In any organisational framework, Performance Management Systems (PMS) is a vital tool for assessing the employee’s contribution towards the growth of it, primarily to reward the performers and punish those who underperform. Over the years, the RCSC has been depending on Performance Evaluations (PE) to assess and monitor the performance of the civil servants. This was however found unclear in linking the performance outputs of the employees with that of the agencies. In addition, the PE was flawed since employees are most of the time rated Outstanding which impedes in identifying performers from non performers.
To overcome this difficulty, the RCSC instituted the Individual Work Plans (IWP) to streamline and link performances of the individuals with the overall goals of the agencies. Except for the O-level employees, it’s mandatory for all civil servants to prepare the IWP which must be in line with the overall targets the organisation sets for the year, based on which the Agency signs an Annual Performance Agreement (APA) with the Government. The IWP itself is not so different from the previous PE system considering that both have the provisions to rate the employees. The only difference is that earlier the rating from your PE is final for any sort of HR actions whereas the rating from the IWP is just one of the inputs into the Moderation Exercise (ME).
The ME is ranking of employees into difference performance categories (Outstanding-OS; Very Good-VG; Good-G; Need Improvement-NI) based on the performance of the agency during that year. The agencies score for the year decides on how many of the employees to be force ranked under each of these four ranking categories. For example, if an agency scores 96% for the year, then it can rank its employees as (3% in OS; 17% in VG; 80% in G and none in NI). This is important considering that it’s being projected that agencies need to force at least one of its employees under NI, no matter how it performed, which is untrue.
On the contrary, if an agency scores less than 69.99%, than its rankings are (0% in OS; 14% in VG; 84% in G & 2% in NI). Initially, many thought this as a solution to identify the doers and to deter the underperformers so that all civil servants enhance their effort and performance year on. However, the much talked solution has today become a thorn pricking most civil servants, more so the teachers. Some of the reasons why this well intended Moderation Exercise is facing criticism could be as follows:
Unfair reward & penalty
For reward of six months promotion enhancement, one has to achieve OS for three consecutive years, which many believe is not realistic since agencies will not prefer to rank only one employee in OS for three years undermining others. But when it comes to penalty, an employee falling in NI once will lose promotion by one year and faces termination if he gets NI three times.
Since the ME Committee Members (CM) have the full authority in ranking, the employees may spend more time pleasing the CMs than focusing on actual works. Chances are that any employee who is disliked by the CM will have high chances of being forced under poor rating or worse, even in NI. Such a scenario doesn’t encourage open and interactive civil service rather encourages boot licking which neither is good for the employees or the agency.
Based on results of ME, only few will be rated in the OS & VG while forcing majority in G and few in NI. Talks are that most civil servants feel that no matter how hard they work, they will only get G and hence doesn’t encourage them to take the extra mile, which is the sole objective of instituting the ME/IWP.
Although the exercise iterates work quality yet chances are that this will be rarely assessed since the rankings are mostly dependent on whether you have achieved the planned activities. This may result in delivering inferior works which could be waste of tax payers’ money.
This practice of classifying employees into different categories is like mother differentiating among her children. And when kids are treated unfairly the family doesn’t grow well. So is the case with the current ME based on the results of which some are made to feel morally low despite performing at par or better than others who are ranked higher than you based on reasons unknown to you.
Since agencies and their employees are rated based on the outcome of their APA, the agencies may strategise and accordingly plan for fewer activities every year. If this trend continues then it will have larger impact on the implementation of the planned activities. This is a serious concern because implementation of any sort of policy initiatives shouldn’t suppress the overall growth.
In view of the foregoing and also considering that many quarters of civil servants, especially the teachers expressing difficulty in adhering to the IWP needs, it may be prudent for the RCSC to relook into these requirements. While its necessary to be adamant at times but being one when the majority is unhappy is not really being visionary.