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Frequently Asked Questions 2021

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to address Development Dialogue (DD) for the 2020-2021 Performance Review process and the 2021-2022 Performance Contracting process under COVID-19 protocols

The guideline offers a high-level approach to managing the Development Dialogues (DD) during a period where in-person or face-to-face engagement is not possible due to the need for social and physical distancing.

·       For issues related to the DD cycle please liaise with the Human Resource Business Partner for your department: Human Resource Business Partners

FAQs to assist in addressing DD matters at UCT under the COVID19 protocol

  1. Do we need to conduct DD performance reviews for 2020-2021?

The University of Cape Town (UCT) has affirmed the need to continue to engage with staff in respect of performance during the COVID-19 pandemic. This will ensure that the culture of engagement around performance and development remains deeply embedded at the University.  Many staff members will have completed their objectives during and beyond lockdown, working remotely or in rotational cycles on campus.

Regular, ongoing feedback is important to maintain contact and connectivity with staff members and to engage around agreed deliverables.  All staff members must be afforded the opportunity to complete the review of the 2020-2021 performance cycle.

  1. Why is it necessary to contract for performance for 2021-2022?

Regular, ongoing feedback is important to maintain contact and connectivity with staff members and to engage around agreed deliverables.  Many staff members will continue to work remotely and online either fully or partially over the coming performance contracting period and must be afforded the opportunity to contract for this period.

Regular, ongoing assessment of agreed deliverables is where staff members and line managers can revisit deliverables as necessary in the light of shifting context and circumstances. 

  1. How is this possible if we cannot physically meet for the discussion?

Every effort must be made to engage with staff in respect of the DD process. Such an approach would rely on access to technology to access these online platforms.  DD engagements can be conducted remotely using the existing online meeting platforms (MS Teams, Zoom, Skype etc) or through regular telephonic engagements.   

Where a staff member is not able/comfortable with using technology to conduct remote engagements using an online meeting platform, or they do not have access to such a platform, staff members are to be engaged through telephonic conversations wherever possible. This method of engagement with staff will require formalisation via a text message from the line manager using SMS or WhatsApp to the staff member to record a summary of the final discussion.

  1. What if I have not been able to complete all my agreed deliverables in the 2020-2021 cycle?

There may be some objectives which are not possible to be delivered under the current circumstances.  Line managers are to take into consideration the current context and circumstances which are beyond the employee’s control and to apply a fair and pragmatic approach to the DD review process.

5.  What if a staff member hadn’t been able to work during the lockdown?

Some work segmentation categories of staff have not been able to fulfil their full contractual obligations over the previous review period, whereas other categories of staff have continued to work fully or partially. 

Those who have been able to continue working will have completed a full 12-month performance cycle.  Line managers are to take into consideration the current context and circumstances which are beyond the employees’ control and to apply a fair and pragmatic approach to the DD review.  Staff members who had not been able to return to work for a portion of the lockdown period will be unrated for the period they were unable to perform their duties on a no-fault basis.

Where staff have been assessed as very high risk and/or unable to either work remotely or unable to work on-site, there must be an existing incapacity process already in place. 

6.   What if I am unable to contact a staff member to hold the DD discussion?

All staff should be contactable and available unless they are on leave and every effort must be made to engage the staff member for the DD process.  In the few cases where staff members are not contactable then we acknowledge that the DD review and contracting process will need to be deferred to when the staff member returns to work.  These are exceptional circumstances and there should be a process underway to explore temporary incapacity.  In these circumstances, line managers will need to keep a detailed record of their efforts to make contact with the staff member for inclusion as part of the DD process should this become necessary.

7.  What if I don’t want to use an online meeting platform or my personal telephone for the DD discussion?

Line managers and staff members who are fully or partially able to fulfil their duties have an obligation to engage using one of the online meeting platforms or another form of agreed technology they would use in the normal course of their duties.

Where a staff member is not able/comfortable with using technology to conduct remote engagements using an online meeting platform, or they do not have access to such a platform, staff members are to be engaged through telephonic conversations wherever possible. This method of engagement with staff will require formalisation via a text message from the line manager using SMS or WhatsApp to the staff member to record a summary of the final discussion. No line manager should confirm a performance rating without having had an engagement with the staff member as outlined above.

8.  If my assessment period is deferred and my contracting period for 2021/2022 delayed, how does this impact my next assessment cycle?

The annual contracting cycle is June to May.   All staff members should now be returning to some level of operating and contracting should take place for the June 2021 to May 2022 performance cycle.  Line managers need to apply a pragmatic approach to guiding staff with setting appropriate objectives.

9.  What consideration should line managers be aware of when reviewing the 2020/2021 review period?

Line managers are required to take a pragmatic approach to reviewing performance objectives. Where objectives were not formally agreed then the job description will apply. 

Where staff members have been unable to return to any work activities it is possible that the staff member will then be rated as “Unrated” for the 2020/2021 performance period. 

10.  How will UCT as an organisation determine training priorities emanating from DD’s as this may impact individual career progression?

Career progression at UCT is an individual staff member responsibility.  UCT offers a broad range of training programmes both classroom-based (under normal circumstances) and online using the SuccessFactors learning platform.

UCT looks at medium-term trends to determine training priorities and these do not shift significantly from year-to-year.  Discussions about individual career aspirations span more than one DD cycle.  The individual responsibility is then supported by the line manager and by broader policies across UCT (more information about development funding can be found at:  http://www.hr.uct.ac.za/hr/learning/funding/overview).  There are many online learning opportunities that can be accessed through the SuccessFactors platform.

The UCT Competency Framework is a useful tool to gauge the generic competencies required for different positions.  One can reference these when preparing for the Development Dialogue.  More information about the UCT Competency Framework can be found at this link:

http://www.hr.uct.ac.za/hr/performance/management/pass/competency_framework

11. Will there be performance bonuses paid for this cycle?

The Development Dialogue process is linked to pay-for-performance through Exceeds Awards catered for in the UCT Remuneration Policy.  Discretionary bonuses are, by nature, discretionary and these bonuses are determined by the UCT Leadership as circumstances allow.

12.  .When would I rate someone “unrated” as opposed to “meeting”, given the 2020/2021 performance cycle was largely affected by lockdown?

The definition of a “meeting” rating is linked to the achievement of objectives as contracted between the staff member and line manager.  The line manager is responsible for ensuring achievable objectives are set given the timeframe for the performance contracting. If the contracting period was deferred to later in the cycle then performance contracting is to be done in a pragmatic manner where agreed objectives are achievable.

An “Unrated” rating is applicable where a staff member has not had an opportunity to demonstrate competence in most functions of the job, usually where a staff member is new to UCT.  If the staff member has moved between jobs within UCT then the staff member must ensure that they have a performance review discussion with their line manager before moving from the previous role, and this is noted in the current DD template.

13.  If a staff member is currently on a PIP that has been put on hold, can they use the lockdown as an excuse if they are rated as “Not Meeting”?

Where a staff member continues with fulfilling full or partial duties there is no reason to put a PIP on hold.  Review discussions can be scheduled using the online meeting platforms or by telephone and followed up with a written summary.

The purpose of a PIP is to clarify expected performance requirements and to put corrective measures in place.  It is the responsibility of both parties to ensure that corrective measures are achievable under the COVID-19 lockdown circumstances, or to adjust measures accordingly.

Where a staff member was unable to return to work on a no-fault basis under the COVID-19 lockdown levels, the PIP review process will need to be adjusted to allow the staff member some degree of flexibility of timeframes to display competence.  PIP meeting dates can be amended to allow for competence to be measured.  This is particularly relevant where lockdown levels did not permit access to campuses for Services staff or where there was no opportunity to demonstrate competence in the full job scope due to reduced duties.  The staff member, however, has a commitment to work on corrective measures, wherever possible, and objectives should be set accordingly.

14.  Will the Terms of Reference for the Faculty/Departmental Development Forums change?

The purpose of the Faculty /PASS Department Development Forums is to review consistency of ratings across all staff members in that area and to agree workforce planning and development.

Development Forums need to be aware of the accommodations made for different categories of work segmentation as far as these accommodations impact the performance review period and, potentially, how development plans are impacted by the potential deferring of the performance contracting process for some staff members.

Development Forums meetings will be finalised once all the Development Dialogues have been completed.  The timing to conclude the process is dependent on the phased return to work for all staff.