Confessions of a benefits manager: Candid covers performance management


Without even asking, Big Bad Boss has agreed to lend me to another department. I am to be assigned to the organisation development team, which for me is pretty much like joining the enemy. Madeline, who leads Ā­(although in her case perhaps ā€˜administratesā€™ better describes it) the performance management programme, has just announced she is pregnant.

I can see why I came to mind. Performance management used to be part of the reward function, and as I helped to design the online tool, I do know it well. However, that does not mean I want to step in just because someone wants to procreate. I have a lot of skills and it seems like everyone around here is having kids. Where will it end? Will I have to clean the loos if the cleaner forgets her contraceptive?

We arrange a handover meeting. Madeline, who left it until the last possible moment to drop the news, is looking so round, I wonder that no one had guessed before. She also has that smugness that comes with the extra hormones. Or perhaps it is just that she is enjoying chucking all her work over the wall, while she goes off for the best part of a year.

Parental benefits

When I come to think about it, maternity leave is unfair for childless employees. As an organisation, we spend a lot of effort ensuring pay equity (in theory at least), and yet parents have this massive extra benefit guaranteed. I calculate the cash value of the extra paid leave, and it is worth rather a lot I can tell you. If you add up a coupleā€™s entitlement including paternity pay, it is even more. Just for fun, I have started a spreadsheet on it; you can take the girl out of the reward team, but you cannot take reward out of the girl.

I would love a paid sabbatical where I could dump my work on some poor colleague and swan off to do something more interesting instead. The state has made many changes to enforce equity from gender pay reporting to pensions equalisation, yet no one has thought about the childless. Now it is so fashionable to shout out inequities with protest marches and viral campaigns, I fantasise about starting #childlessmaternitypaytoo but I do not think it would catch on.

Thinking of the teams I work with, the majority are parents. It seems it is OK for a mum or dad to leave early because little Johnny is ill, or their partner is unable to do the school run, or a host of other prodigy-related excuses to take little bits of extra time off. Would I get away with that if I need to take the cat to the vet? Not likely. Having children means you have a cause greater than yourself or your job, and employers are legislated to support that. Society endorses it because children are our future. I have read that state pensions in payment are funded from the current workforceā€™s taxes, so, in theory, my pension could be funded by Madelineā€™s offspring. I just hope they work rather harder than she does.

Madeline has only a few weeks left at work, but it is clear she is not planning to actually do anything. She handed tasks over as soon as I was named to cover, and she has been offline for a series of antenatal and medical appointments ever since. That is yet more paid leave to add to my #childlessmaternitypaytoo calculations. I am not bitter; I am just analytical.

Performance management reviews

At this time of year, the performance management reviews for last year and the goals for the coming year should have already been completed. However, the programme is way behind schedule. I donā€™t know what Madeline has been doing up to now. Great, not only do I get to pick up someone elseā€™s job, but a messy one too.

The performance management system was designed to create automatic reminders, but it seems managers have got in the habit of ignoring them. To be fair, there has been rather a lot going on. However, when times are difficult, it is even more important to have quality performance discussions. This is where Big Bad Boss can come in useful. I send him into a meeting of the Higher Beings in C-suite, armed with a report of performance management completion by department. There is nothing like naming and shaming to get things done around here.

We also need to run some more training. Until recently, the organisation was running most performance management sessions in-house but with so many people working from home, outsourced webinars will be better. I would also like to make them on-demand with completion tracking. It will cost, but this is coming out of Madelineā€™s team budget not ours.

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I find myself quite enjoying this little foray into performance management. It is a rare chance to get involved in the other side of HR. Sometimes, I feel like I could even influence the organisational culture by making managers better communicators. Then I talk to Big Bad Boss and realise that is probably futile. He tells me my performance has been OK and I need to get this performance thing wrapped up before the annual renewals. I suppose you could say he has set clear goals but the motivational aspect definitely needs work.

Next time… Candid looks at discount schemes.