The Royal Civil Service Commission’s (RCSC) first year of its performance assessment system results, that track the individual performance of all civil servants, confirmed some long standing conventional wisdom on the civil service.
The wisdom being that roughly around 20 percent of the civil servants are very hardworking and take on additional workload beyond their mandate or official work assignment.
The sheer majority of other civil servants do the work assigned to them and are consistent in doing that. Then there are the few rotten apples.
The ‘Managing for Excellence’ or MaX system of the RCSC in its first official year of individual Performance Evaluation (PE) showed that of the 22,533 assessed civil servants 79.87 percent of civil servants or 17,999 of them got 1 to 1.99 points out of the total score of four.
Under the RCSC’s four level classification, with four at the top, this huge chunk of 79.87 percent falls in level two under the term of ‘Good’ which as per RCSC means that the employee has fulfilled the job requirement.
19.15 percent of civil servants fall in the ‘Very Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ category.
Of this 19.15 percent, 16.55 percent or 3,731 civil servants fall in the level three or ‘Very Good’ category, which as per the MaX manual means performing at a higher level than required. Here the score is 2 to 2.99 points.
Then around 2.6 percent of civil servants coming to around 590 of them fall in the ‘Outstanding’ category which means they have achieved an exceptionally high level of performance. Civil servants here have to score between 3 to 4 points out of the total 4 points.
A special privilege of being in this ‘outstanding’ position is that if one can hold it for three consecutive years then one will get a meritorious promotion within 3 years before the normal four year wait.
Finally, level one, which politely says ‘Needs Improvement,’ in plain speak is bad performance in terms of work results or behavior or a combination of both.
The official MaX system describes level one as ‘results and behavior far below the performance requirement.’ MaX also lays out that three years of continuously being in this category will mean compulsory retirement of the civil service.
Around 0.94 percent or 213 civil servants fall in this category whose score is 0.99 point and below.
The MaX PE data is for the first year or the financial year of 2016 July to 2017 June. The second year’s data from 2017 July to 2018 June will be ready by around September 2018.
Once the third year’s data comes in by September 2019 then the RCSC will be in a position to look at meritorious promotions for outstanding performers and compulsory retirement for consistently bad performers. This is apart from all the human resources action and incentives in between on an annual basis.
The RCSC Chairman, Dasho Karma Tshiteem explained that even in international organizations the majority of employees will fall in RCSC’s ‘Good’ category.
He said these what these means is that the vast majority do their jobs and are consistent and stand to get the normal promotion once every four years.
He said the MaX system in that sense is designed more to identify the ones who are going above and beyond and doing exceptionally well, and reward them. He said the system at the same time also looks for civil servants that need help and improvement.
There are around 28,070 civil servants as of December 2017 but only 22,533 were evaluated as it it excludes P 1 and above whose scores are linked to agency scores, people on extraordinary leave, women on maternity leave, Operational category staff who will be rated separately by the Administration and Finance head. ESP and GSP staff are not a part of the RCSC system or the civil service for that matter.
Before this MaX system was instituted the normal trend was that amost all civil servants were evaluated as outstanding.
In fact, the MaX manual states that in order to assess the effectiveness and efficacy of the then PMS system, an exercise was carried out in 2014 to evaluate it.
This exercise found that almost all civil servants were rated in the outstanding category, and the average performance evaluation rating was 3.82 out of 4 for all agencies.
It was also found that large numbers of civil servants did not even bother to file in the forms for evaluation.
The then forms showed minimal strategic planning and involvement of civil servants, and the expected performance output lacked objective indicators and linkages to organizational objectives.
A RCSC official said that in the earlier system it was difficult to distinguish who was really working hard or who was not and accordingly give rewards or warnings. Supervisors, in fact, went out of their way to give outstanding scores to all their juniors, irrespective of capability or work output.
Theoretically under the earlier PMS system a civil servant in consultation with his or her senior was supposed to come up with a work plan at the beginning of the financial year. At the end of the year, the respective senior was supposed to rate the civil servant objectively based on the work plan achievements.
In an earlier interview the then head of the Government Performance Management Division (GPMD) under the Prime Minister’s office, Chencho, said that in reality what was happening was since work plans are a must for promotions every four years, the civil servants in many cases were filling up the work plans for four years at one sitting and getting it evaluated at one go along with their seniors.
In such cases the civil servants would have to go back four years and recall by memory his work output, and an immediate supervisor who may not even have been there at the time is forced to rate the civil servant.
The then GPMD head said that there were also issues of a particular agency not doing well but its civil servants all getting very good ratings, showing a huge disparity in the agency performance and the civil servants ratings.
This issue was exacerbated due to certain provisions in the Bhutan Civil Service Rules (BCSR) where certain civil servant who did not have their full qualification needed to get outstanding to get promoted.
Another issue with the old system was that since it was not very systematic it had more scope for discretion at the hands of the supervisor.
How the new system works
The new MaX system at the larger level is a collaboration between the RCSC and the GPMD under the Prime Minister’s office.
The main weakness of the old PMS system was that there was no strong linkage between department level goals and performance and the goals and performance of the individual civil servants.
So under the new system the GPMD, through the Annual Performance Agreements (APA) for ministries and Dzongkhags, and the GNHC, through the Annual Performance Targets (APT) for autonomous bodies, will judge the performance of government agencies at four levels.
The scores of these agencies will then be used to determine the performance of civil servants. So if an agency is doing poorly at the agency level score then not too many can be put in the outstanding or very good category and instead more numbers will have to be put in the ‘Need Improvement’ category.
In the MaX system of RCSC the individual civil servant at the division level in collaboration with his or her respective unit head or chief would draw up an Individual Work Plan (IWP). This work plan of the civil servant would be related to the particular unit’s targets under the APA or APT.
The IWP has to be filled in mandatorily online along with the supervisor. At the end of the financial year the supervisor or unit head would sit with the civil servant where the civil servant would give his or her own scores and the head would give his or her scores separately.
The competency behavior indicators of the RCSC would also be used on top of the evaluation.
This would then be sent to the respective Human Resource Committee of the agency for moderation.
The HR committee would decide how many civil servants should fall in one of the four categories which are Outstanding, Very Good, Good and Needs Improvement based on the overall performance of the agency or unit.
In terms of agency level performance, for 2016-17 financial year the GPMD and GNHC evaluation has shown that of the total 106 government departments, dzongkhags and autonomous agencies 53 are in category 1 which is the best score from 95 to 100, 52 are in category 2 which is 85 to 94.99 and only one is in category 3 which is 70 to 84.99. None are in category four which is 69.99.
There have been some recent issues with IWP of teachers due to the workload to authenticate additional work done. Here, the RCSC is looking at the issue.
The carrot and stick
Any performance evaluation system can only work when there are adequate rewards and also punishment.
For P2 and below civil servants those getting outstanding for three years consecutively will get a meritorious promotion.
The officer will get full marks for performance evaluation (PE) rating during open competitions. An officer will also be eligible for a Civil Service Award for Excellent Service by the RCSC which will be instituted by the agency.
Those in the P 1 level and above will have the additional benefit of getting Targeted Leadership Trainings while those in the P I level will be eligible to compete for higher posts and also get the full PE marks.
Those in the Executive and Executive Specialist level getting outstanding will mean consideration for civil service award and recommendation for next level promotion along with leadership trainings.
P 1 and below officers in the very good category will not get meritorious promotion but will be allowed to compete for open positions and get 95% marks for PE. They will also get the normal promotion after four years.
The executive and specialists in the very good position will be considered for the next level promotion along with leadership trainings.
Those in the good category for P 1 will not be eligible for open competition. Thse officers below P 1 in the good category will only get 80 percent score during open competition apart from a normal promotion.
The ones in the need improvement category for three consecutive years will be compulsorily retired.
In the P 1 level the officer for one year of need improvement will not be eligible for executive positions for the next two years, he or she will get referred to a relevant authority based on the reason for falling under NI and there will be targeted capacity development program.
For below P 1 officer they will not be eligible to compete for any open competition for the next one year, will not be allowed to head an agency or sector, will get in-country capacity development program and will get referred to the relevant authority. There could also be training and re-deployment where his or her skills are appropriate.
Executives and specialists in this level will be put on the RCSC waiting list.