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MassPerform Frequently Asked Questions

These are some of the most common questions and answers about MassPerform

Table of Contents

How and why did the Commonwealth create MassPerform?

The Human Resources Division (HRD) formed a taskforce of HR Directors from various agencies and secretariats throughout the state with the goal of modernizing and improving our approach to performance.

The main takeaway from the taskforce, the traditional annual (ACES) review was not working. Our managers required a real-time, agile, coaching model with an emphasis on candid conversations about performance.

During best practice research, we repeatedly found references to Donna Morris’ work in changing the performance culture at Adobe. Adobe created a “Check-in” model to allow employee growth and development and help the employees keep pace with the fast-pace changes in their business. We found this model to be the most impactful and aligned with our mission to find “a better way.” Through the use of a Creative Commons (CC) license, we built on the exemplary work at Adobe to create the MassPerform Coaching/Check-in model.

What are the guiding principles of MassPerform?

Employees and managers should feel empowered through training and resources to actively participate in two-way performance conversations. We believe that almost no person is born with exemplary coaching and feedback skills. These core management skills are learned and developed through practice, over the course of a career.

For the pilot, we started with a very simple, flexible and lightweight resources focused on the increasingly lost art of conversation. We want managers to take ownership of the full performance continuum: Expectations, Feedback and Development.

What are the advantages of MassPerform?

The initial anonymous survey feedback was positive! Employees and managers are reporting close to a 60 percent improvement in baseline satisfaction from the annual (ACES) model to the MassPerform Coaching/Check-in model. In addition, the response rate to the survey was tremendous at >40%. As you probably know, we have both an active and engaged pilot group!

Work is more meaningful when employees understand how it fits into the larger strategic objectives of the organization and business unit. By having multiple Check-in conversations throughout the year, both managers and employees should have clarity in expectations, creating SMART goals, key upcoming dates and what to do when performance expectations or deliverables aren’t being met.

What is an expectation? Can you provide an example?

Expectations are defined in the MassPerform Program Guide & Toolkit as: “a key result, deliverable or behavior change by a specified time given by a manager to an employee. A manager’s expectation(s) may be related to the expectations provided by his or her supervisor and cascaded down to an appropriate level.”

Expectations can be brief and high-level, but should help an employee understand how their goals fit into the larger strategic objectives of the business unit and the organization.

Examples of a manager’s expectations and an employee’s corresponding goals:

Expectation: Modernize the grant application process by June 30th to reduce processing time by 15%.

  • Goal: Procure new application processing software by December 15th.
  • Goal: Hire two new employees to support application process by March 1st.

Expectation: Produce accurate annual report detailing program activities.

  • Goal: Create a spreadsheet to track monthly accomplishments to include in annual report.
  • Goal: Provide draft report to program directors for review, allowing at least two weeks for input before publishing.

Any advice for setting expectations?

Expectations can come from a variety of sources – the employee’s job description, current projects / initiatives, expectations cascaded from your own manager, etc.

When determining expectations for an employee, you can ask yourself: What do I want/need this employee to accomplish this year? Or What business outcomes do I expect from this employee this year?

Road trip analogy for expectations and goals:

  • Think of expectations as the destination of the trip, determined by the manager.
  • Think of goals as the specific route details, planned by the employee (e.g. we will travel by car, depart on date, refuel at x,y,z locations, and arrive by date).

What are the primary challenges of MassPerform?

This is a major culture change for the Commonwealth. The biggest challenge is to create a new mindset among all managers. Our overall challenge is somewhat akin to Adobe’s work to unify the management culture of a global technology company, “…in which their direct reports would welcome ongoing feedback, act upon it, and offer their own ideas for their personal growth and development.[1]

There is a potential for less documentation in the model. If there is a performance problem, managers can’t just wait for an annual event to address and/or document the issue.

[1] "FAQ." Adobe Captivate-Unlock The Future of Smart ELearning Design https://www.adobe.com/check-in/FAQ.html.

Where can I learn more about MassPerform?

What can managers & employees do to ensure that MassPerform Check-in conversations are successful?

 “Managers are most successful when they adhere to a cadence for conversations that’s based on business rhythms; determine areas of focus for their Check-ins; discuss performance specifics (i.e., what’s working and what needs to be improved); create goals and action items with each direct report and review them regularly; and always provide timely feedback…

Employees are most successful when they come to the conversations prepared to discuss the following things: their progress against goals set in the previous conversation; their development needs and ideas for how to grow, for example through training courses or stretch opportunities; and their long-term goals and plans for achieving them[2].”

The MassPerform Resources Page contains many resources to assist with Check-in conversations, including the MassPerform Toolkit, Guide for Conducting Check-in Conversations, a Manager / Employee Planning Tool for Check-ins, and more!

[2] "FAQ." Adobe Captivate-Unlock The Future of Smart ELearning Design https://www.adobe.com/check-in/FAQ.html.

What’s the ideal frequency for MassPerform Check-in conversations?

During our training sessions, we heard from many of you that you are already having productive feedback conversations during one-on-one meetings. That’s wonderful news! The MassPerform model and resources can further support, enhance and clarify your collaborative work in achieving programmatic, departmental or agency strategic objectives. You may want to consider extending that current one-on-one meeting with an allotted period to review expectations and feedback or better yet, create a new standing MassPerform meeting that best aligns with the cadence of your particular business unit.

Review the MassPerform Toolkit and Ongoing Check-in resources for more information.

Does the MassPerform Check-in model work with underperforming employees?

Don’t wait to provide feedback! Feedback should be thoughtful. However, it must also be timely. Think of a performance issue as a leaky pipe. Would you want to wait for the pipe to burst or for a major flood? Ongoing feedback conversations help managers quickly address any performance issues with constructive feedback before they linger or worse, grow.

If a performance problem persists, it is always best practice to document the issue to ensure clarity between the manager and employee. If a manager tells Human Resources that a direct report is underperforming, we will first ask whether the manager has been setting clear expectations and giving specific, direct feedback via MassPerform. If not, we recommend that they start there and clearly document those conversations.

Visit the MassPerform Training, Resources and Job Aids page for helpful resources.

How do you measure to determine whether MassPerform Check-ins are working?

To this point, we’ve used some brief anonymous surveys as a tool for measuring the effectiveness of MassPerform, including a baseline for the prior (ACES) model. We will distribute more surveys throughout the year and share results with the pilot participants. We recognize the need for more detailed feedback and will schedule a number of focus groups. Finally, we also monitor anecdotal feedback, which is largely positive but like our survey data, varies significantly across each unique agency’s culture.

We recognize the work is far from done and will continue to partner with our pilot agencies to understand; what is working, what’s not working and where we can continue to improve.

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