This is the latest update on negotiations regarding the proposed move from the Staff Development Review (SDR) scheme to the Performance and Development Review (PDR) scheme.
The University of Birmingham senior management is currently proposing to introduce a new form of staff appraisal and development. This proposal would see the currently biennial SDR scheme being replaced by a new annual PDR scheme.
On Wednesday 25 April, an all-members BUCU meeting unanimously agreed that, “BUCU opposes the mode of performance management inherent to the proposed PDR scheme – especially the use of metrics to compare staff performance, which it believes is inimical to collegiality and will fail to incentivise and support good performance.”
The University management is currently (2012) running a pilot scheme for PDR and is aiming for all PDR reviews to be completed for academic teaching staff by the end of 2012. BUCU advice is that, during this pilot year, staff should only agree to participate in the SDR process, which is the negotiated mode of staff appraisal as outlined in the current employment contract. The University management have agreed that such a substitution (i.e. doing SDR instead of PDR) is permissible during the pilot year, and that no punitive outcomes will occur as a result.
In the meantime, BUCU have entered into negotiations with the University management and have sought a number of amendments to, or clarifications on, the proposed PDR scheme. Below is an update on where we are with each of these proposed amendments:
(1) BUCU seeks a commitment from the University senior management, that data of any type can be omitted from a review, if requested by the reviewee.
The aim of BUCU is to ensure that any potential PDR scheme is supportive rather than disciplinary, and therefore data considered to be unhelpful or potentially used in a punitive way should be omitted; the University management have agreed to consider this request and respond in due course.
(2) BUCU seeks a commitment from the University senior management that PDR documents will not be used by the University against staff members in any subsequent disciplinary proceedings.
The aim of BUCU is to ensure that any potential PDR scheme is supportive rather than disciplinary, and should not therefore be open to misuse as a ‘fishing exercise’ seeking evidence that could subsequently be used against a staff member; the University management have agreed to consider this request and respond in due course.
(3) BUCU seeks confirmation from the University senior management that, in cases where objectives cannot be agreed during the course of the PDR meeting, ‘failure to agree objectives’ will be recorded – i.e. for no objectives to be agreed, unless they are acceptable to both parties.
The aim of BUCU is to ensure that any potential PDR scheme is supportive rather than disciplinary, and therefore objectives should be agreed to by both parties; the University management have agreed to consider this request and respond in due course.
(4) Regarding the selection of reviewers to conduct the PDR meeting, BUCU seeks an option to exist for staff members to select their own reviewer (from a list of department/School trained reviewers), in the first instance. In cases where reviewees disagree with an assigned reviewer, reviewees should have the option of appealing this decision to the Head of College (as is currently the case, except that ‘Dean’ is currently referred to, rather than ‘HoC’, in the SDR scheme).
The aim of BUCU is to ensure that any potential PDR scheme is done in a way that enhances performance, and therefore regards the choice of reviewer as one which is best made by the reviewee him/herself; the University management have agreed to consider this request and respond in due course.
(5) BUCU has been assured that data collected as a result of the PDR process will be personal data which should be appropriately protected in accordance with the Data Protection Act.
BUCU is thus far reassured by this and has no outstanding objections to the proposed PDR scheme on confidentiality grounds.
Once we have a final response from the University management on each of the outstanding points raised above, BUCU will update members accordingly and any final agreement will be put to a general members’ meeting for BUCU to formally agree to.
In the meantime, BUCU members should continue to opt for SDR appraisals (rather than the pilot PDR scheme) during this pilot year.
For reference, a key difference between the proposed PDR and SDR schemes is that the proposed PDR scheme enables the reviewer to prepare benchmark data to be used in the PDR meeting. In contrast, under the SDR scheme, documentation is prepared by the reviewee. Any attempt to refer to the following paragraph, or the data it refers to, should therefore be refused for those staff members participating in the SDR scheme.
“10. The reviewer will also prepare information for discussion with the member of staff, including benchmark data illustrating individual, School/Budget Centre and College performance in relation to University strategic objectives. Resources supporting this Scheme will include statements outlining measures for the principal activities of staff, including teaching and research, as appropriate. A copy of this information, together with any other issues the reviewer may wish to raise, will be made available to the individual member of staff 10 days in advance of the meeting.”