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Leadership Secrets of Human Resource Professionals: Louisiana Civil Service and SSA Consultants

Published: July 2006
By: The National Association of State Personnel Executives

The Louisiana Department of Civil Service (DSCS) has had, for many years, an extremely successful partnership with SSA Consultants of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. SSA Consultants is a public sector company that provides management and Human Resource consulting services to many private and public employers in this location. In matters that arise intermittently (rather than those that are an ongoing pail of our business), the DSCS has neither the time nor the personnel to do the research necessary to become familiar with new practices. The partnership with SSA Consultants allows the DSCS to focus the energies of its employees on matters that are currently critical or ongoing, while giving us the ability to obtain the latest information when needed through SSA Consultants. 

In 1997, in partnership with SSA Consultants, the DSCS produced a brand-new employee performance planning and review system.

The old system consisted of a half-page form for each employee, upon which the supervisor, once a year, would basically write "Satisfactory" or "Unsatisfactory." Supervisors could add comments, but most did not do so.

The new system was designed to promote and encourage communication between supervisors and employees. The system consists of, at minimum, a yearly work planning session between supervisor and employee. There is also a yearly performance evaluation  and rating, which consists of six mandatory rating factors for most employees (eight mandatory factors for supervisors), plus other factors a supervisor could choose to include in the rating. Discussion and written comments about each factor are required at the end of the rating period. The rating period was changed from a single date for all employees once a year, to the date that matches the employees "anniversary date" (the date on which an employee became eligible for a merit increase). Finally, the rating categories were expanded from two (Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory), to five (Poor, Needs Improvement, Meets Requirements, Exceeds Expectations and Outstanding).

Continuing the process, the DSCS, again in partnership with SSA Consultants, initiated a comprehensive training effort to train all Human Resource personnel, supervisors and employees on the use of the new system before its effective date.

The new system has been very successful. According to what is reported to us, 96 percent of all employees receive a performance evaluation. Most of the remaining 4 percent who are "unrated" are employees who are on extended leave (such as military service) or who are left unrated for other legitimate reasons.

In the year 2000, the DSCS undertook a massive change in its philosophy of how it would provide service to state employers. The Department went from a primary focus on control and enforcement, to one of assistance and enforcement.

The firm of SSA Consultants was included in this effort.

During the change process, SSA Consultants facilitated meetings at which the direction and functions of the Department were discussed and plans made for the change, including an organizational restructuring. SSA Consultants assisted in the preparation of the Department's efforts to educate the state's HR community about the changes the Department would be making. SSA also facilitated meetings during which Department employees were trained and educated about the new role of the Department as well as their new roles as employees.

At the current time [2006], the DSCS is again engaged in a partnership with SSA Consultants. The current project involves a planned review of the employee Performance Planning and Review System. A number of needed changes to the system have been identified, and will hopefully be implemented before the end of the calendar year.