Running head: IMPROVING EMPLOYEE PERFORMANCE EVALUATIONS. Improving Employee Performance Evaluations for the Appleton Fire Department

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1 Improving Employee Performance Evaluations 1 Running head: IMPROVING EMPLOYEE PERFORMANCE EVALUATIONS Improving Employee Performance Evaluations for the Appleton Fire Department Eugene R. Reece, Jr. Appleton Fire Department, Appleton, Wisconsin

2 Improving Employee Performance Evaluations 2 CERTIFICATION STATEMENT I hereby certify that this paper constitutes my own product, that where the language of others is set forth, quotation marks so indicate, and that appropriate credit is given where I have used the language, ideas, expressions, or writings of another. Signed:

3 Improving Employee Performance Evaluations 3 Abstract The Executive Fire Officer Program (EFOP) incorporates a class on Executive Leadership. This class identifies the importance of feedback in employee growth. The U.S. Fire Administration has also identified the importance of improving the fire and emergency services professional status. The problem is that the current employee performance evaluation process has been identified as ineffective by the employees of the Appleton, Wisconsin Fire Department. The purpose of this applied research project is to develop an effective employee performance evaluation process for the Appleton, Wisconsin Fire Department. Using action research methodology, the following questions will be answered to address the identified problem. What are the standards for an effective employee performance evaluation process? What laws and regulations impact the development of the process? How do other fire department employee performance evaluation processes work? What components do the employees of the Appleton Fire Department think should be included in an effective performance evaluation process? What aspects of the current process could be incorporated into developing the new process? A literature review, survey instruments, and interviews were used in the research of the problem, identifying that the current process is not seen as beneficial by a majority of the members of the department, and that modifications need to be made to improve the process for it to be accepted by the employees. The following recommendations were identified: 1. The Appleton Fire Department should establish a team of employees including members from all ranks within the department to evaluate the current performance evaluation forms. 2. An evaluation of the current rating scale should be conducted. 3. An evaluation of a 360-degree component be reviewed. 4. Formalized

4 Improving Employee Performance Evaluations 4 training be provided for employees performing performance review. 5. Assign supervisors to employees at the beginning of the evaluation period.

5 Improving Employee Performance Evaluations 5 Table of Contents Certification Statement.. 2 Abstract.. 3 Table of Contents 5 Introduction 6 Background and Significance. 7 Literature Review 11 Procedures.. 19 Results 22 Discussion.. 37 Recommendations.. 45 References.. 47 Appendix A Appleton Fire Department Employee Rating Form Appendix B Appleton Fire Department Employee Rating Form Appendix C City of Appleton Employee Performance Evaluation Appendix D City of Appleton Recruit Firefighter Performance Evaluation.. 53 Appendix E City of Appleton Firefighter Performance Evaluation.. 58 Appendix F City of Appleton Driver/Engineer Performance Evaluation. 63 Appendix G City of Appleton Company Officer Performance Evaluation Appendix H City of Appleton Acting Officer Performance Evaluation 75 Appendix I Appleton Fire Department Employee Survey. 78 Appendix J Appleton Fire Department Chief/Company Officer Survey 80 Appendix K Wisconsin Fire Department Cover Letter and Survey. 82

6 Improving Employee Performance Evaluations 6 Introduction The Appleton Fire Department has been conducting employee performance evaluations since the 1970 s. The purpose of these evaluations was to recognize employee s good performance and for addressing employee s poor performance. To accomplish the performance evaluations, the fire department has incorporated an evaluation form consisting of a number of measurement criteria for supervisors to utilize in the evaluation process. Over the last forty years, these forms have changed numerous times to address changes in job requirements as well as changes in the rating scale of employee performance. A major overhaul of the performance evaluation system was conducted in This change incorporated a self review component completed by the employee prior to the completion of the performance review process by the supervisor. Since that overhaul, minor modifications have been made based on feedback from the employees being evaluated as well as the supervisors using the form to conduct the evaluations. Even with these modifications, the fire department has continually received complaints throughout the employee ranks on the performance appraisal process. The problem is that the current employee performance evaluation process has been identified as ineffective by the employees of the Appleton, Wisconsin Fire Department. The purpose of this project is to develop an effective employee performance evaluation process for the Appleton, Wisconsin Fire Department. Using action research methodology, the following questions will be answered to address the identified problem. What are the standards for an effective employee performance evaluation process? What laws and regulations impact the development of the process? How do other fire department employee performance evaluation processes work? What components do the employees of the Appleton Fire Department think should be included in an effective

7 Improving Employee Performance Evaluations 7 performance evaluation process? What aspects of the current process could be incorporated into developing the new process? By answering the above questions, recommendations can be provided for the development of an effective employee performance evaluation process. Background and Significance The City of Appleton is located in northeast Wisconsin. The city is unique as it sits within three counties. The majority of the city is in Outagamie County with a portion in Calumet and Winnebago Counties. Appleton is the heart of an area called the Fox Valley where eighteen communities call their home. In 2000, the Fox Valley s population was estimated to be approximately 222,000 (Fox Cities Visitors and Convention Bureau, 2008). Appleton is the largest municipality located within the Fox Valley area. In 2008, the city had over 72,000 citizens living within its borders. Additionally, Appleton is the largest populated community in Calumet County, a mostly rural county. A very small portion of the city occupies Winnebago County. Fire protection for the city is provided by an all career fire department consisting of 98 career employees. The department operates six fire stations strategically placed throughout the city. Each station provides a home for a single engine company, typically staffed with three persons. The largest station, Station One, serves as the department s headquarters and is the home of an engine and ladder company task force. In addition, the station houses the shift commander who responds as an incident commander during emergency incidents. The station is typically staffed with seven people. In addition to fire suppression activities, the department also provides regional hazardous materials and technical rescue response. The department provides first responder level emergency medical response supporting Gold Cross Ambulance, a private ambulance service overseen by the area hospitals. Outagamie County Public Safety Answering

8 Improving Employee Performance Evaluations 8 Point (PSAP) provides alarm receipt and dispatching for the department. The Appleton Fire Department responded to 3,155 calls for service in The completion of employee performance evaluations has been a department practice since the 1970 s. The initial evaluation form (Appendix A) was completed by the employee s supervisor based on ten job performance criteria, consisting of; Knowledge of Work, Quality of Work, Quantity of Work, Cooperation, Responsibility, Dependability, Punctuality, Overall Appearance, Supervisory Ability and Judgment. Each section was rated on a four level scale including Outstanding, Above Average, Average and Unsatisfactory. The performance review contained a general comment sections and a location for the rater s and employee s signature. The reviews were completed annually. In the 1990 s, the evaluation form (Appendix B) was changed to include more specific identified tasks for evaluation. These tasks were broken into six criteria, including; Task Performance, Communications Skills, Quality of Effort, Attitude, Knowledge of Job Requirement and Initiative. A five level rating schedule was utilized for rating employees. This included bottom, lower, middle, upper and top. Additionally, a development interview section was added that captured performance strengths, improvement objectives, action steps and an area for the supervisor to identify how they could help the employee in their performance. In early 2000, there was a general concern being presented by the employees to the management team that the employee review process was in need of overhauling. The concern was based on both the evaluation form as well as the overall evaluation process. In conjunction with the City of Appleton Human Resources Department, the fire department management team worked on the development of a new performance evaluation form (Appendix C). Under this performance evaluation process, a form incorporated the specific skills associated with each position within the organization, including: Company Officer, Driver/Engineer and Firefighter. The categories being evaluated for all positions consisted of: Suppression Skills Engine

9 Improving Employee Performance Evaluations 9 Company Practices, Suppression Skills Truck Company Practices, Emergency Medical Duty, Safety, Interpersonal Skills, Other Responsibilities, Rules and Procedures, Station Duties and Out of Grade Work. A four level scale was utilized for the completion of the evaluation process. The scale included outstanding, above expectations, meets expectations and below expectations. The evaluations were conducted annually by the company and chief officers based upon the supervisor level in the organization. The process developed in 2000 was utilized until 2004 when the performance appraisal form was modified. Supervisors raised a concern regarding the format of the performance evaluation form and review process. The concern generated consisted of two key components: consistency with the rating scale and the inability to rate employees based on the number of times working with them. The supervisors voiced a concern over consistency with the four levels of the rating system. They felt that the four levels created inconsistency with the use of outstanding and below expectations. Their concern was that these sections were not being effectively utilized based on the position that employees were not outstanding and below was seen as employee failure. Secondly, company officers felt that they did not have adequate access to employee performance based on employees being moved between supervisors to meet department staffing needs. The supervisors felt they were conducting performance evaluations on employees that they seldom worked with. These issues were addressed with the development of a self evaluation component within the process. The rating scale was changed to adopt a three level scoring criteria. This included exceeds expectations, meets expectations and not met expectations. Performance Evaluation Forms were created for each position including: Recruit Firefighter (Appendix D), Firefighter (Appendix E), Driver Engineer (Appendix F) and Company Officer (Appendix G). On July 27, 2009, during a company officer meeting, a discussion was held with company officers on the performance review process. During this discussion, the group of

10 Improving Employee Performance Evaluations 10 company officers discussed the inclusion of a 360 degree review process as a component of the performance review process. During this meeting, significant feedback was provided to Interim Fire Chief Dave Walsh on the problems and concerns with the performance review process. Chief Walsh shared with the company officers that as an interim chief, he felt that any changes to the current process should be handled once a permanent chief was appointed. Concerns again generated around the fairness of the process, the forms being utilized, and the lack of training for those supervisors completing the performance reviews. This message was delivered to the new Fire Chief Len Vander Wyst as a concern voiced by the company officers upon his appointment. In 2010, the department began evaluating the process of promotion of Lieutenants within the department. The evaluation included discussions with the members of the City of Appleton Police and Fire Commission. During these discussions, the commission felt that performance evaluations were a critical component for promotion. Based upon this position, a new performance review form was developed for the position of acting officer (Appendix H). It was during this development that the concern over the entire performance review process was discussed with Chief Vander Wyst and the problem statement for this research project was developed. Addressing the research questions of this applied research project directly relates to the Executive Leadership course goal of the chief fire executive will develop the ability to conceptualize and employ the key processes used by effective executive level managers. Executive Leadership Student Manual, (2009). The course also provides two specific sections dealing with the performance review concept. Unit Two speaks on the importance of Feedback. Employee performance evaluations, if done properly, incorporate these components of feedback. Unit Seven deals with Succession/Replacement Planning. Employee performance evaluations are an effective tool in preparing employees for future executive leadership roles within the organization. Additionally, the research addresses the United States Fire Administration

11 Improving Employee Performance Evaluations 11 Operational objective #4 Improve the Fire and Emergency Services Professional status as identified in the United States Fire Administrations Strategic Plan Literature Review The literature review of the employee performance evaluations began with an evaluation of materials available through the Learning Resource Center at the National Fire Academy. Additional information was gathered through an internet search of articles and periodicals on the topic. The Executive Leadership Student Manual (2009) identifies the importance of feedback as a component of employee succession planning and leadership. The course goal identifies the chief fire executive will develop the ability to conceptualize and employ the key processes used by effective executive-level managers. One key component of this process is succession planning. An integral component of succession planning is the preparation of subordinates to fill the future leadership roles within the organization. A key to this preparation is the use of employee performance evaluations. State of Wisconsin Department of Commerce (2002), Chapter 30 Fire Department Safety and Health Standards, identifies training and employment standards for firefighters, driver engineers and company officers working in the fire service. Subchapter 6 of the standard deals with training and education. In the section of Employment Standards, Chapter 30 references the requirements for fire department personnel to be trained and qualified in accordance with National Fire Protection Association Standards 1001 Standard for Firefighter Professional Qualifications, 1002 Standard for Fire Apparatus Driver/Operator Professional Qualifications and 1021, Standard for Fire Officer Professional Qualifications. The chapter requires that newly promoted company officers be qualified to the Fire Officer 1 level. National Fire Protection Association (2008) identifies within NFPA 1001 the inclusion of a skills maintenance component for the Standard for Fire Fighter Professional Qualifications.

12 Improving Employee Performance Evaluations 12 Section identifies that firefighters at all levels of progression shall remain current with fire protection technology. Additionally, the standard identifies the use of job performance qualifications (JPQ s) in identifying necessary performance for obtaining the qualification levels within the standard. Section B.4 identifies employee performance evaluation and employee development as another use for the JPQ s. National Fire Protection Association (2009) identifies within NFPA 1021 the inclusion of a skills maintenance component for the Standard for Fire Officer Professional Qualifications. Section identifies that fire officers at all levels of progression shall remain current with the general requirements for fire officers, human resource management, community and government relations, administration, inspection and investigation, emergency service delivery, and health and safety. Section 4.2, Human Resource Management, identifies that a Fire Officer 1 involves utilizing human resources to accomplish assigned tasks. This duty involves the evaluating of employee performance. Section B.4 identifies employee performance evaluation and employee development as another use for the JPQ s. The U.S Office of Personnel Management (2010) identified the chronology of employee performance management in the federal government. The first federal law on appraisals was adopted in This law required the U.S. Civil Service Commission (now the Office of Personnel Management) to establish a uniform efficiency rating system for all agencies. In 1935, the Commission established the Uniform Efficiency Rating System, identifying three areas of performance factors, quality of performance, productiveness, and qualifications. There were five rating levels within each category. In 1950, this scale was changed to a three level rating scale of outstanding, satisfactory, and unsatisfactory. In 1962, the Civil Service Reform Act, required the development of appraisal systems for all Federal employees. This included that appraisals must be based on job-related performance standards; agencies must encourage employee participation in establishing performance standards; results of the appraisals must be used as a basis for

13 Improving Employee Performance Evaluations 13 training, rewarding, reassigning, promoting, reducing in grade, retaining and removing employees. In 1991, legislation extended the performance management and recognition system allowing the use of written statements of work objectives to establish performance requirements. Rick Lasky (2004) identified that you must trust your employees. Train them, give them what they need and let them go. A good way to do this is through performance evaluations. Let them know they re doing a good job. He identifies the importance of documenting performance for future promotion opportunities. Jason Hosea (2004) identified, whether you are an evaluator or the person being evaluated, increasing your knowledge in the area of employee performance evaluations will assist you in understanding the importance of evaluation and its effect on the employee and organization. Hosea identified the importance that the employee evaluation process is to improve the employee performance. That the process should be as positive as possible and should motivate the employee to improve not be resentful. That it is important to be honest and if needed not to avoid the unpleasant task of giving criticism. Hosea states that the agency should develop an evaluation form that can be used for all employees within the same job category. The form should focus on how well the employee has performed the various job duties. Identifying that most organizations design their performance evaluations around the responsibilities of the job position. Linda Willing (2010) has identified that some fire departments have found routine performance evaluations to be of such limited value that they have eliminated them altogether. She found that there are two main reasons performance evaluations are ineffective. First, the system in place is inadequate. The flaws may arise from evaluating the wrong things or applying a qualitative scale to something that is quantitative. An example would be rating an employee on a scale of 1 10 on whether that person has ever been late to work. The second problem she identified was that most people who do performance evaluations have little or no training and

14 Improving Employee Performance Evaluations 14 support in the process. This concern was one of the issues identified by the company officers in their concern over the current review process. Willing identified that if training is inadequate, the evaluator is winging it and can easily fall into a number of evaluator traps such as: Excessive leniency or severity Evaluations that are either too harsh or accommodating. Halo effect if an employee is good in one area, rating the worker high in all areas. Centralizing tendency Evaluators choose the safe middle ground for all employees. Recency effect It may be tempting to rate an employee based entirely on a recent event. Willing identified that evaluators need support to maximize performance evaluation effectiveness. When the support is absent, the result may be worse than just making the process meaningless. The performance evaluations support system at the very minimum includes training, openness, and follow-up. Witting also identifies the importance of supervisors having access to previous evaluations as an integral component of the performance review process. Ron Hiraki (2010) identifies that writing clear and concise comments are essential for the performance review process. He identifies that this can be a very challenging component of the process. Hiraki identifies that there are many good reasons for conducting performance evaluations. He states that reasons for conducting performance evaluations include improving performance. How can subordinates improve if they don t know what s wrong? Motivating employees, identifying that if employees are doing an outstanding job, why not recognize that component of their performance? Lastly, identifying training needs. If performance evaluations show that everyone is having trouble with a training area, the training program can be focused on that area. Hiraki states that giving criticism is difficult for both the evaluator and the subordinate. As a leader, it is important to give this criticism. If you don t, he states that the situation may fester creating more hard feelings or a safety situation.

15 Improving Employee Performance Evaluations 15 Paul Falcone (2008) identifies that performance reviews are a daunting task for supervisors. He states that judging others work often appears exceptionally perception driven versus fact driven. Providing honest feedback is potentially confrontational. He also identifies that overinflating grades can create a situation for a legal challenge in the future when you need to terminate or discipline an employee. This area has been identified as a concern by the company officers and should be evaluated as a component of the research. One aspect identified by Falcone is to reinvent the performance appraisals by shifting the responsibility of the initial evaluation back to the employee. He states if you ask workers to grade themselves, you will find that they are harder on themselves than the evaluator would be. Utilizing this method may place your supervisors in a role of a career mentor of coach rather than decision-makers and disciplinarians. Business Management Daily (2008) identifies five warning signs of performance review problems. 1. Employees are unpleasantly surprised by the ratings. Performance appraisals should not contain surprises. 2. Ratings by one supervisor or department are uniformly excellent. It is inappropriate to rate everyone at the same level. 3. Great employees don t receive great ratings. Employees who are strong employees should be receiving the best ratings. If they are not, the appraisals are not rewarding those they should. 4. Employees who are dismissed have received excellent ratings. If the performance appraisal doesn t support a decision, it makes it more difficult for the employer to defend their later actions. 5. Productivity generally goes down during appraisal time. The goal of performance appraisals is to increase productivity. If the process is not doing so, it needs to be replaced. Additionally, they identify two common errors to stay away from when conducting performance appraisals. Evaluation of attitude not performance and evaluation inflation. Both contribute to the unsuccessfulness of the process. Kevin Royce (2009) when conducting research for his applied research paper identified in his research that the following components were key to a successful performance review

16 Improving Employee Performance Evaluations 16 process. They include properly updated job descriptions, communications of performance expectations and standards, feedback from supervisors, supervisor training on how to conduct employee performance reviews and a simple performance review form. Royce identified based on information from the International City Management Association (ICMA) (1997), that there are four major goals of an effective performance appraisal process. These include, informing employees how they are doing, documenting employee performance, evaluating employee s strengths and weaknesses and providing information to the employee to assist the employee s professional development. He further identified that ICMA identified twelve characteristics of an effective performance appraisal: 1. The appraisal should be simple and easy to administer 2. The Human Resource Department should be able to keep track of the appraisal easily. 3. The performance appraisal form should be easy to complete by supervisors. 4. The evaluation criteria should be concrete, specific, controllable and measurable. 5. Employee s should have access to the standards being measured and the appraisal form well in advance. 6. Employees should be given the opportunity to comment on the performance appraisal. 7. The performance appraisal should be designed to fit the needs of the organization. 8. Job descriptions used in the performance appraisal process should be updated and kept recent. 9. Supervisors should be properly trained on how to evaluate employees. 10. Performance standards or goals should be communicated to the employee before the performance appraisal. 11. Performance appraisals should focus on specific job-related behaviors and not traits, abilities or personal characteristics.

17 Improving Employee Performance Evaluations The performance instrument or form should be developed from a systematic analysis of individual jobs. Dominick Swinhart (2008) identifies that fire departments are beginning to use performance evaluations as a valuable tool to facilitate organizational growth and employee growth as individuals. He identified that performance reviews have been part of the business world for decades and that traditionally fire departments have reserved the use of them primarily as a component of the probationary process. Swinhart proposed that a way of improving the performance review process was incorporating the theory of 360-degree performance evaluations. In this process, everyone in the organization receives thoughtful evaluation and suggestions for improvement from everyone with whom they come in contact with, including supervisors, colleagues and subordinates. He identified that the primary purpose of performance evaluations should be personnel as well as organizational improvement. It can also be invaluable in identifying future leaders in the fire department. The added benefit of a 360-degree review is that it provides evaluations from all around the employee not just from a supervisor. Swinhart does identify that organizations that have an atmosphere of distrust or don t open lines of communications are poor choices for 360-degree evaluations. Toolpack Consulting identifies that the best performance reviews let managers and employees communicate, share ideas, opinions and information. Toolpack identified the problem with traditional reviews is it put managers into the position of uncomfortable judges identifying if the employee either fit the bill or didn t. Toolpack identifies that new types of reviews coming into play require that evaluations are done not for raises, promotions or bonuses, but more for growth, development and communications. The most important piece identified in new performance reviews is that communications between the employee and other people instead of one-way communications with a supervisor are more beneficial for higher performance. Toolpack shared four types of alternative performance reviews: peer review, self reviews,

18 Improving Employee Performance Evaluations 18 upward assessments and 360-degree feedback. Peer review often have a high level of worker acceptance, they tend to be stable, task-relevant and accurate. Peer reviews help peers better understand each others work, airing grievances in a non-threatening manner, allowing workers to get along better. Self reviews are based on the idea that employees are most familiar with their work and their involvement is essential. Employees rate themselves on a number of criteria usually with a formal survey form and suggesting improvements. This type of process changes the role of a supervisor in the process to more of a mentor or coach. However, Toolpack does identify that self reviews tend to have a halo effect and people may not see their own deficiencies as others do, so this method should be utilized alongside other performance evaluation methods. Upward assessments provide feedback to managers on their performance, allowing managers to realize what they say sometimes does not match up with what they do. The process is more important than a survey form and requires both the raters and the managers to open up if it is going to be successful. It is suggested that this method be utilized at least every four years. Toolpack identified that the 360-degree feedback process is the most comprehensive and costly type of appraisal. It includes self ratings, peer review and upward assessment. Feedback is sought from everyone. It gives people the chance to know how they are seen by others, to see their skills and style, and to improve communications. The 360 degree feedback has high employee involvement and credibility. Toolpack states that it may have the strongest impact on behavior and performance. They identify the importance of involving employees in the process. If they design the performance appraisal system, they may be more dedicated to it and both the employees and the organization can benefit from the process. The literature review identified a number of benefits to a performance review process. These benefits impact both the employee and the organization. It identified the importance of employee involvement in the process from the beginning development through the actual completion of the performance evaluation. Additionally, a number of concerns with the process

19 Improving Employee Performance Evaluations 19 were identified including the lack of employee training in the process for conducting performance evaluations. This was one of the major concerns identified by the company officers of the Appleton Fire Department. Procedures The purpose of this research was to obtain information to address the identified problem that the current employee performance evaluation process has been identified as ineffective by the employees of the Appleton, Wisconsin Fire Department. The purpose of this applied research project is to develop an effective employee performance evaluation process for the Appleton, Wisconsin Fire Department. Using action research methodology, the following questions will be answered to address the identified problem. What are the standards for an effective employee performance evaluation process? What laws and regulations impact the development of the process? How do other fire department employee performance evaluation processes work? What components do the employees of the Appleton Fire Department think should be included in an effective performance evaluation process? What aspects of the current process could be incorporated into developing the new process? Research started with a review of literature from information available at the Learning Resource Center of the National Fire Academy. Included in this review of literature was the research previously conducted by other fire departments relating to the topic of employee performance evaluations. Additionally, an internet and periodical search was conducted looking for available information based on keywords of employee performance and employee appraisals. The purpose of this research was to gather information related to answering all five of the identified research questions. Using this literature review, information was gathered on the benefits and obstacles of employee performance evaluations. This information was beneficial in influencing the applied research project.

20 Improving Employee Performance Evaluations 20 To gather local information on the concept of employee performance review, research was conducted on the requirements for employee reviews through the State of Wisconsin Statutes, Wisconsin Administrative Code Chapters 14 Fire Prevention and Chapter 30 Fire Department Safety And Health. A review was conducted of the City of Appleton City Policies and Appleton Fire Department Policies and Standard Operating Guidelines. This information was used to evaluate the legal requirements related to performance reviews found in research question two, what laws and regulations impact the development of the process? As a component of the review of the promotional process for the position of Fire Lieutenant, a consideration to the formal utilization of performance evaluations for promotional consideration was presented to the City of Appleton Police and Fire Commission. As this component directly related to the purpose of this applied research project, a personal interview was held on May 18, 2010 with Police and Fire Commissioner Ralph Evans. The purpose of this interview was to gather information on the expectations of the Police and Fire Commission as it relates to employee performance evaluations. The information was valuable in understanding the position of the Police and Fire Commission as it relates to the importance of the employee review process as well as the importance of the research for this project. A follow-up survey with Commissioner Evans was conducted on May 27, 2010 to gather additional information. Using examples of research conducted by others, survey instruments were developed to gather information for the purpose of answering the following research questions: How do other fire department employee performance evaluation processes work? What components do the employees of the Appleton Fire Department think should be included in an effective performance evaluation process? What aspects of the current process could be incorporated into developing the new process? The survey was distributed to three target audiences. The first survey, Appleton Fire Department Employee Survey (Appendix I), was distributed to sixty-eight employees of the Appleton Fire Department. The purpose of including

21 Improving Employee Performance Evaluations 21 this group was to gather information as to their opinion of the current fire department performance evaluation process and to solicit information on how the employees felt the process could be improved. This group included a selection of all employees currently evaluated under the department s performance evaluation process. Included in this group were company officers, driver/engineers and firefighters. Of the sixty-eight surveys distributed, fifty-one surveys were returned for a seventy-five percent return rate. This survey provided valuable information as it related to answering research questions about what components do the employees of the Appleton Fire Department think should be included in an effective performance evaluation process and what aspects of the current process could be incorporated into developing the new process from the perspective of employees being surveyed. It should be noted that one limitation identified within the distribution of this survey is that thirteen employees were not included in the distribution of the survey as they were on leave and not available to participate in the survey process. The second survey, Appleton Fire Department Chief/Company Officer Survey (Appendix J), was distributed to Appleton Fire Department Chief and Company Fire Officers. The purpose of this selected group was to gain a perspective from them on the use of the current performance evaluation tool as well as to solicit information from this group of supervisors who utilize the tool to conduct performance evaluations on subordinates. A total of twenty-four surveys were distributed, of which sixteen were returned for a sixty-six percent return rate. This survey provided valuable information as it related to answering research questions about what components do the employees of the Appleton Fire Department think should be included in an effective performance evaluation process and what aspects of the current process could be incorporated into developing the new process from the perspective of employees conducting the employee performance evaluations.

22 Improving Employee Performance Evaluations 22 It should be noted that a limitation to the second survey was the lower percentage of participants returning the survey. This may be attributed to the fact that this survey was distributed through electronic mail to the selected group. The third survey, Wisconsin Career Fire Department Survey (Appendix K) was distributed by the Wisconsin State Fire Chief s Education Association through their electronic mail distribution system. The purpose of this selected group was to gain a perspective of the performance evaluation process being utilized by other career fire departments in the State of Wisconsin. This group was chosen by of the career status of their department. A total of onehundred and thirteen surveys were electronically distributed, of which twenty-two surveys were returned for a nineteen percent return rate. This survey provided valuable information as it related to answering the research question about to how do other fire department employee performance evaluation processes work from the perspective of career fire departments. Clearly, the lower percentage of return of nineteen percent was disappointing and should be identified as a limitation in the results and effectiveness of this component. Results The results of the research were compiled through the use of a literature review, personal interview and multiple survey instruments to answer the following research questions. What are the standards for an effective employee performance evaluation process? What laws and regulations impact the development of the process? How do other fire department employee performance evaluation processes work? What components do the employees of the Appleton Fire Department think should be included in an effective performance evaluation process? What aspects of the current process could be incorporated into developing the new process?

23 Improving Employee Performance Evaluations 23 To answer question one, what are the standards for an effective employee performance evaluation process, a review of literature identified a number of factors that should be utilized in an effective employee review process. Ron Hiraki (2010) identifies that writing clear and concise comments are essential for the performance review process. Kevin Royce (2009) identified that for a successful performance review process, the review should include properly updated job descriptions, communications of performance expectations and standards, feedback from supervisors, supervisor training on how to conduct employee performance reviews and a simple performance review form. Royce identified in his research based on information from the International City Management Association (ICMA), that there are four major goals of an effective performance appraisal process including informing employees how they are doing, documenting employee performance, evaluating employee s strengths and weaknesses and providing information to the employee to assist the employee s professional development. Toolpack Consulting (2009) identifies that the best performance reviews let managers and employees communicate, share ideas, opinions and information. Toolpack shared that the most important piece identified in new performance reviews is that communications between the employee and other people instead of one-way communications with a supervisor are more beneficial for higher performance. International City and Management Association (ICMA) (1997) identified twelve characteristics of an effective performance appraisal: 1. The appraisal should be simple and easy to administer 2. The Human Resource Department should be able to keep track of the appraisal easily. 3. The performance appraisal form should be easy to complete by supervisors. 4. The evaluation criteria should be concrete, specific, controllable and measurable.

24 Improving Employee Performance Evaluations Employee should have access to the standards being measured and the appraisal form well in advance. 6. Employees should be given the opportunity to comment on the performance appraisal. 7. The performance appraisal should be designed to fit the needs of the organization. 8. Job descriptions used in the performance appraisal process should be updated and kept recent. 9. Supervisors should be properly trained on how to evaluate employees. 10. Performance standards or goals should be communicated to the employee before the performance appraisal. 11. Performance appraisals should focus on specific job-related behaviors and not traits, abilities or personal characteristics. 12. The performance instrument or form should be developed from a systematic analysis of individual jobs. Swinhart (2008) proposed that a way of improving the performance review process was incorporating the theory of 360-degree performance evaluations. In this process, everyone in the organization receives thoughtful evaluation and suggestions for improvement from everyone with whom they come in contact with including supervisors, colleagues and subordinates. To answer question two, what laws and regulations impact the development of the process, a review of federal, state and local standards was utilized. Most notably, it was identified that there were no City of Appleton or Appleton Fire Department policies or guidelines that mandated the need to conduct employee performance evaluations of members of the Appleton Fire Department. One city policy was discovered which outlined the requirement to conduct bi-annual performance evaluations for non-represented full and part time employees.

25 Improving Employee Performance Evaluations 25 This would include the management team of the department but not the employees below the level of Battalion Chief. A review was conducted of State of Wisconsin statutes and administrative codes relating to the requirement of performance evaluations. State of Wisconsin Department of Commerce (2002), Chapter 30 Fire Department Safety and Health Standards, identifies training and employment standards for firefighters, driver engineers and company officers working in the fire service. Subchapter 6 of the standard deals with training and education. In the section of Employment Standards, Chapter 30 references the requirements for fire department personnel to be trained and qualified in accordance with National Fire Protection Association Standards NFPA 1001 Standard for Firefighter Professional Qualifications, NFPA 1002 Standard for Fire Apparatus Driver/Operator Professional Qualifications and NFPA 1021, Standard for Fire Officer Professional Qualifications. The chapter requires that newly promoted company officers be qualified to the Fire Officer 1 level. Nowhere within the Wisconsin Administrative Code does it require a fire department to conduct employee performance evaluations. The closest link would be the adoption of National Fire Protection Association Standards dealing with professional qualifications. National Fire Protection Association (2008) identifies within NFPA 1001, the inclusion of a skills maintenance component for the Standard for Fire Fighter Professional Qualifications. Section identifies that firefighters at all levels of progression shall remain current with fire protection technology. Additionally, the standard identifies the use of job performance qualifications (JPQ s) in identifying necessary performance for obtaining the qualification levels within the standard. Section B.4 identifies employee performance evaluation and employee development as another use for the JPQ s. National Fire Protection Association (2009) identifies within NFPA 1021 the inclusion of a skills maintenance component for the Standard for Fire Officer Professional Qualifications. Section identifies that fire officers at all levels of

26 Improving Employee Performance Evaluations 26 progression shall remain current with the general requirements for fire officers, human resource management, community and government relations, administration, inspection and investigation, emergency service delivery, and health and safety. Section 4.2 Human Resource Management identifies that a Fire Officer 1 involves utilizing human resources to accomplished assigned tasks. This duty involves the evaluating of employee performance. Section B.4 identifies employee performance evaluation and employee development as another use for the JPQ s. Although these standards identify the concepts of skill maintenance and performance evaluations as a requirement for company officers, there is no direct mandate that a formal performance evaluation process is required. The U.S Office of Personnel Management (2010) identified the chronology of employee performance management in the federal government. The first federal law on appraisals was adopted in This law required the U.S. Civil Service Commission (now the Office of Personnel Management) to establish a uniform efficiency rating system for all agencies. However, there is no direct link from the requirement for conducting employee reviews at the local level based upon the review of federal requirements. Based on the review of literature, no direct law or regulation would impact on the development or requirement for the completion of employee performance reviews. A survey instrument, Wisconsin Fire Department Survey (Appendix K), was used in answering question three, how do other fire department employee performance evaluation processes work. The results are as follows; 1. Type of Fire Department a. Career (10) 45% b. Combination (11) 50% c. Volunteer (1) 5% 2. Size of your department a. Less than 25 members (1) 5% b members (11) 50% c members (8) 36%

27 Improving Employee Performance Evaluations 27 d. Over 100 members (2) 9% 3. Does your department conduct performance evaluations of your employees? a. Yes (if yes please continue the survey) (19) 86% b. No (if no, please skip to question #14) (3) 14% 4. How often do you perform performance evaluations on your employees? (Circle all that apply, please explain if different timeframes are used for different positions such as probationary) a. Quarterly (0) 0% b. Semi-annually (0) 0% c. Annually (18) 94% d. Bi-annually (1) 6% 5. The Performance Evaluation Form currently used by my department addresses the job skills of the individual that is being evaluated? Strongly Agree (2) 10% Agree (16) 84% Disagree (1) 6% Strongly disagree (0) 0% 6. The current Performance Evaluation process promotes professional growth and development of those that are evaluated? Strongly Agree (1) 6% Agree (16) 84% Disagree (2) 10% Strongly disagree (0) 7. The current Performance Evaluation process offers a valid measurement of their performance? Strongly Agree (1) 6% Agree (14) 74% Disagree (4) 21% Strongly disagree (0) 8. The current Performance Evaluation process is important for the advancement of the career of the individual being evaluating? Strongly Agree (2) 10% Agree (12) 63% Disagree (3) 16% Strongly disagree (0) 9. The current Performance Evaluation Form has a direct impact of the future promotion of the individual being evaluated? Strongly Agree (4) 21% Agree (11) 58% Disagree (4) 21% Strongly disagree (0)

28 Improving Employee Performance Evaluations Does your department utilize an employee self evaluation component of the Performance Evaluation process? a. Yes (9) 47% b. No (10) 53% 11. The employee self evaluation process is beneficial for our department s Performance Evaluation? Strongly Agree (0) Agree (8) 88% Disagree (1) 12% Strongly disagree (0) 12. Does your department use a 360 degree evaluation process in which members of a crew are evaluated by other members of the crew? a. Yes (1) b. No (17) 13. A 360 degree evaluation process is beneficial for our department s Performance Evaluation? Strongly Agree (0) Agree (1) Disagree (0) Strongly disagree (0) 14. List the three most important things that make an effective Performance Evaluation Process? a. Honesty b. Fairness c. Consistency d. Positive reinforcement e. Provide opportunity for feedback f. Employee buy in g. Effective evaluation of job skills h. Employee feedback i. Allow for comments and rebuttal by employee j. Input by multiple people k. Qualified supervisor to complete them l. Set future goals m. Relative to position n. Give expectations at the start of the process o. Understanding department expectations 15. Please add any additional comments regarding the performance review process? a. 360-degree evaluations are not valid subordinates felt they could not be honest

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