Saturday, March 24, 2007

State Library Reference Librarian: Performance Review Process

While the job description posted here is somewhat vague, as a supervisor in this organization it looks like the reference librarian is beholden first to the Library Director, and second to the Collection Development Librarian, who may not be a technical supervisor but does appear to outrank the Reference Librarian and work closely as a superior in some cases.

Of particular note in this position is a significant amount of reference desk work, which in most libraries is essentially unobserved and may not be able to be directly evaluated by any superior if they do not spend time together on the desk. Therefore, it seems that self-evaluations may be in order so that the employee is cognizant of improvement areas with respect to their public services work.

The plan I would use has three elements.

1. Semi-annual self-review, for the first 2 years of employment, followed by annual self-review thereafter. A form will be designed related to each of the aspects of the job and other organizational priorities (including for example diversity, teamwork, etc.), and the employee will fill out this form and discuss it and any other issues with the Director and the Collection Development Librarian separately. This will offer the employee the opportunity to talk about the support they need, changes they'd like to make to job responsibilities, areas in which they may be falling behind because of other work, and other things that inevitably arise especially during the first two years of work. While feedback is going to be open whenever the employee needs, creating a formal self-evaluation process will allow them to appraise their job and their performance within the context of a feedback mechanism.

2. Semi-annual supervisor review, for the first 2 years of employment, followed by annual self-review thereafter. Simultaneously with the self-review instrument, the Library Director will fill out a performance evaluation form similar to that filled out by any employee. The evaluations will assess the employee's collection development work, public service work (to the extent this can be evaluated), ability to work collaboratively, general work habits, apparent motivation, and communication skills. Because performance issues need to be dealt with more than once a year, especially during the first two years of employment when priorities and time management are very difficult to accomplish, the supervisor will have the opportunity to provide guidance and feedback in a downward direction as well. The first two years is not a probationary period by any means, but more direction is typically needed during this time, and creating an optimal working situation requires more feedback, appraisal, and evaluation as well as flexibility on the part of the worker and to some extent the organization. Because so much negotiation of responsibilities, duties, and new skills happens during this time, increased evaluations are necessary for the new employee.

3. Annual supervisor review from other library employees. Because the librarian is being hired into a position that involves some supervisory work, those employees who work in situations where they are subordinate to the Reference Librarian (even if this is only part of the time) should have the opportunity to evaluate the supervisory skills and behavior of their supervisor. A form would be distributed whose primary goal was to identify whether there were any pressing issues of the supervisory interaction; problems certainly matter more than comments like "I like working for this person" in this particular case, because the supervising the reference librarian does is not direct but rather consists of being in charge of the library during certain periods of time.

All of these elements will add up to an extensive but helpful review process. The goal is not to prove anything here, but rather to make sure that work is proceeding correctly and really happening in the way that the job was designed.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Job Analysis: Metropolitan Motor Company

The first thing that strikes me as a potential organizational leader is the relatively limited amount of control the actual hiring company had over many aspects of this process. Initial staffing screenings were outplaced to the state employment office, the YMCA, and a consulting firm that scored initial tests. Yet despite the relative lack of control that the organization had, the process generated the need for each prospective employee to be interviewed by a single group of four people. There seems to be a significant inefficiency in interviewing applicants yourself but then having a consulting firm evaluate your interview results; would it not be better to simply have the staffing consultants conduct interviews as well, or at least to add flexibility to the interview component by assigning more employees of MMC to the potential pool of interviewers? Especially if interview results are being scored independently and employees aren't being directly identified for "fit" or very specific personal qualities, it seems like a four-member screening committee just is not going to get the job done as efficiently as possible.

I also wonder whether it might not have been helpful to ask for applicants to fill out their preferences for tasks, days, and shifts well in advance of when they filled out their preference sheets in MMC's process. A huge amount of effort has been invested in each employee by the time they finish their interview. I think it would make more sense to identify the number of applicants interested in different tasks by day and time before screening for eligibility, and certainly before entering the interview process. This way, there would probably be a higher rate of assignment acceptance because people would be contacted initially based on their preferences instead of screened and then assigned to shifts they don't want; often "don't want" means literally "can't work," because of other obligations like children. Obviously, the process as written here seems to lend itself to a large amount of assignment refusal at the end of the employment process.

Even with these reservations, I appreciated MMC's willingness to work with other institutions to provide opportunities, and their astute move to assert their community awareness by offering priority to people within the most directly affected area. This is an intelligent relations move, and one which unfortunately may be unique in some ways to blue-collar positions which require only a certain level of expertise to fill. I doubt the same procedures would work for a smaller organization, or for an organization that was hiring people to work in information technology or a comparable field.

I am impressed by MMC's use of incentives for strong job attendance, by allowing flexibility after a six-month period of strong (very strong, perhaps too strong!) attendance. This represents a certain commitment to providing choice to employees who hold up their end of the bargain, so to speak.

One thing I don't see here is an actual description of the job analysis that was done which led to these staffing procedures. While it's likely the case that similar abilities were required for many of these production-line jobs, I'd like to know more about what was identified as "essential" for various job functions. It's been my experience that many organizations hiring to fill labor positions that require little prior training often overstate the needs of the position in some areas while leaving other areas out; manual dexterity may be underprioritized while the ability to bend over or lift 80 pounds may be overprioritized. I'd like to see what skills/abilities were identified for each position with MMC.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Diversity: The Diversity Statements

For each of these diversity statements this week, I'll discuss what I see as positive points and questionable points about each. In so doing, my key views about diversity statements, policy, and reality will emerge. Because I'm going to work in libraries, I suppose I should announce up front that I'll be biased toward statements about diversity that reflect the organization's role as a:

-service institution
-socially conscious organization
-building block of a field that currently is lagging in various forms of diversity.

IBM Australia and New Zealand

Good Things
The IBM diversity policy includes proactive things the organization is doing to encourage not only the existence of diversity, but for their employees to feel supported by other "like" individuals. I am impressed by the outward level of commitment to sexual-orientation and gender diversity, and the existence of groups that promote networking and social interaction between LGBT groups. The existence of Diversity Networking events seems good in theory. The use of an "ethical belief" category for their hiring practices is interesting, and really could fit well into a non-discrimination statement used in the U.S.A. right now, especially with so many of us falling into political "camps."

"People of different cultural backgrounds" sounds like a very questionable networking group; is this the catch-all category for people who are not white/caucasian? I also have to ask what distinguishes a "diversity networking event" from a regular networking event...the scenarios that present themselves off of the top of my head are none too pleasing, especially if they become sort of underrepresented-hodge-podge activities. Even as a member of relatively few if any groups that are usually considered underrepresented, I have to argue that it seems unlikely that exactly the same overarching program really has the same relevance for LGBT groups and racial minorities; these groups' experiences, frustrations, and needs as a result of their particularity will probably require different types of programming. I'm not sure whether big diversity mixers are the right move.

Royal Bank of Scotland

Good Things
RBS' policy focuses on the negative aspects of discrimination and harassment more than the positive aspects of diversity. This can be a good thing in a way, because instead of trying to show how they put out "warm fuzzies" into the world, RBS seems to argue that it is their responsibility in a nearly-legal way to implement the policies of reducing harassment and increasing equal opportunity within a meritocratic system. It's interesting that the same language from the beginning of their diversity policy mirrors the ANTI-affirmative action referendum that was passed in Michigan, essentially stating that we should hang together and be evaluated "irrespective of" our differences. While this doesn't match my views on diversity or identity much at all, I admit that in employment and hiring a strong, real policy against discrimination can make an impact on corporate culture. The inclusion of specific guidelines for interviewing are very relevant, as we discussed in this class earlier.

I may have already arrived here, but I wonder what the company is doing beyond removing barriers and railing against discrimination. It's interesting that in the final statement RBS admits particularity and difference between organizational components, but doesn't seem to make any mention of the value of particularity and different perspectives within organizational components that can be achieved through proactively increasing representation from various groups and diversity of perspectives.

St. Mary's Health Care

Good Things
St. Mary's really seems to focus on diversity as a positive organizational aspect, and go well beyond non-discrimination. Requiring measurability and accountability in implementation is good, even if measuring anything regarding diversity of perspectives is really, really difficult. Creating the status of Diversity Champion for managers, and not for "diverse" individuals (as is so often done with library fellowship programs) is a very positive step toward saying that organizational leaders can make a direct difference in increasing diversity and celebrating it. Moving beyond affirmative action is probably useful too; though I do wish there were more specific hiring guidelines. I like the initial statement's multifaceted approach; diversity affects patients and even vendors, which was a pleasantly surprising subject for diversity goals.

Should the health care company provide more guidelines to its specific units in terms of what kinds of diversity programs should be tried? Better examples seem relevant here.

The University of Chicago

The Good
A university should appreciate its multifaceted organizational nature, and this diversity statement does that well. The statement moves from students through faculty and staff to the broader community, and notes that the resources around the university can be a valuable asset to the university. Wonderful language here: "Homogeneity perpetuates unchallenged assumptions..." "more than just a moral good..." I'm impressed with the appreciation for the value of the different aspects of diversity that are included here, even if the "minorities" that are identified seem to be fairly limited to the very traditional race/ethnic and gender categories.

Does an organization of this scope need more definition in terms of what will be done next? I'd like to see more clear-cut, specific goals. These don't necessarily need to be quantifiable. I also wish there were more here in terms of specific programs and goals than just assessments of where we are now and the immediate future. The statement speaks well beyond our current time frame and the current state of the organization, but many of the identified programs and challenges are quite immediate. I'd like to see the university give more definition to its "higher aspirations" that it speaks of.

Tippecanoe Public Library

Good Things
This represents an attempt by a small public library system in a rural area to think about one aspect of diversity. That they spent time on this is good and helpful, and that there is such a direct statement of what their goals are is even better. This is at least a multifaceted statement (including collections and staffing and beyond) in support of "ethnic" populations in various ways, whatever they mean by that word.

The use of the term "ethnic" here is fraught with trouble; everyone has some ethnicity and background, so the vocabulary used seems to reveal a bit of presumably unintentional ignorance about ethnicity. This diversity statement does not in any way go beyond "ethnicity," and no real definition of ethnicity is given. There are no clear-cut objectives as much as sweeping statements.

Taft Museum of Art

Good Things
I'm glad that Taft focuses on diversity as a positive component, and they seem to identify "uniqueness" as a value rather than an obstacle that might need to be overcome through non-discrimination practices. This is a succinct statement of what the organization values, or says that it values.

The issues I have here relate primarily to incompleteness; I see little that the organization is actually going to do in any proactive way. Perhaps more troubling is the utter lack of any kind of definition of what diversity is or means, though this is somewhat understandable especially if the organization's members are in any way appreciative of how tricky a concept diversity can often be. I'd like to see more beyond this statement, but it is a concise initial statement that I'd be happy to publish for my own organization.