Background

The Chair welcomed Mr Jan Matsson, the Executive Director of UNOPS, who presented the organization's pilot project on rewards and recognition. In 2011, UNOPS, with the agreement and support of the ICSC, introduced an innovative pilot programme for rewards, recognition and sanctions, which is closely linked to organisational and individual performance, and designed to increase the effectiveness of performance management across the organisation.  UNOPS recognition policy has the overall aim to reinforce performance management with meaningful consequences and to enable managers to recognise and reward excellence. It comprises three elements (a) Merit rewards, which are performance-related financial rewards; (b) Recognition awards, which are corporate awards to recognise the achievements of specific teams or individuals in various categories; and (c) Performance-related sanctions which are designed to address underperformance on an individual basis.

Throughout the pilot, UNOPS has conducted various internal evaluations to assess the impact of the policy on three key areas, namely performance management; staff satisfaction and motivation and awareness of organisational goals. Among those assessments is an external evaluation through Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC).The findings of this evaluation noted that the policy has been well received by the majority of UNOPS workforce, and has had a positive impact on significant elements of the performance management process: rating distribution, performance management compliance and senior management support. In this sense, the pilot has created an environment where the foundations of sound performance management are in place and where, at the same time, there is an increased awareness of organisational goals across the organisation. In conclusion, UNOPS experience is that by introducing this pilot, the performance management framework has become more solid, robust and meaningful.

Ms Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen reported to HLCM on UNFPA’s performance management system, with a particular focus on the management of underperformance. She pointed to the following success factors for managing underperformance (1) a solid and mature system with consistent ratings, (2) a systematic approach to managing underperformance, (3) sustained efforts and support for both staff and managers, and (4) holistic and innovative practices and communication. In the context of UNFPA’s system, underperforming staff members are given appropriate opportunities for training and development. Should those measures not bring sufficient improvements, clear policies for the non-renewal of contracts on the grounds of performance exist, and are consistently applied in a due process.

Ms Albrectsen illustrated that the organizational performance management process is increasingly supported by high quality data on rating distributions per organizational units and rating patterns of managers, to inform further steps towards management support and increased rating consistency. She also underlined the importance of multi-rater feedback, in order to ensure the comprehensiveness of performance evaluations, as well as to address cultural and communication challenges. Performance discussions are encouraged to take place throughout the year and not only at regular and formal deadlines. This approach avoids surprises in formal performance discussions and can therefore reduce potential conflicts on the matter, which are dealt with through a strengthened and accelerated internal rebuttal process.
In the subsequent discussion, organizations stated their appreciation for the valuable sharing of experiences by UNOPS and UNFPA. Several stressed the importance of senior management engagement and of the robustness of the appraisal process. The robustness of related administrative processes and adequate legal support were mentioned as indispensable success factors for the implementation of any performance management model.  The Legal Network offered its support in this regard. 

Discussion

Staff Federations highlighted the need to better link performance management to other aspects of the performance management framework such as career development, effective selection and promotion procedures, induction/socialization programmes.  They welcomed the upcoming ICSC Compensation Review as an opportunity to explicitly recognize performance and establish appropriate linkages with staff compensation. They also raised concerns that, with the increasing utilization of non-staff contracts, consistent performance management practices would be compromised, and they expressed their reservations regarding the application of Bell-curve-compliant or other forced performance rating distributions. The Federations pointed out that performance management was a core issue for them as well and reiterated their request to be included in the HR Network Working Group on Performance Management.

Several organizations discussed how to get to a broader notion of performance management, rewarding excellence over satisfactory performance. The need to expand performance management into a meaningful staff development process was mentioned. In this respect, the use of professional certifications for internationally recognized standards in various occupational groups was referred to as an avenue worth exploring further.

The Medical Directors’ Working Group highlighted that performance-related discussions often offer an opportunity to bring to light previously hidden health issues – both physical and psychological. As psychosocial and stress-related disorders have increased significantly, the Medical Directors offered to develop guidelines and other pertinent support for line managers to better recognize such health problems. This offer was unanimously welcomed by participants. During the following broader discussion on issues related to medical conditions, several organizations expressed a request for the HR Network to work closely with the Medical Directors’ Working Group on reviewing the process and approaches of managing sick leave.

Action

The committee:

  • Reaffirmed its strategic priority to focus on the development of an organizational environment that motivates staff, recognizes good performance, strengthens linkage to career development, and sanctions poor performance.
  • Confirmed the commitment of member organizations to use the recently devised pilot projects as reference frameworks in their respective organizations’ efforts to develop performance management and reward recognition schemes;
  • Welcomed the offers for support by the Legal Network and the Medical Directors Working Group to the efforts by organizations in this domain, and requested the Working Group on Performance Management to engage with the Legal Network and with the Medical Directors on staff health & safety issues in general and their interface with performance management in particular.
  • Requested the Working group on Performance Management of the HR Network to continue its work towards supporting the implementation of the HLCM’s strategic objectives in this area.
  • Expressed appreciation to UNOPS and UNFPA for their insightful presentations.