For the past year we have heard many serious and, in some cases, genuinely distressing reports of abuses of performance management and the inappropriate use of compromise agreements. We had a key debate at our conference in June where delegates were clear: either we get improvements that command your trust and confidence or we consider what further steps we must take to underline the strength of feeling on this issue.
Working jointly with the CWU, discussions have touched on every aspect of performance management policy and practice. Using our survey evidence and other evidence from members we have been able to show the extent of abuses and negative effects on individuals, teams and the business. Our approach has been driven by one overriding principle: that all marks should be justified on the basis of the evidence and, above all, there must be an absolute end to forced distribution of marks.
Those talks have now produced two documents: one on Settlement Agreements (previously known as Compromise Agreements) and the second setting out a new escalation process for either individual cases or more systemic issues.
The document on settlement agreements sets out how and when these might be used in performance or sick absence cases. It seeks to deal with the worst abuses of these agreements.
The escalation process clearly states that “performance markings must be fully justified against job standards, objectives and behaviours and that any practice which undermines this eg forced distribution would be appropriate for escalation”. It also confirms that labour turnover ‘forecasts’ in BT will not be translated into specific ‘managed exit’ targets for individual line managers; any practice which could result in targets for ‘managed exits’ or ‘unregretted leaver’ targets would be escalated using this procedure.
We are now working on finalising supporting documentation and comms plans. Discussions on performance management are on-going and we will be continuing to press for improvements in every aspect of policy and practice.
The only true test of whether we have made progress will be the experience of members as individuals and line managers on the ground. Rebuilding trust and confidence in the performance management process is a huge challenge for BT and the unions. We know that will take time but we remain determined to secure a positive, not punitive approach to performance management.The first test will be the Q2 round of markings so we will be issuing further comms to members closer to that time.