Question: ‘Performance is often understood to be a combination of ability, knowledge, skills, experience, and motivation. Failure to perform can be attributed to absence of one of the following: doing the job competently (ability), the necessary information to do the job accurately (knowledge), and motivation as the positive interest in performing the job well and‘Performance is often understood to be a combination of ability, knowledge, skills, experience, and motivation. Failure to perform can be attributed to absence of one of the following: doing the job competently (ability), the necessary information to do the job accurately (knowledge), and motivation as the positive interest in performing the job well and even going beyond the expectations’ (Kwelanga Training, People Management and Leadership, 2009). Performance is at the heart of labour process, and ‘it is understood to be an act of executing or carrying out’ (Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th edn., 2004) duties. It can only be fair that it contributes to service delivery. Performance Management and Development Systems in the Public Service The Business Times once shared an important lesson in one of their articles on the first 100 days of a manager that success of a manager is measured by how well each individual on the team performs. In terms of the public service regulation, 2001, as amended, all employees in the public services have to be evaluated. The understanding is that annual individual performance appraisals should be linked to and be informed by evaluation of unit and organisational performance (SMS, Remuneration and Conditions of Service, 2003). Performance measurement has cost implication; wherein certain levels of achievement qualify for incentives such as bonuses. The criteria upon which the performance of SMS members is assessed are based on two components and use the 80:20 weighting, respectively. They are (i) key result areas (KRAs) cover the main areas of work, focus on actions and activities that should assist units and ultimately the department in performing effectively, and are weighted 80% and (ii) core management criteria (CMC) making up 20% are intended to help build a common sense of good management practice in the public service. Both should be reflected in the performance agreement (PA) (SMS Handbook; Performance Management and Development). In the light of enronism (from the Enron stage of capitalism), the public is unlikely to accept the efficiency bonuses paid to public sector executives and managers as has been the case with ESKOM after the discovery that the performance of the electricity utility has not been efficient. The credibility and legitimacy of the public servants can be doubted (T. B. Luthuli, Compliance to Performance: A Leadership Challenge in the South African Public Service, Department of Public Administration, 2009, p. 462). This reminds me of my friend who exclaimed, ‘Gracious in defeat, wow, that’s a first! That is yet to be seen in the public sector’ When Maria Ramos, CEO of ABSA bank, conceded her failure and chose not to take a bonus for 2012 financial year, I woke up to that reality. Performance bonuses should reward positive results that impact on the needs of the citizens. Enabling Environment for PMDS The effective implementation of the PMDS requires the creation of an enabling and supportive environment to ensure that senior managers and their supervisors can comply with the requirements of the system. This includes the provision of appropriate information on the system itself and familiarising officials with the processes of implementation. It is also important to put in place appropriate processes for document management so that all the required records are properly filed and can be accessed when required in order to create a credible audit trail of the implementation of the process (Report on Senior Management Service Compliance with Performance Agreements in the Eastern Cape Provincial Administration, 2007). DPSA’s other plans include ensuring full compliance by senior management with regard to performance agreements (PSM, July 2013, p. 43). Performance Management Performance management in the public service is legislated. Public Service Act, 1994 (Proclamation No. 103 of 1994), requires departments to manage performance in a consultative, supportive, and non-discriminatory manner in order to enhance organisational efficiency and effectiveness and accountability for the use of resources and achievement of results. The act requires also that employees strive to achieve the objectives of their institutions cost-effectively in the public’s interest. Performance management is essential, and if it is not measured, it cannot be improved. Level progression of employee should rightfully be evaluated on a regular basis to allow for improvement or progression to higher levels within the parameters of the job in question (subject always, of course, to the outcome of the evaluation). ‘This system has presented problems and fairness of an employer’s conduct in doing a level progression’ (Christianson et al., 2002, p. 287). Performance Agreements Performance agreements are a must for every employee, for they assist with the definition of key performance areas (KPAs), responsibilities as well as priorities, development, and recognition for excellent performance. They should be identified jointly by supervisor and employee. With the standard rating for key performance areas and generic performance assessment elements, excellence in performance is defined as achievement of results that far exceed the requirements in all areas through an excellent level of diligence, commitment, dedication, and innovation (PMDS and Public Service Regulation, 2001, as amended). It seems the problem of compliance is not only limited to that of the country’s labour laws, and policies but extended to even corporate governance basics wherein signing of performance agreements has remained lower than expected (Towards a Fifteen Year Review, 2008). Performance management is an area which many managers find hard to deal with simply because it is not taken as seriously as it should be, noting its misuse and the reluctance to address under-performance. Many are, however, not impressed by it and do not like it, for it is very well known as managers’ weapon to get at those under their direction. As the performance of the employees should be reviewed on a quarterly basis, most quarterly reports are said to be fictitious with last one being the determining quarter, always marked by high levels of tensions at the workplace with people angry with one another, no speaking to each other due to difficulties in reaching consensus on the allocation of scores or difficulties in giving feedback on the outcome of assessments. If there were honest and open discussions as is required by the PMDS, there would not be such unnecessary difficulties and tensions. ‘Note that if the supervisor has been doing a good job supervising, then nothing should be surprising to the employee during the appraisal. Any performance issues should have been conveyed when they occurred, so nothing should be a surprise in the review meeting’ explains McNamara (See the topic “Employee Performance Appraisals/Reviews” in the Free Management Library at http:// managementhelp.org). Finding out about one’s poor performance for the first time at an appraisal session does no longer come as a shock to many. While addressing poor performance may be difficult and uneasy, it still remains the best to do it promptly. PMDS is nothing more than a tool to manage employees’ performance that, while it aims at rewarding excellence, also develops them to be excellent. Thus, poor performance should be identified and addressed in good time to put employees in better shape for appraisals and not to be used as means to retaliate, thus, prejudicing and penalising subordinates. Performance and Feedback Difficulties with feedback can be a general problem or arise, particularly when dealing with performance. Performance reviews are important feedback sessions that take place at regular intervals during the course of the year while they should provide an opportunity for members to receive feedback on how they are performing and time for structured reflection by the member using the process of self-assessment (SMS Handbook, 2003, p. 20). While it is indeed common that the first time many people hear about their poor performance is usually at an appraisal, and it can come as a shock (time-managementbasics. com). Managers’ biggest challenge, wherein appreciation and recognition of subordinates by their managers, is also found disturbingly less than normal expectations (Towards a Fifteen Year Review, 2008). This is because they lack the human quality to genuinely and honestly comment or speak well about those under them as reported in the Gullup report. This attitude leaves many wondering if such managers understand what such an attitude truly means and how it speaks of them. Unless the primary course is well understood and the system properly implemented and strictly monitored with consequences, it will remain disrespected and not complied with but continued to be misused. It seems organisations lack the necessary monitoring and evaluation systems that ensure people are effectively utilised. PMDS’s objectives should be well understood and should not be confused consciously or unconsciously as solely for rewarding good performance but to manage poor performance and identify and address development employees’ needs through planned training. It is result oriented and should ensure openness, fairness, and objectivity to benefit organisations and should thus be linked to broad and consistent plans for staff development and aligned with the organisational strategic goa To ensure this, PMDS requires supervisors to do the following: · Be involved in all the levels of reporting and assessment of their junior colleagues. · Be well prepared when presenting an employee’s assessment to the performance assessment committee. · Ensure that appropriate recognition should be given to good performances and that corrective and supportive action is taken regarding underperformers. · Inform subordinates in writing regarding the outcome and findings of the performance assessment committee, including fully documented reasons in cases where scores have been adjusted. Managers are found not helpful, distancing themselves despite having worked with very closely rather than playing their role, reminding, adding, and beautifying what they already know; they will instead behave as though they know nothing. PMDS, being developmental, simply means, where performance is found to be poor, corrective steps have to be taken to improve, particularly for future assessments (Employee Performance Management and Development System, 2007). Therefore, when a manager has people under him stagnant, having not qualified for notch progression and even merit award over long periods—for example three years and above and not to mention five, ten, and more years—it becomes clear that someone is not doing his job. Worse, when such managers qualify themselves for merits year in and out, it makes one to question the understanding of the system or organisational ethics. The process of informing subordinates of the outcome of the assessment process is statutory, and where information is withheld or not transferred to subordinates, subordinates may lodge a grievance. The information contributes to developing a meaningful and relevant personal development plan for employees in order to identify areas that need improving or capacity building. Hence, it is expected that employees should ultimately develop. A newly employed who qualifies alone amongst many old employees and in his first year for a merit award can only mean two things: he is truly exceptional, and the impact of his outcomes can be felt or he is just a favourite. It, therefore, becomes ridiculous for such managers to qualify for merit awards either year in and out, worse still, in isolation from their subordinates. This requires caution since it can send a bad message that suggests that subordinates are, after all, not a valuable source of intelligence and, as such, are not worth the trouble. However, beware, people can act what they are purported to be. One is, therefore, tempted to state in response to the identified challenge by the government, which is the absence of a strong performance culture, that, it seems, many employees have ability and knowledge and only lack motivation to perform at their best. Managers have responsibilities and should be held accountable for inaccurate, inordinate, and incomplete appraisals of their units’ performance. Performance appraisal should not be a battle between the power of appreciation and the power of criticising and undermining. Patterns and trends with regard to how Performance Appraisals/Reviews are conducted particularly with the issues of race and qualifications for notch and performance bonus (PMDS) remains a research challenge to the employer.