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FAQs

 Click on the frequently asked questions below, to view to the answer. To read the rest of the overview and explore resources, visit the overview page.

General Questions

What is Performance Excellence?

Performance Excellence is a year-round experience that supports individual performance and development through meaningful goals, ongoing coaching and feedback and end-of-year performance reviews and conversations.

This staff-focused experience launched to select departments last year in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, the Feinberg School of Medicine and all staff in Alumni Relations and Development and the Office of Human Resources.

We are now moving forward with University-wide implementation for the 2018 performance year. Performance Excellence is simpler and stronger, will be completed online and is focused on meaningful goals and living our Northwestern values.

Why are you changing the current process?

We think the time you spend on Performance Excellence can be more valuable to you. Advances in the field and review of our past process suggest a better way, including a focus on meaningful ongoing conversations between staff and supervisors, and simplifying the year-end process. Much of the administrative work has been streamlined and many aspects of Performance Excellence will happen online. 

When is this happening? Who is expected to participate?

University-wide implementation is scheduled for the 2018 performance year for all staff, and faculty who supervise staff. Legacy Performance Excellence will not be supported going forward.

Where can I learn more? What do I need to do now?

Look at the resources available throughout this site, specifically the “Getting Started” guides for staff and supervisors. In addition, look for email invitations to trainings and sign up to attend an online session.

How will I learn about Performance Excellence? Do I have to attend special training?

Live webinar training sessions will be offered throughout September and October 2017. In addition, job aids and training videos are available throughout this site.   

What will training look like and where is a schedule published?

Training will be provided through live, online webinars, written job aids and training videos. All job aids and videos are available on this site, and the training schedule can be accessed through myHR Learn (search for Performance Excellence). 

Will there be a help desk, or people available to answer questions as we begin working with the new experience and system?

Yes, for policy and process questions, contact your school or unit's HR Administrator. For technical support related to Performance Excellence in myHR Learn, call (847)491-4357 (1-HELP) or email consultant@northwestern.edu.

What is SIMple goal setting? How does it differ from SMART goal setting?

Just like SMART, SIMple is an acronym, where SIM stands for Specific, Important and Meaningful. You will set a smaller number of performance goals (between 2-4 goals) that describe the impact you will make. Learn more on our goal-setting page and within this goal-setting job aid.

Will the rating scale change?

Yes, we are moving to a simpler 5-level rating framework in the 2017-18 performance year, with descriptive labels rather than numbers. Please visit our review results page to learn more.

Supervisor Questions

What suggestions do you have to help supervisors get quickly up to speed?

Visit for supervisors for information tailored to you. To better prepare you for more meaningful conversations with staff, you may also take Connect, a digital course with short videos that helps improve the quality of conversations in both every day and planned conversations.  To register, visit myHR Learn, and search the course catalog for Connect.

How much time is this new process going to take?

Performance Excellence shifts the focus from the year-end paperwork, to an ongoing conversation between supervisors and staff.  The year-end review process is much simpler, and using the online review at myHR Learn to track progress throughout the year can make it even easier.

What are the expectations of supervisors in the first year for using the new process? Are you planning to make more changes next year?

The expectation for year one of Performance Excellence is that supervisors will use the online form to complete year-end reviews and ratings. This year, and in the future, we recommend that supervisors use the system to view staff goals and make notes as you engage in performance conversations, making the year-end summary and rating even easier. In future years, there may be enhancements to the form or additional automation to further simplify the process.

Are there plans to tie Performance Excellence ratings to compensation?

Yes, as in the past, we expect ratings to be an important input to compensation decisions.

Shifting the performance conversation to a focus on larger goals may give staff the impression that day-to-day tasks are no longer as important. Are you planning to provide supervisors with a more structured and balanced approach to the conversation?

Performance Excellence explicitly recognizes the importance of core job responsibilities. In fact, core responsibilities, along with goals and values/behaviors collectively comprise performance.

Are there any online learning and coaching courses that will help in my conversations with staff?

To better prepare you for meaningful conversations with staff, you may take Connect, a series of short videos from teh NeuroLeadership Institute. This course helps improve the quality of conversations in both everyday and planned performance conversations. Register for this course in myHR Learn (search for "Connect").

What guidance can you give me to help staff get started in writing their own goals? Will you provide supervisors with examples of goals for different staff roles?

Yes, job aids are available on our Set Goals page, with samples goals for representative job roles.

Will handouts or downloads be available to share with my staff?

Yes, handouts and job aids for download are available throughout this site, and will be updated regularly.

Staff Questions

I don't have a lot of free time during the day. Will I have to attend special training?

All staff are strongly encouraged to attend training; however, in the event you are unable to do so, a variety of video and self-help guides are available throughout this site to provide assistance.

How do I get started in developing my goals?

The most powerful planning starts with a question: "What value am I creating in my role, and for whom?" Have a conversation with your supervisor about how your role creates value and helps advance your department and unit goals. You should also consider how your role is linked to the University's values and behaviors. Role-based examples are currently available to assist you in developing your goals. Please see our goal-setting job aid to learn more.

How are my goals different from the tasks in my job description?

A job description is essentially a list of responsibilities and tasks to be performed by a staff member. In contrast, goals are measurable outcomes that describe the impact of your work. Please see our goal-setting job aid for more information.

What if my supervisor does not agree with my goals?

Performance Excellence is designed for you and your supervisor to develop and align on your goals together.

Will Performance Excellence impact merit increases, especially in the first year when the process is so new? Are you planning to tie job performance to merit increases?

As in the past, performance is an important consideration in compensation decisions.

What if I do not agree with the rating I've been given?

As in the past, staff members are asked to acknowledge they have received a review, and not whether they agree with it. If a staff member believes they are being treated unfairly, they should discuss this with their supervisor, their school/unit HR Administrator, or their Human Resources Business Partner.
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