UPEA Task Force Discusses Career Service System and Performance Management

During the 2021 Legislative Session UPEA tracked House Bill 280, State Employment Amendments, sponsored by Representative Kay Christofferson (R-Lehi).   The provisions of HB280 exempted state employees hired in a supervisor position from holding career service status.  HB280 did not pass during the session and Rep. Christofferson invited UPEA to participate in an interim workgroup.

OVERVIEW

The workgroup met in April, May, June, and July to discuss state employee career service status, performance management, compensation, and the grievance process.

UPEA also convened an internal task force to discuss and research the background regarding the same items.  The task force members included UPEA officers and members representing the Departments of Corrections, Health, Workforce Services, Natural Resources, Transportation, Law Enforcement, and Human Services.  The UPEA task force outlined their meeting process and recommendations regarding the following items:

  • Hiring and Promotion Process
  • Performance Management
  • Grievance Process and Corrective Action

The Utah Public Employees’ Association (UPEA) considers Utah’s Career Service System, established in 1965, one of its most important accomplishments on behalf of public employees. Dismantling or altering the system would change state workers’ employment status to “at-will,” meaning they could be dismissed at any time without warning as long as their firing did not violate state or federal law.

Merit-based employment is vital to most categories of state workers because it prevents a “spoils system” under which politicians award government jobs as political favors and fire employees as political retribution.  Utah’s Career Service System, outlined in the Utah Personnel Management Act (67-19-3.1), ensures a stable, high-quality workforce that operates equitably and free of political coercion.

The Association favors supervisor training and proper use of performance management tools to address employee performance problems and satisfy critics who argue that Utah’s Career Service System restricts hiring and enables poor performers to keep their jobs. 

UPEA INTERNAL TASK FORCE RECOMMENDATIONS

Hiring, Promotion, and Onboarding Process

  • The task force provided the following comments:
    • Process takes too long
    • Best candidates are not hired
    • Process is confusing
    • Qualified applicants are being lost in the process
    • Human Resources needs to support supervisors rather than blame them
    • Management already knows who they want to hire
  • Recommendations
    • Streamline the current hiring process
    • Each agency should compile a list of applicants for jobs/positions to speed up the process
    • Address problems with “key words” and “buzz words” so qualified applicants are not overlooked
    • The hiring process should include if a candidate is referred by an internal employee
    • Hire the best individual for the job
      • Proven experience
      • Skills and qualifications
      • Competitive recruitment
    • Provide effective job training for new hires and those promoted into new jobs
      • Job specific training
      • Management training
    • Timely performance feedback
    • Appropriate probationary periods
      • Length of probationary period should be determined by the complexity of the job
      • Probationary periods are a great tool and supervisors should be trained on employee development during the probationary period

Performance Management

  • The task force provided the following comments:
    • Utah Performance Management (UPM) system is not used to its full capacity
    • UPM can be a great tool if it is used properly
    • UPM only tracks pass/fail or successful/unsuccessful ratings
    • Employees need a tiered performance review rating
    • UPM should be used to track and recommend merit pay increases
    • UPM should be used to identify high performers
    • UPM is viewed negatively because it is used as a disciplinary tool
    • Managers do not use UPM
    • Managers and supervisors need management training
    • Lack of good quality training
    • Employees and supervisors need training on the UPM system
    • UPM needs to be used as a reward system
    • Performance evaluations need to be tiered
    • Create an employee performance system through UPM and discipline/terminate based on performance
    • Some agencies do not use UPM
    • Some employees only meet with their supervisor one time per year to discuss performance, if at all
    • UPM is not intuitive, and a new system should be used
    • Improve UPM
    • Training on UPM, supervisory, and management skills should be mandatory
    • Human Resources should provide training support
  • Recommendations
    • Provide a robust, comprehensive, and ongoing training process for supervisors and managers to include:
      • Performance management
      • Probationary employee development
      • Supervisor and management training
      • Leadership training
      • Human Resource requirements
      • Sensitivity training
    • Performance based pay increases should be directly tied to performance evaluations
    • Replace the current UPM system
      • Create an intuitive performance management system
      • Maintain employee/supervisor transparency
    • Provide periodic formal employee reviews
      • Discuss goals and future performance plans
    • Create a tiered rating system
      • 3-6 tiers
      • Measured performance
    • Expect maximum performance for the individual, division, and agency and management performance to obtain it
    • Provide timely and effective job/skills training
    • Encourage employees to manage their skills and expertise and to be engaged in their own careers
    • Encourage information individual/team feedback
    • Provide job opportunities, expectations, and opportunities for improvement
    • Promote taxpayer, employee, and management confidence
      • Create a positive cultural perception of state employees

Grievance Process and Corrective Action

  • The task force provided the following comments:
    • The process should put the employee on the pathway to success
    • Streamline the grievance process
    • The grievance process takes too long
  • Recommendation
    • Streamline the grievance process and empower employees in the proper use of performance management tools to address employee performance problems.