Frequently Asked Questions

1. Does everyone go through the same process?

Yes, everyone, including the Clerk/Chief Executive (although the arrangements for probationers are slightly different).

2. When does the appraisal year start and finish?

The appraisal year runs from 1 April to 31 March. Your end-year review will be carried out soon after 1 April and the form returned through your Head of Office/Group to the Human Resources Office by 31 May.

3. What forms need to be completed during the process and what is it for?

The Performance Appraisal form provides the formal written record of your performance assessments on the previous year’s work.

4. Are any forms required for the in-year review?

Not formally, but the Reporting Officer and job holder should record what was discussed at the in-year review and confirm to their Head of Office/Group that the in-year review has been carried out. You may wish to record the in-year review on the appraisal form itself to assist in the end of year appraisal. Anything that requires attention during the second period of the reporting year should be recorded as an objective to be assessed at the end-year review.

5. Why don’t we have a job description?

This performance management system is a developmental system and is designed to have the flexibility in order to cope with organisational change. Instead of a job description (which can be overly prescriptive) we have a job role, which is a brief summary explaining what we have been employed to do. The objectives section goes into more detail about what we will require to do over the coming year to fulfil that role. It is unlikely that your job role will change from year to year unless the job has been redefined (or of course, if you move to another job) but it is highly likely that at least some of your objectives will change from one year to the next.

6. How many objectives and skills and behaviours should I have and how should they be selected?

You should have a maximum of 10 objectives and between 4 and 6 skills and behaviours. At the start of the appraisal year you and your Reporting Officer should agree what these will be although there will be three mandatory objectives and one mandatory skill/behaviour for all staff across the organisation.

In order to place sufficient emphasis on our priorities as an organisation it is a requirement that you must have an objective relating to each of Equalities, Environmental Management and Health and Safety. The remaining (up to) seven objectives should be agreed with your Reporting Officer and should be consistent with the operational plan for your business area. Examples of objectives relating to the three mandatory areas can be found as Annexes to the Job Role and Objectives section of this guidance but these are only examples and should be tailored to suit your specific role. The Equalities Manager, Environmental Performance Manager and the Health and Safety Advisor will be happy to advise you on your mandatory objectives relating to their specific area of expertise to ensure that these objectives are SMART, relevant and appropriate to your role.

All staff will be appraised against between four and six skills and behaviours. Given the priority attached to meeting Members’ needs, Parliamentary and Political Awareness will be compulsory for all staff. There will also be an expectation that staff will be appraised against one of the following skills/behaviours: Leadership, Staff Management and Teamwork and Collaborative Working. Staff not appraised against one of these will be treated on a “by exception” basis and will require the agreement of their Group Head in consultation with their HR Officer. The remaining skills and behaviours should be chosen to reflect the priorities of the role over the coming year and while consistency should generally be maintained where jobs are identical, emphasis on those on which to focus may vary depending on individual requirements. The HR Officer for the business area will provide advice to the Head of Office/Group to ensure a consistent and fair approach and will work with individual business areas to advise on the most appropriate number and allocation of skills and behaviours for any given post.

7. What sort of evidence should I bring to the appraisal meeting?

There is no need to bring a large volume of supporting materials to the meeting. You should be able to demonstrate the appropriate level of skill or behaviour by providing a few examples of competent skill/effective behaviour from the previous year in order to illustrate your point. It will therefore be helpful for you to note such examples during the course of the reporting year.

If you are a Reporting Officer and you feel that the job holder has not been able consistently to demonstrate the appropriate level of skill or behaviour, you should be able to provide evidence of this against the agreed level for that skill or behaviour. For this reason, it will be helpful for you to take a note of any such examples if they occur during the reporting year. If the job holder is able to demonstrate the appropriate level of skill or behaviour, you should also be prepared to give positive examples and should therefore also take a note of these throughout the year.

As far as your objectives are concerned, all that is required is for you to demonstrate that they have been achieved successfully by their deadlines or if not, give a brief explanation why they have not been achieved. There is no need to provide the same level of evidence required for your skills and behaviours. What is required in the comments column is a short description of what you achieved and by when, for example if one of your objectives was to produce a new policy by x date, you need only confirm on the form that the policy was produced and is now in place, or that the policy was produced by the given date but has not yet been published because………… Similarly, if an objective has not been successfully achieved all that is required is a brief explanation of why this was the case, for example, “new policy was not successfully completed by x date as I had to devote the majority of my time to supporting xxxx project instead”. As you should be regularly updating your Reporting Officer on progress against your objectives, not only at your in-year review but also throughout the year, it should not come as a surprise to him or her if you have failed to achieve a set objective for a specific and justifiable reason. You will also have had the opportunity to revise your objectives (with the agreement of your Reporting Officer) as your work has progressed throughout the year and priorities and deadlines may have changed so in most cases, they will have been adjusted to take account of such changes meaning that the majority of them should have been realistically achievable. Your Reporting Officer will know whether or not the objectives have been met since he or she will have been monitoring your progress against them during the course of the year. The main evidence we require falls under the skills and behaviours section which relates to how you have achieved your objectives. There is no need for duplication of this evidence under your objectives. For this reason, the number of characters that can be entered in each box against a specific objective is limited to 500 which will give you enough space to provide a brief description as outlined above.

8. How can I collect evidence?

As mentioned in question number 6, you should take a note of your successes throughout the year, for example if you have been involved in a restructuring or a change to working practices and you look for positive ways to ensure the change runs smoothly or is managed effectively this can demonstrate your aptitude against the Improvement, Innovation and Change skill/behaviour. Another example could be where your active participation in a discussion about the provision of a service rather than sitting in silence and undermining any decision that arose from the discussion might demonstrate your commitment to ensuring that a high quality service is provided. The purpose of such evidence would be to inform or remind your Reporting Officer about them during your end-year discussion. For ease, you may wish to note such examples on your appraisal form during the course of the year.

9. How many examples do I need to give and how detailed should they be?

There is no set number of examples that should be given although in general, two or three will suffice. The purpose of this section of the form is not for you to write large amounts of text explaining in detail everything that you have done during the last year but to allow you to note down a few examples which will give a flavour of the discussion that has taken place between you and your Reporting Officer. As described above, your Reporting Officer should have a good idea of your performance against each selected skill and behaviour throughout the year. He or she will have taken notes of examples and discussed them with you at regular intervals, not least at your in-year review and the appraisal form is not intended to be a full record of the discussion held at the end-year review, rather a note of the examples discussed.

10. How do I decide where to put examples/evidence?

You may find that you wish to use the same example to demonstrate your aptitude against more than one skill or behaviour. For example where you are able to demonstrate that you have helped out a colleague during a difficult time, this may demonstrate your skills under Teamwork and Collaborative Working as well as showing how your Communication and Interpersonal and Influencing skills benefit the wider needs of the organisation. It is acceptable under these circumstances to use the same example for more than one skill or behaviour. However, we would normally expect you to be able to cite at least one other example against each selected skill and behaviour.

11. What if my Reporting Officer considers that my performance against my objectives and skills and behaviours has not been acceptable?

Your Reporting Officer will normally deal with any performance issues on an informal basis and will advise you of the performance issue; counsel and/or coach you on what must be done to improve; and give you the opportunity to make such improvement(s). This stage constitutes the informal stage of the Procedures for dealing with Unacceptable Performance where managers should ensure that a member of staff has been given the proper support, training and opportunity to improve before the formal procedure is invoked.

12. What happens if I change job during the year?

If you change job before 1 October, your new Line Manager will provide you with the skill and behaviour profile, job role and objectives for your new job. Your new Reporting Officer will carry out your appraisal.

If you move on or after 1 October, the HR Office will call for a transfer report from your existing Reporting Officer and your appraisal will be based on the work carried out in your old job. Your new Line Manager will still provide you with the skill and behaviour profile, job role and objectives for your new job but an appraisal form will not be completed until the end of the following reporting year.

13. What happens if I am seconded to another organisation during the year?

If you are seconded to another organisation you will be appraised using our system. This means that you will have to draw up and agree a skills and behaviours profile, a job role and objectives for your new job.

If the secondment commences before 1 October, your appraisal will be carried out by your new Reporting Officer but using our appraisal system.

If you move on or after 1 October, the Human Resources Office will call for a transfer report from your existing Reporting Officer and your appraisal for that reporting year will be based on the work carried out in your old job. Thereafter your new Reporting Officer will carry out your appraisal using our system.

If you are in any doubt, you should contact the HR Office (ext: 86500) for advice in the first instance.

14. What happens if I am on temporary promotion during the year?

If you are being reported on whilst on temporary promotion, you will be assessed against the skills and behaviours profile for the higher grade by the Reporting Officer for that post, provided you have been doing the job for more than 6 months during the reporting year. Otherwise, the Human Resources Office will request a transfer report from your Reporting Officer in your substantive post.

15. What happens if I am off sick during the year?

If you are on long-term sick leave, you will not be reported on unless you have attended work for three consecutive months. If you have not attended work for three consecutive months, your performance will be recorded as fully demonstrating the requirements of the role.

If you have attended for three consecutive months, you will be assessed on your performance against your skills and behaviours and objectives for the period in which you attended work.

If you have been on sick leave for short periods throughout the year, you will be assessed against your performance over the full year.

16. If I do not feel I am receiving adequate support, when and how should I raise this?

You should raise it with your Reporting Officer immediately. If you still feel you are not receiving the support required, you should then raise it with your Head of Office/Group.

17. What training will be provided on performance management?

Reporting and Countersigning Officers will attend the Performance Management in Practice course which is specifically tailored for these roles.  They may attend this more than once as a refresher should they wish.  Reporting Officers have a responsibility to explain the performance management process to their staff. 

18. How do I complete my PDP?

Staff are expected to maintain an active PDP on a continuous basis.  In doing so, you are encouraged to consider both your short and medium term development needs as well as your longer term career aspirations, therefore your PDP is not completed at a fixed point  However, you are encouraged to spend some time over late summer updating your PDP as you will need to submit this to the Human Resources Office by the end of October so that we can capture organisational development needs as part of our learning and development planning. 

19. What if my line manager has only just started in that post?

If the Reporting Officer is on probation or if they have been in the current job for less than three months, the appraisal will be carried out by the Countersigning Officer in conjunction with the Reporting Officer. This may be done in liaison with your previous Reporting Officer if they are still a member of the Scottish Parliamentary Service.

20. Who will have access to appraisal forms?

Your management chain together with the HR Services Team. More senior staff from Human Resources may also require access to these documents. Should you apply for another job within the organisation, recruitment selection panels may also be given access to your most recent appraisal report.

21. Who may keep copies of the forms?

The Human Resources Office will hold an electronic version of the Appraisal Form. The job holder and Reporting Officer may also keep a convenience copy of the form provided it is kept secure and confidential (although BIT have asked that we keep this to a minimum). Multiple or old versions of forms should not be kept to ensure compliance with records management good practice.