Human Resources Newsletter

August 2012

A woman in a yellow dress holding a notepad. The words

Special Edition: PMP

An Improved Performance Management Program

A revamped Performance Management Program will be introduced beginning this fall, and will be phased in fully over the next couple of years. The improved PMP is the result of an effort to create a simpler, more transparent, and relevant program. Performance management and staff development are highly valued by AU and its leaders. AU’s performance depends on the performance of its staff. 

It is crucial that the university’s performance program clarifies expectations and establishes high standards; motivates staff to do their best; ensures staff have the skills to contribute fully; and supports the relationship, understanding, and insight between staff and their managers.

The changes made to the PMP are aimed at making the program more effective and are based on the feedback we received from AU staff, managers and administrators, and best practices in human resources.

Work to update the PMP began in 2011 when Chief Financial Officer, Vice President and Treasurer Don Myers appointed a 19-member, cross functional, multi-level team comprising Beth Muha (Chair);and PMP team members Ariel Borochov, Carey Needham, Cathy Prather, Dawn DePasquale, Fanta Aw, Funda Topcuoglu, Heather A. Smith, Jaime Mendoza, Jesse Lanier, Jessica Hegmann, Linda McHugh, Matteo Becchi, Michele Mikkelsen, Patricia Kelshian, Vincent Harkins, Katya White, Marc Rillera, and Violeta Ettle.

The PMP team and HR conducted interviews and coordinated focus groups with staff members from across the university. They also received research and guidance from the Advisory Board and Mercer about best practices in managing and evaluating performance. As work continued, the team met twice a month and discussed, evaluated, and considered improvement options. Finally, between April and June of this year, the team met with staff, managers, and leaders in each university department to share their recommendations.

As a result of this consultative process, the new PMP will include:

  • Easier way to set performance expectations
  • A new competency dictionary
  • A new rating system
  • A new electronic PMP system
  • The addition of achievement plans

Read on to learn more about the different aspects of the improved PMP.

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What's New...And Not So New?

As the improved Performance Management Program is introduced and incorporated into our work and culture at AU, staff will notice changes – as well as some familiar aspects – to the program.

New aspects of the revamped PMP include:

  • Easier way to set performance expectations – to make goal setting more relevant to one’s job and simpler, expectations for positions either will cascade from the strategic plan or build off of an individual’s job function
  • New competency dictionary – new competencies will be prescribed for staff at three different levels – front line, mid-level, upper level – and will increase progressively in difficulty and impact
  • New rating system – a five-point rating scale will be used to assess overall performance and help to increase the transparency in the link between pay and performance
  • Addition of achievement plans – a mechanism to plan for increasing skill and knowledge or to prepare for future jobs will be added in spring 2013
  • New electronic PMP system – the current Lotus Notes PMP database will be replaced with an improved system called AsuccessfulU which will support the planning and performance management enhancements described above

What remains the same includes:

  • We will continue to use goals and competencies as the primary means of setting and evaluating performance
  • Cycle and timing of the PMP will remain the same. Performance planning will continue to occur in August, mid-year discussions will be held in February, and year-end evaluations will occur in July. Pay increases will continue to be made in September.

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In this issue

Special Edition: PMP
What's New and Not So New
Coming Fall 2012

  • Easier way to set performance expectations
  • New competency dictionary
  • New rating system
  • New electronic system
Coming in 2013
  • Achievement Plans
Special Section for AU Managers
  • Critical role of managers
  • “What Makes PMP So Hard?”
More Opportunities to Learn About the Revamped PMP
  • Online training
  • Campus or departmental briefings
  • User Guides
  • Supervisory skills training
  • Monthly newsletter
  • Departmental PMP Resource People

HR Newsletter Archives

Read past issues of the Human Resources Newsletter

How to Contact Us

Human Resources
(202) 885-2591

PMP and AsuccessfulU Questions?

Do you have a question about the revamped PMP? Having trouble finding or logging in to set up your goals in AsuccessfulU? Email and a member of the HR team will help you.

Performance Management Program Changes For Fall 2012

Easier Way to Set Performance Expectations: Goal Setting

Each year a staff member sets three to five performance goals. The goal setting process will vary slightly at the three levels of staff – front line, mid-level, upper level – and will cascade either from the strategic plan as it does currently, or may stem from an individual’s job function. Allowing staff to set performance expectations that build off of their job functions will help to simplify the process and ensure that performance expectations reflect the primary job duties of a staff member’s position. The change will make PMP more relevant for many front line and mid-level staff who perform important work, but may find it challenging to cascade directly from the university's strategic plan.

Additionally, to help staff develop their “SMART” goals, they will have access to an online goal library and goal-setting wizard tool.

New Competency Dictionary

In the current PMP system, staff select three to five competencies that are a key component of performance expectations. In the revamped PMP, a new dictionary of competencies will be used. It includes two core competencies (integrity and diversity/inclusion) applicable to all staff regardless of position and level, and six to seven others that are based on the level of one’s position (front line, mid level, or upper level). These level-based competencies increase progressively in difficulty and impact.

Performance of the competencies at the three levels will be clearly described. People who manage at least one full time staff member will now have people management competency expectations.

These changes will improve standards of performance across different levels of position, ensure that there is a consistent expectation of staff who lead or manage others, and improve transparency as it will be clear what performance expectations are for each competency.

The university wants to ensure that staff are successful in meeting any challenges the new competencies may present. This is true particularly for managers of people who will be evaluated on their people management and leadership skills. In the first year, staff will be rated only on the core competencies while taking time to assess and develop their level-based skills, which will be rated in the second year of the program (2013-2014). More details to follow in the coming months.

New Rating System

The new PMP will feature an aggregate five-point rating scale to indicate an individual’s overall performance and correlate to their pay increase. Seventy percent of the overall rating will be based on the achievement of goals, and the remainder on competencies, each of which will be rated on a five-point scale.

New Electronic System

A new online PMP system will replace the current Lotus Notes database after the summer 2012 appraisals. The new system, dubbed AsuccessfulU, houses our ULearn training registration system and will be used to set goals for AY 2012-2013. It is designed to be more intuitive, easy to use, and also will feature writing and coaching assistance. The new system also will offer improved simplicity, consistency, and transparency.

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More PMP Innovations to Come in 2013

An infographic reading University Needs + Employee Growth

Next year, you can expect to see more changes to AU’s Performance Management Program. While innovations such as improved goal setting, an updated competency dictionary, introduction of an overall rating scale, and a more robust PMP system all will be introduced during fall 2012, more changes are scheduled for 2013. The changes slated for next year include:

Achievement Plans

To support employee growth and development and meet the needs of the university, staff will have the option to create an achievement plan that will help them develop skills and knowledge to be successful in their current role as well as prepare them for the future. The achievement plan will span two to three years in the future and will follow the PMP cycle, but will not be subject to rating. Currently staff who leave the university report that they were moving on for more career opportunities or professional growth. The goal of the achievement plans is that more staff will have a way of identifying and fulfilling their growth and development while remaining at the university.

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Special Message for Managers

The Critical Role of Managers

The role of managers at the university is of critical importance. AU managers are responsible for maintaining and improving university operations and implementing new strategies that come from the university strategic or department plans. They make sure that regulations and policies are followed and that employees perform as expected. A good manager keeps employees motivated, delivers results on time, keeps the budget in the black, and ensures that day-to-day operations conform to the university’s overall approach to governance. As in most organizations today, AU managers are asked to do a lot with limited resources. They call on their individual talents, skills, and abilities to perform their job well. The university provides tools to help managers manage the increasing expectations made of them, and the PMP program is one primary tool. As noted by Elaine Pulakos in her book on Performance Management, the challenge for managers is not to treat PMP as an exercise required by human resources to award merit increases, but rather as an important tool for getting work organized and staff members motivated to take on greater challenges.

Many of the changes described in this newsletter are intended to make managing the PMP process easier for managers by automating it in the new system which provides electronic tools for goal setting, writing year-end assessments, and coaching employees for improvement.

HR also will provide manager training on many of the “how to’s” of PMP including: 

  • How to give feedback to minimize defensiveness and maintain self esteem
  • How to build trust between managers and staff
  • How to provide effective coaching and mentoring
  • How to identify and address development needs
  • How to address disciplinary or serious performance problems

More opportunities to learn about these changes and to receive training on the program and system will be coming soon.

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More Opportunities to Learn About the Revamped PMP

The following training and communication plans will begin shortly in order to assist with an easy transition to the new system:

Online Training

In September and October, staff, supervisors, and faculty administrators will have the opportunity to learn more about what is changing with the PMP program and how to perform each of its parts in the new AsuccessfulU electronic system. The online training course will run approximately 60 minutes and will cover a set of “how tos” necessary to set performance goals in the new system. Later, online training will be offered on how to conduct a mid-year evaluation and year-end evaluation.

Campus or Departmental Briefings

For individuals or units that prefer a live briefing, the same information covered online will be delivered to departments or will be offered in an open enrollment fashion on campus. These briefings will be open for registration in September and October.

User Guides

Step-by-step procedures for using the new electronic system, AsuccessfulU, will be provided so that staff can refer to them as they navigate through it.

Supervisory Skills Training

The effective use of performance management relies heavily on the guidance and support supervisors provide to their direct reports. Staff who supervise at least one full-time staff member are asked to enroll in a three-hour course during which the role of supervisors and the skills needed to handle inherent challenges inherent in performance management will be covered.  This course will be offered in November through February.

Monthly Newsletter

In this new monthly newsletter we will share with you human resources-related news and events. It also will be a source for periodic, additional information about the changes in the PMP program and how to make best use of its features. To view current and past issues, go to the HR Newsletter Archive

Departmental PMP Resource People

Human Resources is working with department leaders to identify at least one well trained “super user” in each university department who can serve as a resource person to staff and faculty administrators. These PMP Resource People will receive specialized training on the new electronic PMP system, AsuccessfulU, and serve as the internal “help” function for staff and faculty administrators as they begin to use it.  More details to follow on this program.

If you have questions about the new PMP program or using AsuccessfulU, please email


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Book Excerpt

What Makes Performance Management So Hard?

Pulakos, E.D. (2009) Performance Management A New Approach for Driving Business Results (p. 4).

“There are genuine reasons why both managers and employees have difficulties with performance management. Managers may avoid performance management activities, especially providing developmental feedback to employees, because they don’t want to risk damaging relationships with the very individuals they count on to get work done. Employees avoid performance management activities, especially discussing their development needs with a manger, because they don’t want to jeopardize their pay or advancement. In addition, many employees feel that their managers are unskilled at discussing their performance and coaching them on how to improve. These attitudes, on the part of both managers and employees, result in poor performance management processes that simply do not work well.

Another problem is that many managers and employees don’t understand the benefits of effective performance management. They often view it as a paperwork drill required by human resources, where ratings need to be submitted on a yearly basis for record-keeping purposes – a necessary evil that warrants the minimum investment of time. What many managers don’t realize is that performance management is the most important tool they have for getting work done. It’s essential for high performing organizations, and one of their most important responsibilities. Done correctly, performance management communicates what’s important to the organization, drives employees to achieve important goals, and implements the organization’s strategy.”

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