How a revamped PMS will judge the performance of Civil Servants for PBI

One of the biggest changes in the Civil Service Pay Restructure Bill passed by the Parliament is the Performance Based Incentive (PBI) where civil servants can get additional pay over their normal pay for good performance.

The PBI is linked to national, organizational and individual performance and could be up to 100 percent of the annual basic pay.

The PBI hinges entirely on the Performance Management System (PMS) which is being revamped and improved by the RCSC.

Revamping existing PMS and rolling it out

RCSC already has an existing PMS system in place that rates the performance of agencies, and has an Individual Work Plan for civil servants based on which they are rated. This has been in place since the 2016-17 financial year.

The challenge now is to measure the performance of every civil servant accurately, and then accordingly, reward them through PBI.

The RCSC Chairperson, Karma Hamu Dorjee, said, “We are currently working on the current PMS, and how we can enhance it. These are very critical and very sensitive systems, as when it comes to dealing with performance ratings it is a tough task.”

The aim is to ideally roll out the new PMS system by July next year, coinciding with the start of the fiscal year, though it is not guaranteed as it is very complex and would affect each person making it very challenging.

The current PMS system has a moderation exercise where people based on the IWP are put into a bell curve which in turn depends on how well the agency has performed in its Annual Performance Agreement. An agency cannot go outside the bell curve.

In the earlier system, which started from around the 1980s, everyone was getting 3.8 out of 4 as it was left to individual supervisors and the system was not digitized. At that time, civil servants could fill up their performance rating even after 3 years. It was considered a very poor perfunctory system. MAX was a major improvement on it in the 2016-17 financial year.

“We have had a PMS system for last five years, and now is the time to improve upon it, and relook at it to get it ready for PBI,” said the Chairperson.

C4CS and below assessment

As a part of revamp of the PMS and the enhanced accountability and leadership management, RCSC is working much more closely with the executives, especially at the government secretary- level to make sure that performance management is done well.

In the past, P 1 and above got the proxy ratings of the APA, and so now that has been removed and instead of that, the supervisor has to give the ratings. The P1 would be assessed by the executive and the executive by the government secretary and the government secretary by the RCSC for now.

In the future, when the the Committee for Coordinating Secretaries (C4CS) is fully ready, they will be expected to do it instead of the RCSC.

Though things are not yet finalized as yet, it is all about the cascading of accountability, and so in the end, there is one civil servant who is held accountable which is the Cabinet Secretary, who is the Chair of the C4CS.

The plan is that C4CS will look after the clusters, which includes the other secretaries and the secretaries, in turn, will look after the executives and P1, and the P1, in turn, will look after the division staff, in terms of assessment.

Tentatively, the C4CS secretaries are to be assessed by the Cabinet Secretary, and she in turn will be assessed by the government and RCSC.

The idea behind it is to have a clear cascading of accountability, and who to hold accountable at every level.

The ministers will give feedback on the secretaries, and it will have used as one of the data points.

“In the end, when we look at a person, we have to look at all aspects. We have to see how a person works with his supervisor, colleagues, subordinates, clients and stakeholders,” said the RCSC Chair.

Client feedback important

To incorporate client feedback into the PMS, the RCSC is working on public service delivery. The PM’s Office has the public service delivery division, and RCSC is working more on the performance part of it.

In some of the dzongkhags, posters have been put up in terms of the client’s responsibility and also the service deliverer’s responsibility.

“We already have the IT system, and before the IT system can come into action, first we need to set up the service standards so that when people go to an office, and submit all the documents they know their work should have done in so many days,” said the Chair.

This has already been piloted with the Department of Census and the National Land Commission. The aim is to start with G2C agencies, and that client satisfaction survey will be done frequently and that will go into their performance. For now, the data is being used to improve customer service.

RCSC will look at overall service delivery by the agency, and the agency will use its own online data to know which individual staff is doing what and whether they are working on time or not to clear files etc.

RCSC is using a pilot Computer Assisted Telephonic Survey where the clients’ or servicer receivers’ telephone numbers are collected, and random calls are made to them, so as to assess their level of satisfaction or experience.

One question is, while services through G2C can be assessed, how will civil servants in the dzongkhags be assessed?

“We hope that at least with G2C, we can roll it out everywhere. We wanted to started with the most availed services, and we are rolling them out more and more. The Public Service Delivery Division (under the PMO) does the service standards,” said the Chair. 

RCSC will get the critical customer feedback, and it will not just be the disgruntled but also those who are happy with the services.

The PMS system will depend on the PMO also, as it will define the service standards, and RCSC will find out the customer satisfaction survey.

More engaged supervisors

Apart from the technical aspects and survey, a key aspect of the new PMS system is more engaged supervisors and with assessments being done, not only at the end of year, but in a regular manner with regular feedback.

“We want to build the capacity of the individual supervisors so that they do these PMS assessments regularly. The best PMS systems are those that are done regularly and continuously. So every supervisor at the P1 or even section level should be continuously monitoring, mentoring, coaching and engaging with the staff,” said the Chairperson.

She said HR literature always shows that the most productive teams are those that are engaged well. This is a part of the effort to engage staff throughout the year.

Nepotism or Favoritism and appeal

One major concern of civil servants with the new PMS system and PBI is, how will nepotism, favoritism and personal likes and dislikes be avoided or at least minimized while doing assessments.

Here, the RCSC Chair said that to avoid this, the supervisor should be noting the performance of the staff real time throughout the year. 

“So today, if we had a big meeting and in that meeting you were rude, did not come on time or your work is not up to the mark, I, as the supervisor, should be calling you and putting that into the system so that at the end of the year there are no surprises, as you already have a sense of your assessment,” said the Chair.

She said that if people are not happy with their assessments then they can always appeal to the higher level. If an officer is not happy with the assessment by a P1 officer, they can appeal to the EX who is the boss of the P 1 and from there it can escalate to the Human Resource Committee and from there to the RCSC. The P1 similarly can appeal to the Secretary, and so on.

Be it an assessment or appeal, it will all be judged on the real time system. “If I have told the person I am supervising that he has not done well at that point of time then he should be able to speak up and rebut, but if he keeps quiet, it means that he probably accepted it. The person, at that point, can also take it up at a more senior level,” said the Chair.

Even in the end, it is all about evidence in the system, which is also how it is in the court of law said the Chair.

“Human resource management is an art, to a large extent, and it is not a science. We expect all our supervisors to be fair, good leaders and managing people well, but real life is never perfect,” said the Chair.

PBI and bell curve distribution

In the current system, a P1 officer assesses his/her staff at the division, and takes that to the moderation committee (HRC) which puts it in in the bell curve.

In the current system supervisors already give individual ratings.

PBI may be linked to a forced distribution of groups across the bell curve. It will not be a forced individual ranking, which will not be possible as it would mean giving a different payout to every civil servant.

So in PBI it is more likely for civil servants to be judged based on which performance group they are in.

“We want to enhance the performance culture,” said the Chair.

Elevated to their level of incompetence

In the civil service, as in any system, one danger is people being elevated to their level of incompetence, which means that a person may be good at a particular job, but when that person is elevated to a higher level, as a reward, that job may not suit that person.

The RCSC Chair said that the PMS takes care of it, as they are looking at two aspects which are performance and potential.

“A person may have good performance at that level, but the person may not be a good manager and so he is not elevated to his level of incompetence, as he does not have the potential,” said the Chair.

The PMS and PBI system would still reward the performance financially.

 Data, stakeholders and human process

The RCSC Chair said the PBI will be pegged to data. “At the national level, it will probably be the GDP, at the agency level, we will have to peg it to some objective achievement or indicators and at individual level it will be PMS,” she said.

The RCSC Chairperson said the PMS is not finalized, and these are initial thoughts.

She said while the RCSC knows many things about the PMS, but it is just the RCSC aspect and these types of systems are very challenging and sensitive, and so they need to bring all stakeholders on board.

“For the PMS, we have to work with Ministry of Finance closely as the Government Performance Management System (GPMS) is with MoF and the Pay Commission will also be with the MoF,” said the Chair.

She said the critical part in the PMS is not the IT part, which is already in place, but the human processes that are involved.

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