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PPM capability programme

 

BT Project and programme management (BT PPM) capability programme

Whilst the BI assessment centre (AC) programme is almost over in BT, the Project and Programme management (PPM) assessment centres are rolling out and will continue to do so. Prospect has major concerns about these – principally the potential mismatch between the standards assessed at the AC and the requirements of day job and the consequences of a double fail at the AC.

We have made some progress after BT agreed to pause the programme for some months. Following that the reassessment has been substantially redesigned, there should be a check that an appropriate development plan and support has been delivered BEFORE any resit and there should be a case by case consideration of options if someone fails the resit. Those options should include the possibility of taking a 3rd AC with suitable pre work and support.

Meanwhile please ensure you do the following:

  • Check the generic PPM standards against the actual requirements of your day job and make clear in writing to your line manager any mismatch between the two especially if there are things in the standard that you are not required to do in your day job. Go through each of the capabilities one by one and ensure you have a discussion about how these apply and record any gaps that may exist between the standards and your day job requirements. You need to have a development plan put in place to address those gaps – make sure all of this is clearly recorded and documented. Some people have done a red/amber/green analysis by capability level and found that is helpful.
  • If you don’t think your role actually matches PPM then ask HR to do a mapping check of the job. Do this in writing. We are finding BT is very resistant to remapping roles but if you think there is a better fit then at least make sure this is on the record.
  • Make sure any development work and support you will need is planned and accounted for in your workstack and is in writing. BT has said this is a requirement to stay in your role so you should be given time to do this preparation as part of your day job.
  • Discuss the programme amongst your team and ensure that any team concerns are reflected back up through the line.
  • Doing a regular stress MOT should be BAU in BT so consider taking a Stream risk assessment test. You could also discuss stress levels and mutual support as a team.
  • Prospect will continue to consider all possible options in trying to get your concerns addressed and will do so only after careful consideration of all the possible ramifications for individuals. We will keep members updated and are providing full support to those who have issues or may have failed the AC twice. If you are a member and have failed twice do please contact our Helpdesk on 0207 902 6600. They can also provide help if you get a DN rating that you think may be related to the AC result – this needs to be challenged.

This page contains information on our work and advice on this issue:

Concerns and alternatives

Our members and their managers have told us their concerns. We continue to pursue these and have made some progress:

 

  • Treatment of double fails – our firm preference (and we had thought was the established position with BT) is to ensure these were looked at on a case by case basis rather than having just two options. That would be fairer and take into account individual and business needs and circumstances. This should now happen.
  • Mismatch between the generic job standards and the requirements of an individual’s day job - it is apparent that some capabilities tested at the assessment centre are simply not part of some individuals’ day jobs. These areas tend to be where individuals are failing – especially at reassessment. We believe this issue has to be addressed systematically.  
  • The pass/fail nature of the assessment centre is negative. We have suggested instead that accreditation could be done more positively by allowing individuals to accumulate credits against relevant individual capabilities (drawing on evidence from the day job) over a period of time. This would be more positive, development focussed and recognise that not all jobs do everything in the standards all the time. It could also avoid very marginal fails by using evidence of performance in the day job. So, the business could continue but folk could gather different experience and learning across the capabilities in line with business requirements.
  • The relationship with performance management. We have managed to stop any automatic DN ratings after a first fail. However, it now seems apparent that in some circumstances line managers of those who have failed a reassessment have been told to mark people DN regardless of performance in the day job. In our view that is not justifiable and deeply unfair especially when these people are now being removed from their current roles.

BT has recently said the following:

"The assessment centres do not change our approach to performance management, under performance, or the support we will give people to improve. An assessment centre fail does not automatically mean a DN rating, unless this is supported by evidence in the day job and from usual performance conversations. Where someone is not meeting the standard and this is supported by evidence, then it is expected that they will not be rated higher than 'development needed'. This is the case for any role in the company where someone is falling short of the standards and expectations for their role."

We have other issues around the level at which the standards are set and the content of the assessment centre and reassessment programmes. Our members have also raised concerns with us that the maths test and other elements may be potentially discriminatory on grounds of age. BT have told us that they have looked at this very carefully and have denied that there is. We will of course look very carefully at any individual cases where people believe they may have experienced any form of discrimination on the grounds of a protected characteristic.

Advice to members – do this now

We are aware that the announcements around a ‘licence to practice’ and the consequences of a failed reassessment may have raised levels of anxiety around this programme. We have raised this with BT and are urging to monitor this process and its impact on those who fail, from a health and well-being perspective.

Meanwhile please ensure you do the following:

  • Check the generic PPM standards against the actual requirements of your day job and make clear in writing to your line manager any mismatch between the two especially if there are things in the standard that you are not required to do in your day job.
  • If you don’t think your role actually matches PPM then ask HR to do a mapping check of the job. Do this in writing.
  • Talk to your line manager about what development work and support you will need to make sure you are in the best position to pass the assessment centre and make sure that this is planned and accounted for in your workstack and is in writing. BT has said this is a requirement to stay in your role so you should be given time to do this preparation as part of your day job.
  • Discuss the programme amongst your team and ensure that any team concerns are reflected back up through the line.
  • Doing a regular stress MOT should be BAU in BT so consider taking a Stream risk assessment test. You could also discuss stress levels and mutual support as a team.

If members need individual advice then contact our Helpdesk on 020 7902 6600 or by emailing helpdesk@prospect.org.uk

What if I have failed the first assessment?

performance management

Many people are concerned that a ‘fail’ in the Assessment Centre would automatically result in a ‘Development Needed’ mark regardless of the performance in the day job.

From what we can see, that hasn’t happened in practice in BI on the first fail. We expect the same to hold true for PPM (If you believe it has happened please contact the Prospect Helpdesk on 020 7902 6600).

However, this may become the case where people fail the reassessment. We will be watching how this develops and what guidance is given. BT seems to have pressured line managers to mark people down in BI solely on the basis of a double fail.

Make sure you agree a plan 

We dislike the term ‘fail’ but if this is the outcome for you then your first step should be to agree an action plan and a reasonable timeframe to deliver that with your line manager. BT has suggested that the guide timeframe for this should be 3-6 months and that should not be prescriptive. Individual circumstances and business needs will vary and it’s important that you work out what’s reasonable with your line manager.

The types of support might include on line learning, access to mentors, subject matter experts or coaching from your line or others in your team. People still need to do their day job, take leave etc so it’s important that there is flexibility in the timeframe. You may need support to experience different capabilities which should be agreed through job redesign with your line manager.

 If you don’t get the support then keep a track record of this. Chase it up if needs be. Do be proactive on this and don’t let things drift. Let us know if this is not happening. You can also get in touch with the programme lead for your LOB or the central team.

 If you don’t do key elements of the job standard as part of your day job make sure that is recorded as part of your normal performance management discussions.

What about the reassessment?

This should only happen when both you and your line are confident that you will pass the assessment centre. The PPM programme will also check that you have had a proper Development plan and that this has been delivered before allowing you to resit.  If people aren’t ready then they probably just need more time and support. Only if someone is not meeting the requirements of the day job should someone be assessed as DN. Not being ready for reassessment cannot be the only reason for a DN mark.

If at this stage you still feel that standards have not been clearly set and/or you are not able to demonstrate these day to day please raise this with your LOB Programme lead and let us know to make sure you have a record.

The reassessment application form requires you and your line manager to confirm that you both agree that standards have been set, you are meeting these and are ready for reassessment. Your line manager will be required to give evidence of development actions against the capabilities in the standard. That’s why it’s so important for you to sit down and discuss the action plan and to make sure this is delivered well in advance. That’s especially important if you realise you don’t have some elements in the role as part of your day job. You can find the reassessment form on the programme website – ask to discuss this with your line manager before it is submitted. The programme team will check this form before people are admitted for reassessment.

If you do fail twice please ensure you contact the HelpDesk on 020 7902 6600 so we can give you advice and support including on how to challenge any DN mark and also provide you with some general advice and a case handler.

Will I be offered the option of a downgrade?

You may be offered the option of taking a lower grade role within the same area if you have passed the AC for that level of role and there is a suitable vacancy. So, this is not always offered as an option. You need to be aware that if you decide to take this offer this will be deemed to be a voluntary move and you would lose any rights to retain higher band related benefits on a grandfathered basis. Also, if your salary is above the max of the pay range for the new role you may have your salary cut to the max of the new pay range. This could have pensions implications if you are in a final salary scheme so you need to check that out – talk to pensions admin if you are in the BTPS scheme section B or C.