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BT Holborn: Management Style - Progress

18 December 2009

Detailed and intensive discussions have been taking place with BT as part of Project Holborn for some time now trying to seek a resolution to the issues surrounding Performance Management in particular and management style.

The Executive have agreed the basis of an agreed way forward subject to the final documentation being agreed by the Executive, as detailed in a from John McGee on behalf of BT Group.

There is a clear commitment that there will be no managed exits nor will there be any forced distribution of ratings nor quotas for the number of PiPs, MUPS etc. These are definitive statements with no caveats of any kind.

Annual Performance Reviews

The APR scale will change to a five point rating, and the names of some of those ratings will change. The main change will be that ‘Generally Satisfactory’ will change to ‘Development Needed’. It is in this category that we should now see the biggest change for our members. Development Needed will NOT attract any punitive measures. People will be on development plans, but these will not be linked to formal warnings and it will not affect increments, redeployment or release.

Needs Improvement will disappear but Unsatisfactory will remain. Those not improving may find themselves marked Unsatisfactory and this will attract formal warnings. However, no-one can be put onto the Unsatisfactory category between performance reviews unless:

  • Performance has deteriorated and is unsatisfactory against the standards set at the beginning of the performance cycle;
  • The people manager has held a 1:1 with the individual to explain that performance is unsatisfactory; and
  • An individual has been given reasonable time to improve.

A lack of improvement will not be enough to move someone to Unsatisfactory, between reviews. A monthly monitoring process has also been agreed to ensure we have visibility of the numbers of people being rated against these categories and to ensure that the above principles will apply.

These principles and the monthly review will apply for the quarter ending 31 March 2010. In addition there is a review ongoing of every outstanding case where formal warnings have been applied, to ensure that those warnings have been applied properly. CWU head Office will be given the results of that review.

Standards will now be set at the beginning of the Performance Cycle thus ensuring that terms such as ‘the average of the team’ is only based on evidence from the previous cycle. Also, it will be the existing quarter’s mark that will be the predominant consideration on the rating to be applied, thus tackling the position that exists of a ‘sticky floor’ where one bad quarter determines the rating for a whole year.

The union is still in discussions around levelling, but again we have achieved some change where the focus around levelling exercises will change so that standards and consistency are the main issues.

Re-launch of Performance Management in BT

There is still a lot of detailed work to be done. There is to be one vocabulary (a glossary of terms), detailed discussions around the ratings and descriptors and also around standard setting. It is intended that there will be regular scheduled meetings during January 2010 to produce paperwork that can be put to the TFSE in February 2010 seeking agreement.

This will effectively mean a re-launch of Performance Management in BT and therefore it will be at that stage that there will be a statement from the CEO, Ian Livingstone. The statement will signal a clear change towards a more supportive and less punitive approach. This lead from the top is critical in ensuring there will be change at lower managerial levels, and for ensuring the buy-in from the Senior Operational managers.

Monthly Joint Review

The Executive believes that the measures being introduced should dramatically decrease the number of formal PiPs applied and shift the emphasis to being more about development. The monthly joint review mechanism will ensure we have visibility of exactly how the new measures are being applied and how effective they are. Clearly if the new approach does not effect change, the Executive will have to re-examine the position.

There is also a clear commitment on the management style expected and it is the view of the Executive that it is the drive on performance management and managed exits that has driven that poor style. Clearly poor managers will not become good managers overnight, but we will now have the safeguards in place to ensure that the Performance Management procedures cannot be abused in the widespread way we have seen over the last year in particular.

BT Statement

BT issued a statement from Alex Wilson on 17 December 2009, announcing that there will be a change in the how Performance Management is dealt with and outlining the main principles. The CWU, for our part, have been very clear that this agreement has to be accepted and implemented in word and spirit. Managers cannot have secret managed exit targets, they cannot have secret quotas and there is no agreement on relative performance - which means that league tables are not acceptable. The TFSE fully accepts that many members will be cynical about a new approach based on the existing track record of the company on this issue. The monthly monitoring that will take place will expose at an early stage if the agreement is not being implemented properly and BT are in no doubt about the need for them to deliver a better, more supportive working environment.