Rollout and Buy-in: Handling the Transition to More Effective Staff Metrics

Few changes offer as much opportunity for resistance and tension within a unit as changes to the method of evaluating performance. It's critical that not only the decisions around identifying the key metrics themselves but also the decision-making process, communication of the decisions made, and the steps for rolling out the new system are equally intentional.

We’ve identified three key principles of an effective transition to a new system for evaluating faculty or staff:

  • The metrics are developed as a collaborative effort between staff and supervisors
  • The goals of moving to a more sophisticated system of performance metrics are clear, and it’s communicated that the metrics will be used as the basis for incentives and rewards for superior performance
  • The process for rolling out the metrics is phased and deliberate

Develop the Metrics in Dialogue with Your Staff

Rick Dupree, assistant dean of development and alumni relations for the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, emphasizes the importance of not just dictating goals but of developing metrics in partnership with your staff. "Chat with them about what they're sensing about the economy, about donor perceptions. Find out what challenges they're facing. Let your officers play a role in determining what the metrics will be. Then, when you roll out the next year's goals, everyone is already sold on what they will be."

Soliciting input and testing ideas will help you keep the measures realistic. Scott Peters, director of annual giving at the University of Richmond, cites the example of one class giving officer who has a different portfolio than the others. This officer is involved in the senior gift, and will not be able to make the same number of visits as the other officers. "Had I simply rolled out one-size-fits-all metrics without a dialogue with the head of the class giving program," Peters cautions, "I wouldn't have known about this potential issue."

"The success of any evaluation system depends on open dialogue, and on a publically reached and communicated consensus. Groups need to make these determinations, not a single individual."
Mike Theall, Youngstown State University

A Culture of Incentives

Rolling metrics out in a thoughtful and credible way requires first being deliberate in how you talk about the new metrics, and how you conceive of and communicate the importance and the opportunities of the new system. The unit needs to know how this system will do a better job than the old one at rewarding performance and incentivizing work in ways that contribute to the unit’s success.

"Metrics are a tool for taking good staff and helping them become superb. Make bonus pools available to incentivize and reward exceptional performance, and set clear expectations and metrics that help staff see how to excel. Don't make your metrics system look like a micromanaging tool -- it has to be seen and treated as an opportunity to showcase and reward really high-quality work."
Rick Dupree, Indiana University

To justify offering bonuses and incentives (particularly given today’s budgets), you need metrics. Given metrics that are tightly aligned with the unit’s goals, however, you can use the bonus pool to drive superior performance.

If you are rolling out a scoring system of 100 points for staff activity in a given year, set a goal for the total number of points that need to be achieved that year. Staff who accumulate the necessary points have shown an acceptable level of performance; staff who exceed it have shown exceptional performance and are eligible for incentive pay and bonuses.

"A good metrics system means that staff know what's expected; they know what will happen if they meet and exceed goals. It takes away the guessing game. It incentivizes them to do excellent work and be recognized for it."
Rick Dupree, Indiana University


During a slow economic recovery, many departments will see limited options for establishing a slush fund for staff bonuses. For tips on establishing meaningful non-financial rewards for high performers, review our articles on:

Creative Approaches to Rewarding High-Performing Advancement Staff
Retaining and Rewarding High-Performing Faculty

An Intentional and Phased Rollout

Establishing an intentional and deliberate rollout process can be just as critical as communicating an intentional message about the goals behind the adoption of these metrics.

Scott Peters recognized the necessity of rolling out the system in phases; to document performance on one particular staff activity (visits to prospecitve donors and volunteers), Peters developed a simple initial spreadsheet that gift officers would email to him each month. Each report listed who the officer visited, the purpose of their visit, what the officer asked for, how much was given, and how that amount related to last year's gift.

Peters also facilitated ongoing dialogue about the spreadsheet; he wanted regular staff input on this pilot in more intentional metrics. Did staff feel it was effectively documenting the most important contributing factors to their success? Were there gaps?

The need for a phased rollout is equally true on the academic side of the house. Mike Theall suggests the following participatory process for developing, piloting, and rolling out metrics for faculty evaluation:

  • An open discussion of the purpose –- what the department hopes to accomplish
  • Gather faculty input on the most critical activities and how these should be weighted (Theall recommends focus groups rather than simply questionnaires)
  • Aggregate the results and present them to faculty; let faculty know that this input will inform the effort to develop a new faculty evaluation system, and that they will vote on the applicability of the new system before it is ever rolled out
  • Do a two-year pilot project: for the first year, collect data on the new key performance measures; these data should be available only to the individual faculty, not to administration
  • Second year of data collection: make it optional whether faculty want to submit the data as part of their promotion and tenure process
  • At the end of the second year, provide faculty with the analysis of the data and look for a consensus decision on whether to adopt the new system and replace the old one

This phased rollout takes the time to ensure that the faculty evaluation system actually fulfills the needs of the department, and a majority vote alleviates the resistance one might expect with a less thoughtful rollout.

Articles in This Issue

A Letter from Amit Mrig, President, Academic Impressions

Defining What Activities Are Truly Critical

Rubrics to Measure Satisfactory and Superior Performance

Rollout and Buy-in: Handling the Transition to More Effective Staff Metrics

Using Performance Measures to Drive Faculty and Staff Development