Performance and development reviews at Aalborg University
At Aalborg University, performance and development reviews form part of our systematic approach towards competence development and contribute to creating cohesion between current and future tasks and the desired competence development of the unit and the individual staff member and manager. Performance and development reviews will thus ensure the strategic development of the professional and personal competences and skills of all staff members and managers.
Further information on competence development and an example of an annual cycle for competence development can be found in the AAU competence strategy in which the performance and development review is defined as an essential element of the ongoing competence development process. All other elements form an equally integral part and add to the value of MUS/LUS reviews in supporting both the development of the individual staff member and of the organisation.
Once a year, all staff members and managers at AAU (except part-time academic staff (D-VIP) and student assistants) must have a MUS/LUS review with their line manager based on these guidelines. It is also recommended that staff members/managers returning to work after an extended period of absence, such as parental leave or long-term sickness absence, are invited to a MUS/LUS review soon after their return.
The aim of MUS/LUS reviews is for individual staff and managers, through the matching of expectations with their immediate superior, to draw up a competence development plan, thus exerting an influence on their own development within the framework of the strategy, research programmes and financial conditions of their unit. At the same time, MUS/LUS reviews contribute to ensuring that staff members/managers play an active part in both the unit and the organisation’s efforts to reach their targets.
The professional and personal development of each individual is the focal point of performance and development reviews. MUS/LUS reviews provide managers and staff with a special chance to engage in targeted dialogue regarding the work-related successes and challenges of the staff member/manager as well as their wellbeing and personal and professional development wishes and needs. The annual performance and development review is a supplement to the continuous communication and mutual dialogue between manager and staff member and is an obvious forum for providing constructive feedback on the performance of the individual staff member/manager and a basis for discussing their future development. Staff/managers and management have a shared responsibility for the competence development of the individual staff member/manager. The work tasks and career wishes of the staff member/manager are therefore the focus of these reviews. At the same time, it is important that the MUS/LUS reviews have a strategic perspective both as regards developments in the workplace and the work tasks and career of the individual staff member/manager.
Delegation of authority to conduct performance and development reviews (MUS/LUS)
Cf. the Delegation of the Rector’s authority, section 4.9, level 3 managers may delegate the authority to conduct MUS/LUS reviews to managers at or below level 4 (e.g. heads of research groups, vice heads of departments, heads of secretariats or other middle managers with staff responsibility. This delegation should include clear authority to the manager conducting the MUS/LUS review. The manager conducting the review must be familiar with the overall tasks of the staff member/manager in question, the strategy of the unit and the AAU Competence Strategy, including these guidelines for conducting performance and development reviews. The manager should be authorised to enter into concrete agreements resulting from the review. If the manager is not authorised to enter into concrete agreements, it is the manager’s responsibility to ensure a prompt follow-up procedure involving the manager authorised to make such agreements and to report back to the staff member/manager without undue delay.
A performance and development review is a confidential conversation between a staff member/manager and their manager (unless otherwise specified). If the staff member/manager changes manager, the former manager may not hand over the development plan to the new manager without prior agreement with the individual staff member/manager concerned. If the individual development plan is filed in their personal folder in Workzone, only the staff member/manager and the manager who conducted the performance and development review may have access to the document.
Guidelines for performance and development reviews
In connection with these guidelines, you can find templates to be used for MUS and LUS reviews for both academic staff and technical/administrative staff members; these are intended to be used when preparing for the conversation and as an interview template. Links for these documents can be found at the bottom of these guidelines. The individual development plan should be filled in and signed at the end of the performance and development review.
PLEASE NOTE: during 2018 all performance and development review templates will be revised on the basis of local development processes at AAU.
The guidelines for performance and development reviews include three aspects – before, during and after the performance and development review.
Before the performance and development review
Before MUS/LUS reviews are conducted, it is essential that staff members and managers explicitly address existing and future objectives and tasks and discuss whether the required competences for achieving and solving these are present in the workplace. Such a discussion should take place in the relevant consultation committee to ensure that strategic perspectives are combined with involving perspectives in the competence development process. The scope of such a discussion depends on the scale and nature of the changes the unit is facing.
In addition to the discussion in the consultation committee, it may be relevant to conduct a group performance and development review (GRUS) for staff members/managers working in teams. The purpose of a GRUS review is to consider the shared tasks and responsibilities of the group and identify the shared competence development needs. Specific guidelines for GRUS will be prepared during the spring 2018.
Based on the discussions in the consultation committee and perhaps the discussions of the GRUS review, the manager conducting the performance and development reviews may prepare a cost estimate for future competence development activities. Managers are advised to include this cost estimate in the budgeting process in order to be able to prioritise competence development activities in connection with the MUS/LUS reviews. Managers may also choose to conduct MUS/LUS reviews ahead of the budgeting process; thus, the requirements of the financial framework for the competence development activities may be established prior to the budgeting process.
Preparing for the performance and development reviews is a key factor to ensuring the quality and effect of the conversations, and this is a shared responsibility between the staff member/manager and their manager.
Staff members/managers are in particular responsible for:
- preparing thoroughly for the performance and development review based on your manager’s specifications/your matching of expectations. If you have any specific issues you wish to discuss, you should notify your manager prior to the MUS/LUS
- considering your own development needs and wishes
Managers conducting MUS/LUS reviews are in particular responsible for:
- inviting the staff member/manager to the MUS/LUS review well in advance (preferably two weeks before)
- preparing thoroughly for the development review by updating your knowledge about the specific tasks, responsibilities, plans, qualifications, motivation as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the individual staff member/manager concerned; this may be done by ensuring that an updated description of job functions exists and by reviewing any agreements made in the previous development review
- making strategy, goals and visions more specific and visible to the staff member/manager
- specifying how the staff member/manager should prepare for the development review (a matching of expectations)
- facilitating the conversation
During the performance and development review
During the development review, the focus of the conversation should be the future tasks and competence needs and wishes of the individual staff member/manager. Therefore, the staff member/manager may set the agenda for the dialogue. The review must be a dialogue focusing on development during which both parties should listen and seek to understand the intention behind what is said by asking clarifying questions rather than arguing.
The staff member/manager and their manager have a shared responsibility for making the development review a valuable and meaningful conversation. Both parties must aim at including the past, but basing the conversation on the present situation and focusing on the future. It is essential that the conversation does not become a rating of the staff member/manager, but a development review with room for giving constructive feedback on the performance of the past year.
Managers are advised to set aside 1-2 hours per MUS/LUS review.
For staff members/managers the performance and development review is an opportunity to:
- influence your work situation
- have a longer conversation centred on your development
- have a sounding board and affect your own development activities
- consider your own development and how you contribute to your workplace
- voice your needs and expectations regarding management support
- get your manager’s perspective on you and get both personal and professional feedback
As a staff member/manager you are responsible for:
- contributing to making it a developing dialogue
- being open and honest
- setting specific and realistic development goals and activities
For managers conducting a performance and development review, this presents an opportunity to:
- think strategically – how do task developments in the unit correlate with the competences already possessed by staff members?
- initiate/direct the individual development of the staff member/manager as well as the unit; this includes taking into account the staff member/manager’s own wishes, their potentials and the activities required to reach the goals
- build confidence
- gather the knowledge that each of your staff members/managers has of the organisation
As a manager conducting performance and development reviews you are responsible for:
- knowing which challenges the unit will face in the years to come, both in terms of future tasks and competences required, and identifying how this will affect the development requirements of the individual staff member/manager
- making development the focal point of the conversation and ensuring that the development goals that you set together are realistic and based on specific activities
- creating a safe and comfortable environment
- listening and asking clarifying questions
- providing clear, honest and constructive feedback to your staff member/manager
- discussing how you may support the development of the individual staff member/manager
Towards the end of the conversation, you must ensure that the individual development plan is filled in and signed. If there is no time to do so during the development review, the development plan must be filled in and signed as soon as possible after the review, unless another agreement is made (one party may fill in the plan, but both parties must agree on its final content). It is important to be specific and decide who will be responsible for carrying out the tasks agreed in the plan; to this end, managers are advised to suggest a specific date for a follow-up conversation.
After the performance and development review
After having conducted all performance and development reviews in the unit, the manager should systematically follow up on all reviews. The individual wishes for development activities should thus be compared to the results of the preliminary discussion in the consultation committee and possibly the group performance and development review. On this basis, the manager may assess whether the need for competence development in the unit has been sufficiently covered, whether the wishes for development activities correspond to the strategy and future tasks of the unit and prioritise the funds available for competence development. At the same time, the manager should also identify any matches or overlap in the development areas between staff members/managers.
If the unit consists of multiple groups/teams with each their personnel manager, the management should make an overall evaluation of the MUS/LUS reviews to gain an overview of the outcome and the development needs of the entire unit.
We recommend that managers give general feedback to all staff members/managers in the unit at a joint follow-up meeting or at an ordinary staff meeting. This should include a general overview of the issues that arose during the development reviews and how they connect to the overall organisational and development perspectives. Due to confidentiality issues, it is essential that no specific content from individual reviews are disclosed.
Furthermore, individual teams may follow up by conducting GRUS reviews during which future themes and areas of development may be coordinated and embedded. This may also include a plan for how to follow up on development activities.
Following up on MUS/LUS reviews and the quality of such follow-ups are essential to their actual effect. Experience shows that individual follow-ups are essential to both managers and staff and their perception of the effect of MUS/LUS reviews. Staff members and managers are equally responsible for following up on the review. If some of the scheduled development activities are altered or cancelled, the staff member/manager and their manager should discuss the reasons for this and assess whether the individual development plan should be revised. It is essential for staff members/managers that their manager follow up on MUS/LUS reviews and that the activities discussed during such reviews are implemented and evaluated.
As staff member/manager, you are in particular responsible for:
- keeping your end of the agreement as stated in the signed development plan
- regularly following up on your agreements and ensuring that your manager is aware of any issues that may cause you to depart from the plan
As the manager conducting MUS/LUS reviews, you are in particular responsible for:
- keeping your end of the agreement as stated in the signed development plan and supporting the staff member/manager if required
- regularly following up on your agreements and ensuring that the staff member/manager is aware of any issues that may cause you to depart from the plan
- ensuring that MUS/LUS reviews are conducted once a year
Competence development is an ongoing activity, and, as a minimum, competence development efforts must be evaluated once a year. The individual consultation committees must evaluate the activities and focus on the actual learning and benefits achieved through development efforts (such as GRUS, MUS/LUS, etc.). Further information is available in the AAU Competence Strategy.
Misunderstandings in performance and development reviews
The performance and development review is NOT:
- a substitute for day-to-day communication
- merely a ritual to be performed
- a pay negotiation, although pay may be discussed
- a rating of the staff member/manager, but a forum in which managers may provide clear, honest and constructive feedback on the performance of the staff member/manager
- a forum for issuing reprimands
Common errors in conducting performance and development reviews:
- too little time scheduled
- inadequate preparation (both by the manager and the staff member/manager)
- the manager talks too much
- sensitive issues are avoided
- no one takes responsibility for the desired goals voiced by the staff member/manager (the staff member/manager feels that they are not being heard)
- uncertainty about roles and responsibilities – who will do what and when (it all seems to be running into the sand)
- no follow-up
Pitfalls to be avoided by the manager conducting performance and development reviews:
- making ironic remarks or disregarding the staff member/manager’s opinion on a matter
- threatening or asserting your power through language (‘You must do as I say because I’m the boss’)
- generalising (‘You ALWAYS hand in your reports too late’)
- sending unclear messages
- launching a personal attack rather than criticising the concrete case
- being on the defensive – instead you should identify the problem at hand
- talking too much
- merely pretending to be listening
- being unfocused – you must ensure that the conversation is structured
- not making appreciative inquiries (such as failing to ask follow-up questions)
- making promises you cannot keep (such as promises of courses)
An annual performance and development review is a natural element in an employment at Aalborg University. A performance and development review (MUS/LUS) is a conversation between an individual staff member/manager and their manager and is thus an essential part of their continuous mutual dialogue. The MUS/LUS review is an essential element for ensuring the continuous competence development of AAU staff members and managers.