April 8, 2005

Elevate: Answering the Tough Questions

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Medical Center leadership answers the tough questions about what the elevate program is and what it means for the people who work at VUMC.

QUESTION: How does VUMC raise the organizational bar and still keep 60 percent of folks at a 3 on performance evaluations?

ANSWER: This question refers to our guidelines for scoring staff job performance: about 60 percent of staff should earn a score of 3; 25 percent should earn a 4; and 10 percent should earn a 5.

The distribution of performance scores helps make the pay for performance system meaningful, allowing us to award substantially larger salary adjustments to high scorers, thus helping VUMC retain its best performers. We are convinced that our pay for performance program is good for recruitment, retention and ongoing performance.

Under elevate, we'll keep our basic strategy of carefully gauging expected and expert levels of job performance and adjusting staff compensation accordingly. Through the elevate process, our overall performance expectations will rise and our ability to perform at those higher levels will increase as well.

As we move from good to great, our expectations — and even the definition of what expected performance is — will change. When what was once considered high performance has become the expectation, we think there will still be those who outperform expectations.

In short, our performances and our expectations will rise in concert while the overall distribution curve of our job performance scores will remain similar to what it is today.

We would also like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that elevate will help make VUMC more successful, and when we succeed in growing the bottom line we are committed to use a portion of those additional funds to increase the compensation of all VUMC employees.

— Harry R. Jacobson, M.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs