Performance Development and Reward Scheme

Effective staff performance and development is key to Aston’s ability to deliver to its 2020 Strategy. The Performance Development and Reward Scheme is designed to support, retain and develop existing staff and attract new staff to Aston. The purpose of this guide is to set out information about the means by which performance and contribution is encouraged, assessed, reviewed and recognised. 

Guidelines, documents and training to support Performance Development Review


The University is committed to the development of a high performance culture. The Performance Development and Reward Scheme is designed to develop outstanding staff, enabling them to understand our expectations of them, to discuss and review their progress, to plan their development so they are best able to achieve their potential, and to consider and reward exceptional performance when it is identified.  

For the coming review period, objectives to achieve high performance will be agreed with each member of staff, enabling them to enhance their contribution to the University. Any development required to achieve these objectives will also be defined.  

Throughout the year, it is important that there is ongoing discussion with individual staff, both to celebrate success and to monitor when good progress is not being made, putting in place steps to support the individual to get progress back on track. Additionally, objectives can be revised to keep abreast of changing circumstances and new challenges.

At the end of the review period, the scheme provides an opportunity to discuss and review performance against the defined objectives, and to provide feedback to each individual by providing both a performance rating and written feedback.  The scheme defines the approach to rewarding those who are considered to have achieved sustained exceptional performance. 

In addition to recognising individual exceptional performance, the scheme also defines how very good performance by the University, achieved through collective effort, may be rewarded.  

Performance Development Review 

There are two elements to the Performance Development Review (PDR), the setting of the objectives for the coming review period, and the review of achievement of objectives at the end of the period.

Stage One Role and Development

The key purpose of this stage is to determine the high performance objectives for the coming review period. The discussion between the Reviewer (either the line manager or an appropriate person nominated by the Executive Dean /Head of Support Service) and the member of staff should:

  • Identify objectives for the forthcoming review period which enable the individual to enhance their contribution to the University;
  • Identify the resources needed to achieve the objectives;
  • Identify areas of development which will:
    • support achievement of objectives;
    • support development to deliver the essential aspects of the role;
    • enable personal development to support career development and career aspirations  

These should be captured in the training and development plan. Consideration should be given to a broad range of development interventions, not only attendance on training courses, and this includes active consideration of using the established mentoring scheme to support development of the individual.

The review report and high performance objectives will be confirmed and signed by the reviewer’s manager. This is a key part of ensuring fairness, consistency and transparency and is also an opportunity to highlight the achievements of more junior staff to senior managers in the University.

Performance Development Review meetings for the coming review period should be completed by the 31 October. Individuals who start later than this should, however, still have high performance objectives set for the remainder of the review period. It is good practice to review the objectives set formally, at least once during the year.

Stage Two Role and Performance 

This purpose of this stage is the discussion of progress and achievement in the work that has been undertaken over the review period, which will include a review of the achievement of high performance objectives set at Stage One. It is also an opportunity to discuss the role requirements in general and the factors that have assisted and/or hindered the individual in terms of meeting their objectives. The reviewer and/or reviewee should endeavour to obtain feedback from colleagues and appropriate stakeholders to inform the discussions.

The reviewer and reviewee will discuss performance and one of the following performance ratings will be recorded:

  • Excellent performance: All in this category will have demonstrated a very positive contribution to the University. Their overall performance in their role will have markedly exceeded expectations, and they will have achieved their set objectives and more.
  • Good performance: This applies to an individual whose overall performance in their role has exceeded expectations, making a positive contribution to their team or department that adds significant value to the University. They will have met all of their objectives.
  • Meets expectations: This applies to an individual whose has performed their role adequately, completing the tasks and activities required of them. They will have met their objectives.
  • Fails to meet expectations: This applies to an individual demonstrating poor performance, indicated by a failure to undertake their role to the required standard, and/or a failure to achieve their objectives. The individual’s performance would, ideally, already be being managed under the University’s Performance If a decision of Fails to Meet Expectations is reached, then the discussion should normally be considered as the informal stage of the Performance Management Procedure, unless the individual is already in this process. 

Stage Two Performance Development Review meetings for the previous review period should be completed by the 31 July. Where appropriate, Performance Development Review meetings should be arranged in advance for staff who are about to commence maternity or study leave. Anyone who has started in post from 1 February onwards should have a Stage Two meeting, with feedback on progress being provided to the individual, but recording a performance rating is not necessary.

It is possible for both stages of the Performance Development Review to be conducted at the same meeting if timing permits, but it is likely that they will occur independently of each other. This will ensure clarity of discussion in relation to performance in the past period and objective setting for the coming period.

The forms provided for recording outcomes at both stages should be signed by the reviewer and the reviewee, and then signed off by reviewer’s line manager to ensure consistency and fairness and to share good practice.


A member of staff who disagrees with their performance assessment may ask for their rating to be reviewed if they believe that there has either been a failure of process, or the rating is inconsistent with their performance. The review will be conducted by the reviewer’s line manager. 


Newly appointed staff who are subject to probationary procedures are not required to have a separate Performance Development Review meeting as there is significant overlap between the two processes. Depending on the time of year that the probation period ends, however, the line manager must ensure that objectives are set which cover the period to the next annual Performance Development review meeting.  

Recognising Contribution and Performance 


The University wishes to recognise exceptional performance. To enable this to be done fairly, performance will be assessed by taking into account the full scope of what people do, the level of skill and competence they apply, and the results they achieve. Basic salary, up to the contribution threshold for each grade, reflects the normal high performance expectations for each grade.

Overall University Performance

On an annual basis the University will give consideration to making a reward e.g. an additional day of annual leave or a one-off payment, based on its performance. Any reward will depend on affordability and be based on achievement measured against the University’s annual objectives. The appropriate reward will be determined by the Executive Operations Group (usually in May/June) and agreed by Council. Staff will not be entitled to receive this award if, during the review year, a formal warning has been issued under the University’s Disciplinary Procedure or they are at any stage, including informal, of the Performance Management Procedure.

Exceptional performance

A manager will be invited by the Executive Dean/Head of Department to nominate any individual who has achieved an Excellent Performance rating at Stage Two of the Performance Development Review who they consider have achieved exceptional performance during the previous review period. Nominations should be evidence based, and should clearly articulate what has made the performance exceptional. It should be noted that, normally, a member of academic staff who has already achieved promotion during the year will not also be nominated for exceptional performance.  

Each School leadership team and the COE, CFO and Deputy VC areas should form a moderation panel to ensure consistency in its approach to considering nominations for exceptional performance, and to decide on recommendations for exceptional performance which will go forward to a University level moderation panel. It is anticipated that a small proportion, typically around 10%, of staff in any School/Department will be nominated. The University level moderation panel will benchmark recommendations from across the University to ensure consistency of level for exceptional performance, and will make the final decisions on those individuals who will be acknowledged for exceptional performance for that year.

See the Guidance Notes for Moderation Panels for the conduct of moderation meetings.

Nominations and consideration of exceptional performance should be concluded by the end of September each year. 

Reward for consistent exceptional performance

1.     For staff on Grade 5 or above 

Contribution-based pay adjustments will be awarded to those who are considered to be performing at an exceptional level for two consecutive years.  Once contribution-based pay has been awarded, a further two consecutive years of exceptional performance must be recorded before another payment can be made.

Contribution based pay can take two forms:

  • The award of a salary increment within either the normal or the discretionary point range for their pay grade. The increase will be effective from 1 August following a review year.
  • A lump sum for those who have reached the maximum position within the discretionary point range for their pay grade or are on a non-incremental pay grade. Typically the payment would be no less than 3% of salary. The lump sums will be paid in October following the review year


2.     For staff on Grades 1-4

It is acknowledged that it is very difficult for staff in these grades to demonstrate exceptional performance, given the nature of their work, and that it is even more difficult for them to demonstrate exceptional performance two years running.  Contribution-based adjustments will, therefore, be awarded annually to those staff who achieve an Excellent Performance rating, and payments will be made as described above.

Contribution-based pay adjustments will be paid from School/Departmental budgets and should be included within the budgetary process. 

Distribution of performance ratings and awards

Human Resources will review the actual distribution of performance ratings and awards across the University retrospectively. The review will consider the pattern of recommendations in accordance with the University’s normal equality and diversity monitoring guidelines to ensure that the distribution of ratings and awards is justifiable. A report, using the University’s normal monitoring categories in accordance with its equality and diversity policies, will be sent to the appropriate committees and to the Joint Unions Consultative Committee. This information will be incorporated in the University’s equal pay reviews.

Training for Reviewers

The Human Resources, Staff & Graduate Development team will make available training for all managers who will be involved in the Performance Development Review process. Training should normally be undertaken before a manager can carry out a review.


All documentation will be confidential to those who are involved in the review process. Documentation, and any associated feedback considered during the review meeting, should be kept securely by the School/Department in an easily accessible location.

Approved by:

Executive Operations Group


4 February 2016


3 June 2016, minor change

Review cycle: