PDS Process and Meeting

What is meant by a "quality conversation"?

A quality conversation is best described as one where both parties are able to contribute their perspective on the staff member’s performance both past, present and future. This includes achievements and challenges over the last 12 months and priorities, goals and challenges for the next 12 months. Specific examples should be provided, and feedback should focus on behavioural skills and achievements, as well as technical – that is, how the staff member does their work, not just what they get done.

What is the timing for the PDS meetings?

This varies across the University but should occur around the Faculty and work unit’s normal key strategy, planning and business cycles, and normally occurs at the same time each year. Ask your supervisor, or your HR Client Services Team about when PDS meetings normally occur in your work area.

Should the meeting cover Achievements and Priorities, as well as Career Planning and Development?

There is no hard and fast rule around this. The forms have been created to assist in guiding flexible dialogue that is not restricted by policy and procedure. It is up to the reviewer and staff member whether they prefer to cover both forms in one meeting, or have two separate discussions.
If you do have two meetings, it does not mean that you must only talk about performance in one meeting and development in the next. Often the discussion will cross over, with natural overlap between the two topics, and the more flexible format is designed to accommodate this.

If having two meetings, how far apart should they be?

There is a natural overlap between the two meetings and hence it is recommended that a good interim gap could be 2 – 4 weeks. The benefit of separate discussions is that it can allow time for agreed actions to occur such as considering development needs and researching development options available.

Should we meet more than once a year?

While a formal meeting once a year is essential, reviewers are encouraged to meet with their staff more regularly throughout the year for formal and informal conversations to ensure that feedback, or information critical to performance, is not limited to a once a year meeting. This consistent approach will enhance the level of a quality conversation and reduce the likelihood of surprises and difficult conversations.

What should a staff member do to prepare for a PDS meeting?

Prior to the PDS meeting, it is recommended that staff members read the Performance Development @ UNSW Reviewee’s (Staff) Resource Book (available on myUNSW) to familiarise themselves with the PDS process and the key steps to effectively prepare for a quality performance development conversation.
It is recommended that both forms (Achievements and Priorities & Career Planning and Development) are completed by the staff member and forwarded to their Reviewer in advance of the PDS meeting.

What should a reviewer do to prepare for a PDS meeting?

It is essential that a Reviewer is fully conversant and confident with the PDS process to ensure the effectiveness of the Scheme; and skilled in the ability to conduct a quality conversation with their staff member which includes the ability to provide constructive feedback and manage staff expectations.
The Performance Development @ UNSW Reviewer’s Resource Book (available on myUNSW) provides detailed information on the key preparation steps a Reviewer should undertake to thoroughly prepare for a PDS meeting. Your HR Manager and People and Culture Development Consultant are also available for coaching and support.

My supervisor has assigned a reviewer to conduct my PDS meeting - what does this mean?

It is appropriate where a supervisor has a large number of direct reports, or has limited day to day contact with the staff member, that an alternative reviewer be nominated. It is important of course that the reviewer has a good understanding of your role and performance and is able to provide you with constructive feedback.

Is rating compulsory?

Yes, it is. Rating is a key part of the new PDS forms, however the reviewer’s rating should normally be completed after the initial discussion about achievements and priorities. If you have any concerns about the rating process, please contact your HR Client Services Team Member.

What happens if a staff member disagrees with a reviewer's rating of their performance?

Where a staff member has a significant disagreement with the Reviewer’s assessment of their performance, both parties should take the time to fully reflect on why there may be differences in opinion and discuss the reasons for their point of view. Where significant disagreement remains, either the staff member or the Reviewer may refer the matter to the relevant senior manager in the School/work unit for resolution.

Does the question on leadership contribution apply to non-managers?

Yes, all staff play a leadership role in some way or another. Be it by managing staff, projects, deadlines and emerging/changing priorities. For example, you may have led a project in your work unit, or led the improvement in a work process. Playing a leadership role also involves demonstrating the ‘guiding principles’ outlined in the University’s B2B: Strategic Intent, through your day to day work.

How do I assess leadership contribution for non-managers?

In collaboration and in consultation with your staff member. In the first instance, let your staff member provide their idea of their leadership contribution to you for your consideration, discussion and input.

What happens if I don't want to participate in the PDS meeting?

It is the University’s expectation that all staff members participate in a PDS meeting at least once per year.
Ask yourself why you don't want to participate. Identify your reasons for concern and check those concerns with a colleague or your supervisor, or a person that you trust.

What happens if a staff member refuses to participate in a PDS meeting?

As a supervisor your responsibility is, in the first instance, to try and work through the reasons the staff member does not want to participate. Your Human Resources Manager or Consultant is available to guide and advise you if this issue should occur.

What happens if my supervisor and I don't get on very well?

Sometimes the reasons why staff and supervisors don't get on is that they don't have performance conversations on a regular basis and haven't built a working relationship where trust and communication are well established. The PDS meeting is an opportunity to build or rebuild the working relationship through applying best practice people management practices.

Which University staff need to participate in the PDS?

All Professional staff (including part time and fixed term staff) need to participate in the PDS.
For staff who are on probation at the time the PDS is undertaken in their work area, their supervisor will complete the Probation form rather than the PDS form. However, they should still familiarise themselves with the PDS process, and discuss goals and development needs that extend beyond the probation period.

What about Academic Staff?

It is the University’s expectation that all staff participate in a performance review meeting at least once per year.
Each Faculty has its own policy and procedure relating to academic performance reviews, so please contact your Head of School or Centre Director for information about the policy relevant to you.

What are the benefits of participating in the PDS?

The PDS process will:
  • clarify expectations of performance and behaviour
  • provide constructive feedback about a staff member's performance
  • provide an opportunity for achievements to be recognised
  • recognise performance strengths and identify areas for development
  • provide an opportunity to plan professional development and support for career development through access to appropriate professional development activities.

What should I do if I have concerns regarding unsatisfactory performance of a staff member?

It is important to provide honest and accurate feedback about the person’s performance. Hence, if there are aspects of the person’s performance that could be improved, you should let them know so that they can focus on developing and improving in these areas.
This process is not, however, intended to be a ‘performance management’ or disciplinary process. The provisions for managing unsatisfactory performance are contained in Clause 34.0 of the UNSW (Professional Staff) Enterprise Agreement 2010. If you feel that a person’s performance is unsatisfactory, contact your HR Client Services Team, who will guide you through these provisions.
Importantly, you should not wait for the PDS meeting to provide feedback around unsatisfactory performance. The PDS meeting should not contain surprises for the employee and it is likely that they will be alarmed if this is the first time they have heard that they are performing unsatisfactorily. Nevertheless, you should not give a person a good/satisfactory performance review if you are concerned that they are not performing satisfactorily but are unsure about the EBA process. If in doubt, contact your HR Client Services Team.

Is a staff member required to regularly update their achievements and contributions throughout the year?

No. However, staff members are strongly encouraged to regularly document their contributions and achievements. This assists the staff member to recall all of their achievements and contributions throughout the year and avoid focusing only on recent achievements in the PDS meeting.