Prospect agreed a performance management booklet setting out a new approach to performance management for everyone in BT from April 2010.
Recent months have seen more and more pressure to force ratings to fit a bell curve. This is a clear breach of the agreement and abuse of the process. We are pushing BT hard to stop this wholly negative numbers based approach and have recently agreed two key documents:
- An escalation process and
- guidance on the use of settlement agreements - formerly known as compromise agreements.
The escalation process clearly states that “performance markings must be fully justified against job standards, objectives and behaviours and that any practice which undermines this eg forced distribution would be appropriate for escalation”. It also confirms that labour turnover ‘forecasts’ in BT will not be translated into specific ‘managed exit’ targets for individual line managers; any practice which could result in targets for ‘managed exits’ or ‘unregretted leaver’ targets would be escalated using this procedure.
At national level Prospect can escalate both case and systemic issues under this process. We can raise systemic issues on an anonymous basis ensuring that the identity of the person will not be revealed. We will need to satisfy ourselves that there is validity in the concerns being raised – usually involving a conversation between the individual and an officer of the union. From that we will work out how best to raise whilst ensuring complete confidentiality. We are raising reports of abuses through ER channels. Each escalation will be tracked and a quarterly report provided to Group. We will also report back to members as appropriate on the outcomes of escalation.
The document on settlement agreements sets out how and when these can be used in performance or sick absence cases. It seeks to deal with the worst abuses of these agreements. If you are offered a settlement agreement contact Prospect immediately for advice.
In Feb 2013 we conducted a survey of members and non members in BT and you can see the full results here. We shared the results with BT.
There's some general advice for members on this page and more detailed advice eg on coaching plans or raising issues about your rating here.
We are seeing more pressure being put on managers across the business to deliver an expected distribution of marks. We are pushing back on this hard but meanwhile here is some advice that can help you defend yourself against an unfair mark:
First and foremost, don’t let things drift. If you think a DN mark is unjustified, then you must challenge it. Acting early and with advice from the union there is more chance of either getting the mark changed or stopping a repeat. We know that parts of the company are now looking at patterns of DN marks to identify potential poor performers so acting early can stop you falling into that position.
The process for challenging your mark is to first raise your concerns informally with your line manager, then your second line manager. Do that in writing so you have a record. If still not resolved, then you can use the grievance procedure. Make sure you contact the Helpdesk to ask for help in finalising your grievance. Don’t submit it without first taking advice from the union.
Other useful tips include:
- Always refer back to the standards that should have been set at the start of the year
- use examples of good work to illustrate your performance, don’t wait for your formal performance review to gain feedback
- Ask for feedback on a regular basis – and make sure you put the request in writing
- Have at least quarterly one to ones and check the notes
- Probe alleged weaknesses and ask for examples, facts and figures. Make sure your manager puts an evidence-based and standards-based justification for your rating onto the ePerformance form.
- Your mark should not come as a surprise
- Check who you have been levelled against - peers should be doing broadly similar jobs
- Remember a record must be kept of changes to performance ratings in levelling together with the supporting evidence. So if you’re told your mark was changed at levelling ask for this record.
- Make sure to complete your self-review on ePerformance every quarter and that your line manager knows and reads it.
Some key safeguards in the agreement you can use:
- There are no targets for managed exits
- There must be no forced distribution or quotas for marks
- Standards can be reviewed during the year but revised standards cannot be applied retrospectively – see Q and As at end of the agreement.
- People should not be marked down solely on the basis of their relative/peer to peer performance. If you achieve the standards set then that must be your mark – this is set out on p19 of the agreement
- People should not be marked down just because they are new to a job – see Q and As at the end of the agreement
- If assessed as Development Needed, agree with your manager the areas for improvement and ask for their support to achieve any necessary improvement. Make sure you have a coaching plan – we have put together guidance on this. Deal with any shortcomings identified and gather the evidence that you have done so. Even if you are challenging your mark then you still need to demand a coaching plan and deal with it. Use the lack of a coaching plan as evidence that the mark is unjustified.
- People marked Development Needed can only be put on a PIP (also known as an Initial Formal Warning) if their performance has become unsatisfactory against the standards set, they have had a one to one to that effect and been given a reasonable time to improve.
Make sure everything is in writing. If someone says something to you about your performance but this is verbal and they refuse to confirm in writing one tip is to email confirming your understanding of the discussion. They can then either confirm or refute what was said.
The full text of the agreement is on the right hand side of this page. since the original agreement we have made a number of key additional changes:
- In October 2011 BT confirmed there should be just twice yearly levelling of marks. So, whilst ratings will still will be input for Q1 and Q3 there should be no levelling exercises - we know that has not been followed in some areas and are trying to get this abuse stopped.
- In September 2012 BT confirmed that the current approach of having cumulative quarterly performance ratings will cease and instead we will move to a rating based solely on that person’s performance in that quarter.
- We agreed a guide to levelling in March 2011.
Key safeguards in the agreement:
As part of the levelling process an individual's performance will be compared with their peer group. The peer group should be individuals working on similar roles and objectives. People should not be marked down solely on the basis of their relative performance. Where an individual has met the standards as set by his or her manager the rating will not be changed but the standards, if set too low, will be revised for the period going forward and communicated to the individual.
Development Needed is not the new 'GS'. The Development Needed (DN) category is just that - a category where development needs are identified and addressed in a specific coaching and development plan. If, despite this support, there is evidence of declining performance then someone may be put on a formal Performance Improvement Plan but only if:
• Performance has deteriorated and is unsatisfactory against the standards set at the beginning of the performance cycle;
• the people manager has held a 121 with the individual to explain that performance in unsatisfactory; and
• an individual has been given reasonable time to improve.
As a reflection of the more positive approach individuals rated as 'development needed' will be eligible for a move into the BTTC unless there are other factors prohibiting this.