Business & Economy

Audit: Many state employees weren’t evaluated last year

A newly released audit found that just 15 percent of employees in three executive branch departments underwent statutorily required annual performance reviews last year.

Just 27 of the 181 classified employees in the departments of Information and Innovation, Human Resources, and Finance and Management went through an evaluation last year.

The audit, published Wednesday, calls the annual performance evaluations “key to holding individual public servants accountable.”

Doug Hoffer
State Auditor Doug Hoffer. File photo by Morgan True/VTDigger

State Auditor Doug Hoffer said he decided to audit the evaluations because they are important to monitoring the state workforce. State statutes and Human Resources Department policy also indicate such evaluations are significant, he said.

The annual performance evaluations are one part of a system that Human Resources uses to manage government agencies to encourage productivity, according to the audit.

“Any employee in any organization deserves to know what his or her supervisor’s expectation is for them,” Hoffer said.

Regular evaluations give employees and managers an opportunity to confer on how well the worker is meeting expectations. “The lack of information about that has very practical implications,” Hoffer said.

Employees with more favorable results on their evaluations may be eligible for a raise or promotion, he said. They’re also less likely to lose their jobs in the event of layoffs.

If an employee is not meeting expectations, “the impact of that is not just felt in that individual’s office or cubicle,” Hoffer said. Underperformance on the job is to the detriment of the state as a whole, he said.

“We’re working with taxpayer money, and we’re trying to achieve a whole bunch of things,” Hoffer said.

The audit sampled 20 of the people who did not have an annual evaluation in 2015 and found that nine of them had not been evaluated in more than five years. Three of them, including one who was hired in 1998, had no record of ever being annually evaluated.

Human Resources Commissioner Maribeth Spellman, Finance and Management Commissioner Andy Pallito and Commissioner Richard Boes of the Department of Information and Innovation wrote a letter responding to the audit.

They wrote that the state was already trying to improve the performance management process before the audit. The measures include launching mandatory training for all supervisors and conducting an annual survey of state employees, they said.

Human Resources Deputy Commissioner Thomas Cheney emphasized Wednesday that the department is already making an effort to improve the rate of evaluations.

“Evaluations are important, something that we value, but it is one of several factors,” Cheney said. “DHR has a number of ongoing initiatives to improve employee performance and management.”

He said that so far this year the department has already completed evaluations of 70 percent of the members of the department.

Steve Howard, executive director of the Vermont State Employees’ Association, called the audit report troubling.

“It’s pretty bad management,” Howard said.

The state employee contract includes a requirement for regular evaluations. Howard said union members find it very important to know what is expected of them in their professional roles.

“If people took some time out to listen to front-line workers, state government would most likely run more efficiently,” Howard said.

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Elizabeth Hewitt

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