• U.S. Department of Energy
  • Fermilab

Questions & Answers

Posted: August 12, 2010

Q. It seems that as each employee in a unit becomes more skilled, the performance-expectation bar rises. Doesn’t this eventually make everyone average?

A. Average is often misleading. For example, think about the concerns that would likely develop in response to a major newspaper publishing the following headline: 49% of American School Children Test Below Average. By its very nature, the headline above will always prove to be true.

If you look closely at the performance rating definitions, you will be unable to find average. Commendable, which holds the third or middle spot in the performance review is defined as: Good solid performance. Fulfills all position requirements and goals and may, on occasion, generate results above those expected of the position. That definition implies much more than an average performance level or an average employee.

Posted: August 12, 2010

Q. Isn't a "2" rating (Fully Competent) the same as a “D” and isn’t that basically saying the employee is b average when compared to others at Fermilab?

A. The performance review process isn't the same as the academic grading scale. Employees should pay attention to the wording of the performance rating definitions and how those definitions relate to the body of work completed.

Posted: August 12, 2010

Q. Goals and priorities change over time. How is this addressed in the performance review?

A. Unanticipated changes to both departmental and individual goals and priorities are inevitable. Therefore, such changes need to be documented on an ongoing basis, confirmed in writing, and accurately reflected in the performance review document. When goals and priorities change, discuss the documentation with your supervisor.

Posted: August 12, 2010

Q. Several people in our department seem to be performing at high levels, so I’m concerned that my salary increase will be smaller than what I expect.

A. Fermilab employees are not alone in this concern. In fact, nearly every organization faces a limited salary budget. It’s important to understand the connection between salary and job performance at the laboratory.

Each position has a salary range and each range is divided into three zones, (as illustrated below) with zone 2 representing the market value of an employee who is fully meeting the demands of the position. The method through which salary increases are provided takes into account both the range position of an employee’s salary (zone) and the performance level (rating). The objective over time is to manage each employee’s salary commensurate with the performance level relative to the market value of the position.

It does not automatically follow that the level of increase available to all others will be automatically smaller if a department has a number of high performers. The level of increase is dependent on zone position as well as performance. For example, two employees in the same position may both be rated as excellent performers. However, if the salary of one employee is in zone 1 and the salary of the other employee is in zone 3, the employee whose salary is in zone 1 may receive a higher percentage increase than the employee whose salary is in zone 3. The overall effect is that the higher paid employee in zone 3 would still retain an above market salary and the lower paid employee in zone 1 would enhance his/her position in the range. The combined effect of these decisions need not reduce the amount of increases available to others.


Posted: August 12, 2010

Q. It seems as if there is constant pressure to drive the assigned performance rating levels to a lower rating or toward a 2 (i.e., Fully Competent). Is this done solely for budgetary purposes?Is the de-motivating psychological effect of such a practice considered?

A. The objective is not to drive the assigned performance ratings levels lower. Rather, the objective is to manage employees’ salaries in a manner consistent with their contribution and performance in the context of their pay range. The review process is designed to distribute the limited salary increase budget equitably so that, over time, employees receive a salary that is commensurate with their skills/abilities and their contribution/performance in the context of the pay range assigned to their job.

Employees who perform at a Commendable or higher level rating who are in zone 1 may receive increases that will progress their pay rate into zone 2 and potentially higher.

Employees with a pay rate in zone 3 (i.e., above the market range for their job) may receive increases that will maintain or enhance their position in their pay range if they continue to perform at an Excellent or higher level. It is illogical, however, to provide an employee with a pay rate that moves upward in the pay range unless the movement is supported by comparable performance.

Posted: August 12, 2010

Q. Why do we conduct performance reviews on an annual basis? Wouldn’t bi-annually be sufficient?

A. Providing regular, ongoing performance feedback is one of managers' most important responsibilities. The annual performance review process requires managers to formally summarize such feedback once each year. Doing so serves many organizational interests, including: the review of yearly goal and priority progress; the establishment of goals and priorities for the upcoming year; and the creation of adequate performance-related documentation concerning each employee’s contribution to the laboratory.

Posted: August 4, 2010

Q. Should I complete a performance appraisal for an on-call employee?

A. No, on-call employees are not included in the performance review process.

Posted: July 7, 2010

Q. I do not see a time-frame for each step in this performance process to be completed. It would be very helpful to have this in order to plan.

A. The 2010-2011 performance/salary review timeline is currently under review and will be posted online as soon as it is available. Please watch for a Human Resources announcement in Fermilab Today.

Posted: June 30, 2010

Q. Do I have to fill out the accomplishment report?

A. The accomplishment report is a tool for you to use, but is not required. It serves as a reminder to your supervisor of the tasks you've completed or goals you've accomplished over the last year. It also gives you the opportunity to reflect on your past performance and future career development activities.

Posted: June 30, 2010

Q. I'm a new supervisor. How do I find out more about how to conduct a performance review?

A. New supervisors or those who have never taken the course are encouraged to attend the Fermilab Management Practice seminar on performance reviews. Supervisors who have not taken the training course can take a special briefing on July 7, 2010.

Posted: June 30, 2010

Q. I have not received my performance goals, what can I do?

A. You should contact your manager to request a meeting to set your performance goals. If you are not comfortable in doing so or if you do not have goals within a reasonable timeframe after making the request, you may contact Employee Relations (Juanita Frazier, frazier@fnal.gov, x3793; Heather Sidman, hsidman@fnal.gov, x3326). Employee Relations personnel can help facilitate the goal-setting process (to find out the reason for delay, to assist you and/or your manager in creating goals, etc.).

Posted: June 30, 2010

Q. Are the evaluation system ratings tied to money?

A. In part. The performance appraisal rating is a factor in the overall compensation formula. Other factors include the employee’s placement in the pay range and the employee’s pay zone within the pay range. For an example, please see 2009 Performance Rating Zone Matrix.

Posted: June 30, 2010

Q. The system seems to push everyone to the middle. How is this fair?

A. Our performance pay system is designed to accelerate employees to the market rate. The market rate is the amount of pay we would expect to expend to replace an employee with a new hire with similar performance and skills.

Posted: June 30, 2010

Q. I have many excellent employees, but our department doesn't have enough funds to give them all raises. Are there other ways that I can recognize their hard work?

A. Yes, there are. Recognition and Rewards and Exceptional Performance Recognition Awards are excellent methods to recognize employee achievements. These compensation tools are bonuses and do not have an impact on base pay. You can find more information on these tools here.

Posted: June 30, 2010

Q. Are the reviews evaluated by someone in WDRS?

A. The Employee Relations Department monitors receipt of each performance appraisal to make sure that they are completed. In addition, the department also reviews representative samples of appraisals to ensure that they comply with our policy and processes.

Posted: June 30, 2010

Q. My manager said he or she put me in one category, but that HR made him or her give me a different score. Did this actually happen?

A. No. However, all performance systems contain a normalization feature. In our performance system, the feature is front loaded. This means that a second level reviewer evaluates all ratings before they are issued to employees in order to make sure that the ratings are normalized across departments within the division and section. If the immediate supervisor's initial rating was changed, it usually means that the second level reviewer at the division and section level did not find sufficient justification to support the rating.

Posted: June 30, 2010

Q: I disagree with my review rating. What happens if I don’t sign my review form?

A: You are not required to sign your review form, although your signature reflects your acknowledgment of receipt, not necessarily your agreement. The performance review process can be uncomfortable for both you as an employee and for your manager. At times, your perspective about your performance may be different from your manager’s. You may want to take a day to think about the review and reflect on what you find true and what you find inaccurate. You are welcome to speak with Employee Relations as a sounding board for any concerns. Employee Relations staff can also provide guidance in addressing these with your manager. You also have the option of filing an internal complaint. If you choose to pursue this option, you will want to review the policy and procedures.

Posted: June 30, 2010

Q: My manager asked me to create performance goals for this year. I’m not sure where to begin.

A: Please discuss your performance goals with your supervisor. Some of the goals will be related to on-going job responsibilities, while others will be related to special projects or specialized tasks. You can view this goal setting guide that will walk you thru the goal-setting process, give you tips on how to create SMART goals, and enable you to actively participate with your supervisor during the process.