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2. A dynamic change-agent with skills in:
(b) Developing human resources

2b2 Staff development planning and assessment

Development Plan Portfolio Documentation
Implement Performance Evaluation and Development Planning for ITS staff. Include the Performance Evaluation and Development Planning tool, related documents, and report staff reactions and my own reflections.

My first experience with staff development planning and assessment was at Hewlett-Packard, an excellent, people-oriented company to work for. Because of HP's approach to employees, I saw performance in a very positive light, even though it is not always seen or used that way.

  1. It's a vehicle for 2-way communication about expectations.
    In reviewing the job description and the performance categories, both parties can come to a common understanding about what is expected and what constitutes behavior that meets expectations, as well as exceeds or falls short.
  2. It's a non-confrontational venue for talking about shortcomings.
    Because the purpose of the meeting is to talk about performance, it does not seem such a big deal to cover a wide range of performance matters, including areas deserving commendation as well as areas where improvement would be desirable. Of course, serious shortcomings should be addressed as soon as possible, rather than wait for the next scheduled performance review.
  3. It fosters personal development, both for maximizing strengths and improving weaknesses.

We used the annual performance review as an opportunity to review job descriptions, which we did jointly.  Andrews University used software called Descriptions Now! and this gave a common style and appearance to all job descriptions across campus.  The job descriptions formed a basis for the evaluations that came later.

However, Andrews did not have a performance evaluation process when I arrived in 1996, and some of the job descriptions needed updating.  I had been talking to my managers during my second year at Andrews (1997) about the value of appropriate performance evaluations, and I used as a model the evaluation form that I was familiar with from my time at Hewlett-Packard (see adapted Hewlett-Packard Performance Evaluation and Development Plan).  We began using our adaption in 1997 with an employee who was in particular need of having some work expectations clarified, especially his approach to customer service.  We first used the tool on 20-Oct-1997, then again on 02-Mar-1998.  The employee in question is now a valuable contributor to the team, and is still happily employed there six years later.  I have written more details about the process adopted by Human Resources at Andrews to implement performance assessment in Competency 4(b).

When we used the performance evaluation process with the problem employee, I feel we might have had the wrong motivation, at least partly.  By documenting the state of affairs and clearly setting out where improvements needed to occur, we were making preparations for taking disciplinary action, even termination if necessary, if the improvements were not forthcoming.  A year and a half later, we learned from Robert Cooper at a Lessons In Leadership seminar on Emotional Intelligence that we had it all wrong.  He exposed the weaknesses versus strengths myth.  He told us that to "focus on your weaknesses and your strengths will take care of themselves” is a myth.  It is better to excel in your strengths, to polish them.  FedEx looks for what lights up people’s eyes; find what brings out the greatness in people.

This approach is getting even more attention lately. Curt Coffman, co-author of First, Break All the Rules (2002), says in the Summer 2003 issue of Microsoft Executive Circle,

"The world's best managers know that an employee's greatest potential for growth and contribution lies in the individual's areas of strength, not their areas of weakness. While this seems like it should be common sense, it's actually fairly uncommon. Great managers find out what employees are good at and build their work on that. They don't make employees fix their weaknesses; they minimize them or help employees find ways to work around them.

"What's more, empowerment starts when managers clearly identify the desired performance outcomes for a role, then assess how well the employees are doing at meeting those outcomes. Rate performance -- not the person. And communicate regularly, not just during annual performance reviews." [1]

I have included the email I sent to my staff in May 2000 to outline the processs and set interview appointments.  I have also included the zip file containing all the appraisal instructions and documents.

The managers in ITS and the staff in general considered the development planning and assessment process to be a valuable one.  We were getting the process started before it was adopted across campus at Andrews, and when the University suspended the assessment portion (see email to staffl) of the process for salaried workers after about two years, we continued with the full assessment as well as the development planning section, because of the value that staff and managers alike had received from the process.


[1] Coffman, Curt W. (2003). The Chemistry of Empowerment. Microsoft Executive Circle, Summer 2003, p50. (EN-0878)


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Created: Sunday, August 24, 2003 05:02 PM 
Last Modified: Sunday, July 15, 2007 3:45 PM