Expensive lessons from poor performance management


By dr. Richard Harding

Following the considerable number of entries Image, Report and RNews regarding my doctoral thesis entitled “Improving the Performance Management System at the University of South Africa” ​​I would like to make some recommendations that arise from my research and can address the current lack of effective performance management at Unisa and other government institutions.

During the late 1980s, Unisa was the most efficient student service delivery agency in South Africa. The annual student survey and questionnaires achieved a base percentage indication of 78%-80% at all service delivery levels. Systematically, the system was used to only benefit their members, without promoting any value and performance – especially after a performance management system was implemented and trade unions were allowed.

Ultimately, a survey was rarely ever made again. The recent surveys that have been done have achieved a performance indicator of approximately 45%-47% on student service levels.

Today, performance points are awarded to staff – whether they are performing or not – to avoid conflict. This ultimately has a negative effect on those who do perform as well as the operations of the university.

Performance improvement will not just happen in Unisa today. Managers must develop performance management by demonstrating commitment, willingness and self-empowerment. All this in order to ensure high quality relationships with their employees by means of counselling, satisfactory goal setting and leading by example.

After 40 years of service to Unisa and as director of Unisa’s student administration, I presented the below solutions in my research with research and experience-supported arguments.

Principles that should enjoy application

The acquisition of ideas among staff may promote a more objective value assessment of individual performance management.

By taking into account the opinion of managers, internal customers and others who observe the day-to-day performance, the appropriate and appropriate strengths of the traditional performance management model can be maintained – without abandoning it entirely. Managers’ and supervisors’ training in the application of the integrated performance management system must be written into Unisa’s policy and procedures regarding integrated performance management.

Managers and employees insist that their performance be viewed from within rather than from without. The focus should be on external assessment by allowing outsiders or other employees and customers to value an individual’s performance.

Along this path, employees will focus their attention on specific implementation activities that are focused on high quality outcomes and therefore ensure that the right things are done correctly in order to ensure a high level of service delivery.

Poor performance can be managed as follows:

  • Poor work performance must be managed according to the applicable guideline of schedule eight of the labor relations act.
  • The identification of an individual’s poor performance in terms of work outputs must be immediately addressed through, among other things, proper analysis and a determination of the reasons for poor work performance.
  • Appropriate intervention should be introduced by way of corrective measures such as training, mentoring and setting specific standards.
  • Evidence of poor job performance is important to confirm the exact gray areas of job performance.

Line managers must keep sufficient records and evidence during a performance cycle in order to be able to justify sub-standard performance.

If intervention does not lead to an improvement in individual performance, formal steps must be taken and the individual informed about its consequences. This process must be documented in writing and communicated to the employee concerned.

It is of the utmost importance that effective consequence management is applied so that those who do not perform can be worked out.

Promotion of individual performance outcomes

The efficient management of performance involves joint analysis, decision-making, planning and evaluation that will lead to the objective determination of goals to be implemented by individuals. Without the involvement of individuals in setting targets, their management will rely on a set of uninformed guesswork.

The focus must rely on the development of managers and employees to plan and set expectations, evaluate and review outcomes, reach agreement on improvement plans and sometimes (only if the organization does perform) reward performance.

a Holistic view of, or integrated approach to, performance management should include making correct decisions and appointing the right staff; as well as the alignment of work content with the objectives to be achieved, target setting, training, setting standards, measuring outcomes, performance appraisals, monitoring and mentoring.

Properly designed and applied performance management. Implementing quarterly appraisals, or progress reviews, can ensure ongoing engagement between managers and employees, which can boost performance outputs.

The current integrated performance management system overemphasized a culture of compliance and bossiness, instead of concentrating primarily on achieving efficient service delivery objectives. The latter can only be achieved through continuous involvement, support and development of employees in order to meet the expectations of the institution.

Managers apparently do not understand that a trust relationship between them and their employees is the most important principle they should apply to ensure quality employee performance.

Performance appraisal must focus on the development of individuals and take into account their needs and input regarding self-development with a view to improving their skills.

Employees will most likely do what is expected of them provided they know exactly what activities are to be carried out by whom, when and where; believe that they are capable of performing the task; are motivated and supported in the process. Employees also belong as part of their self-development needs investigate alternative ways or methods to ensure continuous self-development and training. Some of these opportunities are workbooks, enrichment exercises, computer training, videos, social media and workshops.

Finally, employees should all available internal policies and procedures utilize to address and expose malpractices. To name a few examples: The institution’s code of conduct, schedule eight of the labor relations act, legal services, the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (KMVA) and the joint efforts of all stakeholders to address low standards and unacceptable levels of service delivery to the to bring light

  • Richard Harding is a retired doctor of public administration who worked at Unisa for 40 years.