Helena Vaďurová, Vice-Dean for Quality and Strategy, introduces the evaluation process at the Faculty of Education (hereafter FEd), explains its composition, and provides information about changes and new documents available to faculty staff.
1. In the last two years, MU Faculty of Education management, in cooperation with the HR Award working group, has been modifying the HR strategy and setting up mechanisms for performance management. Could you please explain what the impulse was for starting the discussions?
The Faculty of Education has long been dedicated to improving working conditions. When we decided to pursue the HR Excellence in Research Award (hereafter HR Award), we started talking about areas that deserved our attention. We debated in a working group, based not only on our experience but also on a questionnaire survey, a so-called gap analysis. This survey was an important source of information for us. The questionnaire was completed by faculty staff, and the return rate was very high. It was, therefore, of high explanatory value. The areas identified in the questionnaire as deserving attention became individual items in the HR Award action plan.
2. What specific topics have you covered? And what did you intend to achieve?
One big area we need to focus on from the responses is awareness. For example, we found that some procedures, guidelines, or materials exist, but this information does not seem to filter down entirely to the level of individual employees, as they responded that the area is not covered, or they did not know that it was covered. We have therefore spent a substantial amount of time on how to set up communication channels within the faculty, generally to promote awareness and transparency and the associated clarity of information. This included revising the Employee Portal or incorporating the necessary information into the onboarding process. Another major area was the evaluation of job performance. We addressed what adjustments would be suitable to incorporate into the assessment, how best to make it more accessible to our colleagues, its content, and its interconnection with other HR processes. We also tried to clarify the position of areas perceived as unfairly overlooked, such as quality and innovation in teaching.
3. Is the evaluation at FEd MU set the same for all employees?
The assessment process from completion to record keeping in the information system is the same for academic and non-academic employees. The content of the evaluation differs because, for academic staff, a large part of the evaluation is devoted to their teaching and research activities. The evaluation of non-academic staff relates to their job description. It also provides an opportunity for Department Heads to find out how satisfied their colleagues are and what direction they would like to develop further. They can suggest specific training courses they would like to attend in the coming year or adjustments that would make their work easier or increase their satisfaction. Last term, we trialled the electronic completion of appraisals for non-academic staff for the first time (as a new application had been launched). This process will be further modified based on feedback to make it as user-friendly as possible.
4. What do you see as the value of the evaluation itself?
I see the importance of having a concept of employee evaluation in the fact that the expectations we have of individual employees are clearly and transparently defined. The Department Head has the opportunity to adjust these expectations to fit the department's vision of department direction, communicate performance expectations and job descriptions, and utilize the capacities and strengths of individual employees. Each employee then has an idea of what is expected of them, knows their job description, and can better plan their short- and long-term development. Clearly defined rules and a questionnaire in the information system are a good basis for the annual meeting between managers and individual employees - the evaluation interview. One-to-one interviews can create a space for open sharing and discussion. The evaluation process, as set up, is not just for Department Heads to assess the quality of performance of people in their workplace. It also allows employees to comment on their working conditions, what makes their job easier or more difficult, or how they would like to develop further. It is a two-way communication. A record of the evaluation is then stored in the system. Suggestions made during the evaluation are recorded, and both parties have the opportunity to comment on them formally.
5. You mentioned that an Evaluation Concept had been developed. Could you please explain this document?
The Evaluation Concept presents what parts of an employee's evaluation, apart from the well-known EVAK, consist of and how to work with them. It also shows how employee evaluation could be linked to other components such as remuneration, career development, or a personal development plan. Everything is also presented in the form of clear infographics.
6. The evaluation covers a wide range of activities. What elements should be included in the assessment?
That's quite a complex question. As I mentioned, in the case of academic and non-academic staff, it is to some extent up to the Department Head. The Department Head is a manager who knows how they want the department to perform and what is required of every department member. In the case of academic staff, for example, the extent of their teaching (learning) activity, whether they supervise theses, involvement in project work, or publication activity, is always recorded. But then there is a second, qualitative part, which the EVAK does not cover, and this is where the Department Head has the opportunity to specify the expectations from the employee. The EVAK academic staff evaluation system has long been criticized across the university, which is why it has been under review at the Rectorate level for the last year. The EVAK is a centralized tool, so the Faculty of Education has limited opportunity to intervene in its design.
7. What were the perceived shortcomings of EVAK by academic staff? And how did you respond to them?
EVAK has been criticized for focusing too much on quantitative indicators. From the point of view of academic staff, a very important part of their work remained completely invisible, namely pedagogical activities, and consequently, also publishing activities that are not part of the Methodology M17+, e.g., popularization activities, scripts, methodological sheets, and other things that are very important from the practice point of view. We focused on this area and prepared an infographic that presents the evaluation of employed individuals as a complex process that does not rely only on the EVAK, though it is one of its components. It provides quantitative information such as the number of papers supervised, hours taught etc. It does not and cannot be able to extract qualitative data from the system in some automated way, such as the quality of the learning support or the previously mentioned innovations in teaching. That is why we have created an infographic that includes qualitative components of work performance. We emphasized that an important part of the evaluation of each employed person is also what others – not only – the teaching activities they have, what is the overall work performance. In the concept, we also point out that the Department Heads shape the evaluation, and they can emphasize certain areas. This applies to both academic and non-academic staff.
8. So the faculty conducts evaluation interviews; what is their purpose?
Evaluation interviews are a fixed part of the evaluation concept. They should occur at least once a year after the data collection within EVAK or the non-academic staff evaluation application in the information system has been completed. The HR Award questionnaire survey revealed that the experiences of staff and Department Heads with these interviews are varied. In some workplaces, there are quite detailed appraisal interviews; in others, it is a rather formal affair. Similarly, Department Heads rated their ability to conduct an appraisal interview in various ways. Therefore, we also focused on conducting appraisal interviews and developing the competencies of Department Heads to conduct these interviews. In previous years, we have offered training that has introduced managers to, for example, conducting an appraisal interview, conducting a motivational interview, and dealing with problematic situations, such as communication. These topics are also touched upon in the manual " Adaptation to a Leadership Position," which serves as methodological support for new and current managers. The evaluation process has been systematized in an infographic.
9. What would you like to convey to your employees?
At the Faculty of Education, we have long strived to ensure that our work environment and students' learning are high-quality, safe, and motivating. We have focused on those points identified in the HR Award over the past few years. We have tried to improve them and produced a range of transparent materials available as outputs on the HR Award website. However, open communication and a joint search for optimal solutions are, and will continue to be, the basis because I believe that we all share the common goal of making this an excellent place to work, and we will look for ways to make it so.