The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching consequences for all staff members, and I want to thank each one of you for adjusting to this new environment, supporting one another under very difficult circumstances, and working so hard despite the restrictions imposed by lockdown. As always, the well-being of staff during this period remains our top priority, and I want to encourage you to access the various staff support services that are available, should you need to do so.
While in-person interaction between line managers and staff is limited and most staff members continue to work remotely, ongoing contact with our colleagues remains vitally important to maintain positive morale and ensure motivation, support and recognition of staff efforts. As part of this engagement, the university has decided to continue with the staff performance reviews that are guided by the Development Dialogue (DD) process. Used for performance contracting, management and development of professional, administrative and support (PASS) staff as well as the senior staff, the DD process is essential for effective staff feedback, engagement and building UCT as an employer of choice.
What follows is an outline of the agreed approach to conducting the DD process for the 2020/21 review (ending May 2021) and the 2021/22 contracting cycle (commencing June 2021).
Approach and key principles
Consistent and fair treatment of employees: It is important that all employees are treated in a consistent and fair manner when assessing their performance. In cases where staff have not been able to fulfil their contracted obligations, performance ratings must remain cognisant of the lockdown period, which should not be held against a staff member unfairly when reviewing the full performance cycle.
Consistent and fair implementation of process: Setting clear objectives and providing developmental feedback will mitigate the risk of potential claims of inconsistent application and/or no feedback. Consistency and fairness will include rating staff appropriately where they have performed above expectations, have met expectations, and have performed below expectations. Line managers must consider those circumstances which are beyond the employees’ control and apply a pragmatic approach to the DD review and contracting processes.
Implementing the DD cycle under COVID-19 conditions
Every effort must be made to engage with staff as part of the DD process, and deans and executive directors have been approached to ensure a consistent approach.
While some staff will be able to engage with the DD process remotely via MS Teams, Zoom, Skype, etc, some staff do not have access to these platforms. In these cases, staff must be engaged in telephonic DD conversations wherever possible, followed up with a text message (SMS/WhatsApp) to record a summary of the final discussion.
To assist staff in understanding the DD process for 2021, we have drafted a set of frequently asked questions. Your Human Resources Business Partner (HRBP) can also guide you through the process and will be distributing a comprehensive timeline to the Executive and line managers in due course.
We must take joint responsibility to manage the impact of the pandemic and each of us personal responsibility to help keep our community safe. As we slowly start to implement our plan for a phased return to campus, it is now more important than ever for all of us to continue with good health and hygiene practices.
For more information on COVID-19, please visit the UCT Coronavirus Disease 2019 page.
Dr Reno Morar
Chief Operating Officer
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