Towards a framework for performance management in a Higher Education institution
University of Wales
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The increased emphasis on improving performance and accountability in higher education has seen the introduction of league tables, the development of key performance indicators and the requirement to make explicit in HR strategies action to tackle poor performance. At the same time, the need to attract, recruit, develop and retain the right calibre of employees is now widely recognised as a source of competitive advantage. It is through their staff, that universities are able to respond to the challenges of the changing HE environment and the effective management of performance at organisational, school/unit and individual level is therefore critical to success. A literature review on performance management (with a particular emphasis on HR policies underpinning the Employee Life Cycle) culminated in the development of a unified theoretical model. This action research investigated managers’ perspectives of performance management in a post-92 HEI. It sought to establish current performance management practices and identify areas of congruence and dissonance between three different management groups. Research methods included a case study of the university’s journey towards improving performance, one-to-one interviews with 21 executive and senior managers and an on-line survey questionnaire returned by 44 academic and support middle managers. The research revealed that the holistic, complex and multidisciplinary phenomenon of performance management was not fully understood amongst managers and whilst many good practices were evidenced, opportunities for setting out performance expectations and planning, supporting and reviewing performance were sometimes under-developed or not sufficiently deployed. All management groups experienced difficulties when managing individual performance, exacerbated by a general dislike of having to tackle issues of poor performance. The study concludes that compliance is a major issue that threatens the performance of the institution. A performance management framework to assist managers in optimising the right performance management tools and opportunities is proffered as a solution.
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