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Evaluations: The Fifth Dimension

February 1, 2000

Carol J. Schlueter

Three is "out." Five is "in,"and very popular with Tulane supervisors and staff members. The human resources department reports positive reactions to the new forms developed for the university's annual performance evaluations. The forms carry a new five-point rating system that supplants the "0-1-2" ratings used in recent years to evaluate performance of employees.

"The response has been overwhelmingly positive" to the new system, said Cheryl Avera, compensation analyst in human resources. Supervisors faced a Feb. 1 deadline to finish evaluations. The new forms are available on the human resources Web site.

This year's process works as follows: First, supervisors complete each employee's evaluation. Employees who score 3.0 or higher in the evaluation are eligible for a merit increase in pay, which is distributed to employees at the supervisor's discretion from a 2 percent increase in the overall salary pool.

Merit increases will be reflected in paychecks received at the end of July. The university's new fiscal year begins July 1. Something new this year is an "additional merit-increase pool" of up to $1.5 million to reward outstanding performance by faculty and staff. Details regarding how these awards will be determined were still being ironed out at Inside Tulane's press time.

These new awards will be permanent salary increases, not bonuses, and are part of a five-year program that could add $10 million to the total salary pool, said Yvette Jones, senior vice president for planning and administration. These additional awards will recognize "outstanding performance among staff and faculty, and will provide equity adjustments where justified," she added.

Last fall, human resources began reviewing the three-point scale and the evaluation forms, working with a large committee of administrators, staff and faculty from both campuses.

"While the three-point scale is recommended by human resources professionals, it wasn't popular at Tulane," said Evola C. Bates, vice president of human resources. "There weren't any gray areas in a three-point rating scale,either you didn't do well, you did well or you did extremely well. With a five-point rating scale, it's not so limiting."

Frank Currie, director of employee relations and staff development, was one of several human resources staff members who by mid-January had trained nearly 400 Tulane supervisors on the new evaluation forms and "effective performance management."

Currie said the planning committee researched what systems universities and industries used in evaluations, and the result was the new five-point scale. Under this system, five means superior performance; four, outstanding performance; three, commendable performance; two, performance needs improvement or development; and one, unsatisfactory performance.

Supervisors must rate an employee on each key responsibility in his or her job description, multiplying the score and the percentage of time spent on each responsibility. All the values are added to result in an overall score. The strength of this new scale, Currie said, "is giving the supervisor greater flexibility in expressing the strengths and weaknesses of his or her employees."

Another new part of the evaluation form is a "performance development/ improvement action plan." If any employee ranks less than three on any key responsibility, the supervisor must fill out a section describing a plan for improvement, listing specific goals and followup dates.

Jones said, "This step enables employees and their supervisors to come up with a plan for improving areas of weakness, ensuring that both parties fully agree to the plan."

Overall, she added, the new evaluation process is designed to achieve objectives that align with the goals of the university's strategic plan. Bates sees the evaluation process as vitally important to the life of the university: "Performance evaluations give the employee and supervisor an opportunity to communicate about the job in positive ways,what's working, what isn't and why." For Currie, the bottom line is this: "When an individual succeeds, the organization thrives."

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