CASE STUDY - THE QUALITY OF PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENT
As part of restructuring, a television network decided to close one of its local stations in Cape Breton. Several different unions represented the employees at the station. Employees were given severance packages or opportunities to transfer to the network's Halifax station if they were qualified for any available positions. Two electronic news-gathering (ENG) camera operators received layoff notices and requested a transfer to Halifax, where two ENG positions were open. Two ENG operators—two
ENG positions to fill. No problem? Not quite. A recent hire at the Halifax station also applied for one of the two positions. Under the terms of the ENG operators' collective agreement, during any restructuring the employer had the right to fill positions with employees deemed to be the best performers.
The network had never employed any type of performance assessment with its unionized employees and was at a loss as to how to determine which two of the three were the best, other than through their supervisors' opinions. The collective agreement, however, called for an "objective" assessment. The network's HR director recalled that a few years previously its Toronto station had had to prepare for compliance with pay equity legislation and had developed a rating system to evaluate all its Toronto employees, from secretaries to on-air news anchors. The survey was a graphic rating scale very similar to the type shown in Figure 5.4(b). It listed 12 traits or characteristics, including "effort," as shown in Figure 5.4(b). The 12 traits were very general characteristics such as "knowledge," "willingness to learn," and so on. The HR director asked two different managers who had worked with the three employees to use the form to rate the employees' performance. The new hire received the highest rating and was offered a position. The two potential transfers received low ratings and neither was offered a position.
Under the terms of the collective agreement, the two laid-off employees had the right to grieve the decisions, and their union carried the case to arbitration.
The arbitration panel was composed of a neutral chairperson, who was mutually selected by the other two members of the panel, one of whom was appointed by the employer and the other by the union. In presenting its case to the arbitration panel, the union's lawyer decided to call an expert in HR to comment on the performance measure that had been used to assess the employees. After hearing the expert's opinion, which was not challenged by the employer, the arbitration panel threw out
the decision based on the performance measure and declared that the two laid-off employees must be offered the two vacant positions.
1. What did the expert most likely tell the arbitration panel?
2. If you were that expert, what would you tell the arbitration panel? Be as detailed as possible and call upon all the material that has been covered in previous chapters.
3. Do you think an "off-the-shelf" measure that was designed for one purpose can be used to assess performance in another context?
4. After rejecting the performance measure, the arbitration panel itself was charged with assessing which of the three employees were the best performers.
What would you advise the panel to do in this situation? How should they evaluate the employees' performance?
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