure, stress and anxiety in my staff. Guess I’ll never make it beyond my current grade.

    • Replies to PeteR>

      Comment by Paul posted on

      It has been craftily worded but whatever way you look at it the attempt at clever word play has blown up in Sir Bob's face because he now has hundreds of very articulate, considered, well argued and very, very negative comments about the current appraisal system.

      At a time when we are being encouraged (or threatened, depending on your point of view) to be more "engaged" his refusal to even acknowledge these comments is a sad reflection on just how "engaged" senior management are with their staff.

      As somone else said earlier, the management mantra is and probably always will be "do what I say, not as I do".

  343. Comment by It could be you posted on

    Last time we had relative assessment, one of my colleagues was all for it and was very anti the union's stance that it was wrong. He was a highly competent individual, but what he had not thought about was that so were the rest of his team. When it came to it, he was the one put in the bottom category, even though his performance was certainly not worse than his peers. He was the sacrifice and he was devastated - he did not think there was any way he could be put in the bottom category, but as his line manager told him - someone had to be. That is what Richie (in this blog) just does not seem to grasp. Assessment should be fair and any system whereby the results have to be pre-set in some way is not going to be.
    Leigh Lewis, DWP permanent secretary when we had relative assessment last time agreed to get rid of it because it was one of the “long-standing sores which we have been too slow to tackle”. Yet here we are again. I think the system has been reintroduced in the full knowledge that it will upset and demotivate civil servants so that we will leave - whether that be by early retirement, resigning to go to other jobs or accepting redundancy terms. I cannot perceive of any other reason why such a blatantly unfair system would be reinstated. The cost to the tax payer of so many hours being spent on the current system must be enormous, which in itself is a disgrace.

  344. Comment by Stuart Innocent posted on

    Perhaps the most indicative vote against the new PMR system is that ARC were willing to take industrial action against the PMR system. Thurthermore the very nature of the beast will lead to it consuming itself within a few years. At a time when the Civil Service is facing many challenges and downsizing, to implement such a time consuming and devisive system is ludicrous. Not your finest hour Sir Bob.

  345. Comment by Chris B posted on

    I am sorry to say that reading Sir Bob's blog has become akin to reading some fantasy fairytale work of fiction. The fantasy in no way touches the reality.

    • Replies to Chris B>

      Comment by Nick posted on

      Have to Agree management seem more out of touch than ever. Seems to be heads down and we will get through it approach.

  346. Comment by Rich posted on

    After spending my lunch break trawling through the numerous posts and responses I have to say that I'm absolutely shocked by the strength of feeling and the silence from the SCS interspersed by a few that seem to ignore the very real concerns and issues expressed. You can't defend the indefensible, I would love to know who came up with the guided/forced distribution - this is completely discredited and has been proven to wreck a number of prominent companies.

    I can only come to the conclusion that the CS is doing its utmost to demoralise its own workforce in the hope that enough of us leave. This is not me being negative, I feel battered by the Government, the media and now by our own bosses telling us that black is indeed white.

    Proof of this is in the positive spin employed by those entrusted with the PMR scheme implementation. This spin completely ignores what is happening on the ground, with those taking issue identfied as 'negative' or 'resistant to change'. Clearly there are communication issues and a disconnect between the workforce and senior management. If this blog is anything to go by either Sir Bob or SCS HR people should find themselves placed in the bottom 10%!

    My suggestion would be that Sir Bob immediately puts in place some kind of dialogue with all staff looking for feedback on what we would like to see from a PMR process, drawing on the best examples demonstrated by business and other areas of the public sector. We should lose the excessive form filling and reduce the number of competencies. A redesigned system could then be circulated to all staff for their views. Time consuming yes, a lot of work yes, but it could at least be something that was designed from the bottom up and not imposed from above.

    Good managers know who is good, who is not but we have a system which helps poor performers hide and penalises hard workers who are not able to sell themselves or indeed have the time to think things through. A suggestion would be to move back the reporting year to July/August to avoid the financial year end for those staff affected by this - this might not be workable but its the kind of thing that needs to be considered to ensure that all staff can properly partake.

    Another suggestion would be to ensure that the moderation and appeal process is absolutely transparent and importantly spans departments to avoid the types of local bias and misinterpretation reported above. This could also help those applying for jobs in different departments and open things up a little.

    Finally, I want to say that I'm grateful that Sir Bob opens himself up for this kind of feedback in a way I've not seen from Perm Secs and previous Heads. It demonstrates that there is a disconnect but also that people are passionate about getting things right. It would be good to take the points raised on and find a way to get some trust back into the PMR system and between SCS and the mainstream civil service.

  347. Comment by Q posted on

    Sir Bob,
    Joe Dugdale (Director, HR Policy & Operations, HMRC) states that the message that this is all about Guided, not forced, distribution has been "reinforced in three masterclasses attended by all managers, answers to hot seat questions etc" . Having received a dismissive and critical response from a previous HR guru (Sandra Locke) on the Hot Seat forum months ago, I was aware of "the message". Unfortunately Joe, just because you keep saying something, it doesn't make it true!

    One of the reasons why HMRC looks appalling every year in the people survey is because its' policy people and senior leadership teams sit in splendid isolation from the ordinary workers. When it interacts with its workforce through forums like the hotseat it does not believe what it is being told and simply uses them as channels to deliver Orwellian management messages.

    Please believe myself and many of others on this page who are telling you that the distribution is being forced, it is forced down from Director Level through the management chain, and in some places it is being enforced using threats and the flimsiest of excuses to mark people down.

  348. Comment by Peter posted on

    In the Criminal Investigation Directorate of HMRC, validation chairs have been informed that should guided distribution targets not be met,validation chairs will be personally and directly responsible to the Director CI.This was clearly stated in a way that if I heard one of my managers saying it, I would have dealt with it as a bullying issue. There are very few shrinking violets in CI, but we know a threat when we hear it. We have perfectly adequate measures in place to deal with Poor performance, we could save an awful lot of time and effort by concentrating on those?

  349. Comment by John posted on

    440 Responses and more each day.
    As regards a proper response to the many valid queries raised in these comments the silence is deafening.
    Are we all banging our heads against a brick wall?
    Should the Blog be retitled "Performance Management-Totally ignoring your concerns" ?

    • Replies to John>

      Comment by Susan posted on

      It would be interesting to see the distribution of the bottom 10% showing job band allocation. I bet it will be the lower bands taking the hit yet again!

  350. Comment by Ben Lewis posted on

    I'm an A.O working for the prison service and Im very concerned about this new process. So rather than management noting whether I have performed well, it is now my responsibiltiy to prove I have exceeded by getting colleagues to complete references for me. Say that my colleagues provide me with glowing references, who then decides what's worthy of achieving an exceeded? Given that most additional work given to staff can be written off under job descriptions as "complete work assigned by line management" I'm concerned that every reference will be written off as "This is just in your job description", I fear that I may have to work double what I would usually do and complete work for other departments to even stand a chance of getting an exceeded.

    This could let to yet further nepotism and cronysm, where only the favourable will get an exceeded, what happens to staff who work in a small department, maybe a stand alone job, how can they prove that they are worthy of an exceeded?

    What with all the additional work that comes our way, constant knee jerk policy and legislation changes, usually in the form of a spreadhseet I now need to maintain I fear I'm going to have to set up an additional spreadsheet just to monitor what additional work I do.

    In a time when MPs can freeze public sector workers' pay to secure themselves their own pay rise it seems wholly unfair to make people like myself jump through even more hoops just to prove that I'm good at my job so I can get an additional £80 after tax once a year.

  351. Comment by Incredulous posted on

    PMR is almost perfectly structured to prevent dissent, as anyone who speaks out can be badged as "not displaying the right behaviours", and marked down accordingly. A joke of a system, widely discredited across the private sector, but the joke is on us as it is currently reality. Please seriously revisit this abhorrent and counter-productive policy Sir Bob, for all the reasons already more eloquently put in the mass of comments above. It is not fit for purpose, unless that purpose is to further demotivate and divide an already bruised workforce.

  352. Comment by Simon posted on

    Sir Bob you say "For example, in DWP significantly more people feel that poor performance is addressed well and that they are managed fairly and recognised for the good work they do." I and My wife are both civil servants, she works for DWP and at the time of the survey managers in DWP told staff that if they did not enter positive scores (over performance /being assessed fairly) then when it came to office closures, these scores could count against the office. Despite assurances results would not be used in this way, Its not surprising some results show an artificial increase when managers are saying low engagement and performance scores could be used to consider closing offices.

    • Replies to Simon>

      Comment by Wendy Turner posted on

      I wouldn't take any notice of the staff survey at all. As far as I can see, the improved scores were almost entirely due to the boycott of the survey, patly for the reasons you state. Unfortunately, as can be seen, it skews the figures. The headlines bang on about improvements, in reality, three people in Worcester were a bit cheerful that day!!!

  353. Comment by Noire posted on

    I have witnessed 'Forced' must Improved markings of excellent Officers, where there has been no evidence to support it and where Senior Management have 'made up a fictitious failing' in order to meet the 10% lower target. Disgusting.

  354. Comment by Mark posted on

    Sir Bob
    In light of the significant amount of comments on this post indicating that performance markings are being forced rather than guided.

    Please can you explain,
    1. Why you have failed to respond to these comments.
    2. What are you doing to investigate these claims and the action you are taking.
    3. Why you have not published the evidence of positive feedback.

    The failure to do so reduces the credibility of the PMR and the lack of engagement on this issue is worrying.

    • Replies to Mark>

      Comment by Jimbo posted on

      Well said Mark. The silence on this matter from the higher echelons is absolutely deafening and brings great discredit on the civil service.

  355. Comment by Tom posted on

    The story of the Emperor's new clothes comes to mind.

    As I try and undertake my self assessment for my end of year appraisal, I am surrounded by guidance on the various Civil Service competencies, job specific competencies, tips on how to complete the forms, feedback examples and various forms that may or may not be required for my meeting with my manager.

    Everyone in my office has different ideas on what forms need to be completed and what style to use when completing them, which has been caused by the complete lack of proper training and explanation of what the department is looking for. I remember when C&E introduced a new system about 20years ago and each team spent several days receiving training, which some may see as a waste, but maybe when all the staff time is counted in implementing this PMR system, it will prove to be a more efficient way.

    An earlier commentator referred to the old blue forms that C&E used to use, I think I still have one of these, if you want it as a template I will happily forward it to you Sir Bob, I suspect it would probably save several thousand staff years of time if reintroduced across the Civil Service.

    If the idea is to reduce staff numbers through people leaving in frustration, then you may find that it was cheaper to just offer early release packages.

  356. Comment by Steve posted on

    I have just listened to our own Perm Sec (DWP) on a departmental wide call. And while he tried valiantly to support the new procedures (which we in DWP introuduced over 2 years ago) it is clear that he doesnt appear to have an understanding of the fundamental requirements of this system. He was still referring to end of year validation being made against other staff as opposed to standards. How can managers be expected to work with such confusion.

  357. Comment by Steve B posted on

    Did we really expect anything other than a deafening silence from Sir Bob? We should know by now that our senior leaders never get anything wrong and all is well with the world - not! Let's be honest the Civil Service is famous for picking up practices which have been tried, tested and discarded by the private sector because they simply don't work. Why not try, just for once, coming up with some beneficial reform ideas on your own, or is that too much to hope for?
    The Civil Service claims to be a modern employer which is engaged with it's staff. When did this happen as I must have missed it. Imposed pay cuts (a rise is supposed to make you better off). Imposed pension increases for 3 years, further eroding the living standards of the lower paid. Imposed PMR, enough said on this already except to add it's being introduced ahead of tens of thousands of job cuts. Coincidence?. Imposed Attendance Management which could mean dismissal if you are selfish enough to fall ill. Do I really need to go on?

  358. Comment by Paul c posted on

    Bob - Senior managers seem to accept that the only news has to be good news
    There is a lack of basic integrity in the failure to answer our genuine concerns
    Are you surrounded by "yes men" who are incapable of expressing an honest opinion ?
    Our opinions have been requested - you know how we feel - when will we get a full reply ?

  359. Comment by Marc Gunby posted on

    At what Civil Service grade does the 10% target not apply. Are those Senior Civil Servants who continually seem to want to re invent the wheel, subject to the same rules?

    • Replies to Marc Gunby>

      Comment by James posted on

      Marc - no, it doesnt apply to civil servants above grade 6. It also doesnt apply to pseudo civil servants such as MPs and employees of nationalised banks. Also, in the MOD, only 5% are in need of improvement as opposed to 10% elsewhere. Sir Bob has so far refused to reply to my questions, and I have four posts still awaiting moderation. These are plainly the "values" which he is so proud to be associated with. The Soviet Union was more democratically accountable than this organisation.

  360. Comment by Les posted on

    Sir Bob

    I am pleased that your interpretation of the PMR guidance is that distribution is guided and not forced.

    Unfortunately, this is not the same interpretation as that made by your senior managers. This is an extract from a note from the Director, Criminal Investigation in HMRC, following the mid year reviews when there were less than 10% of staff in the 'must improve' category:

    'I have seen no evidence that CI is significantly different form other operational directorates in respect of the distribution of performance. On that basis, and in accordance with the guidance on the PMR system, we will now look to urgently reassess the standards we have set within CI. This should bring our performance distribution more closely into line with expectation (both at exceeded and must improve levels) by the end of the reporting year'.

    It is now March, and staff have had no indication of the reassessed standards against which we are now being marked.

    On 6 March William Hague, Chief People Officer for HMRC, advised staff to look forward to their objectives for 2014-15. Quite how staff can prepare for that when about 6% will receive an unexpected 'must improve' rating is beyond me (I understand that the 'must improve' category was less than 4% but these figures still do not seem to have been published) .

    I look forward to your comments.

  361. Comment by Helen BP posted on

    My previous comment has been moderated and does not appear. I do not understand why this is or what rule I have breached. Perhaps the moderators could email to explain? I can't help but feel this is unwarranted censorship, as I didn't say anything out of turn. I did question whether the same system as ours should also be used for others, shall we say, further up the chain than us - if it's such a good effective system.

    I simply started that this system is punitive, and that it selects 10% of people to be punished. It does not help people to improve. Nothing in my workplace, as a senior professional, has changed. We are not having more 'important conversations' with our managers. We are not getting any more training, support, and guidance. We are just having 10% of people marked out as failures. The marking is a threat, and is a humiliation for those unfortunate enough to receive it.

    In HMRC the focus is fully on the bottom 10% and who is going to be singled out for the punishment. There is no focus on improvement or encouraging or rewarding good performance.

  362. Comment by Hollie posted on

    Sir Bob should surely get a "Must Improve"?

    He's provided no evidence to his statement of "positive feedback" and has failed to respond to a reasonable request in respoding to our comments.

    Practice what you preach...

  363. Comment by Frustrated posted on

    Would never normally reply, and I'll have to be careful how I word this in case I'm viewed negatively and marked down on my PMR.

    I have yet to talk to one person in HMRC who's positive about this. We've had a few visits from Senior Grades who are positive - but at ground level, it seems to be despised.

    And regardless of the language used, it's been made clear that the Guided Distribution WILL be met - so stack ranking is definitely in use.

    More telling, a recent Hotseat question in HMRC revealed that the results of a question about PMR in the last HMRC staff survey won't be disclosed.
    I suspect because it would confirm very negative feelings - if it were positive, then it would probably be being broadcast from the rooftops.

    And the time taken on this new system is ridiculous. Coming up to end year, and I'm sorry but with increasing workload, it's impossible to spend any time on.
    Doubtless that will put me in the must improve because I actually did the work.

    I can honestly say that after 20 years service, I've never felt so demotivated or disengaged.

    This system is just creating stress, worry, anxiety and depression for many.

    • Replies to Frustrated>

      Comment by Gareth posted on

      Frustrated - If HMRC is withholding results from its staff survey, then put in a FOI request. I doubt that HMRC could legally withhold the results. It may go against the grain, but if the management is really that bad then it's time to take off the gloves. And they've no-one to blame but themselves.

  364. Comment by Lynne Wells posted on

    I was astounded to read that there had been positive feedback to the PMS. Bob come and talk to the theD & E Grades and the Industrial staff if you want to hear the truth about a system that is hated and not fit for purpose.I am concerned that you are being misdirected as to the true opinion held by the majority.

  365. Comment by Rob posted on

    Sir Bob, a reply is required to all the comments made so far otherwise what impression does it give to your hard working Civil Servants?

    I wait with interest.

    Thank you

    • Replies to Rob>

      Comment by James posted on

      Well said Rob. The silence on this matter from the higher echelons is absolutely deafening and brings great discredit on the civil service.

  366. Comment by Darknorth posted on

    There are three possibilities:-

    A) Sir. Bob knows nothing about the negative feedback to do with the new Performance Management System and sees no reason to respond.

    B) Sir. Bob knows something about the negative feedback to do with the new Performance Management System and chooses not to acknowledge and respond to it.

    C) Sir. Bob knows all about the negative feedback to do with the new Performance Management System and chooses not to acknowledge and respond to it.

    We will probably never know which it is.

    • Replies to Darknorth>

      Comment by G L Um posted on

      Option d) is Sir Bob knows but chooses not know and that his Permanent Secretaries knowing his propensity for only wanting to hear good news have taken the easiest option.

      The overwhelming number of negative comments on this topic must be very disappointing to them all. As a consequence somewhere in Whitehall there’s probably a darkened room, behind its green baize doors can be heard the low sobs and moans of a man whose alternative reality has been severely challenged.

    • Replies to Darknorth>

      Comment by Paul posted on

      The way PMR is being implemented is either rank incompetence or simple malice designed specifically to punish or bully staff into leaving or reacting in way which would lead to them being sacked. I've been working in the DWP for almost 2 decades and neither would surprise me.

      That said, I think most people refuse to believe that senior management are so far detached from reality that they have no idea what is going on right under their noses. Yet it seems this is exactly what we are expected to believe.

      The fact that the top grades get the biggest slice of the highest markings says it all for me. It works for them so why should they care about what we think? The "I'm alright Jack" philosophy seems to be exactly what PMR is designed to encourage.

  367. Comment by Lee posted on

    "More telling, a recent Hotseat question in HMRC revealed that the results of a question about PMR in the last HMRC staff survey won't be disclosed."
    Why on earth not!! Where are the departments values of Openess and would seem only to a point.

  368. Comment by Cassandra posted on

    Joe Dugdale tells the truth about the HMRC "line" on guided distribution. Unfortunately there are other "lines" being promulgated outside the public statement. Any claim that the system is working must be viewed in the context of mid-year results, which CLEARLY show discriminatory practices - that's evidence, and the system itself is predicated on evidence, isn't it? I have no doubt that the year end results will be similar.

    The principles behind the PMR system seem sound. The competencies helpful. But PMR is a tool. What it can achieve depends upon the hands it is in. Those hands are untrained, unqualified and unconsciously (or consciously) biased. I have some great golf clubs - but I hit some pretty rubbish shots. And even if I was given a better club I'd still hit rubbish shots because I'm not that good. Don't think I need to explain the analogy.....

  369. Comment by Dan posted on

    Sir Bob,
    You are being lied to by your advisors.
    This years report is a divisive system which tears apart team working in the race for Individual supremacy over collaborative working. Well done.

  370. Comment by Mike Reed, HMCTS posted on

    It is clear from the previous contributions on this blog that there is an overwhelming feeling of negativity towards the new Performance Management system. I recognise that this will be based on individuals' own experiences and communications they have received. My contribution to the blog is also based on my own experience and I'm providing it on the basis of looking at the bits that I see are advantageous as well as bits that could be improved.

    Whilst it is clear that there is still some work to do to get it running as it should, this is not all that surprising as it is the first year of its existence (for most departments) and there will be an element of this year being a big learning curve, so that next year it will operate in an improved way.

    Looking at the positives of the new system - contrary to what others have posted on here, I'm happy to say that HMTCS have stressed on multiple occasions that guided distribution is exactly that, guided. I have received absolutely nothing to suggest that anything about the distribution will be forced, which means that we will simply assess people against the objectives we have set for them. Locally this gives us the autonomy to award markings based on what we know of our people rather than being forced to put people in certain boxes.

    There has been a lot of focus in this blog on the 10% that could / will be placed in "must improve", there hasn't though been much (or possibly any) focus on the 20% who could / will achieve an "outstanding" marking. In HMCTS, this is a real positive as it wasn't available to Bands Es and Fs before; it has the potential to act as real motivator and will enable managers to really recognise the excellent performance that I frequently see delivered from staff in junior grades.

    Additionally, the assessment that incorporates the "how" as well is the "what" is a good thing too as will do more to encourage the right type of behaviours (rather than look purely at the outcomes) and this can only be a benefit to customers, colleagues and the wider department.

    I would say that the improvements that need to be made are around 1) consistency of objectives where rolls are essentially generic combined with the subsequent assessment (on a broader scale) plus 2) some really clear guidelines on what constitutes a "must improve" marking. I recognise that the guidance can't be wholly prescriptive but given that the marking can be used for people other than those on formal poor performance procedures, this is a notable difference from previous policies. There is no getting away from the current view that is that "must improve" (irrespective of the supplementary commentary provided by the manager) will be perceived by the recipient that they are getting the equivalent marking of "not met" (as it was called in HMCTS). As this view will be formed, managers will want to be very sure that they are using the "must improve" marking appropriately. In cases of sustained poor performance, it won’t be much of challenge to be sure about the correct marking (although I don't deny that the conversation will still be challenging) but where it is closer to the borders of the "must improve" / "good" line, it will be a lot harder. Advice I've received isn't clear on this point, to the extent that it effectively contradicts the content of the policy. I'm confident that in our business area, we'll find our way through and agree an approach that is pragmatic and reasonable but my concern is that erring on the side of the caution (except in very obvious cases) will result in a set of markings that result in a very large majority of people all being assessed as "good" (when it may be that "must improve should have been the appropriate marking for a proportion of them).

    I do think having 4 markings would be a better fit as it would enable us to recognise the vastly different level of performances that evidently will occur within the "good" category. It would also enable us to appropriately distinguish between those that are on poor performance action and those that we'd like a little more from but haven't felt that poor performance action is appropriate. Having only 3 markings with either unclear criteria or incredibly stretching criteria to be placed in anything but the middle one has the very real potential to result in a generalised way of assessment that leads to non recognition of excellent performance and not really tackling those who ought to be doing better.

    In summary, I think the new policy has the potential to be a really good thing but we need to reach a position where managers have the knowledge and confidence to give people the markings they really deserve.


    Mike Reed

  371. Comment by Gareth Marklew posted on

    Whilst it can't be said with certainty that the 450 or so comments criticising the PMR system on here are indicative of feelings across the whole Civil Service, it should by now be apparent to anybody that, in the experience of a significant number of people across a number of Departments and agencies, the systems are not working as envisaged.

    The sad thing is, I don't think people are opposed to performance improvement. In general people accept that how you do a job is as important as what you do, and people are more than willing to embrace regular discussions with management aimed at ensuring the highest possible standards are met. However, the systems introduced include so many flaws, its very hard for any of these benefits to be recognised, let alone acheived.

    So how to resolve these problems. I would suggest three steps:

    1) Get rid of the "Guided Distribution". As comment after comment has shown, whatever the guidance issued, whatever the spin put on it, the reality faced by numerous Civil Servant are that "Guides" are being enforced as strict quotas. This is despite the fact that there's been not a shred of evidence presented to show precisely how they've even been arrived at - on what basis is it credible to suggest, for example, that twice as many people need improving in HMRC than in the MoD. Guided Distribution is causing stress, misery, depression and anger on a wide scale, all of it entirely un-necessary. If the "Guides" truly are "Guides" and not quota, then they are merely advisory, and therefore can be dispensed with entirely without harming the PMR system in the slightest. To do so would instantly make a lot of people a lot happier.

    2) Get rid of the "Validation Groups". People should be assessed against their own objectives and against their own behaviours. As staff we cannot see why it is that our work should be compared with that of people who are often in other teams, in completely different places, doing entirely different jobs, and our final gradings altered not on the basis of what we've done, but on whether or not our managers can convince an unknown and unaccountable group of other managers as to the correctness of our mark. It should be the role of a Manager's manager to ensure the PMR process is being applied fairly and consistently within their own teams - comparisons with other individual members of staff's performances should have no role in how anybody's work is judged. In addition, the whole "Validation group" mechanism adds time and complexity to an already stressed process - how much time and money is being wasted gathering managers from diverse locations to consider whether individual members of staff they've never met have Acheived or Exceeded their objectives?

    3) Make clear what is required in terms of evidence, and how it is to be prepared and produced. A minimum of evidence should be necessary, because managers should already know what's going on. As it is, different teams within different departments are spending vast quantities of time dragging in every piece of paper going because when there's no guidance as to what's needed, the natural response is to provide as much as possible. The whole mess creates its own shambolic Catch 22 situation - how can you perfom well enough to avoid a "Needs Improvement" mark, when you have to spend your time gathering the evidence, and so aren't actually doing your job! Scenes across the Civil Service have been little short of shambolic, as Civil Servants everywhere engage in a massive paper chase to avoid the bottom 5%/10%/25%, and then waste their time trying to figure out how exactly to present it, because nobody's actually decided on one answer.

    There is a tendency to put all such criticisms and problems down to communication issues, to explain patiently (and patronisingly) that staff just don't understand what's being asked of them. It's not just communication that's the problem here - the systems being introduced are deeply flawed and staff are recognising and reporting that in large numbers. We're asked to give the systems time to bed in, but frankly at the moment that seems like we're being asked to give the runaway train time to slow down when it's careening off the tracks at ever increasing speeds, risking the well being of all on board. Only drastic and immediate action will change that.

    • Replies to Gareth Marklew>

      Comment by ed posted on

      on what basis is it credible to suggest, for example, that twice as many people need improving in HMRC than in the MoD"

      The guides are decided by senior staff, the last people who should decide a confilict of interest. As like british leyand senior managment would blame, staff as was seen when japanesse car plants in the uK. The "lazy" british worker worked perfectly in the correct environment.

      More achitecture of organization in large enough groups people get large sample of people the main difference not the staff but the orgnization whether a buiness or a country.

      A department with a higher needs improvment is more likly to desgin of system problem which has more to do with senior staff that have more infuence on desgin os sytem.

  372. Comment by Janet posted on


    Well put! You can put the best system in the world in place but in practice a system by itself cannot identify or tackle inadequate or top performers; it is the interpretation and bias of the people managing it. In this awful, discredited system there are too many variables and too many people involved. It is wide open to both bias and abuse at all levels. Even our good managers will find it hard to come out the other side with their integrity intact. I expect a lot of them will be seeking new non-management jobs at the earliest opportunity.
    It is a scandal that so much time and resource is being lost on this. How much yield could have been brought in if all this time had been spent on doing or supporting compliance work instead? I hope that the National Audit Office will be called upon to comment. The damage done though is immeasurable.

    • Replies to Janet>

      Comment by Cassandra posted on

      Janet - I know of at least one medical educational establishment which, faced with hundreds and hundreds of applications for 40 student doctor posts now allocates them through simple random selection. They say - and I concur - that it is not possible to achieve a "fair" allocation through looking at all of them because selectors inevitably bring their own attitudes etc to the exercise. So, since all of the candidates have met the criteria for application they just pick 40 at random. There's Hell on, of course, in some quarters - undoubtedly those where it is felt that they/their children have off-list attributes which give them the edge in a "normal" selection (such as public school education, connections etc). If we abandoned the pretext of fairness in this system and just picked people at random to go into each category it would save us a fortune in mandays and, I suspect, have much the same result.

  373. Comment by 65 posted on

    perhaps the 'positive' feedback that is referred to is in fact feedback along the lines of the Comments above, after all, isn't it actually 'positive' to point out the potential faults in a system than let them happen....and by definition a 'negative' behaviour to fail to do so and carry on regardless ?

  374. Comment by John posted on

    Well Sir Bob, as a manager in the Civil Service with over 40 years service, if ever I needed evidence that you are either indifferent or out of touch with the reality of the PMR system, the posts in this blog have satisfied this requirement.
    Leaving aside the issue of unpoularity and lack of credibility of a system abandoned( for very good reason) by outside industry, all the intelligent civil servants I have spoken to without exception take exception with your espousing the view that these PMR ratings are guided- not forced.In their view in this context guided translates as must.
    Sorry- you are no doubt well meaning however you need to extricate yourself from this mess of a system to avoid further damaging your credibility and the Civil Service organisation of which I was once proud to be a part of. Sadly we seem to be distancing ourselves from the people we are supposed to be here to serve.

  375. Comment by Caz posted on

    Just how many comments with a common theme are required to be placed on this blog by multiple departments before the PMR issue is actually addressed? I believe this shows a shameful lack of decisive leadership which, in my experience, would not be tolerated outside the Public Sector.

    • Replies to Caz>

      Comment by Mary posted on

      Caz, I honestly believe that even if there were over four thousand negative comments about PMR here, it still wouldn't be addressed, and that's because, in my opinion, PMR has been introduced as a means of getting rid of as many staff across the CS as cheaply as possible.

  376. Comment by Richard M posted on

    Dear oh can the taxpayers ever be confident in getting value for money when the prime assets of the civil service aka people have such poor leadership and are so badly managed. I'm ex-civil service and cannot believe the service is still being managed in such an amateurish way.

    Come on Bob, wake up and start treating your people like adults.

  377. Comment by MSE posted on

    Feedback? ............ As Sir Bob is well aware all staff are required to obtain feedback to justify their PMR markings. I believe that everyone posting on here is now awaiting some honest feedback from Sir Bob in response to the virtually unanimous negative response his comments have prompted.

  378. Comment by Mark Richmmond posted on

    I had my 1 RO meeting last week and it was interesting to say the least. I am extremely self critical as when asked how I would grade myself I said "I am a good, average Staff Officer" (true). The problem I see is that the only things discussed were the objectives. I was also surprised that all I have to do in the core competencies is learn how to formulate appropriate sentences that satisfy the reader. I will need to really focus on this as I am dyslexic and show a significant amount of Asperser traits although I have developed sufficient coping strategies and in my day-to-day work this hasn’t held me back. It is indeed "novel" for your workforce to say how good they are and your work is judged on your ability to sell yourself. I'm not employed to do sales.......I am also probably disadvantaged as I am very self critical (not a bad thing either). It has been a learning curve though as all I am going to focus on next year is the objectives (as this appears to be the only thing of importance and in reality forms such a little part of my overall role it is purely a snap-shot). I also found it frustrating that my 1 RO hadn't got a clue about the significance of my work when looking at the big picture. I have an idea though. Why doesn't my line manager report on me! If there is a problem with that system then surly the line managers need the training and support - not the staff being reported on. Can’t wait to see where I am placed mind (I may get offered an anti dyslexic training course and sales training). I do not think this reporting system is at all well thought out. In fact, it appears to be somewhat of a mess.

    • Replies to Mark Richmmond>

      Comment by Tony posted on

      Self-aggrandisement ("bigging oneself up") and the ability to do one's job are not always related and many colleagues regard the process of obtaining feedback as both embarrasing and humiliating. With managers increasingly offline and having a limited understanding of what their managees do (and not always having the time to critically examine self-assessments or feedback) it often comes down to who can sell themselves the best. And ironically, those who have the most demands made of them have the least time to sell themselves. The private sector somehow manages to avoid this process and it is for the manager to obtain feedback and then make an assessment. It is often the case also that in the private sector a manager will be a team leader and will have their own work-portfolio as well. So unlike the "professional manager" they will be in a good position to judge performance. Incidentally my partner is a team-leader and line-manager in the private sector for a team of 4 and has just 15 days per year allocated to that role. The rest of the time she is expected to do her day job. Compare that with HMG.

      Given that we will be stuck with this wretched system for 2-3 years at least can I suggest that managers take responsibility for commissioning feedback which will at least ensure some objectivity - rather than job-holders going to the person who they feel will give them the most positive feedback.

      And don't get me started on the "guided distribution" (quota) debate.

    • Replies to Mark Richmmond>

      Comment by Paul posted on

      The ability to talk/write a good game appears to be held in far higher esteem than anything else these days. What you actually do or achieve in your day to day duties isn't even a close second as far as I can see.

      Under this way of thinking, rambling "management speak" has replaced decisiveness, jargon and buzzwords have replaced simple instruction, nepotism/cronyism have replaced fair selection procedures and a sycophantic "yes man" attitude has replaced honest, constructive feedback.

      Yet we wonder why the civil service is in almost constant crisis? The latest appraisal system is just another example of a massively overly complicated tool being used to perform what should be a very simple task. As Mark said, why not let the one person who SHOULD know what you're doing on a daily basis, your line manager, evaluate you throughout the year?

      If they have proven themselves incapable of this task why not do something about that rather than trying to use a PMR shaped sledgehammer to crack the nut sized problem of inefficiency?

      If you want to quote survey data at us then please let us know when you are going to solve the problem of every single survey since day dot showing a dramatic lack of confidence in senior management? A problem which has merely been further compounded by the complete lack of engagement this comments page has had from senior management.

  379. Comment by Andrew posted on

    Has Sir Bob considered the cost of the PMR process? I have to travel to a validation meeting, my train ticket cost is £158.00. There are 3 others from my office also travelling at a similar cost. I'm also aware that there are over 15 managers at the same validation meeting, many travelling from all over the UK. This is just one validation meeting, there must be thousands throughout the Civil Service, I can't imagine the overall cost, but it must be in the 100's of thousands of pounds if not more!

  380. Comment by Chris posted on

    Sir Bob, your assurance that 'guided distributions' will not be enfored is good to hear. But I have again, this week, been told by my manager that despite this the validation group will insist upon the guided distribution being met. They have even gone so far as to say staff will be put into a league table with the top and bottom being used to meet the guide.

    My manager is sweating bullets to have enough material with which to "sell" the performance of staff to other managers. Without it, my manager feels, there will be no option than to take the 'must improves' for the validation group.

    Aside from being demotivational the system is not even being implemented as you say it will. You need to get a grip on the managers (grade 7 and up) that are insisting on the guided distribution being met in order to meet their own objectives.

  381. Comment by Seniors posted on

    If senior civil servants already had this system, I wonder what effect the internal competitiveness of this has had on the business of running Government departments. I wonder what power games have been played out just because of the appraisal system. Yes Minister must be tame compared to how self protection must work at high level (especially in projects) when comparison to peers is all consuming rather than doing the actual job and managing things effectively. When someone needs to say 'boss, this isn't working, we need to change this', who dares to say it when it may affect their appraisal.

    Time wasting, devisive and costly. Yes Minister - lets keeps going with it.

    • Replies to Seniors>

      Comment by Leon posted on

      The widely acknowledged HMRC quota system for Poor performance is unjust and unsustainable. Inconsistencies abound. Confusion and disillusionment with the process is universal.
      Perhaps I should have realised by now that we are viewed collectively as disposable with our own senior management merely repeating Bobs line. They are deluded to claim this is what staff wanted.
      This system is unbelievably bureaucratic and why are we adopting a discredited and widely abandoned system?

    • Replies to Seniors>

      Comment by Rob Suttle posted on

      Here's a positive - reading the replies to this blog has been the best training I've yet had on how the system operates. Thank you to all contributors. I now realise that when my manager asks me where I think I am on the performance rating, I can honestly answer that I don't know. I'll now not be judged only on what I've done but also against what other people have done - rank stacking. I will have no idea how well these other people have done (and I probably won't even know many of them) or what evidence they've produced. And this will all be looked at by a group of other people, many of whom won't know me sufficiently well to make a fully informed decision about what I've done. As a result, any end of year discussion will be meaningless.

      The Americans have a good expression for this sort of thing - SNAFU - "Situation Normal Another Foul Up".

  382. Comment by dward posted on

    Hilarious Sir Bob. I don't know why you write this stuff, I really don't. Do you actually believe it's true or does that not matter?

  383. Comment by Irene posted on

    After 28 years of service, I really have finally given up. I used to actually enjoy coming to work and have always taken a great pride in what I do and was proud to say I work for HMRC, but I really do not feel that anymore and PMR has just tipped me over the edge.
    I have had 4 managers this past year, only 1 with more than 5 years service, and I do not know if I am coming or going, they have all wanted different things from me. There are far too many middle and upper managers who get into jobs that they are completely unsuited to by capitalising on their only skill, the ability to spout the same self-serving corporate waffle as those who interview them. They have no actual skills and no idea how to manage.
    As disillusioned and stressed as I am, I still do and always will take pride in my work, as unlike my employer who has made it nigh on impossible for people to receive a decent level of customer service with the introduction of contact centres and the closure of enquiry centres, I do think about the person at the other end, but I can no longer pretend that everything in the garden is rosy, and I am sure that I will get marked down on my behaviours as a result.
    With PMR we are all being bullied into doing a lot more for a lot less, with no real recognition for the excellent work that the vast majority of civil servants do. And we are being lied to, the 10% “guided” distribution IS being enforced, and managers are being threatened with being in the 10% themselves if they do not come up with the figures.
    How many more ways can you find to de-motivate and alienate your staff? Oh hang on, I dread to think!

    • Replies to Irene>

      Comment by Gareth posted on

      Irene - that's remarkably similar to my own experience in MOD (albeit only 26 years in!). I'm afraid the essential competences required of Civil Service management these days are the abilites to delude oneself and being prepared to act as snake-oil seller to your staff.

  384. Comment by Darknorth posted on

    If we get to 500 comments will Sir. Bob finally acknowledge our feedback and do something about it?

    • Replies to Darknorth>

      Comment by Gareth posted on

      Will Bob acknowledge our feedback? No. His selective deafness means that he only picks up positive feedback. Will he do something about it? Yes - he'll do some completely unrelated displacement activity. Here's a prediction: Bob's next blog post WILL NOT address our Performance Management concerns.

  385. Comment by James posted on

    Still waiting for any sort of official response, some 12 days after publication. It appears crystal clear that Sir Bob is not remotely bothered about our concerns.

  386. Comment by Fed up posted on

    The majority of staff come in to do a decent days work its got to be very few and far between who don't pull their weight as I am sure goes on in private industry as well. I just wonder if the government are aware of the time we spend on PMR and pacesetter and the actual working hours lost completing them. They want us to do more for less... sorry more with less but these sytems are time consuming and not helping. The problem is the scs and Mr Kerslake are the ones talking to the goverment and telling them everything is rosy in the garden. Wouldn,t expect any help from here. Engagement don't make me laugh!!

  387. Comment by Pete buss posted on

    I'm struggling to see how the system is a "consistent model across our organisation" when the business area I sit amongst (I'm one of three people from a different business area to most people in the room) have been asked to do their eny-of-year self assessment in a totally different way to the business area I work in. Surely everyone is meant to be operating the system in an identical way?

  388. Comment by SImon Dicketts posted on

    I am a civil servant (5 years) by default, via 30 years as a Metropolitan Police officer, which concluded with a secondment to PITO, which became the NPIA, which became the Home Office. I am now a permanent, part-time employee.

    The one consistent thing throughout my career is that the many PMR (PDR/Appraisal/AQR/APA… are just a few names for the same thing) processes I’ve been subject to have, without exception, been completely and utterly worthless; this one seems to be maintaining that standard.

    The NPIA system invited the appraisee to “comment on the PDR process”, so I did. I commented that it was a waste of time, etc. And I copied and pasted these comments and evidence from mid year review to end of year review, and from one year to the next. It mattered not. I hope to continue that practice.

    I should say at this point that I am in a fairly fortunate position both financially and career-wise, (I peaked a long time ago) which means that I actually don’t care if I get put in the 10% Must Improve or not.

    Sir Bob, please take note - truly, madly, deeply - I absolutely don’t care. I won’t lose a minute’s sleep over it. Bring it on, as they say. From what I’ve read here, it seems likely that just posting this comment will be enough to earn me a place at the bottom. So that’s all good then.

    To help my manager and colleagues, I’ve stated, quite openly, that if a quota is enforced, I will be delighted to take one for the team, if it means that someone who DOES care, and who isn’t in as fortunate a position as I am then doesn’t have to suffer because of this squalid, iniquitous and unfair system.

    I WILL, however, be equally delighted to institute as many grievance procedures, appeals and tribunals as I possibly can, because the job I do, like others I’m sure, is very niche and very specialist, and nobody else in the organisation does anything like it, so the idea that anyone could evidence that I “Must Improve”, is risible.

    Were it not the case, as colleagues have already pointed out, that adverse grading under this system can affect future pay, this would, I think, be spectacularly funny – we could all, as has been suggested, just have a “rota for the quota” - whose turn is it to be bottom this time? Those prepared to take one could receive a small stipend from their colleagues, to cover any missed pay rise; hang on – I sense a business opportunity here.

    This has been described in more than one post as corporate bullying; that may well be the case – I don’t feel qualified to comment, but I do feel that it is truly shameful that nobody from the SMT/SCS has sufficient backbone to challenge that assertion. Silence is consent.

    Colleagues, all that is needed to bring this to an end is for everybody, but that really does mean everybody, (which is why, I fear, that it’s unlikely to happen) and especially managers, to refuse to play along with it. For God’s sake – if you don’t believe that an individual “Must Improve”, what on earth are you doing putting them into that category? Give everyone identical marks/grading or don’t give Box 3s, whatever it is, and then managers at every level refuse to penalise those under them for not inventing reasons to put people in the bottom 10%. The system WILL then collapse – and without anyone having to go to the pub after work (see previous posts).

    And as far as positive feedback is concerned, I would refer Sir Bob to the answer given so frequently by one Jim Royle, Esq.

    • Replies to SImon Dicketts>

      Comment by Mr Mcfail posted on

      I absolutely don’t care. I won’t lose a minute’s sleep over it. Bring it on, as they say. From what I’ve read here, it seems likely that just posting this comment will be enough to earn me a place at the bottom. So that’s all good then."

      in some departments such a post could get you banned from discusion or displinary.

      Its funny to an exent what makes the civil service inefficent.

      Using the PMR I think PMR could be idenified as waste activity exactly the sort of waste may be best to cut.

  389. Comment by Ashley posted on

    Sir Bob
    Could you answer a few simple questions.
    How many Civil Servants are Grade 7 or above?
    How many of these were marked as MUST IMPROVE. (10%???)
    How many of these were placed on formal action due to their inefficiency?
    How many of these were dismissed due to their inefficiency?

    • Replies to Ashley>

      Comment by James posted on

      Ashley - it's highly unlikely that Sir Bob will answer ANY questions whatsoever, even simple ones. His silence for two weeks clearly demonstatres that he couldnt care less.

    • Replies to Ashley>

      Comment by Gareth posted on

      "Sir Bob
      Could you answer a few simple questions."

      Apparently, not.

      • Replies to Gareth>

        Comment by Mary posted on

        Sir Bob appears to have addressed all of our concerns concerning PMR in his new post regarding the 2014 budget. Basically, from what I can see, the answer is "raise your concerns with your HR". Fantastic.

      • Replies to Gareth>

        Comment by Sick of it! posted on

        It's scarcely believable that despite over 500 comments being posted, we have still not had a response from you Sir Bob.
        The overwhelming majority of these posts, (except for the 'standard' HR policy stuff from the HR heads), are asking questions, seeking feedback and specifically quoting individual and group situations where this policy is failing. The opinion of staff across a variety of grades and from many departments is negative and demoralised as a direct result of the implimentation of this policy, why are our views being so very plainly ignored?
        Sir Bob, your senior staff are implimenting this policy in entirely the wrong way. Your interpretation of this policy is being completely and deliberately misinterpretted by senior management. Permanent Secretaries have publicly supported your desire that the policy should be used fairly, and that the percentage guides for each of the three performance markers is exactly that, a guide. The problem is that from director level downwards the implimentation of this policy is being perverted and used in wholly the wrong manner.
        Please have the courtesy to respond to the replies and comments to your blog, after all, we have read your comments and responded accordingly.
        If you really care about your staff, if you really care about how your policies are being carried out, if you really want your reforms to be for the good and to benefit civil servants, if you want to know the truth, please investigate and respond.
        We are not lying, we are not just having a moan, we are not 'knee jerk' reacting against change, we are not criticising senior managers just for the sake of it, we are genuinely being badly served through this policy and we need you to know the facts and take corrective action.
        I hope you will have the decency and understanding to reply.
        Thank you

      • Replies to Gareth>

        Comment by Darknorth posted on

        Obviously there will be no answers to our many questions.

        Therefore we will have to find our own answers based on rumour, speculation and guesswork.

  390. Comment by James posted on

    it's highly unlikely that Sir Bob will answer ANY questions whatsoever, even simple ones. His silence for two weeks clearly demonstatres that he couldnt care less.

  391. Comment by Darknorth posted on

    So despite all our genuine concerns, and despite a record number of comments to this blog post there will be no response to our concerns and no answers. Also there is no sign of any changes being made to PMR.

    We might as well have been talking to a brick wall.

    In other words, there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

  392. Comment by Tom posted on

    I am surprised that to quote Sir Bob’s latest blog, the response here was unprecedented, it perhaps shows just how out of touch SCS is with civil servants at grass-roots level.

    From what I’ve seen, we do not have a consistent model across the MOD, if different areas of my own organisation have different methods of collecting evidence, does the Civil Service have a consistent model? Not sure either how civil servants in other parts of the service feel about the 10% and 5% improvement zone differences, hardly consistent across the civil service.

    Looking back at old PARs, how I achieved my objectives was generally included in Line Manager’s written assessment, not just a statement ‘objective achieved / partially achieved / not achieved’, therefore the wheel has just been reinvented (quite possibly as square ...!)

    The MOD Performance Appraisal process clearly states “Following submission of PARs to the DBS a moderation process will be held by all TLBs. This will result in JH's being assigned to one of three final performance markings by way of a guided distribution:
    • Exceeded - No more than 25% of staff by grade
    • Met - Approx 70% of staff by grade
    • Must Improve - No less than 5% of staff by grade
    My understanding is from this, there are forced parts in this statement, i.e. ‘no less than 5% of staff by grade’ must be assigned as Must Improve’, this is what staff are particularly concerned about! Also ‘exceeded – no more than 25% of staff by grade’. Therefore 4% and 26% must be ‘forced’ to 5% and 25%!

    Another MOD statement appertaining to assessment is: “Be realistic in the scores – this new process is aimed at correcting years of over-marking of PARs – each of the objectives and competences is scored against a 1 to 6 score – a 3 equates to broadly satisfactory and means just that – expect CSOs to mark realistically”

    Therefore a person who fulfils an objective will be assessed as a 3, though an objective score of 3 equates to ‘Progress made towards delivery’, the same as a person who has made progress towards delivering an objective but hasn’t actually completed the objective! Whilst the competence score of 3 equates to ‘Broadly Satisfactory’, the term broadly satisfactory seems also to indicate some areas are not entirely satisfactory!

    Also the fear of dropping into the bottom 5% is enhanced by the as yet undisclosed pay details, which will also have a financial penalty for the staff in the ‘must improve’ zone (2013DIB 26 8-Apr-13 Q&A refers) and a knock on effect to their pensions in the future.

    The ‘simplification’ of the processes and ‘reduction’ of administrative burden as yet is not apparent either. All in all, I certainly do not feel my concerns about the new system have been addressed.

  393. Comment by Lee posted on

    Frankly i think we all deserve better than this one paragraph response, i am disappointed and appalled we have been brushed aside like this. I have written to my union demanding that they respond to this, which i am extremely suprised have not taken up sooner.

  394. Comment by Mike posted on

    I suggest that 'validation' meetings are recorded.

    By recorded I don't just mean a few ticks on a form and a paragraph or two.
    I mean audio and video recording.

    That way when someone takes this further [which is obviously going to happen]
    there is video and audio evidence that these 'guided' quotas are in actual fact enforced.

    The use of coments like 'you are not doing your job unless you identify the 10%'
    will not just be anecdotal reports then.
    There will be hard evidence that this approach is being used.

    • Replies to Mike>

      Comment by David S posted on

      An excellent suggestion, one that I’m sure that departments with commitments to fairness and transparency will seize upon with relish.
      There are some very interesting questions around applicability of Data Protection, Freedom of Information, and Equality legislation to the model of guided / forced distribution. A comprehensive and immutable record of the panel discussions (which would have to include any pre-meets, however informal) would ensure that any grievances or dispute processes relating to the conduct of those meetings and the decisions they reached, had solid evidence available for the parties involved.

  395. Comment by Austerity? posted on

    During the budget week it has been (quietly) announced that the pay minima for SCS bands has increased significantly, with no mention of it being linked to individual performance to get the increase. So, anyone on below the new bottom rate has in effect had a further pay rise/progression pay.
    Senior civil service salary minima will be increased from 1 April 2014 to £62,000 for Pay Band 1, £85,000 for Pay Band 2 and £104,000 for Pay Band 3.

    The current pay bands are
    Band 1 – £58,200 - maximum £117,800
    Band 2 – £82,900 - maximum £162,500
    Band 3 – £101,500 - maximum £208,100

    Austerity for all?

    • Replies to Austerity?>

      Comment by simeon posted on

      Kerching!! Not bad for a group that have been so consistently ineffectual in manageing poor performance that central govenrment has taken the reposibility away from them and imposed the new beloved PRM.

  396. Comment by David posted on

    I know i maybe way off here, but what is wrong with employees coming into work, doing the very best for the HMRC and for the CUSTOMER, this is the first time working for HMRC, that i feel we are being hunted out our jobs, doing courses which in some cases have no meaning to us, moral is at an all time low, I feel proud to work for HMRC but this new PMR is something i think needs to be looked at I go back to my first point, What is wrong with coming into work doing your best for the HMRC and CUSTOMERS,and then going home not having to worry you that you will fall in to 10% bracket where you will be hounded out of a job, so HMRC can cut costs.

  397. Comment by HR Viewpoint posted on

    Your failure to respond is now looking:
    1./ Very rude.
    2/ Completely uncaring.
    3/ Arrogant.
    4/ Incompetant.
    5/ Ignorant.
    If this is not the case then a response is long overdue. By this I mean a response that actuallty addresses the very valid feedback you have recieved not a a series of inane platitudes defending the indefensible.
    I think everyone in the DWP HR Community knows where this system came from and most of us have been around long enough to know that the individual responsible who may have moved on to "bigger and better" things will never be called to account for their deadful incompetance but will instead use this whole debacle to strengthen their CV. Unless Sir Bob you are going to step up to the plate do your job and put them and the other senior mangers involved in this in the bottom 10% where they belong? Excuse me as I am now off to watch a flock of pigs fly past my window.

  398. Comment by Chris posted on

    This is a system that has, in the private sector, been found to be divisive and be counter-productive in terms of improving performance and been ditched by more forward thinking organisations but not unfortunately the Civil Service. In addition it was rushed in before the guidance was available. What organisation and members do something as daft as that? Oh yes,the Civil Service and it's mandarins. This is like the emperors new clothes- we are being told over and over again by the likes of Sir Bob that the new pmr systen is a success and will improve performance but the workers on the ground can see quite clearly through the spin and propaganda and can see that it is actually a poor system.

  399. Comment by Martin posted on

    I am supprised that anyone would be proud of or give positive feedback about the performance management system. We were told that it was introduced partly to improve staff engagement, my observation is that id has done exactly the oposite. It effectively sets one team member against another in a bid to avoid being a 'must improve'.
    Presumably the idea of having a 10%quota (guided distribution - mis-guided distribution would be a better description) if to make those people want to leave so that HMRC can hit its target to reduce staff numbers?
    I can't see how it can be fair for any employee having delivered the performance they signed up
    to at the beginning, to be told that they are a 'must improve' at the end of year because the other members of the team have achieved more - this is moving the goal posts.
    I think the system is very unfair on managers who are having to put people in the must improve bracket even when they don't want to - if they don't, or if they openly criticise the stystem they may feel themselves will be given a must improve. This is management by fear.
    Finally, who thought that the phrase 'must improve' was the right choice? This can be very emotive for individuals who have delivered their performance targets and are working hard but are still considered to be in the bottom 10%. Perhaps whoever coined the phrase 'must improve' was the first to be given that marking?

  400. Comment by Steve posted on

    I'm a firm believer in the simplest solutions are more often than not the best solution. If that be the case then this new PMR system will be the worst yet. Certainly in my 16 years as a Civil Servant, and having seen alomst a new system every year, i conclude early doors that this system looks to be the most onorous and possibly the worst. No doubt someone got paid a lot of money for it, but as some others have said on here - it is a system most of the private sector used in the past and dumped.
    anyway if it is to remain then make it simpler like this:-
    Everyone is considered as sitting in the middle teir - "acheived". that is the default position for all and at the end of the year you automatically get this mark without any evidence being needed but simply by the grace that you and your manager feel it was what you deserved. You can still have meeting throughout the year if need be.
    Where the work comes in is when you consider the "not mets" and "exceeds". This is dealt with simply as any 'not mets' require evidence complied by the manager to prove why performance was not met. This is presented to the person at 6 month stage or earlier if possible. both job holder and manager either agree or not, agreement leads to set objectives to meet for the rest of the year. disagreement goes to a validation process where both sides present a written argument.
    at the other end if anyone feels they deserve an "exceed" then it is upto that person to keep and present evidence - not for the manager to offer the mark. The manager either agrees or doesnt, with non agreements again going down the vaildation route.
    The beauty of this is it allows the vast majority of staff who do a good job day in day out to actually get on with that job. Those who ant to go the extra mile or get on can put their own efforts in, leaving managers to concentrate solely on those in the team that really do need improvement. The baiss of who falls into that category can easily be set by stating its is x percent less than the 'average' output/performance etc - something that each team can agree on each year themselves in a team performance indicator discussion of some sort.

  401. Comment by Jo posted on

    I work for a small organisation within the MoJ and I am lucky. I have an interesting job which I enjoy and work with some really good people. I do a good job because I care about my job and the positive imapact it can have on society and I care about those who I work with.

    I see any appraisal system as being a necessary evil as it's never been a motivator for me. I worked in a previous civil service department for almost 10 years under the old system and never got properly recognised for the excellent work I did. But that didn't matter because I was always more interested in the results of my work than whether I was getting a pat on the back from managers who were often 'all mouth and no trousers'. After all, what's the benefit of comparing and modelling myself on people who weren't any good at their job.

    In my current organisation, no one properly understands the new process and so few people have done much work on it. The 'how' and the 'what' idea seems like a strangely arbitary way of splitting things up as, in my experience, if you don't get the 'how' right, you don't get good results.

    But strangely enough, we all keep doing a great job without completed appraisals. I'm sure I'll scribble something down before the deadline. I'm not the slightest bit bothered about whether I end up at the bottom of this distribution curve (which in such a small organisation could happen), what matters is does what I do benefit the public and what do my immediate colleagues think of the job I do.

    No amount of meddling with the appraisal system will change how I feel. I know I will never have an appraisal that truly reflects the work I do because I am not interested in shouting about my acheivements for my own gain.

    I may not be a senior manager with a generous salary but I do have pride in my work and know I am in the job because I 'walk the walk'. That's worth more than any box marking. After all we're human beings not performing animals jumping through hoops for a few scraps.

    I do an excellent job because I choose to do so and that's not something that can be controlled or quantified.

  402. Comment by Phil posted on

    20+ years service, works hard all day, exceeds all targets but still have to improve.
    Because with relative assessment my colleague (paid more for exactly the same job) is better because they doesn’t get stressed when bullied in the workplace.
    Add in the fact that I'm disabled with post traumatic stress caused by working for DWP and it makes for another demoralised member of staff.
    we never have enough time to operate this appraisal system properly, one to ones happen when mid and final reports are due.
    Get rid of the whole thing, we have adequate procedures in place to deal with poor performers and if your looking for advancement then have an optional reporting system, otherwise save vast amounts of money on a useless, broken, unfair system and let us get on with the day to day job.

  403. Comment by Dave posted on

    As we are all aware, the PMR system has already proved to have failed in the private sector, hence certain large companies have already dispensed with it. It should be the aim of all managers to have all of thier staff performing at a good level. In some respects having staff who are failing reflects badly on the manager.

    Instead of creating targets for "needs improvement", we should be supporting our managers who really have under performing staff. Having been there as a manager with a member of staff who himself admitted he could not cope, HMRC decided in its infinite wisdom to give him another similar job instead, as the Department did not want to go to a tribunal.

    In summary, deal with the real under performers, simplify the reporting process and let the rest of us get on with our jobs.

  404. Comment by Sallie posted on

    They brought this PMR system into my husbands private sector company a few years back. Some very capable and skilled employees were forced into the 10% must improve quota by managers. The result was that the company lost some very good staff to one of their competitors. It was abolished after 1 year.

  405. Comment by Andy posted on

    Speak to HR Mr Kerslake??? It is your blog therefore it is you that should respond to 510 comments!!!

  406. Comment by Andrew posted on

    I must say that I'm quite surprised if nobody has written to 'Have Your Say' yet about this blog.
    Nothing included this week either, despite over 500 comments left so far.

    • Replies to Andrew>

      Comment by Nick posted on

      I imagine they have but theyve chosen to not publish it.

  407. Comment by HMRC HO posted on

    Bob K. - The 'guided distribution' system was broken before it was adopted across the Civil Service - as has been proven in the Private Sector.

    It's worrying that your perception is that it's been positively received; the evidence above (i.e. the tip of the opinion iceberg) shows otherwise.

  408. Comment by Tom posted on

    Unfortunately a considered comment I attempted to make on 20 March regarding my concerns with the new Performance Appraisal does not appear to have passed moderation checks therefore I would just like to register the fact that I have reservations regarding the new system and agree with many of the comments raised on the subject of this blog!

    • Replies to Tom>

      Comment by Jim posted on

      I have also had a number of comments which have mysteriously failed the "moderation policy". I honestly don't know why - they are considered, to the point, polite and respectful - I wrote asking for an explanation, but no answer was forthcoming. I'm afraid that the Civil Service is becoming very much like the former eastern bloc.

  409. Comment by Ayfer posted on

    I am aware that in August 2013, PCS wrote to DfE clearly stating its objections and concerns about the identified weaknesses of the Performance Management System. One of which, was the ‘forced ranking’ through guided distribution and asked the question of how forced ranking, or guided distribution will improve the performance of staff within the organisation?

    This is yet to be demonstrated but in the meantime hundreds upon hundreds of staff have left the civil service.

    One of the areas the union constantly challenged the department was on the matter of the equality and the impact on staff with particular ‘protected characteristics’.

    The union considered the stats borne out of the Performance Management outturns which showed that the system discriminated against staff over 40, staff from ethnic minorities and disabled staff/staff with caring responsibilities (all protected characteristics).

    I recall at the time thinking that such alarming statistics would surely mean that the Department will rethink their strategy? So I waited, in the meantime the union negotiated the matter of performance and pay. The departments response was to decide that those put in the ‘must improve’ would not be entitled to the 1% pay rise or the petty £300 bonus! Yes you’ve guessed it… the hardest hit were those in the ‘protected characteristics’! how would this decision improve performance?

    But alas that was not the end: As the guided distribution clearly became a form of forced ranking, as it had been when first introduced in the 1980’s in the US. It became a tool to remove those civil servants who haven’t left yet.

    I am therefore surprised that the message is ‘raise your concerns with your HR’ as we all know that this is policy driven. Indeed many colleagues in HR and Management are equally ‘caught’ in this inefficient performance management process.

    The ultimate irony is that any manager who fails to identify people in the under-performing category will find themselves identified as a prime candidate for the bottom 10%. A real incentive if ever there was one!

  410. Comment by Mike posted on

    Validation group number three next week. Over two days lost through the amount of preparation needed and the heated debates around exceeds and must improves. I feel very vulnerable - neither group has met the "guided" distribution, at either end of the scale - and, based on the "friendly" talk I had with my countersigning manager, I expect my full year's performance and future promotability to be based on this single aspect of my work. Looks like a must improve for Mike.

  411. Comment by John posted on

    Please note the following extract from instructions issued by the Home Office to managers:

    Summary of changes to 2013-14 performance management process

    • The flexibility of the final rating assessment has been removed: it is expected that the distributions - Top 20%, Mid 70% or Lower 10% - are met across each directorate and, as far as possible, at each grade.

    This is clearly forced not guided, and contrary to Sir Bob's direction on the matter.
    Who addresses this please?

  412. Comment by Ian Arnott, posted on

    In 1997 Customs and Excise decided to ditch their existing appraisal system which is just like this new PMR system because to quote the then chair of Customs and Excise at the time Dame Valerie Strachan " the current system is unworkable".
    Why then are the lessons of history being ignored ?

  413. Comment by Steve B posted on

    Hello everyone and welcome to radio Civil Service. Below are a few hits which are no doubt on Sir Bob's playlist -

    Dream On - Depeche Mode. Will frontline staff receive the same rise as SCS advised above?
    The Only Way Is Up - Yazz. SCS pay and yet again our pension contributions.
    Down Down - Status Quo. Frontline staff pay, morale, terms & conditions, etc.
    Don't Be Stupid - Shania Twain. Do our leaders really care about what we think?
    Vertigo - U2. What you feel at the top of Sir Bob's very high ivory tower.
    I Don't Care - Transvision Vamp. Title says it all about our concerns, especially around PMR.
    You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) - Dead or Alive. That's all we ever get from HR replies.
    It's The End Of The World - REM. The stealth privatisation of HMRC has already started so expect this to continue at pace.

    Any other suggestions pop-pickers?

  414. Comment by CR posted on

    The answer is on another blog, use the address below to view it.

    The answer, well lets just say we should of not bothered commenting on here.

  415. Comment by Christos posted on

    The people who came up with this vitality curve/stack ranking system know exactly what they are doing. I bet they are having a good laugh at us down here.

  416. Comment by Faceless employee of the civil service. posted on

    I notice my previous comment is awaiting moderation, what are you people afraid of?

    I also agree will the negative comments posted here.

  417. Comment by Yes Man posted on

    This sounds dreadful. This bad boy PMR is being introduced at our work place this year and from what I have read I can't wait to be told my negative attitude has got me a band 3. We've had a Q&A session and have been told its all down to who makes the most cakes and the prettiest cakes (thanks HR for making it clear) and that yes it will be 'guided' distribution as long as we get our 10% band 3's - apparently the rest will be fairly arbitrary as they doubt we will hit the max 25% over achievers - especially if it is ever linked to pay.

    Now we are merging in a takeove kind of way I cant wait to be judged against some of the golden children of Bristol who appear to have the sun shining brightly from the darkest of places and if management are to be believed can make moon beams and rainbows shoot out of their ... pens...

  418. Comment by Paul posted on

    Latest HMRC guidance. proves beyond doubt that quota are being imposed. Sir Bob, you might head the Civil Service, but you certainly don't lead us.

    "It is expected that each Directorate will meet the guided distribution and Directors are accountable for ensuring that this happens. The chair is responsible for ensuring that the guided distribution is met in each validation group".

  419. Comment by Simon Bowden posted on

    Unfortunately, my previous comment has not passed the moderation check. Maybe I touched a nerve in linking the PMR to job cuts.

    In view of the fact Mr Kerslake has now told us to address the HR teams in our own departments, I suggest to everyone who has commented on here, that we email our own HR teams with our concerns about the PMR system and then copy and paste their replies on here.

    It should make interesting reading.

  420. Comment by Chris posted on

    We have just been briefed on the introduction of this new reporting system at Land Registry. The rationale given was that dealing with poor performance has been an issue identified at every staff survey for years now. Introducing a new reporting system will do absolutely nothing to change that. We have had new reporting systems every years for years now which have always been introduced to solve this problem. The issue in our department isn't that poor performers aren't identified, they stick out like a sore thumb in our teams. The issue is that managers locally either either don't have the tools or don't have the bottle to down the capability route when that is so clearly required. In addition the feedback we have had from a team member who attended a session with our new HR Director is that we will have 10% in the top marking and 10% in the bottom marking

  421. Comment by Rebecca Barr posted on

    "My blog on performance management 2 weeks ago received an unprecedented response. I know it is an issue which many of you care deeply about. Rest assured I do read the comments on the blog and I have a great team around me, led by Chris Last, who I know have been responding to your questions and issues where they can. It is impossible to answer every question in a blog, but if you have outstanding concerns and questions then please speak to the HR team in your department."

    ..So Bob doesn't intend to respond here at all?
    From the link provided above, that is literally all he has said about this blog. I don't see that any concerns have been addressed AT ALL and there is still no evidence of this 'positive feedback'.

    • Replies to Rebecca Barr>

      Comment by Tom posted on


      The positive feedback that Sir Bob has received on the new system, is the fact that the Staff Survey results show that staff in those departments where the new appraisal system has been in place for a couple of years have indicated that they think poor performance is being dealt with better in their department. That may or may not be due to the new appraisal system, and whether in takes into account a reduced participation rate we don't know. That IS the positive feedback that Sir Bob is referring to!!!

      • Replies to Tom>

        Comment by David-DWP posted on

        I think that it is only fair to point out that in DWP the staff survey result is not worth a button, as PCS members boycotted it this year. Any inferrence drawn from the results are therefore irrelevant.

  422. Comment by Paula K (MOD) posted on

    The system is completely unfair - how can you compare INDIVIDUALS, particularly doing different roles? Surely performance management is about managing the individual, their efficacy, productivity and personal development.

    You could have an individual who finds their job easy and requires no effort who will receive a higher marking than the person who puts in the same hours, but works twice as hard who does not have the same ability to convey their skills and aptitude or abilities in writing. An individual could improve significantly, yet they could still be in the bottom 5%.

    Long ago it was recognised that treating everyone the same was ineffective, unproductive and divisive. Anyone who has done their Diversity training (and by LAW everyone in the Public Sector must) is now aware that we should recognise and value difference and that the diversity and balance of individual skills and knowledge is what enables us to be productive, efficient and progressive.

    We cannot be marked against one another 'fairly' - we should all be assessed and judged on our individual ability, contribution and improvement and treated as individuals, not how eloquently we can portray ourselves.

    My mother kept telling me life isn't fair - perhaps she is right after all!

  423. Comment by Low Morale! posted on

    This has to be the worst PAR system..........ever! Not only does the form NOT offer anywhere to demonstrate how obectives have/have not been achieved, there is no written feedback included in the report from the LM, RO or CSO at all!
    The stacking system that has been imposed on us is another system that may or may not be applied correctly.....largely depending on who is managing and interpreting it.
    IMO, the report itself offers no added value when submitting them in support of job applications.
    Why cant we abolish the bonus payment system and introduce a PAR system that actually helps to develop individuals instead of everyone trying to prove what they are worth. It should be led by the LM & CSO to develop their career not geared towards providing evidence for a

  424. Comment by Faceless employee of the civil service. posted on

    Hi Sir Bob,

    I can imagine a reasonable explanation for believing that people have any positive feedback regarding the current PMR system that was forced upon us but, that could be construed as a personal comment so had to be removed. However, the evidence put forward by my fellow civil servants is overwhelming in the negative and should not be ignore, though I wonder if any of this feedback will be taken on board.

    I also wonder if any of the comments from the annual staff survey were read they certainly don’t appear to have been published… which again make me wonder why?

    Is it because those comments like these would almost universally deride our employer and you wouldn’t be as able to misinterpret them?

    The PMR system is loathed and its supporters will no doubt be in receipt of the same emotion.

    Guided distribution in the PMR system does not exist, except on paper, managers are told to go and find the 10% or else find themselves in receipt of a must improve marking to the point were one manager basically told their subordinate that they needed to find a must improve candidate and it was their turn.

    10% must improve is an oddly familiar number, usually it appears in outdated management manuals as the ideal amount of staff turnover in a year, a short sighted policy that fails to achieve the goal of motivating staff to perform better and an idea that was been abandoned by private industry.

    Strange that even this forum requires moderation, what are you people afraid of?

    The bottom line is Sir Bob while I admire you volunteering to play ‘whipping boy’ for our employer I cannot understand given the overwhelming evidence to the contrary that you or anyone else could really believe there is any significant positive feedback on the PMR system or any of the other attacks on our terms and conditions.

    Good day Sir Bob.

  425. Comment by SD posted on

    If the response to an issue as important as this is 'contact HR' then I think it's fair to say we all know where we stand. Communication has always been less than impressive during my time in the CS and it's times like this that I understand why we have the reputation we do.

    We are (rightly) meant to empathise with our customers but it seems when HMRCs internal customers come calling we disregard our own guidance for dealing with real people with real concerns.

    I get the fact that external drivers sometimes force things like PMR onto the CS but that should never make it ok to be blind to its failings.

    As for engagement scores, I think we all know which way they will be headed.

    So much to say yet I am writing this wondering why I am wasting my time. What a sad state of affairs that is.

  426. Comment by keith posted on

    I am once more sitting down to draft yet another wretched "PMR" report when I should be doing what the taxpayer funds my salary to do- work! This debased system is flawed in concept and scandalously inconsistent in practice. If the plan was to further demoralise and embitter civil servants it is working in spades.

  427. Comment by Ian Arnott posted on

    I find it interesting that a comment I posted recently has presumably been moderated and not published - probably because I said that the HM Customs and Excise Chair in the nineties had stated that the then existing performance appraisal system (which is very similar to this PMR system) in C and E then was unworkable. Too embarassing I suppose !

  428. Comment by James posted on

    Thanks for your comments. We're closing this thread now, in keeping with our moderation policy, as it has been 3 weeks since the publication of the post.

    Unfortunately we, the moderators, are unable to respond to every submitted comment but we do read them all and we're very grateful for your continuing engagement.


  429. Comment by a civil servant of many years service posted on

    With the new performance management coming in soon, people will be graded and 10-15% of the workforce will be graded as "needing improvement". They will be judged, not on a benchmark of "what is good performance", but on a benchmark "you are not as good as most of your colleagues". So, if you are working in a team of superstars….watchout! If you are part time and work in a team of full timers….watch out!. If you are 59 and working in a team of new young recruits….watch out! If you are disabled, and, despite your best and most courageous efforts are unable to quite meet the grade….watch out! And in the future, when you have to work to 65, or even 68, and you are in a team of keen 20 to 30 year olds, how many of us will easily perform as well as our colleagues. And how many experienced civil servants will be quite as keen (as so many currently are) to help their less experienced colleagues if, in doing so, you put your own perfomance at risk?

  430. Comment by a civil servant of many years service posted on

    A colleague of mine, who is recognised for their determination, exemplary attitude, high professionalism and excellent performance year on year has, for the first time I have known them in 6 years suggested, after the latest announcement on the new performance management system today, they are seriously considering whether they want to remain in the civil service. I too have seen my fair share of fine years in the civil service. Some might say then that the new performance management system will help me develop further; that the new system is well suited to excellent performers. But personally, I find the spectre of trying to outperform my colleagues in order to secure my position as very distasteful, and a major distraction. It's not what I came into the civil service to do. I simply don't need to be motivated in that way to perform at my best, whatever "my best" might be. I worry that the new system will encourage some of our best performers; some of our shining lights who we look to for inspiration and leadership to simply leave. Some of our most exemplary performers will just not want to be associated with a system where the strong overcome the less strong by their performance. Are we being reduced to the Darwinian principals of natural selection. I am reliably informed by a former employee of the banking world that this "new" reporting method was used by one or more of the UK Banks in the boom years of the 80's and 90's. The result is embedded in UK banking history now, and we all know how it ended; staff scared to say "no"; almost everyone saying "yes" to their managers, and a blind race off a financial cliff.

  431. Comment by Rob posted on

    The following is a direct quote from Lin Homer's new online diary communication tool (published 24/3/14):
    "To try to reinforce our commitment to PMR as a longer term investment, we’ve decided that the pay award this year will NOT be affected by performance ratings for grades AA-6. Hopefully, this news will allow you to concentrate on the important conversations you have with your manager and the actions coming out of them.

    And while we are talking about PMR and pay, I’d like to dispel the urban myth that we’ve decided not to award performance bonuses to those of you who get an exceeded. It’s simply not true! We will give a bonus to those who get an exceeded, and we were always going to!"

    This late notice issue of confusing 'clarification' simply adds to the extent of ongoing dismay and disengagement.