Update on performance management system review

07 June 2023

Dear colleagues

The University of Cape Town (UCT) employs a variety of performance management and reward and recognition systems for different levels and categories of staff. Over the years, regular internal reviews have taken place and numerous improvements were made.

However, feedback suggests that the current systems are still not achieving the desired results, namely, to motivate, develop and inspire staff; to align performance to the vision, goals and desired institutional culture; and to celebrate excellence, transformation and inclusivity. Excellence is a cornerstone of the university strategy, and it is essential that the performance management, reward and recognition system is grounded in this approach and fully supports the achievement of this objective.

In 2019 the University Human Resources Committee agreed to conduct an independent, consolidated and comprehensive review across all current performance management and reward and recognition systems, processes and policies; acknowledging the need for a unified, comprehensive and integrated solution. This review required investigation into each category of staff and function within the university, as each has its own unique dynamics which needed to be interrogated in order to build a solution that would align to the overall university strategy, while still incorporating specific solutions for each distinct staffing group.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) was appointed in April 2019 to conduct this review, with the project being titled the Performance Management, Reward and Recognition System (PMRRS) review. It was carried out in two phases.

Phase 1 – Understanding the problem

The first phase commenced during COVID-19 and concluded in 2022. All staff were invited to take part in surveys, with the following findings: 

  1. Employee experience: Although staff understood the performance management processes for both academic and PASS staff they, however, were not satisfied with how the processes operated.
  2. Employee engagement: Staff felt the most engaged when receiving feedback on factors that directly related to the work that they undertook and valued financial rewards as a form of recognition. However, a large group of people had never received any form of feedback during their tenure at UCT, based on qualitative comments received.
  3. Growth and development: Line managers were open to having discussions about professional and personal development with their team members. However, their team members felt that the discussions did not necessarily have the desired impact on their development.
  4. Leadership: Staff didn’t trust their line managers to represent them well in performance management discussions. Line managers scored well in the survey results but received negative sentiments in the focus groups and leadership interviews.
  5. Reward and recognition: Staff were open to using different systems to reward and recognise high achievers as they were dissatisfied with the current methods.
  6. Innovative practices: Staff found that the technology and administrative work that was supposed to enable and support them during the performance management process was tedious and limiting. Staff were receptive to new processes that would not require as much energy from them.

We are very grateful to staff members who shared their views and experiences with us in the surveys.

Phase 2 – Creating the solution

The second phase commenced in 2022. It was incorporated as a stream within the work being conducted on the Integrated Talent Management Framework (ITMF), under the governance of the ITMF Steering Committee (SteerCom). This is a committee of the UCT executive.

Integrated talent management is the way people-related initiatives permeate throughout culture and performance of an institution. It includes practices, data and systems, where all three concepts intersect, relate to one another and balance one another. With integration comes synergy across all aspects of the institution that drives the employee experience. The UCT Integrated Talent Management Framework informs people practices across the university and will integrate into every aspect of UCT HR work. It provides an anchor to all people-related strategies.

Much work has been done to investigate, design and recommend various solutions, but what has become clear is that the best solution is reliant on several other moving parts. Under the ITMF framework, the following four principles underpin performance management and reward and recognition, and cannot be considered in isolation:

  • Cultural alignment
  • Objective and fair implementation
  • Meaningful rewards and recognition
  • Widely used technology platform

At this stage, reward and recognition and technology platforms are two of the moving parts that require considerable investigation, design and investment, and it is these that we will now move our attention and efforts to. The ITMF SteerCom will continuously provide oversight for this phase and the implementation process.

Human Resources Department

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