PMR survey results special – PCS Voice

PCS DCLG PMR survey summary and update

In June 2015, PCS DCLG Branch conducted one of the largest and most comprehensive PMR membership surveys of its kind in Whitehall.  Your responses have ensured that branch representatives have a wealth of direct evidence of members’ views and concerns on a wide range of PMR related issues.  This update provides a further qualitative assessment of how members in DCLG view key aspects of the current PMR system in addition to the headline statistics already provided last year.  Further details of the 450 free text comments received are provided in the attached annex.

PMR Survey Results

 PMR system ‘not fit for purpose’

Respondents were highly critical in their view of how effective the current PMR system is.  Only 11% thought that it ‘worked well’; 12% thought that it was ‘transparent and objective’; 15% that ‘people were assessed fairly’; and 14% that it ‘took about the right amount of time to complete’.  Many confirmed their view that it was a subjective assessment that did not allow challenge, was overly bureaucratic, pointless, reduced team working and morale for a system that no-one can actually say what it is for.  These responses reflect the longstanding view of PCS that the PMR system is simply ‘not fit for purpose’ and needs to be urgently overhauled.

Fundamental weakness with the moderation process

Some of the most negative scores and comments were around the moderation process.  Only 13% thought they were a good way to ensure fairness and consistency.  Of staff not involved in the moderation process, only 14% thought they had sufficient knowledge of the process to challenge adverse decision and markings with 91% stating they were not aware of the moderation meeting discussion of their performance.  Many managers thought they were under pressure to fill a ‘quota’, said it was impossible to moderate as jobs were so different; and that they were moderating staff whose work they do not see.  Other line managers below Grade 7 said they were excluded from the process and box markings that they recommended were subsequently overturned based on hearsay, not evidence with this being impossible to challenge as ‘everything is secret’.  Unfortunately, this is also reflected in the wealth of PMR related personal cases where no or little objective evidence exists to substantiate the box markings – and markings appear to be overturned against the claimed advice and wishes of line managers despite their stated responsibility.

Bullying and Discrimination

From member’s feedback, 37% stated they had experienced bullying as part of the PMR process; 68% thought that the PMR system discriminates against certain groups of staff with 38% feeling they had personally been discriminated against.  Respondents indicated that the major grounds for discrimination were grade, age, race and disability.  Numerous comments were received indicating that the system discriminates against vulnerable staff with ‘Development Needed’ markings disproportionately given to staff in the protected equality groups.

Major equality concerns

There have been long standing equality concerns connected to the DCLG PMR system, which for equality outcomes remains one of the worst in Whitehall.  Despite yet again, appallingly disproportionate markings for the protected groups and lower grades last year, the message from management is that with the exception of one or two cases, the PMR statistics are correct.  This serious problem has continued despite the Department concentrating their effort last year on implementing a disability package, which in part was designed to tackle disability discrimination in the PMR system.  However, PCS reps are still receiving PMR disability cases that clearly breach the Department’s own guidance on awarding Development Needed markings and the need to take account of outstanding reasonable adjustments.  These breaches are potentially unlawful.

Way forward

Despite DCLG management insistence that the PMR system cannot be fundamentally changed as we ‘have to follow’ Civil Service Employee Policy instructions, other Departments and agencies have commenced a radical overhaul of their own systems as they conclude that the current PMR model just does not work.  Two examples are set out below


For the 2016/17 performance year there will no longer be any ‘guided distribution’ of performance markings and there will be no box markings.  In addition, there will not be formal mid-year and end-of-year performance review.  Instead there will be monthly informal performance reviews involving the jobholder and their line manager.  The process will concentrate on managing performance in a way that is supportive and should enable all staff to reach their full potential.


The Ministry of Defence has announced its intention to abandon their PMR system this reporting year.  The new permanent secretary Stephen Lovegrove has made an agreement with the Cabinet Office to end performance management reviews in the department, including the stated distribution rankings labelling the bottom 10% as poor performers and subject to ‘management of poor performance action’, which may lead to dismissal on grounds of inefficiency.  The only constraints from the Cabinet Office is that any new system manages poor performance and that the department has some (unspecified) way of rewarding good performance at the time that it happens.

These developments clearly have important implications for both DCLG and the rest of the civil service.  Branch representatives continue to have discussions with HR about the urgent need for a fairer, less burdensome, more objective and transparent approach to performance management centred upon a forward looking and developmental approach.  However the management response so far has been that the PMR system cannot be fundamentally changed before April 2018 at the earliest.  Although the views of members have not so far been taken seriously, we continue to strongly press management for changes.

Annex A pmr survey analysis

Annex B analysis of pmr survey comments