Frequently Asked Questions

What is McGill’s position on Performance Dialogue?

All employees in the “M” category (permanent and contractual) are expected to engage in an annual Performance Dialogue with their supervisor, along with a check-in at mid-point. Executives of the University actively support this best practice, along with the recent integration of McGill’s 7 Behavioral Competencies. Performance Dialogue is considered to be the responsibility of each and every administrator at McGill University.

Why is Performance Dialogue important?

McGill aims to remain a leader on the international front by attracting, developing and retaining the best talent. This important goal is supported by Performance Dialogue as it links to unit/faculty and institutional objectives, employee development and succession planning, and will ultimately support the 7 behavioural competencies that the University promotes.

When is the reference period?

Some Units and Faculties at McGill establish objectives for the period of June 1 until May 31, while others have redefined the reference period consistently as September 1 until August 31 for planning purposes over the summer months. Any reference period is acceptable provided that the reference period is consistent, clear to all parties and adapted to the institutional needs at hand.

How does Performance Dialogue Link to Merit?

Performance Dialogue provides an important opportunity to review the achievements and work performance of staff during the past reference period and to set mutually agreed upon objectives. It is an occasion to align employee developmental goals with emerging Unit or Faculty needs and directions. Performance Dialogue encourages meaningful dialogue, planning and opportunities for recognition as well as motivational and corrective feedback. In this way, Performance Dialogue helps establish some of the objective criteria needed to effectively determine merit allocations.

What is in it for you, as a supervisor?

This best practice will support you in your efforts to attract, retain, develop and reward the best talent. When performed effectively, it increases your employee’s engagement and sense of contribution in a climate where effectiveness and work satisfaction are built on clear expectations. As we strive to demonstrate greater accountability and measurability across the University, Performance Dialogue is a critical step in linking individual objectives and performance to Unit/Faculty and institutional objectives. As well, the PD process should link to training and development and succession plans.

What is in it for you, as a staff member?

Through the Performance Dialogue process, you participate in developing clear work-related objectives each year that contribute to your Unit or Faculty’s objectives and make a measurable difference. In the course of the year, you can benefit from concrete feedback from your supervisor to ensure that you are on track and that the supervisor is aware of any important challenges encountered in the pursuit of your objectives. In collaboration with your supervisor, you can identify and address your individual developmental needs against the backdrop of evolving Unit or Faculty priorities and your own career aspirations.

Who is responsible for Performance Dialogue?

While Human Resources Advisors, Direct Service Representatives and Central HR are responsible for stewarding the process, Performance Dialogue is clearly a shared responsibility of the employee (M), the immediate supervisor and the senior manager.

What happens in the case of two supervisors sharing equal supervision responsibilities for one employee?

The supervisors must choose one main evaluator, who will complete the employee’s performance appraisal and send it to the second supervisor for input and review. Only one of the supervisors would be required to conduct the review with the employee, though both can attend.

Is this a once or twice a year event?

Performance Dialogue forms are completed once a year, and we strongly encourage a mid-point check-in to document progress and to allow for a timely corrective feedback. Performance Dialogue is a process, not an event. Ongoing follow-up and discussion of expectations, achievements and challenges throughout the year leads to the best results.


What are some of the common pitfalls and how can we avoid them?

Common Pitfalls

Strategies and Actions

Evaluating someone without ensuring clearly understood expectations at the outset.

Collaborate to establish S.M.A.R.T. objectives (see videos and training sessions). 

Avoiding discussions on meaningful issues throughout the year and saving “surprises” to the end when both parties can experience frustration and blame.

Ensure that objectives continue to apply, as you face changes in priorities throughout the year.  Have regular check-ins with employees on how they are progressing, obstacles they may be encountering, and what they need to be effective.   Deal with issues and positive performance when opportunities emerge.

Expressing polarized feedback – whether positive or negative – without clear, concrete examples.

Supervisors and employees should keep track of achievements, positive feedback from stakeholders, and challenges throughout the year, with concrete examples.

Conducting a “Performance Dialogue” session without substantive input from the employee regarding understanding, needs, observations and suggestions.

Both supervisor and employee stand to benefit from this structured dialogue.  The value is maximized when both parties prepare adequately, share their understanding of what is working effectively, what is needed, and what is valued, moving forward.

Why Behavioural Competencies?

A key consideration in selecting a candidate, recognizing or developing an employee, identifying and preparing a potential successor is not only “what” the employee does, but also “how” they do it. We are talking about Behavioural Competencies – a key component of Performance Dialogue.

While the attainment of objectives is important, behavioural competencies are also vital. Behavioural Competencies provide a common language and frame of reference for attracting, retaining, developing and recognizing the best talent. Using competencies as a coaching tool is an important means of assisting employees in understanding performance expectations and enhancing their effectiveness in these times of change. 

Where do Behavioural Competencies come from?

These 7 behavioural competencies were identified by McGill senior leaders, and benchmarking, as vital for the continuous growth of our institution. At McGill, we need leaders and managers who are agile and resourceful in the face of change, who are self-aware and effective in their dealings with their teams and with their clients, and who seek feedback on how they (and their Unit or Faculty) are doing from their stakeholders and adapt effectively. These “traits” have been translated into 7 concrete Behavioural Competencies that are expected of M’s. We require varying levels of mastery, according to the employee’s job family (e.g. IST, COM…) and level (M1, M2, M3, M4).

How will competencies be addressed as part of the Performance Dialogue?

We ask that you become familiar with these 7 behavioural competencies and explain, during the planning phase of Performance Dialogue, the expectations for each of your employees, now according to their job family and level (see Competencies Grid in the Performance Dialogue section of the OD website here):

  • Employees and supervisors must be prepared to explore and agree upon 1 to 2 behavioural competencies that would be most valuable to enhance the employee’s performance, job satisfaction, and career aspirations.
  • Set clear and meaningful developmental goals based on the employee’s position’s targeted proficiency levels within each job family.
  • Define how the employee will reach developmental goals (e.g. training, job shadowing, participation on a working group, training, feedback from various stakeholders, etc.). Please see the Competency Toolkit available on the Performance Dialogue web page.
  • Be prepared to acknowledge competencies that the employee demonstrates particularly well by providing specific examples.

What if my employee surpasses expectations in terms of Behavioural Competencies?

Demonstrating outstanding behavioural competency in no way constitutes a case for re-matching the level of a job. Of critical import: the incumbent’s competence (low or high) does not define the job level. 

Where can I find more information on competencies and how to use them?

Please visit the Performance Dialogue section of the OD website here for a complete explanation of competencies and their proficiency levels as well as a handy Competencies Toolkit to help supervisors and employees prepare for their discussions and further develop each competency.