HomeOpinionUse lockdown to improve public service performance culture

Use lockdown to improve public service performance culture

Charles Tichavavamwe
HR PRACTITIONER
EMPLOYEE performance remains the ultimate lever on which organisational sustainability hinges on. When properly managed, employee performance enables organisations to meet their goals, which include among others, satisfaction of customers’ needs, profitability, productivity and growth.

Government has a wide array of obligations to the wider society; hence performance management in the public service organisations cannot be underestimated. All socio-economic levers are hinged on the performance of government through its various arms.

Public servants in Zimbabwe are viewed in a negative way due to a number of mixed factors. One of the factors is the deplorable performance culture which is threatening to tear and obliterate the goodwill bestowed on our government employees over the times.

In the year 2009, the government of Zimbabwe introduced a new performance management system called Result-Based Personnel Performance System (RB-PPS) with the aim of changing the deplorable performance culture.

Instead, performance standards have since degenerated, plummeting at an unprecedented speed. RB-PPS is an efficient and effective performance management system if implemented to the letter and spirit.

However, empirical evidence has pointed to poor implementation in form of inadequate training, inadequate funding as well as unavailability of rewards as the major limitations.

What is performance management?

Performance management is a process of ensuring employee work behaviour is focused on delivering the goals pursued by the organisation.

It is an iterative process, it, therefore, should not be viewed as an event but a continuous process of guiding, assessing and developing employees to enable them to create value for their organisation. However, it remains management prerogative to ensure that performance occurs in a supportive environment.

The employees may have the desired competencies and are willing to perform but oftentimes their effort is impinged by contextual variables such as the prevailing performance culture, leadership style and the reward system.

Performance is the function of individual attributes, work effort and organisation support. Organisational support relates to perceptions of the extent to which management is perceived as supportive and accommodative.

It is imperative that the government provides all performance supporting instruments such as training, rewards, good leadership, materials, efficient tools of trade and environment conducive for performance. Now, given the level of employee performance in the public service sector, which of the three factors is or are predominantly affecting the results?

Factors affecting performance

For optimum performance, the employee should wield the Skills, Knowledge and Attitude (SKA) required for the job. To suggest that poor performance culture prevailing in public service is due to lack of skills, knowledge and attitude could be an incorrect statement.

We can agree to single out attitude as the main culprit for poor performance in the public service. Attitude problem manifests when the member can do the work but is not willing and this boils down to the subject of employee motivation. What is the level of employee motivation in the public service in Zimbabwe?

Employee motivation

Motivation is a process of energising behaviour towards satisfaction of a predefined goal which may be a need, want or desire. Motivation is a complex subject; what motivates one may be a de-motivator to the other because of individual uniqueness. Some revere financial rewards when some are motivated by the job content.

There are episodes of pay related industrial actions witnessed (though labeled unlawful) and currently happening in Zimbabwe and that confirms that many employees are motivated by financial rewards.

The employee performance situation is turning ugly as most civil servants are now using those offices, Wi-Fi and telephones as conduits for their own “hustles” neglecting their work. Unfortunately this is now a new normal.

This has also triggered and bred a serious problem of corruption within the ranks and file. The rampant corruption in the civil service is now cancerous and swiftly spreading to all government sectors. It has become a deeply rooted culture where those doing it are no longer ashamed of it.

Recommendations

I implore the government of Zimbabwe to take a leaf from Kenya especially the period when Mwai Kibaki took over the reins as President. Before he came into power, Kenya was in a sorry state.

Government employees were engaged in corrupt activities and dereliction of duty and social loafing were the order of the day. President Kibaki introduced a raft of changes and Performance Contracting was one of them.

Performance contracting is a system where employees and management agree on clear objectives, systematic methods of data collection on the progress on deliverables, and the administration of consequences for the results. The following points were noted in the Kenyan perspective;

Members signed a contract with clearly stated performance targets measured over a specific period of time.

Parties were bound to deliver the specific performance targets including those responsible for funding. (In Zimbabwe it is noted that the treasury plans are divorced from ministerial targets thereby causing challenge of funding of the agreed work-plans.)

Resources were provided and an attractive performance based reward system was put in place.

Excellent feedback mechanisms for lunching public complains were created including complains desks, complains boxes, emails and National Centre telephone numbers.

The programme received considerable publicity coverage in both local and national media.

Standard time for serving a client was introduced and all long queues especially at the Passport offices disappeared.

Electronic surveillance were introduced and intensified in corruption red zones.

The intervention harnessed corruption in the public service and transformed the eyesore and decaying systems to life. Public servants performance rate increased significantly due to this intervention.

The government of Zimbabwe has a window of opportunity posed by covid-19 lockdown which can be exploited to its benefit. They can use the lockdown to correct the performance culture such that when the lockdown is finally lifted members will wake-up to a new order of high performance work culture.

To establish the high performance work culture, there is need to put the key fundamentals in place to support and sustain the desired results.

More important is employee motivation, especially awarding performance linked salaries that bring positive valence to members.

Material and financial resources should be provided to support the performance contract and it is pertinent that the contract be binding on both the government and individuals.

Those who fail to apply themselves should be terminated. Before terminating them assessment should be carried out to ascertain whether they have some training gaps which can be solved through training. Through stakeholder engagement and consensus building, optimum service delivery by our public servants is possible.

Tichavavamwe is an HR practitioner and writes in his personal capacity. — +263 773 614 182 or tichavavamwec@gmail.com

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