Developing Critical Elements for Performance Plans

In the new HHS Performance Management Appraisal Program (PMAP) plan, employees have two categories of critical elements:

  • Part 1: The Administrative Requirements Element constitutes one critical element.
  • Part 2: The Individual Performance Outcomes which delineate three to five additional critical elements.
  • Critical elements or outcomes may be viewed as the targeted deliverables at the end stage of an activity or outcomes. They are the products, services, or other tangible (or intangibles) that "leave" the office or program and are intended to serve the needs of a client.
  • They are impact statements. They may convey a reduction of costs, increased satisfaction by clients, more effective patient treatments, or the reduction in the degree or severity of a disease in a given population.
  • Activities performed by the employee lead to outcomes.
  • Activities are described using verbs (Example: Employee conducts test). Outcomes are described using nouns (Example: Five tests conducted daily in compliance with unit standards for quality).

1. Appraisal Form Contents

2. Definitions

  • The second example is preferred, as it includes a measure and focuses on the end-result of what is conducted (the tests) rather than the activity or effort leading to it.

3. Developing Critical Elements

Critical elements should be SMART:

  • Specific: Goals and expectations are clearly stated and direct.
  • Measurable: Outcomes are being achieved in comparison to a standard.
  • Attainable: Goals or results/outcomes must be achievable and realistic.
  • Relevant: Goals have a bearing on the overall direction of the organization, including the "One HHS" Program and Management Objectives.
  • Timely: Results are measured in terms of deadlines, due dates, schedules, or cycles.

While NIH recognizes that this formula helps provide a framework, there is acknowledgement that sometimes research activity may be difficult to measure. Measures should be selected with care in order to avoid inappropriate focus on tabulations, rather than results. Supervisors may wish to consider the complexity of a project or initiative, and focus on important milestones along a continuum that represent progress toward those future-focused outcomes. Relevant, balanced measures, such as those that incorporate both quality and quantity, may be applied to provide a richer, more detailed picture of expectations.

Each critical element must include at least one accompanying metric that is quantifiable and results-based. Supervisors are encouraged to define what is expected at the Fully Successful Level and the Exceptional level. Metrics should address significant program outcomes and improvements such as: enhanced quality of services and healthcare, new knowledge and insight from research, increased level of performance, and/or improvements in customer satisfaction.

OPM provides additional information on developing performance measures. Supervisors should use data collection methods that are not overly time-consuming or difficult to manage.

4. Requirements for Cascading

Employee efforts and performance expectations will support the work of the supervisor and/or the organization.

  • Outcomes may also relate to the NIH, HHS, or other programmatic goals and/or to the goals of other stakeholders and/or customers.

5. Sample Critical Element Statements

The following are fictitious examples of critical elements that might appear as Individual Performance Outcome Critical Element Descriptions on appraisal forms:

  • Four publications disseminated by second quarter.
  • Two research forums convened that further stated IC goals and incorporate management, stakeholder, and client specifications and requirements.
  • Training provided to 100% of IC employees who are "covered" by the new HHS performance management program.
  • Customized Leadership Development courses delivered to participants by Dec. 31.
  • Implementation of all proposed enhancements to the New Employee Orientation program by June 30.

Other critical element formats:

  • Consultation services - each of the following are to be achieved:
    • Consultations scheduled by employee within two days of customer request.
    • Customer satisfaction survey provided by employee to his/her customers within two days of provision of service.

Management of protocol processes - includes all of the following:

  • Audits conducted within 5 days of Council member visits.
  • 98% accuracy rate achieved for each protocol.
  • Database entry completed within 2 days of receiving protocol.
  • 98% of referrals completed within Division predetermined time frame.
  • Commissioner quality assurance standards achieved 98% of time.

6. Example of Cascade Critical Elements

A. IC Director: Outreach Activities

  • Three new IC activities instituted that are designed to enhance the inclusion of women and minorities in the Institute's clinical research studies.

B. Division Director within same IC: Outreach Activities

  • Institute publications disseminated in CY are bi-lingual, language-appropriate, and web-accessible.
  • Public broadcasts are made available on national network, cable television channels, and radio stations promote clinical trials targeted to women and minorities.
  • Recruitment video marketed by second quarter in community and faith-based venues including inner-city churches and mall health fairs.

C. Secretary in same Division: Outreach Activities

  • Outreach meetings scheduled for Division Director within two days of request.
  • IC promotional materials package disseminated to designated churches and mall contacts within two days of Division Director's request.