State auditor gives mild rebuke to three departments over performance reviews

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State auditor gives mild rebuke to three departments over performance reviews

Wed, 07/27/2016 - 1:14pm -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine Vermont Auditor Doug Hoffer released his review of whether certain departments of state government were performing their required employee performance review. His conclusion was that they largely were not and that some long-serving employees had never received a performance review, as required by state policy. The auditor does not have the authority to punish another department or personnel. But the departments in question agreed with Hoffer’s assessment of the situation and with his suggested remedies, some of which are already in place.

Doug Hoffer. See full report HERE.

In his report, Hoffer wrote that “performance evaluations are key to holding individual public servants accountable, and Vermont state policy and statute requires that performance evaluations be completed annually for classified employees. Only 63 percent of respondents to the 2015 State of Vermont Employee Engagement Survey agreed that performance evaluations are completed annually in their respective departments.

“Our audit objective was to determine whether classified employees in the departments of Human Resources (DHR), Information & Innovation (DII), and Finance & Management (F&M) received timely annual performance evaluations in 2015. We focused our audit on these departments because they had some of the lowest levels of performance evaluations completed in 2015, according to the employee engagement surveys.

“As a result of our audit, we concluded that only 27 of 181 classified employees in the three departments received an annual performance evaluation in 2015. Furthermore, a non-statistical sample of 20 of 154 classified employees who did not receive an annual evaluation in 2015 revealed that nine had not received an annual performance evaluation for more than five years, and three with hire dates in 2013, 2012, and 1998 had no record of an annual evaluation.

“We interviewed 22 of 46 supervisors from these three departments to understand the causes for the low level of completed annual performance evaluations for 2015. These interviews showed the following:

  • Most supervisors did not know whether their own written performance expectations included the responsibility for annual evaluations, and the supervisors they reported to had not followed up with them in 2015regarding annual performance evaluations.
  • About half stated they did not begin receiving notifications of upcoming evaluations that were due until late 2015 or early 2016.
  • Less than half (45 percent) indicated they had received some training in the State’s performance evaluation system.

“Senior officials in DII and F&M indicated that annual performance evaluations were not a priority in their departments, but they would be going forward. DHR hired an additional field administrator in late 2015 who has been working to improve the process to ensure annual performance evaluations are completed. “

Within the next two years, all designated supervisors and managers are required to complete the DHR four-day course, Supervising in State Government Level 1, which addresses performance evaluation topics such as key steps to a performance review and completing the required performance evaluation form.


The auditor made a variety of recommendations to the commissioners of DHR, DII, and F&M, such as including in supervisors’ written performance expectations the responsibility for timely completion of performance evaluations; reviewing data regarding which supervisors have completed Supervising in State Government 1(SSG1); and ensuring that those supervisors that have not completed the course, do so before the end of 2018.

The commissioners of the departments audited sent a memo back to Hoffer agreeing with his recommendations and noting that several of the practice and policy changes were already under way.

In part they wrote: “The Department of Human Resources is already tackling many of the issues contained in the audit recommendations. We are supportive of all the audit recommendations, will move forward on the items identified above, and will include completion of performance appraisals as a performance expectation for all supervisors/managers within DHR.


DHR oversees the State’s Performance Management System. According to DHR, this system provides an effective supervisory tool that can enhance the productivity and motivation of employees. DHR’s Guide to the State’s Performance Management System describes the three components of the State’s approach:

1) setting employee job expectations;

2) observing employee performance and providing feedback throughout the year; and

3) completing an annual performance evaluation documenting the employee’s actual performance over the year compared to performance expectations.

DHR’s Field Services and Workforce Development division provides human resources support and services to employees, agencies, and departments throughout state government. Field Services Teams, which in some instances are embedded within agencies and departments, act as the liaison between agencies and departments and DHR’s Operations division. These teams provide a variety of human resources functions for assigned departments, including performance management. Specifically, they provide consultative services on the phases of performance management, including performance evaluations, and may audit performance evaluations to ensure they are in compliance with personnel policies and the CBA.

3 V.S.A. §322 requires that officers and employees that act in a supervisory capacity complete service rating forms3 at least annually for each classified employee under their immediate supervision in accordance with the service rating procedures established by the Commissioner of Human Resources. A classified employee is an employee of the State of Vermont who is hired to fill a position in the classified service in accordance with merit principles as administered by DHR. 4 Classified service positions include permanent full-time, limited service, confidential,5 managerial,6 and supervisory7 positions.

DHR Policy 7.0 applies to all classified state employees and requires that annual performance evaluations be completed for all classified employees on the anniversary date of the employee's completion of original probation,8 or on the anniversary date of restoration or reduction-in-force rehire to State service.

The CBAs require a meeting be held to discuss an evaluation within 45 days after the applicable anniversary date9 and apply to all classified employees who belong to a bargaining unit (e.g., non- management or supervisory). If the deadline is not met, the employee is assigned an annual overall presumptive rating equal to his or her last annual overall rating, but not less than a satisfactory rating.10 Written feedback furnished to an employee, which would have constituted the annual evaluation had it been timely, is not considered an evaluation and is not put in the employee’s file.

Classified employees designated as confidential or managerial are not members of a bargaining unit. The CBA provisions related to holding an evaluation meeting within 45 days of an anniversary date and presumptive ratings are not applicable to confidential and managerial employees.

Footnotes to Report:

1) This relates to all classified employees who were employed at the three departments at December 31, 2015.

2) Performance Management, Society for Human Resource Management, November 20, 2012.  

3) All classified employees receive an annual performance evaluation on a prescribed form, AA-PER-6C. See Appendix III for an example of

a performance evaluation form.

4) Employment within the executive branch of state government is either classified or exempt. The exempt category includes state police, temporary, elected, and appointed positions.

5) A classified employee having responsibility for, knowledge of, or access to information relating to collective bargaining, personnel administration, or budgetary matters that would make membership in or representation by an employee organization incompatible with his or her official duties.

6) The Vermont Labor Relations Board (VLRB) determines whether a managerial position is exempt or classified. A managerial position requires an employee to function as head of an agency, department, or institution, or as director of a major program or division.

7) VLRB determines which positions are supervisory. “Supervisory” means an individual having authority to make decisions about hires, promotions, layoffs, and discipline.  

8) The end of probation generally is six months after the date of hire.

9) The “applicable anniversary date” is the anniversary of the employee’s completion of original probation, or on the anniversary of restoration or reduction-in-force rehire to state service.

10) There are four ratings: outstanding, excellent, satisfactory, and unsatisfactory.  

11) This relates to all classified employees who were employed at the three departments at December 31, 2015.  

12) Survey response rates in 2014 and 2013 respectively were 97 percent and 72 percent (DHR), 66 percent and 60 percent (DII), and 44 percent and 58 percent (F&M).  

13) An agreement by the executive branch called an extension of benefits, specifies which provisions are relevant for confidential and managerial employees. Medical/dental insurance, annual leave, parental/family leave, and court/jury duty are among the benefits that extend to confidential and managerial employees.  

14) Per DHR Policy No. 2.3 this is the person authorized by statute or lawfully-delegated authority to appoint and dismiss employees. According to DHR, appointing authority may be the exempt agency or department head, or may be a senior individual in the chain of command who has been delegated authority to review and sign off on performance evaluations.

15) Performance Management by Elaine D. Pulakos, SHRM Foundation, page 28.  

16) VTHR is the system the State utilizes to process hires, track employee movement, create payroll, and house data for federal and state reporting. VTHR is an Oracle/PeopleSoft system.  

17) This form is utilized to assign signature authorization for persons authorized to approve purchasing, payroll, personnel, and other documents.  

Auditor Mission Statement

The mission of the Auditor’s Office is to hold state government accountable. This means ensuring that taxpayer funds are used effectively and efficiently, and that we foster the prevention of waste, fraud, and abuse.

Source: State Auditor 7.27.2016