Getting the people who work for you, your team, to work together to reach common goals may seem easy; but according to the experts it’s not. The tools in this section will help supervisors to improve their team’s communication and focus, to introduce change, and to measure progress toward goals. Non-supervisory employees will find helpful information about being a more effective member of a team. Employee Relations staff are always available to help you increase UTD’s competitive advantage by helping you improve your teamwork.
“Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.”
—Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
Effective performance management is first and foremost about communication. Supervisors cannot manage or direct employee performance if they fail to practice good communication skills. Likewise, employees who do not practice good communication skills toward their supervisor place themselves in a situation ripe for misunderstanding. Effective communication is critical to the success of the University, to every department and to every employee. Solid performance communication benefits everyone. Given appropriate attention, effective performance communication:
- Fosters good working relationships.
- Provides opportunities to discuss and clarify performance expectations.
- Establishes a baseline to measure how well an employee is performing.
- Creates a plan of action for monitoring and providing feedback on performance.
- Recognizes the efforts and accomplishments of others.
- Develops effective supervisors and productive employees.
The mantra in real estate is location, location, location; surely then, it is communication, communication, communication for today’s workplace. The beginning and end of effective performance management is communication. Check for training to help supervisors and managers develop and expand their communication skills.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
According to the UTD Performance Policy, “all classified and administrative and professional (A&P) staff will have their job performance evaluated on an annual basis.” Annual reviews are conducted during the first quarter of each calendar year and due into the Office of Human Resources by the 5th working day of April.
The purposes for the annual performance appraisal include but are not limited to the following:
- To align the responsibilities of each job with the mission of UTD and the mission of the employee’s department.
- To encourage open communication between the supervisor and their staff.
- To document employee growth and development needs as well as achievements.
- To support analysis and decisions related to staffing, compensation and training.
Fundamentally, the annual appraisal is designed to serve as a tool that helps supervisors increase productivity, communicate expectations, establish goals for the coming year, and report the employee’s success in meeting the past year’s performance expectations. One of the most common mistakes supervisors make with regard to the appraisal process is that that they fail to treat it as a process. The completion of the Annual Performance Appraisal form is a small part of the appraisal process. In its most productive form, performance appraisal is actually a continuous, year-round practice of exchanging information between the supervisor and employee that begins and ends with the formal annual performance appraisal meeting. The most highly motivated, productive employees are those who know what they are supposed to do and how well they are doing it, who participate in planning how their work will be accomplished and who have open, honest rapport with their supervisor. Supervisors are strongly encouraged to make the annual review meetings participative and collaborative. Employees are encouraged to use the Sample Employee Self-Evaluation Tool (DOC, 38KB) as a part of their preparation for the review meeting.
All employees who receive an annual review should sign the review to indicate they have read it. The employee’s signature does not indicate agreement only that the employee has read and received the annual review from their supervisor. If employees have questions or concerns about the review they received, they should contact Employee Relations staff. Watch for announcements starting in January of each year and running through March concerning classes for supervisors and employees on the annual performance appraisal process at UT Dallas.
A Performance Improvement Plan is a formal process used by supervisors to help employees improve performance or modify behavior. The performance improvement plan, or PIP, as it is sometimes called, identifies performance and/or behavioral issues that need to be corrected and creates a written plan of action to guide the improvement and/or corrective action.
Fundamentally, a PIP is a structured communication tool designed to facilitate constructive discussion between the employee and the supervisor. An effective PIP will:
- Specifically identify the performance to be improved or the behavior to be corrected.
- Provide clear expectations and metrics about the work to be performed or behavior that must change.
- Identify the support and resources available to help the employee make the required improvements.
- Establish a plan for reviewing the employee’s progress and providing feedback to the employee for the duration of the PIP.
- Specify possible consequences if performance standards as identified in the PIP are not met.
When an employee is not performing or meeting expectations, supervisors have at their disposal several options to correct the behavior. They can rely on corrective actions such as oral and written warnings. In more serious cases, they can move to suspension, demotion, or dismissal. The PIP, in many cases, can be used in place of these disciplinary processes. A PIP can be given at almost any point in performance discussions with the employee. Some common uses for the PIP include:
- To correct workplace behaviors affecting performance, productivity or staff relationships.
- On the heels of an unsatisfactory annual review.
- To provide employees an opportunity to correct a situation rather than implementing a more serious step in the disciplinary process.
A basic tenet with all performance management efforts is the notion that taking action early is better than waiting. The same holds true for the performance improvement plan. A PIP is more likely to be successful when the supervisor recognizes there is a performance or behavioral issue that needs to be corrected. Early communication and early feedback (both positive and corrective) are good ways to prevent future performance problems. Investing time early is always time well spent and the performance improvement plan can be an effective tool in preventing problems from getting worse or for intervening when performance and/or workplace behaviors have become counterproductive.
Employee Relations staff are available to consult with and provide technical assistance to supervisors needing more information on this tool. You can also check for training on performance improvement plans.