Having a constructive conversation - overview

It can be helpful for reviewers to have a model to guide you through the process of planning for a constructive PDR conversation.

This online resource suggests a useful model and in addition provides some example conversations (for a variety of situations) illustrating how the model might be used. 

Each example has a summary of the conversation at the beginning to put it in context and has footnotes which provide more detail to support the reviewer within the discussion.

Some examples relate directly to conversations around performance outcomes and others are around particular issues that might arise.

Constructive PDR conversations model

When having conversations as part of the PDR process it is useful, as a reviewer, to think about how you structure and shape each conversation in order to ensure that every discussion is as productive as possible for both you and the reviewee. A simple and effective structure to use when having PDR conversations is shown below.

PDR Constructive Conversations Model

1. Intention:  Prior to having the PDR conversation it is important that you are clear what you are trying to achieve within the conversation. Is your overall intention to praise strong or exceptional contribution or to agree improvements to someone’s performance where performance is an issue, either overall or in parts? Having a clear overall goal will allow you to balance the conversation to achieve this by focussing in on the appropriate areas of performance, and to have thought about the evidence you have for the feedback you are going to give. It will also help to ensure that by the end of the conversation you have covered everything you need to and the reviewee leaves understanding how they are performing and the actions that are required.


2. Check understanding: The completed PDR form will give you an insight into how the individual perceives their own performance; however, it is always a good idea to start any PDR conversation by asking the person to tell you how they think they are doing. A question such as: “How do you think you performed over the last 12 months?” will open up that conversation. There are some example questions included below, and it is worth noting that none of these start with ‘why’ as this can often result in a defensive response and it is often much more productive to ask an alternative question such as ‘what do you think caused that to happen?’ Within this discussion the core information you are trying to gain is how aware the individual is of their own level of performance as this will shape the conversation that you have. Be aware that within this ‘checking understanding’ process you may want to focus in on different areas of the job at different times as awareness of performance is unlikely to be uniform across the role.


3. Confirmation feedback: When someone is aware of their own levels of performance it is good to let them know that you agree with them and offer some specific examples to demonstrate that you have noticed their level of performance.


4. Feedback to challenge performance view: Where someone is not aware of their own level of performance then you will need to offer them feedback on specific areas to support them in understanding their performance. Note that this can be true for every level of performance, and that someone whose performance has been exceptional may be as unaware of this as someone whose performance has been inconsistent or requires improvement. In offering this feedback remember to always include specific examples, and ask the individual to reflect the feedback back to you to ensure that they understand what you are saying and why you have come to that conclusion. When giving direct feedback try to avoid using words such as “always” and “never” which are absolutes; it is much better to use word such as “frequently” or “rarely”. This allows for the possibility that the individual may show the behaviour in question occasionally, and also prevents the feedback being undermined by the individual giving one example of when they have done something even if that is the exception rather than the norm.


5. Problem Solving: It is important to look at ways to help people improve poor performance, build on strong performance or to sustain exceptional performance. Using a coaching style of conversation for this element of the conversation is ideal, and involves asking open questions such as:

  • How could you improve your performance in this area?
  • What support do you need to improve your performance?
  • What barriers are there to you improving your performance?
  • What are you currently doing which allows you to perform highly?
  • When you have faced a similar challenge in the past how have you dealt with it?

'Open' questions cannot be answered by 'yes' or 'no' and encourage two-way dialogue.  They usually start with How? What? Where? Who? When?.

Why? should be avoided as it can result in a defensive response as noted in section 2.

'Closed' questions can be answered by 'yes' or 'no'.


6. Commitment and Actions:
 Following on from the discussions around performance, the final stage in the PDR is setting clear objectives, and it is useful to have a look at the guide on setting SMART objectives on the Employee and Organisational Development website. Ideally you will want the individual who is being reviewed to be active in the objective setting process, and it may be that having got to the end of the problem solving conversation that you want to give the individual time to further develop or refine their own objectives and then to have a follow-up conversation. Equally you may decide you need time to reflect on the conversation and rethink objectives you had in mind. As part of the actions you also need to demonstrate commitment to the individual in terms of providing resources (time/opportunities/budget) to allow them to achieve these outcomes. In the case of poor performance where a improvement plan or development plan is required the actions on you should also include short term follow-ups and regular feedback, and the timetable for this should be set out and agreed with the individual along with what will happen if performance does not improve.  These actions form part of a continuous feedback loop where staff should be supported throughout the year to enhance and improve their performance.

 


Example Questions

Checking understanding stage and feedback

Open questions to explore the individual’s understanding of their own performance:

  • How do you think you have performed in completing last year’s objectives?
  • How would you describe your overall performance in the last 12 months?

Which areas have you found easiest?
Which areas have you found hardest?

  • What do you think others might say about your overall performance?

What do you think would make them say that?

  • What can you take from your approach to the objectives you successfully completed to enhance your performance in other areas?
  • What do you think was the main reason for not completing that objective?

Which areas of this objective were in your control?

Which areas of this objective were impacted on by things that were not in your control?

What could you have done about this?

  • How could you have approached this objective differently which might have resulted in a different outcome?

If you could change one thing about what you did, what would that be?

  • I don’t agree with your assessment of your performance; what do think is causing me to reach a different conclusion than you?
  • How could you have addressed that challenge differently?

What would have happened if you’d done that?

What stopped you doing that?

  • Who do you know who faces similar challenges? How would they have approached the situation?
  • What support do you need in order to improve your performance?


Closed questions to clarify that they understand the feedback they have been given:

  • Do you understand that your performance requires improvement/is inconsistent?
  • Do you understand the areas of your performance that need to be improved?
  • Do you understand what you have been doing particularly well?
  • Do you understand what you need to do to perform at an even higher level?
  • Do you understand what you need to do to maintain your performance at this level over the next year?

 
Setting Objectives

While the reviewee is expected to draft objectives, you will need to discuss them at the review meeting and ensure they are appropriate. Employee & Organisational Development’s Guide to Writing SMART Objectives and Guide to Having a Development Conversation are useful additional resources for reviewers and reviews.

 

Useful questions during the PDR discussion include:

  • How realistic do you feel these objectives are?
  • Which do you think will be the easiest for you?
  • Which do you think will provide the biggest challenge?
  • How do the objectives we are setting support your career development?
  • What links do you see between your objectives and the wider organisational/team goals?
  • What barriers do you see to achieving these objectives?
  • How will you overcome these barriers?

Example - giving appropriate feedback to a reviewee assessed against the 'Strong Contribution' outcome and discussing future development

The conversation starts with the reviewer clearly setting out that this is part of ongoing conversations about performance and asking the reviewee to talk about their own performance. The reviewer encourages the reviewee to share their thoughts on their own performance before giving an opinion about it. Changes in performance over the last year are explored to help the reviewee understand what it is they are doing well. Future development is discussed with practical, on the job options explored.

A: I know we’ve had regular discussions about how things are going, so hopefully none of our discussion today should be a surprise to you. Let’s start by you telling me how you think you’ve performed over the last year.[1]

B: Overall fairly well. I feel I’m on top of things and when I think about that compared to last year I feel much more confident that I’m doing well. When I look at my role and objectives I think I’ve delivered fairly well, and I’ve also been involved in a few other pieces of work with people in different departments which has taken up a bit of time.

A: So do you think ‘fairly well’ is a good description of your performance or it is better than that?[2]

B: I suppose I think my performance has been okay over the last year.

A: I’d agree that you are doing well, and it doesn’t sound like you are giving yourself credit for how well you’ve done.[3] I’ve seen you work hard over the last year and, from the evidence we’ve looked at, you have delivered every aspect of your role description and all of the objectives we set.  I believe you are making a strong contribution to the work of the Service and more widely and I really want to thank you for that. From what you’ve delivered this year I think a fair description of your performance is Strong Contribution.[4]

B: Yes.

A: Great. What do you think has helped you to perform well?[5]

B: The area I highlighted last year that I was struggling with was planning, and how to balance making time for unplanned work and changing workloads with being able to work on my objectives.  The training you encouraged me to attend and the discussions we’ve had really helped. In particular putting in place a more structured approach to forward planning has made a real difference. It’s meant I’m being more realistic about how much time I need for different aspects of my job, and can also make sure I think through delivery against different priorities. I feel a lot more confident about managing my workload than I did and that seems to be making everything else feel easier as well. That’s what has let me have the time to get involved in some of the project work with other colleagues while still delivering my day to day work. I’ve really been enjoying making new contacts, and building those relationships has helped me understand more about the impact our team can have across the University.

A: I’m glad to hear you mention the training that was set out in your development objectives last year and that you found it helpful.[6]

B: I don’t think I was aware of it at the time, but now I do feel more confident I realise this was probably having an impact and affecting how willing I was to try new things. Now I’ve got more skills to manage my work I feel like I’m making much more of a contribution. I also feel more able to try out different approaches, knowing that if it doesn’t go to plan I’ll be able to sort it out and get back on track, and I’m enjoying the flexibility that lets me have.

A: That’s really great to hear.  It’s not just me who has been pleased by what you’ve delivered over the last year. A few other people who have worked with you recently have let me know what a good job they think you’ve been doing, and it’s great to see you getting this recognition.[7] It’s not just about what you’ve delivered; it’s also about how you’ve done this.  I’d like to congratulate you on your willingness to stretch yourself. I’m also delighted that you can see and feel for yourself the positive results.[8] I think a fair description of your performance this year is Strong Contribution. You delivered well on your objectives and some elements of your performance were above the normal requirements of the role.  It’s important that you are aware of what you are doing that is working well so you keep doing it. It is challenging to continue to deliver a strong contribution year after year.[9] It’s also about continuing to develop and, when you think about the next few years, what would you like your next challenge to be for this and possibly future roles?[10]

B: Well, I’d be interested in getting to the point where I was managing a team of people. That would be a big change for me, but I really enjoy getting to work closely with people and some of the work I’ve been involved in over the last year has made me realise the impact of doing that well.

A: When you think about moving in that direction, what would be the biggest challenge for you?[11]

B: I’ve worked closely with lots of people but I’ve never managed anyone, so I’d have a lot to learn about that.

A: And how do you think you could start to learn that?[12]

B: I’m not sure. What I do at the moment doesn’t involve managing anyone, so I don’t have the chance to do that.

A: We can certainly explore a few different development options that will help you develop the skills you need for managing people. For example sharing your knowledge and skills with the wider team or supporting new staff in the Service to settle in well in their jobs. There are also a few other things you can start doing. Thinking about who you see doing a good job of managing people is helpful, and then being curious about what it is they do well. Equally I’m sure you must know of at least one person who you don’t think does such a good job of this, so noticing what it is they do differently is also helpful.[13] We could also look at suitable courses there will be to further develop your skills and knowledge in working effectively with others. How do those ideas sound?[14]

B: Good. I can see that I can learn a lot from the people I work with, and I hadn’t really thought about trying to do that in a structured way before.

A: I’m really keen to support you so that when we’re sitting here in a year’s time you are still delivering a strong  performance and have taken some really tangible steps to develop in your career. It’s been a real pleasure seeing your performance over the last year and starting to get wider recognition for your work, and I hope the next year will be a challenging one for you in a good way.[15]  

The conversation continues to agree objectives and a timetable for future meetings.

[1] Give an opportunity for the reviewee to say what they think first, allowing you to understand how well the reviewee understands their own performance as the starting point for the discussion.

[2] Use a closed question to challenge the difference between the way the reviewee is describing their own performance and what you believe to be the case.

[3] Give direct feedback to acknowledge what has been said and then build on it.

[4] Clearly set out the reasons for achieving Strong Contribution.

[5] Use an open question to explore what has helped the reviewee with their performance, and find out how aware the reviewee is of what it is they are doing well.

[6] Give direct feedback to positively reinforce what is working well.

[7] Use third party feedback to back up your own feedback, and also demonstrate that you are aware of and interested in the views of other people. This is also an important aspect of supporting a Strong Contribution outcome.

[8] Give direct feedback to positively reinforce what is working well.

[9] Clearly state the challenge of maintaining Strong Contribution.

[10] Use an open question to encourage the reviewee to share their own ideas for future development.

[11] Start to focus on tangible next steps.

[12] Use an open question to explore ideas the reviewee has and to understand their thinking process.

[13] Note that there are a wide range of options available, from encouraging the reviewee to notice more about the performance of other people so that they learn from that to training courses. It is important to focus on what is achievable in the role and will also encourage the greatest development by the reviewee.

[14] Use a closed question to check buy-in from the reviewee.

[15] Reinforce your commitment to the reviewee’s development and also the need to continue to deliver at this level.

 


Example - reviewee wants to move from 'Strong Contribution' this year to 'Exceptional Contribution' next year

The conversation starts with the reviewer clearly setting out that this is part of ongoing conversations about performance and asking the reviewee to talk about their own performance. The reviewer encourages the reviewee to share their thoughts on their own performance before giving an opinion about it. Changes in performance over the last year are explored to help the reviewee understand what it is they are doing well. Future development is discussed with practical, on the job options explored.

A: I know we had a brief chat about how things were going a few weeks ago, so let’s start by exploring that a bit more.[1] How do you see your performance over the last year?[2]

B: I’m comfortable that I’ve met the objectives we set, and have been enjoying getting involved in other work within the office and working with different people. I’ve been in this job for a few years now and feel like I’ve got the measure of it, so some of the things I used to find a real challenge are now a lot easier.

A: I agree that you’ve met all the objectives we’d set, so thank you for the effort you’ve put into doing that. It’s also good to hear that you are noticing changes in your performance in your day to day work.[3] You mentioned that there are some areas you’re finding easier than you used to. Tell me about these.[4]

B: The big one for me has been working with people outside our immediate team. I found that really hard to start with, and didn’t really have the confidence to suggest ideas. Now I find myself doing that without really thinking about it, including working with people who are more senior than I am.

A: Good. From what I’ve seen that seems like a fair reflection of what’s been happening.[5] When you think about your performance against the four performance outcomes, where do you see yourself?[6]

B: Probably in Strong Contribution.   I have met my objectives and completed all the requirements in my development plan and also my performance has been fairly consistent across my role with some areas above expectations based on feedback I’ve had from you during the year.  So that seems the best fit.

A: I agree with all of that.[7] If you imagine us having a similar conversation in a year’s time, what about then?[8]

B: I’m not unhappy with being assessed Strong Contribution, but if I’m honest I’d really like to be doing better. If I could be in the Exceptional Contribution level next year I’d be very happy about that.

A: Do you believe you can do that?[9]

B: Yes, I think so. I’ve enjoyed being challenged over the last couple of years and think I’ve developed my knowledge and capability and  I’m really keen to build on that and find other ways I can develop further.

A: I believe you can do that too, so let’s have a look at what you’ll need to do to get there.[10] What’s the difference between Strong and Exceptional Contribution?[11]

B: My understanding is that it’s about  delivering objectives to an exceptional standard, above the level expected for my role and grade.

A: You’re right about that, but it’s about more than just your objectives. Your job description covers a wider range of areas than the objectives we agree every year, and it’s about making sure you deliver all of these to an exceptional standard as well and in addition possibly contributing to activities outside the normal scope of your role to an exceptionally high standard.[12] What do you think you need to do to achieve that?[13]

B: Probably challenge myself to deliver my role even more effectively and efficiently.  So if I can see where doing something differently or something extra would make a significant positive difference to the end result making sure I do that rather than just stopping when I’ve done exactly what was set out originally. Maybe it’s about being more proactive in addressing issues too. I can see that a lot can change over the course of a year, so what I deliver has to respond to that. I know we have regular reviews to check my objectives are still relevant and how I’m doing with them, but maybe I could do more to look for things I think would significantly improve what we deliver and then try to make them happen.

A: I agree with all of that.[14] Let’s work through one area you are responsible for or an opportunity outside the normal scope of your role and see what ideas you have. Thinking about the customer service within your role, how might you deliver exceptional performance there?[15]

B: I think I’m good at listening to our customers, but maybe I could do more to ask them for feedback to give me more information about how things are actually going. That would let me look at ways of making what we deliver significantly better and making it happen to a very high standard.  Also, I could review our existing processes and make some recommendations around customer and operational improvements.

A: How will you make that happen?[16]

B: I think I need to develop stronger relationships with our customers which would hopefully mean they’d be willing to help if I asked for more feedback in the future or wanted ideas from them about how to make our services better. And I need to think about which of our processes might be most in need of review.

A: That sounds good.[17] What else could you do?[18]

B: I’m not sure. Let me think. Maybe sharing what I learn with other people in the team? And ask the team to feed back on the processes that could benefit from review.  That way we could all improve what we do, and it would also mean our customers would get better service from everyone.

A: Great. That’s exactly what would help stretch your performance and mean you are doing more than is set out on paper. Making connections between the different areas of your job and looking at ways to take exceptional performance from one area to another will really help you do that.[19] Let’s pick this area up again in the next few weeks.  What else can you think of?[20]

B: Those are the most obvious things. I’m a bit stuck after that.

A: Let’s look a bit more widely in terms of developing the capabilities that will help you.  Who do you know who you think does a good job of building relationships and using them for mutual benefit?[21]

B: I can think of a few people. I’ve noticed how much I enjoy working with them because they get things done and always seem to find ways of addressing issues, and people respect them for that.

A: It’s worth paying attention to how they do that to see what you can learn from them. If there is someone you think is particularly good at something you can always talk to them about it and ask how they go about it. What would doing that give you?[22]

B: I suppose it would help me learn from their experience and maybe pick up some tips on how to do things better. And it would help me build my relationships with them; I expect most people are fairly flattered if you say you think they do something well and want to learn from them.

A: You’re right. So those are three things you can do all linked to customer service.[23] Will you do them?[24]

B: Yes, I will.

A: Good. Let’s agree some stretching objectives and look at any support you would find helpful.

The conversation continues to agree objectives and a timetable for future meetings.

 

[1] Clearly set out when your last discussion about performance took place.

[2] Give an opportunity for the reviewee to say what they think first, allowing you to understand how well they understand their own performance as the starting point for the discussion. Use of the word ‘you’ focuses the conversation on only areas that are related to the reviewee.

[3] Give direct feedback to positively reinforce what is working well.

[4] Use an open question to explore what has helped the reviewee improve their performance, and find out how aware the reviewee is of what it is they are doing well.

[5] Give direct feedback to positively reinforce what is working well.

[6] Use an open question to give the reviewee the opportunity to say what they think first, allowing you to understand how well they understand their own performance and pace the next section of the discussion.

[7] Give direct feedback on the reviewee’s assessment of their own performance.

[8] Use an open question to encourage the reviewee to share their own ideas.

[9] Use a closed question to explore the reviewee’s belief in their own ability. This will help identify any issues around self-belief or confidence that may be barriers to the reviewee’s development.

[10] Give direct feedback to positively reinforce your belief in the reviewee’s abilities.

[11] Use an open question to understand the reviewee’s knowledge of the PDR outcomes.

[12] Clearly set out exactly what is expected to achieve Exceptional Contribution.

[13] Use an open question to explore the reviewee’s ideas on how their performance would need to change to achieve Exceptional Contribution.

[14] Give direct feedback to positively reinforce the reviewee’s thinking process.

[15] Use an open question to encourage the reviewee to identify development opportunities.

[16] Use an open question to get the reviewee to identify what they need to do differently to make this happen.

[17] Give direct feedback on your agreement with the reviewee’s idea.

[18] Use an open question to challenge the reviewee to consider other options.

[19] Give direct feedback on your agreement with the reviewee’s idea.

[20] Use an open question to challenge the reviewee to consider other options.

[21] Use an open question to challenge the reviewee to consider options they haven’t thought of before. Encouraging the reviewee to come up with their own ideas rather than telling them what you think would work helps develop their thinking and ability to identify development opportunities for themselves.

[22] Use an open question to encourage the reviewee to think about the benefits of this approach.

[23] Clearly summarise what the discussion has covered.

[24] Use a closed question to check commitment to making these changes.

 


Example - reviewee is not achieving objectives due to workload and service demands

The conversation starts with the reviewer clearly setting out when performance had last been discussed and asking the reviewee to talk about their own performance. Barriers to delivery are then explored in more detail, and each time the reviewer encourages the reviewee to share their thoughts on their own performance before giving an opinion about it. Actions to improve performance along with objectives and a timetable for future meetings are agreed.

A: It is a few months since we last met to discuss your progress against the objectives we agreed a year ago and your overall performance.[1] Tell me how you think things have been going.[2]

B: When I get a chance to concentrate on my objectives I think I do a good job, but I always seem to be interrupted by something so it’s difficult to make as much progress as I’d like.

A: What interruptions are there?[3]

B: Well, I’m in the office quite a lot so I end up answering the phones and then have to spend time dealing with the questions people have even if they weren’t trying to get hold of me in the first place. Some days that seems to take up most of my time and it makes it very hard to plan my workload.

A: How do you feel about that?[4]

B: Frustrated. It feels like I’m constantly fire-fighting, and I often end up doing things that someone else would have been able to do if they had been there to answer the phone.

A: How have you tried to manage that?[5]

B: I try to answer people’s queries as quickly as I can, but sometimes I need to speak to someone else to get more information and it can take quite a while to get hold of them and then get back in touch with the person who called.

A: When you think about the questions you are asked, how many of them need an urgent response?[6]

B: Probably not that many.

A: So how do you prioritise them?[7]

B: I don’t. I just get on with trying to respond to each phone call as it happens.

A: What else could you do?[8]

B: I suppose I could think about whether the person really needed an answer straight away or if it could wait. Then I could plan time to work on dealing with the questions and be able to get on with the other things I needed to do the rest of the day.

A: Are you able to do that?[9]

B: Yes. I think I’ve got a good idea about what needs an immediate response and I can always ask the person on the phone what their deadline is for getting a response. That would also help me to manage their expectations and I’d feel less pressure to try to sort things out immediately.

A: So will you do that?[10]

B: Yes. I think that will really help.

A: What else might help?[11]

B: I’m not sure. I know it’s important that we answer questions from our students and colleagues so I don’t want to stop answering the phones even when I’m busy with other things.

A: You mentioned that you often end up answering questions that were for other people. [12] Do you think you are always the best person to answer the questions just because you’ve taken the phone call?[13]

B: Not really. I know a lot about the work of this School but it would be more appropriate for someone else to answer some of the queries because they’ll have the most up to date information for the more complex queries.

A: What stops you getting the right person to deal with the call?[14]

B: I don’t know. I suppose I don’t want to let people down and I’d be worried the person I passed it to might not deal with it.

A: How could you make sure that didn’t happen?[15]

B: I could pass on the name and contact details of the person who was going to respond to them, so that if they didn’t hear anything in a reasonable timescale they’d know who to call.

A: Do you think that would work?[16]

B: Yes, I do. I often get the answer to a question for someone and then they ask a follow up question I can’t answer and I have to go round the loop again, and taking that approach would help cut out the time I spend doing this.

A: Will you do that?[17]

B: Yes, I will.

A: Great. I’m interested in finding out how you get on. I’d also like you to come and speak to me if you feel you aren’t able to manage your workload because of interruptions, and we can look at ways of making things better. Will you do that?[18]

B: Yes. I think what we’ve discussed will help a lot, but if I’m still struggling I will come and talk to you.

A: Good. Let’s move on to looking at objectives for the next year, and we’ll also organise a meeting in a few weeks to talk about how you’ve been getting on with the changes you are going to make.[19]

The conversation continues until objectives have been agreed along with a timetable for future meetings.

 

[1] Clearly set out what has happened over the last year.

[2] Give an opportunity for the reviewee to say what they think first, allowing you to understand how well they understand their own performance as the starting point for the discussion. Use of the word ‘you’ focuses the conversation on only areas that are related to the reviewee.

[3] Use an open question to explore what has been happening.

[4] Encourage the reviewee to share the effect the current situation is having on them so you understand the impact.

[5] Use an open question to explore what the reviewee has tried so far.

[6] Encourage the reviewee to explore what has been happening in more detail.

[7] Use an open question to understand what is happening at present.

[8] Encourage the reviewee to come up with their own ideas about how to make things better.

[9] Explore if there are any barriers to the reviewee making this change.

[10] Use a closed question to check commitment to making this change.

[11] Use an open question to explore other options to improve the situation.

[12] Use the same language the reviewee used earlier in the discussion.

[13] Encourage the reviewee to challenge their own behaviour.

[14] Explore barriers to change.

[15] Encourage the reviewee to come up with their own ideas about how to make things better.

[16] Use a closed question to check if the reviewee thinks their idea would make a positive difference.

[17] Use a closed question to check the reviewee’s commitment to making this change.

[18] Use a closed question to ask for the reviewee’s commitment to taking action more quickly in future if they feel unable to manage their workload.

[19] Organise a follow-up meeting to check progress and quickly address any unforeseen barriers to change.


Example - 'Strong Contribution' where previous assessment was 'Outstanding'

The conversation picks up after the reviewer and reviewee have discussed performance against objectives and role, with the reviewer asking the reviewee how they feel about their level of performance. The reviewee is asked to rate their performance against the four performance outcomes, and the reviewer discusses this  until agreement is reached. The discussion also covers the requirement to have evidence to support the rating. Development areas are discussed and the reviewee is encouraged to explore ways to address these.

A: So now that we’ve discussed your progress on achieving your objectives and how you are performing in your role generally, how do you feel about your performance over the last year?[1]

B: Well, as you know I’ve found the last six months or so fairly challenging. There’s been such a lot going on, but I think I’ve worked hard to keep everything on track so overall I’m happy with what I’ve delivered.

A: When we formally reviewed your performance this time a year ago we agreed that your performance was assessed as ‘Outstanding’. How would you rate it over the last year?[2]

B: I’ve probably had a lot more issues to deal with and at times that seems to have become the focus of my attention.

A: So looking at the outcomes, where would you put your performance at the moment?[3]

B: I’m not sure. I have delivered all my objectives and everything in my job description so maybe in the Exceptional Contribution bracket?

A: So that would mean having evidence that you delivered your objectives to an exceptional standard above the level expected for your role and grade and in addition may have contributed to activities outside the normal scope of your role and to an exceptional standard. Do you think that’s a fair description of your performance over the last year?[4]

B: I’d like it to be, but I think there are only a couple of areas where I’ve really met my objectives to that level.

A: We discussed at the team meeting last month the level of evidence required to support being assessed as Exceptional Contribution.[5] Do you think there is sufficient evidence from your performance over the last year to demonstrate Exceptional Contribution this year?[6]

B:. When you put it like that, probably not.

A: As we discussed everyone has to provide clear evidence of their performance to make sure that the review process is used consistently. I also agree with your comments about your own performance, and so I’d say your performance over the last year has been Strong Contribution and that there is clear evidence to support this.[7] How do you feel about that?[8]

B: Disappointed. After being classed as Outstanding last year it feels like I’m not doing a good job anymore and that feels hard.

A: I can understand that you feel disappointed, and it’s worth being clear about what Strong Contribution means. It means your overall performance in the role is strong, demonstrated through strong delivery of objectives, progress against development plans, and your performance has been within requirements of your role with some elements above expectation. How does that feel as a description of what you’ve delivered?[9]

B: Slightly better. But it still feels like a big step backwards. Last year we were looking at ways to broaden my experience in my current role and build on what I’d managed to deliver, and it feels like I haven’t really achieved that.

A: It might be helpful to remember that your PDR is a review of the last twelve months, so you have the opportunity to make sure that this time next year you feel happier with the outcome of our discussion. Let’s explore what might help you achieve that, and the evidence you could collect about the different aspects of your role.[10] You said you found the last six months fairly challenging. What’s been going on?[12]

The conversation continues until objectives have been agreed along with the type of evidence required to demonstrate performance at an Exceptional Contribution level [11] and a timetable for future meetings.

  


[1] Give an opportunity for the reviewee to say what they think first, allowing you to understand how well the reviewee understands their own performance as the starting point for the discussion. Use of the word ‘you’ focuses the conversation on only areas that are related to the reviewee.

[2] Use an open question to explore the reviewee’s opinions of their own performance in more detail.

[3] Get the reviewee to rate their own performance, allowing you to pace the next stage of the conversation.

[4] Clearly set out what would be required to achieve Exceptional Contribution.

[5] Clearly state where and when the change in requirements was discussed.

[6] Use a closed question to challenge the reviewee about whether their performance justifies Exceptional Contribution.

[7] Give direct feedback about the reviewee’s opinion of their own performance and your own rating of their performance.

[8] Ask how the reviewee feels to give them an opportunity to be honest about the impact the move from a rating of Outstanding to Strong Contribution is having on them. This will help you manage the rest of the discussion and the reviewee’s ongoing performance by letting you know if you are dealing with someone who is e.g. angry, upset, disappointed, shocked, etc.

[9] Clearly set out what Strong Contribution actually means and ask the reviewee to reflect on how that feels to ensure they have a clear perspective of how they are performing.

[10] Acknowledge that the reviewee would like the rating to be different and remind them that they can change it over the next year. Offering support to achieve that, and more information about how to evidence their performance, will help motivate them.

[11] Note that this could include: feedback from customers, quantitative evidence about effective use of systems, reduction in complaints, increase in speed of addressing complaints, evidence of delivering a higher workload with same resource, proactive improvements to departmental systems and procedures.


Example - 'Inconsistent Performance'

The discussion starts with the reviewer clearly setting out what has happened over the last year and actions that may be taken if overall performance does not improve. The reviewee is then asked to give their opinion about how they are performing and the need to deliver objectives and the overall role description is discussed. Ways to improve performance are explored and used as the basis for a development plan.

A: I know from previous discussions we’ve had during the year that there have been some areas you’ve found easier to deliver than others. We’ve also discussed that, depending on how things are going, we may put in place a performance development plan to help address the areas you’ve struggled with.[1] So, talk me through how you think you’re doing.[2]

B: Well, when I look at the objectives we agreed a year ago I think I’m doing fairly well. Of the five objectives I had, I’ve definitely completed three of them and have got most of the other two done.

A: I agree with your view of your delivery against the objectives we set.[3] What about the other aspects of your role?[4]

B: Well, I’ve really focused on meeting my objectives because I thought they were the most important thing for me to do.

A: We’ve had previous discussions about the need to deliver all the aspects set out in your role description as well as the specific objectives that we set every year, so you know your job is about more than your objectives.[5] So, how do you think you’ve performed in your role overall?[6]

B: Probably not too well. Maybe I’ve spent more time trying to get my objectives done and haven’t actually given the other things I’m meant to do as much attention.

A: I’d agree.[7] When you think about your role description what do you think you haven’t been doing well?[8]

B: Maybe the overall quality of my work hasn’t been as good as it could have been. I can think of times when I’ve made mistakes and other people in the team have noticed them, or our customers haven’t been as happy with what I’ve done as they might have been.

A: What impact do you think that has on our team?[9]

B: It probably makes people annoyed if they are trying to do a good job and I’m letting the team down. I can also see that it needs us all to be doing a good job or the reputation of our team will suffer.

A: Absolutely. What needs to happen for the quality of your work to improve?[10]

B: I think I need to pay more attention to details so that I get things right first time. That way my colleagues won’t have to fix my mistakes and it should also mean I get my work done faster because I won’t have to re-do things.

A: What has stopped you doing that so far?[11]

B: Nothing really. I think I’ve just been focused too much on my objectives and have forgotten that I actually have other things I need to do well too. Also I haven’t thought about the impact it has on the other people I work with.

A: So will you put more effort into getting things right first time?[12]

B: Yes.

A: Good. Thinking about your job description what else could you improve?[13]

B: I think I sometimes forget about being part of a team and just focus on my own objectives. Maybe I could do more around contributing to the overall team objectives.

A: I agree. It would be good to see you being more proactive in working with other people.[14] How could you do that?[15]

B: There have been a few times when I’ve not helped someone because it would have stopped me getting on with other things, but I realise I need to think about the priorities for the team as well as for my own objectives. When I know other people are under pressure I could offer to help rather than waiting to be asked.

A: Will you do that?[16]

B: Yes, I will.  

A: Great. Looking forward, let’s work together on a performance development plan that will clearly set out what you need to do to improve your overall performance.[17] We can make sure it helps you build on the strengths you already have and the ideas you’ve come up with. It is really important that we don’t lose the good aspects of your performance at the same time as we look for ways or improving the areas where you’ve struggled.[18] Are you comfortable with that as an approach?[19]

B: Yes.

A: Good. That’s been a very productive discussion and I’m confident we can work together to deliver a really positive result.[20]

The conversation continues until a performance development plan has been agreed, which will include short term objectives with clear time scales along with a timetable for future meetings.


[1] Clearly set out what has happened over the last year.

[2] Give an opportunity for the reviewee to say what they think first, allowing you to gauge how well they understand their own performance as the starting point for the discussion. Use of the word ‘you’ focuses the conversation on only areas that are related to the reviewee.

[3] Give feedback to confirm their assessment of their own performance.

[4] Give the reviewee the chance to share their views first.

[5] Clearly state what has previously been discussed.

[6] Ask the reviewee about their overall performance again as they didn’t answer the question the first time it was asked.

[7] Clearly confirm that you do not believe they have been performing well enough.

[8] Use an open question to gather more information about what the reviewee believes they could improve about their own performance.

[9] Encourage the reviewee to understand how their colleagues might be feeling to help motivate them to change.

[10] Use an open question to get the reviewee to identify what needs to change.

[11] Explore the barriers to the reviewee making this change.

[12] Use a closed question to check commitment to making this change.

[13] Use another open question to encourage the reviewee to identify other aspects of their performance that need to be improved.

[14] Clearly confirm their own assessment of their performance.

[15] Use an open question to encourage the reviewee to identify things they could do to improve their own performance.

[16] Use a closed question to check commitment to making this change.

[17] Emphasise that this is a joint approach and that the end result is improved performance.

[18] Highlight that the approach will support the reviewee to continue doing what they are already good at as well as improving the areas that have been identified during the discussion.

[19] Use a closed question to check that the reviewee accepts this approach.

[20] Re-emphasise that this is a joint approach and end this section of the conversation positively. 


Example - 'Improved Performance Required'

The conversation starts with the reviewer clearly setting out what has happened over the last year and asking the reviewee to talk about their own performance. Areas of delivery are then explored in more detail, and each time the reviewer encourages the reviewee to share their thoughts on their own performance before giving an opinion about it. The consequences of continuing non-delivery are clearly set out, and the reviewer ensures the reviewee fully understands these. A plan to address the non-delivery is agreed, with an emphasis on joint working, short-term objectives and a clearly set out follow up to this meeting.

A: When we met and discussed your performance a year ago we agreed that there were a number of areas where improvement was required, and since then we have met monthly to talk about how you are getting on with delivering your objectives against the performance development plan we put in place. We’ve also discussed that if your performance doesn’t improve this may result in us moving to a formal competency procedure.[1] Reflecting on your performance over the last year, how do you think you are doing?[2]

B: Fine. I’ve definitely got better at managing my time, which is one of the areas we discussed.

A: I agree that you have worked on improving your time management and prioritisation of tasks and that it’s now a lot better than it was.[3] However, that was just one of a number of areas we discussed where improvements were required, and in particular we’ve spent time looking at your performance standards and how you are delivering these.[4] How have they been going?[5]

B: Just the same really. I’m working on them.

A: That’s not good enough. You know from our previous review meetings that I don’t believe your performance has improved enough and that it needs to improve more and be maintained. We’ve looked at a number of different ways in which you could improve your performance, and while you say you are working on them you haven’t made the changes we agreed.[6] I’m interested in what’s stopping you doing that?[7]

B: I don’t know. Nothing I suppose.

A: So what do you need to do to improve your performance?[8]

B: From what we’ve discussed before I think I still need to work on the accuracy of my data entry, improve my relationships with people who I work with in the Service, and taking responsibility for making the decisions required to do my job.

A: I still believe you are capable of meeting the required standard and from what you’re saying you understand what you need to do to achieve that. Is that the case?[9] 

B: Yes.

A: And you understand that we will be putting in place a performance improvement plan and that unless your performance improves there will be serious consequences for you?[10]

B: Yes.

A: Ok. So we still have time to turn this round, but it does mean you being really committed to making a number of positive changes to the way you do your job over the next few weeks and months.[11] Are you prepared to do that?[12]

B: Yes.

A: Great. So, let’s agree some very clear short term actions for you so you know exactly what is expected and it will be clear to both of us when you are achieving them.[13] We’ll be working closely to make sure you get there.[14] I’d like us to meet weekly for the next month, then if things are going well we can review that and agree some slightly longer-term objectives and the frequency of future meetings.[15] And if your performance isn’t improving then I will have to put in place more formal reviews possibly leading to disciplinary action in line with the disciplinary procedures. Are you clear about that?[16]

B: Yes.

A: Good.  So  we’ve discussed what needs to be done and that includes keeping me up to date with your progress and any difficulties you are encountering as soon as possible. What do you need from me to make this work?[17]

The conversation continues until a performance improvement plan containing short term actions with clear time scales have been agreed along with a timetable for future meetings.

 


[1] Clearly set out exactly what has happened over the last year.

[2] Gives an opportunity for the reviewee to say what they think first, allowing you to understand how well the member of staff understands their own performance as the starting point for the discussion. Use of the word ‘you’ focuses the conversation on only areas that are related to the reviewee.

[3] Give feedback to show that change in performance has been noticed.

[4] Restate what has been discussed previously.

[5] Give another opportunity for the reviewee to share how they think they are performing.

[6] Restate what has been discussed previously, reiterating the exact words used by the reviewee.

[7] Use an open question to encourage the reviewee to share what their problems are with delivering.

[8] Get the reviewee to say exactly what they think they need to do, which will let you know if they understand what is required or not.

[9] Clearly state your support for the reviewee and check their understanding of what is expected.

[10] Check the reviewee understands the seriousness of their position.

[11] Reiterate that immediate and significant change is required, using the word ‘we’ to emphasise that it will be a joint approach.

[12] Check buy-in.

[13] Clearly set out exactly what is going to happen in the short term. The phrase ‘both of us’ shows this is not just about the reviewee.

[14] Highlight support and involvement.

[15] Map out the next steps so that the reviewee understands the process.

[16] Clearly set out what will happen if performance doesn’t improve and check the reviewee understands this.

[17] Give an opportunity for the reviewee to ask for any additional support they may need. This also ensures they have a chance to highlight any other issues impacting on performance that they haven’t already raised.


Example - Setting performance / development objectives (Researchers)

The past year’s performance and development activities have been discussed and it has been agreed that the reviewee’s research has been productive, they have published papers in some good journals and presented at some conferences.  In addition, the reviewee has been working in collaboration with some other groups at the University.  The conversation now turns to  future  objectives and development with practical, on the job options explored.

A:  We’ve had regular discussions since your last performance development review, and talked about how you are interested in working towards applying for lectureship positions in the future. What more can you tell me about that?[1]

B: I would like to put myself in a position to realistically achieve a fellowship or lectureship by the end of this contract.

A: Do you believe you can do that?[2]

B: Yes, I think so. I’ve enjoyed being challenged over the last couple of years and think I’ve grown a lot, and I’m really keen to build on that and find other ways I can develop. My research is going well and I can see how I can develop it in some interesting ways.

A: I believe you can do that too, so let’s have a look at what you’ll need to do to get there.[3]

B: Well, whilst I think I am performing well at the actual research work I have not made much progress in developing my profile and esteem indicators.  For example, one thing I’ve not done is get involved in refereeing for journals, and I’d really like to do that. I think I’ve got a good enough publishing record myself that I should be able to get one or two journals to involve me as a peer reviewer.

A: I agree that would be good to do.[4] What do you need to do to make that happen?[5]

B: One of the other senior post docs I know has just started peer reviewing so I could also ask them how they went about it. Then I’d feel more confident about getting in touch with the editors of a couple of the journals I have published in to see if they can include me as a reviewer.

A: Great. When will you do that?[6]

B: I’ll speak to the other senior post doc this week and get in touch with the two journals I’m thinking about this month.

A: Great. What else could you do?[7]

B: I’m interested in developing more collaborations, and being able to do that with groups at other universities would really help me develop my network and hopefully give me another different perspective on my research.

A: How could you do that?[8]

B: I think I’d like to speak to one of the professors in the department who has lots of really productive collaborations to see if they have any ideas of where might be a good starting point. Then I can do a bit of research myself and decide who to approach first. I will probably also have to agree with my PI that I can start to develop more independent collaborations.

A: What do you think your first action should be?[9]

B: I think discussing more independent collaborations with my PI would be this first step. Hopefully they will be supportive as I have already helped develop some internal collaborations which have led to good papers. My PI is away at the minute but I will raise this the next time we meet, which is likely to be in a few weeks.

A: And what about learning more about the collaborative process?[10]

B: Well, I can speak to the professor after I’ve had the discussion with my PI and see if they would be willing to act as an informal mentor. Then I can get on with doing some more research on the different groups I’m interested in working with. I think I’d like to aim for being in a position to approach an external group within the next two months, and to be ready with a well thought -out proposal of how the collaboration could be of mutual benefit.

A: That sounds like a good plan.[11] What else might you do to start developing your research and getting the experience you’ll need in the future?[12]

B: I suppose a big thing is being able to develop my own research group in the future, and that means getting funding. I haven’t ever applied for funding though, so I’m not really sure how to go about that.

A: How could you find out?[13]

B: I know that there are courses run on funding through the central researcher development programme and at a college level. Attending one of these might be a good starting point and then I could look for a route to be supported at a local level.

A: That sounds good.[14] When will you do that?[15]

B: I will get signed up for a course in the next two weeks. Then I can have a good think about what I need to do to develop a funding application and see I there is any help I need for doing that.

A: Great. Doing that will really help you in the future as well as now.[16] A: When you think about your role in this research group, how would you describe it?[17]

B: I think I do what I’m asked to but I’m probably not very proactive at looking for things I can do.

A: How could you change that?[18]

B: Maybe offering to organise the seminars we have or getting involved in the development of better data management for the group. I know that the funders are becoming more directive about how researchers should do this. I’ve also never really got involved with any of the research staff committees there are and that might be a good way of starting to take on more responsibility.

A: I agree. Being proactive is important.[19] Will you do that?[20]

B: Yes.

A: Great. So, we’ve covered quite a few areas where you can stretch yourself: developing external collaborations, applying for funding, refereeing for journals and getting more involved in the leadership of this group.[21] Is there anything else you’d like to cover?[22]

B: No, I’m really happy with what we’ve discussed and am looking forward to seeing what I can make happen over the next few months.

A: Excellent. I’d like us to meet again in a month to see how you’ve been getting on and check if there is anything that has come up where you feel you could do with some more support.[23] Are you happy with that as a plan?[24]

B: Yes, that sounds good.

The conversation continues to agree objectives and a timetable for future meetings. There is discussion regarding what development support might be needed.

 


 [1] Use an open question to encourage the reviewee to share their ideas.

[2] Use a closed question to explore the reviewee’s belief in their own ability. This will help identify any issues around self-belief or confidence that may be barriers to the reviewee’s development.

[3] Give direct feedback to positively reinforce your belief in the reviewee’s abilities.

[4] Give direct feedback to positively reinforce the reviewee’s thinking process.

[5] Use an open question to encourage the reviewee to identify development opportunities.

[6] Use a closed question to get the reviewee to commit to timescales for the actions.

[7] Use an open question to challenge the reviewee to consider other options.

[8] Use an open question to encourage the reviewee to identify development opportunities.

[9] Use an open question to get the reviewee to think through the best sequence of events.

[10] Use an open question to get the reviewee to identify the actions they will take.

[11] Give direct feedback to positively reinforce the reviewee’s thinking process.

[12] Use an open question to challenge the reviewee to consider other options.

[13] Use an open question to encourage the reviewee to share their own ideas.

[14] Give direct feedback to positively reinforce the reviewee’s thinking process.

[15] Use a closed question to get the reviewee to commit to timescales for the actions.

[16] Give direct feedback to positively reinforce the reviewee’s thinking process.

[17] Use an open question to get the reviewee to start exploring a new development area.

[18] Use an open question to challenge the reviewee to consider options they haven’t thought of before. Encouraging the reviewee to come up with their own ideas rather than telling them what you think would work helps develop their thinking and ability to identify development opportunities for themselves.

[19] Give direct feedback to positively reinforce the reviewee’s thinking process.

[20] Use a closed question to check commitment to taking these actions.

[21] Clearly summarise what the discussion has covered.

[22] Use a closed question to check if the reviewee is comfortable with what has been discussed.

[23] Clearly set out what is going to happen in the short term.

[24] Use a closed question to check if the reviewee is comfortable with the proposed plan.


Example - 'Inconsistent Performance' (Researchers)

The discussion starts with the reviewer clearly setting out what has happened over the last year and actions that may be taken if overall performance does not improve. The reviewee is then asked to give their opinion about how they are performing and the need to deliver objectives and the overall role description is discussed. Ways to improve performance are explored and used as the basis for a Performance Development Plan.

A: I know from previous discussions we’ve had during the year that there have been some areas you’ve found easier to deliver than others. We’ve also discussed that, depending on how things are going, we may put in place a Performance Development Plan to help address the areas you’ve struggled with.[1] So, talk me through how you think you’re doing.[2]

B: Well, I think my teaching is going really well, and I’m very pleased with the feedback I’ve had from the students on my courses. The exam results are looking good too, and I’ve been asked to pick up some extra teaching next year which I’m really looking forward to doing.

A: You have done a good job on your teaching and there is a lot of evidence to support that. I agree that you should be pleased with what you’ve achieved in this area,[3] and I also know from our previous discussions that you are aware of the possible impact spending too much time on your teaching might have on other areas of your role.[4] So, how are you performing with the other aspects of your role?[5]

B: If I’m honest I probably haven’t put as much effort into developing my research as I’ve been more focused on teaching. But my own research is going fine, and I think it won’t be long until I start getting some good results.

A: I’d agree that your research has taken second place to your teaching.[6] We’ve had previous discussions about the need to deliver the research side of your role as well as good teaching results, so you know that to do your job well you have to be putting effort into both these areas.[7] We’ve also discussed the different areas that are important for your research and how you compare to the Russell Group medians for these.[8] So, when you think about the research side of your role what do you think you haven’t been doing as well as you need to?[9]

B: Well, I haven’t got any new PhD students to supervise this year, and although the research which I can do independently is going well and I’m developing good internal collaborations maybe I could be doing more to extend this more widely. 

A: What else is important?[10]

B: There are a number of research areas which I’m interested in but haven’t pursued as I’d need funding to do this. I have been thinking about where I might apply to for funding, but I haven’t really done very much about actually writing funding applications.

A: We’ve discussed applying for funding before.   [11] What has stopped you putting in funding applications?[12]

B: I’ve started writing a few but they aren’t finished. The last time I applied for funding I wasn’t successful and I suppose I can’t see the point of doing all that work if it doesn’t get me anywhere.

A: If you don’t get funding what will happen?[13]

B: Well, I won’t be able to do my own research, and I won’t be able to attract PhD students to work with me. That will also have an impact on getting the results I need to publish papers in good journals and in being able to present at conferences and develop more collaborations.

A: You’re right, so it really is fundamental to you being able to deliver the research side of your role.[14]

A: You said that the last time you applied for funding you weren’t successful.[15] How confident are you about writing funding applications?[16]

B: I’ve actually had my last few funding applications rejected and I’m not feeling confident at all. It is one of the things that is putting me off as I really don’t know what I could do better.  

A: What do you think would help?[17]

B: Maybe if I could work with someone who has more experience that would help. I still think I’ve got a lot to learn and some of my colleagues seem to do a lot better then me at getting funding.

A: It’s certainly worth thinking about who you know who you feel does a really good job in this area.[18] How do you think you could learn from them?[19]

B: Well, developing a joint funding application would be great, but if that isn’t possible maybe I could ask them to review what I’ve done and get some feedback from them.

A: That sounds good.[20] You said that you had started writing a few applications but they weren’t finished.[21] Is there one of these which you’d find useful to focus on developing so you could submit it?[22]

B: I guess so, but I am not sure how to select which application to focus on. Perhaps I could chat to one of the people I know who is more successful at getting funding and ask them for some advice about prioritising funding applications. Once I’ve decided what to work on first I can get some feedback on what I’ve done and a bit of help to get an application submitted.

A: Will you do that?[23]

B: Yes. I can think of someone I’d like to work with on that and I’ll see them later this week so I’ll ask them about it then.

A: Great. I’ll look forward to hearing how that goes.[24] Another area we’ve discussed is the need to improve your publication record.[25] What might you do to increase the number of papers you have published in four star journals?[26]

B: It’s a bit like the funding side of things. I have submitted papers to some good journals but they have been rejected, and although I’ve tried my best to develop them based on the feedback I’ve had I still don’t seem to be getting anywhere.

A: What else might help?[27]

B: Well, just like the funding applications maybe I could get more help from other people in the department. There is one of the senior lecturers who has been doing a great job of having papers published in the journals I’ve been targeting, so I could ask them for some help.

A: Will you do that?[28]

B: Yes, I will. I have a paper I’ve done some work on since I first submitted it and I’d like to have another shot at getting it published, so I’ve got something I could get feedback on straight away. I’ll send it to the person I’m thinking of see what I can organise.

A: When will you do that?[29]

B: I’ll do it later today. It will only take me a few minutes and I know they are in work today so hopefully I’ll get a response fairly quickly.

A: Good. Looking forward, let’s work together on a Performance Development Plan that will clearly set out what you need to do to improve your overall performance.[30] We can make sure it helps you build on the strengths you already have and the ideas you’ve come up with. It is really important that we don’t lose the good aspects of your performance at the same time as we look for ways for improving the areas where you’ve struggled.[31] Are you comfortable with that as an approach?[32]

B: Yes.

A: Good. That’s been a very productive discussion and I’m confident we can work together to deliver a really positive result.[33]

The conversation continues until a Performance Development Plan has been agreed, which will include short term objectives with clear time scales along with a timetable for future meetings.

 


[1] Clearly set out what has happened over the last year.

[2] Give an opportunity for the reviewee to say what they think first, allowing you to gauge how well they understand their own performance as the starting point for the discussion. Use of the word ‘you’ focuses the conversation on only areas that are related to the reviewee.

[3] Give feedback to confirm their assessment of their own performance.

[4] Clearly set out that doing lots in one area does not compensate for doing less in others. It is worth noting that the reviewee may have taken on extra duties in an area where they are performing well in order to divert attention from areas where there performance is not as good, but the only way to find out if this is the case is to ask the reviewee.

[5] Give the reviewee the chance to share their views first.

[6] Clearly confirm that you do not believe they have been performing well enough.

[7] Clearly state what has previously been discussed.

[8] Clearly refer to the benchmark you have discussed previously. Note that it is useful to be able to highlight how an individual is performing against expectations in comparison to the wider research community, and whilst this data can be argued with it is much less subjective than one person’s opinion and provides a good initial benchmark.

[9] Use an open question to gather information about what the reviewee believes they could improve about their own performance.

[10] Use an open question to gather more information about what the reviewee believes they could improve about their own performance.

[11] Clearly state what has previously been discussed.

[12] Use an open question to explore the barriers to the reviewee making this change.

[13] Encourage the reviewee to more fully understand the impact of their actions.

[14] Clearly confirm their own assessment of the impact of not getting funding.

[15] Use the precise language used by the reviewee to describe what was happening.

[16] Use an open question to explore the barriers to the reviewee improving their performance.

[17] Use an open question to explore the barriers to the reviewee actually making this change.

[18] Give direct feedback to positively reinforce the reviewee’s thinking process.

[19] Use an open question to encourage the reviewee to identify development opportunities.

[20] Give direct feedback to positively reinforce the reviewee’s thinking process.

[21] Use the precise language used by the reviewee earlier in the discussion. Linking back to this previous comment is important as it provides opportunities to find other ways for the reviewee to improve their performance.

[22] Use a closed question to focus the reviewee on taking action.

[23] Use a closed question to check the reviewee’s commitment to taking this action.

[24] Give direct feedback to positively reinforce the reviewee’s thinking process, and to highlighting that you will follow up the actions that have been agreed.

[25] Clearly state what has previously been discussed.

[26] Use an open question to gather information about what the reviewee believes they could improve about their own performance.

[27] Use an open question to challenge the reviewee to consider other options.

[28] Use a closed question to check the reviewee’s commitment to taking this action.

[29] Use a closed question to get the reviewee to commit to timescales for the actions.

[30] Emphasise that this is a joint approach and that the end result is improved performance.

[31] Highlight that the approach will support the reviewee to continue doing what they are already good at as well as improving the areas that have been identified during the discussion.

[32] Use a closed question to check that the reviewee accepts this approach.

[33] Re-emphasise that this is a joint approach and end this section of the conversation positively.