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Annex 5: Principle 3: Mutuality of employee and management ownership of performance and awareness of what drives employee motivation towards high performance

Mutuality

Effective performance management and high performance can be achieved where both managers and employees are accountable and have mutual ownership over the delivery of performance expectations. Our study found that in some agencies, manager-employee relationships were not being managed in a way that would support mutuality. Employees often perceived performance management as something that was ‘done to them’. The focus upon compliance led many employees to perceive performance management as a reporting process that resembled a school report card, or as a punitive tool used to critique their performance.

Where mutuality is evident, however, both managers and employees identify goals; expectations of both employees and managers for the achievement of these goals(for example, behaviour should be consistent with the APS Values); and developmental requirements. The management of performance is considered to be a two-way partnership and process whereby both parties provide one another with ongoing honest and open feedback. Both parties need to give and receive feedback in a constructive manner. Two aspects are of importance here: firstly, employee ownership and secondly, managerial accountability.

Employee ownership: Employees need to be encouraged to actively participate in the management of their own performance and their own career development. This involves employees being encouraged to be proactive in initiating conversations and meetings with their manager / supervisor; identifying and establishing performance goals, including aspirational goals; seeking out development opportunities; identifying when they require assistance with achieving their goals; requesting feedback and providing their manager / supervisor with feedback regarding how they are performing; and participating in the evaluation of their own performance, for example through the completion of a self-assessment prior to the formal evaluation with their manager.

Managerial accountability: Managers need to be accountable for managing their employees, ensuring they are adequately supported to enhance performance and to achieve their goals. Mutuality requires managers to be willing and capable of providing constructive feedback on an ongoing basis. They must also take responsibility for their role in preventing underperformance through addressing performance issues and conducting potentially difficult conversations in a timely manner.

When mutuality is evident, both managers and employees are more likely to demonstrate increased commitment and willingness to perform. Discrepancies between employee and management expectations can also be minimised through the clear articulation of performance, behavioural and role expectations.

Motivation

Mutuality can be achieved through recognising the differing motivations of those involved in organisations. Our research showed that employees within the public service are motivated by a broad range of factors. For many employees, opportunities to develop their competencies, skills and knowledge was of critical importance, as was the ability to make a difference and to be recognised for their contributions.

Making a difference

Mutuality can be achieved through recognising the differing motivations of those involved in organisations. Our research showed that employees within the public service are motivated by a broad range of factors. For many employees, opportunities to develop their competencies, skills and knowledge was of critical importance, as was the ability to make a difference and to be recognised for their contributions.

Our research demonstrated that the desire to make a difference was a powerful motivator for employees. The need to engage in meaningful work and a sense of making a contribution to the group, organisation and society was central. Critical to employee motivation was an understanding of their work, why it was important and how it linked with and made a difference to other areas (e.g. group, organisation and governmental goals, and the public). This emphasises the importance of the governance role of providing a clear mission / vision / goals that are communicated and cascaded downwards so that employees understand their contribution to organisational goals and objectives.

Recognition

Recognition and acknowledgement of high performance is another important motivator. Many participants, however, commented that the APS does not adequately acknowledge and recognise their performance or willingness to exert discretionary effort. This results in a mismatch between employee motivation and the types of rewards used. For example, many participants noted that promised development opportunities were not always delivered and that praise was underutilised as a form of recognition.

Summary

The principle of ‘mutuality and motivation’ is important for the realisation of performance improvement. Many participants, however, described the performance management process as something that was ‘done to them’. This is a long way from a mutually negotiated process. By involving employees more in performance management, organisations can empower employees to take ownership over their performance, to develop mutually agreed goals with their supervisor, and to seek out opportunities for development. A mutually negotiated process will ensure that managers have a better understanding of the motivations of their employees and are more likely to make use of more appropriate recognition rewards.