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New features: HR upgrades performance management software.

Performance management involves setting clear performance goals early, giving and receiving thoughtful counseling and documenting accomplishments in a way that accurately and specifically describes an employee's performance and contributions. The ePerformance system, developed by the Bureau of Human Resources, assists employees in the performance management process by leveraging technology and improving employee-manager collaboration when completing performance management documents.

The ePerformance software, which is directly linked to the Department-wide Global Employment Management System, lets employees and supervisors document, review and approve all performance evaluation documents. The new self-service function of GEMS ePerformance offers improved efficiency for employees and managers with automated workflow, improved data quality and accuracy, and direct electronic deposit of performance documents into the employee's Official Performance Folder.

Track Evaluations

With ePerformance, employees can participate in and track performance evaluations online, without the inconveniences of excessive paperwork, lost documents and the time-consuming process of having to pouch and mail documents. The automated efficiency report also provides a seamless process to the Foreign Service Promotion Boards.

Use of ePerformance is now mandatory for all Civil Service and Foreign Service personnel for the 2010-2011 rating cycle except in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Even though use of ePerformance by FS employees overseas was optional for the 2009-2010 rating cycle, 52 overseas posts had a 70 percent or higher completion rate in ePerformance for that cycle.

HR recognizes the importance and value of its partnership with ePerformance users. The bureau is also aware many employees feel ePerformance is not user-friendly. We have established a Department-wide user's group to enhance the software's usability and have received constructive comments and suggestions on ways to improve ePerformance. We have implemented some of these suggestions, and next month HR will issue the latest enhancements to ePerformance, based on users' feedback.

Recent enhancements include:

* Employees no longer have to disable the "Smart Quotes" feature in Microsoft Word to prevent upside-down question marks (?) in ePerformance. This occurred whenever a user copied or pasted certain characters, such as quotation marks, apostrophes, dashes and bullets from Microsoft Word to ePerformance.

* Raters and reviewers can hide completed employee evaluation reports and view only current documents on the Performance Document Selection screen. An option is also available to include documents belonging to indirect employees.

Coming enhancements include employees.

* The proxy feature will no longer be limited to managers. An employee will be able to make another Department employee his or her proxy.

* The size of the onscreen font used in the drafting process of ePerformance, now slightly smaller than Times New Roman 12, will be increased for readability.

* Button terminology will be changed to help avoid mistakes in moving an EER through the workflow process. For instance, the "Submit" and "Return" buttons will be changed, as appropriate, to "Approve" and "Disapprove" or "Agree" and "Disagree."

* Employees will receive a warning when they are nearing the end of the space in the text box, to avoid going over characters and linecount limits.

HR continues to welcome feedback and suggestions on the capabilities of ePerformance and all of its self-service tools. Hearing from employees about their experiences using ePerformance will allow the bureau to better serve its customers, so please send any comments and suggestions to the HR Help Desk. The bureau does not plan to make any additional changes to ePerformance until June, giving employees ample time to learn and adjust to the enhancements released in February. HR regrets that the February 2011 updates will not be completed in time for the 2010 Civil Service evaluation cycle.

Materials Online

Training resources and materials are available online now to assist all employees in every step of the performance management process in ePerformance. The ePerformance home, Workforce/PerformanceManagement/ Pages/ePerformance.aspx, has training tools and options, and past communications on the latest ePerformance updates.

All technical issues or questions, including questions on training materials or courses, may be directed to the HR Help Desk. Experienced technicians are available Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. HR periodically extends its Help Desk's hours of operation during the peak usage season for ePerformance and announces updated hours via ALDAC and Department Notice, if applicable.

HR continues to be committed to the success of the Department's use of ePerformance and will have all training materials updated by February 2011 to reflect the enhancements to ePerformance. These include ePerformance reference guides, job aids, Foreign Service Institute distance learning courses for Foreign Service employees, frequently asked questions, on-demand tutorials, and classroom and town hall meeting information. News of updates and enhancements to all HR self-service applications will be posted at sbu/offices/EX/Divisions/SDD/Pages/ AppEnhance.aspx.

The author is a senior communications consultant in the Bureau of Human Resources.
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Author:Haggerson, Amanda
Publication:State Magazine
Date:Jan 1, 2011
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