Dreadful PMR equality outcomes in 2015-16 – PCS Voice

Management response fails to address the fundamental problem

The Department has now announced the latest PMR equality outcomes via an article on the Intranet dated 9 August. In addition, management have provided details of three new diversity initiatives which it hopes will improve the corresponding figures at mid year review.

Both disappointment and frustration is expressed in the article that management’s previous attempts to mitigate the longstanding equality concerns associated with the PMR system (such as rolling out unconscious bias training for managers) have proven unsuccessful. There unfortunately remains a seeming reluctance however to ‘bite the bullet’ and draw the obvious conclusion that the fundamental problem is actually the PMR system itself.

The Department’s persistence with this increasingly discredited approach undermines its claim that diversity and inclusion underpins everything that it does. It is also clear that the PMR system does not assist the ‘honest performance conversations’ envisaged in the recently launched People Plan. Now is the time for DCLG to join an increasing number of private sector organisations and Civil Service bodies (most notably MOD) in concluding that the current disastrous and demoralising approach to performance management should in fact be abandoned.

Headline equality outcomes

The headline figures set out below clearly illustrate that yet again, the performance and contribution of BAME, disabled, older and lower grade staff within DCLG is seemingly assessed more harshly:

Percentage of staff receiving a ‘development needed’ marking (10% overall)

• 25% of Black staff
• 24% of Asian staff
• 20% of AO staff
• 19% of disabled staff
• 15% of staff aged over 60

Compared to only

• 8% of White staff
• 8% of staff aged 16 to 29
• 7% of staff aged 30 to 39
• 7% of Grade 7 staff
• 5% of Grade 6 staff

Percentage of staff receiving an ‘exceptional’ marking (19% overall)

• 41% of staff aged 16 to 29
• 35% of Grade 6 staff
Compared to only
• 12% of disabled staff
• 8% of staff aged over 60
• 8% of AO staff
• 7% of Asian staff
• 4% of Black staff

Limitations of new diversity initiatives

Whilst we note that the Department is trialling two approaches of ‘opt in’ and ‘opt out’ of moderation for BAME and disabled staff respectively, in order to try to mitigate the appalling equality outcomes of the PMR system, it seems that these are merely a ‘sticking plaster laid upon an open wound’. Along with the third initiative of establishing a diversity panel, this is only looking at one effect of a PMR system which in itself is broken. Consequently it can only really affect diversity and inclusion around the margins by potentially changing the box markings of certain protected group staff to make the inequalities appear less apparent, rather than making the system itself fairer. In addition, the PMR system is discriminatory in more ways than just box markings (although this is more obvious and tangible as it can be easily quantified). Linked to PMR are career development, possible redundancy criteria and performance improvement plans (PIPs) which disproportionately affect staff in the lower grades and some protected groups.

Until the Department starts to accept that the PMR system is the problem, rather than merely concentrate on its effects, inequality in DCLG will continue to get worse. PCS has been championing for a number of years a new way of doing performance management – a forward looking approach where employees are developed to reach their true potential rather than frightened by rigid management approaches and a ‘long hours culture’. If the Department is serious about equality, it will speak with the trade unions about how best to tackle and break the culture of inequality which has unfortunately been built into its PMR systems and processes.

Once PCS has had an opportunity to discuss with the Department how the proposed diversity panel system and trialled measures for BAME and disabled staff will affect employees, we will provide more information. If any employee is in any doubt about whether to opt in or opt out of moderation, please speak to a PCS rep by the 9th September deadline about your particular circumstances.

Way forward

PCS wants to replace the current PMR system with an approach centred upon the development and improvement of individual and team skills, qualifications and expertise. In the meantime, we will press management to:

• Not proceed with the introduction of performance related pay bonuses.
• Be clear that the Reporting Officer (not the moderation meeting) is responsible for the final box marking.
• Abandon the deeply problematic moderation meeting system.
• Drastically improve the existing equality and fairness safeguards.