Data-backed performance management for govt officials: How Odisha is doing it
Utkarsh Vijay
June 01, 2021

Measuring employee performance against pre-defined quantifiable targets is standard practice in the corporate world. Assessing progress against goals periodically is one way to increase employee efficiency and motivation.

However, the same principle is largely not followed when it comes to the steel frame of India. There are currently hardly any well-defined mechanisms to measure the performance of bureaucrats against quantifiable targets.

There are three immediate consequences of this at a macro level. One, in the absence of performance measurement, there is little distinction between the good, bad or average employees. Second, it becomes difficult to map advancement in career to performance. And third, these two reasons have a combined effect on the motivation of poor or average performers to do better or for good performers to sustain their performance or go above and beyond.

In 2011, in an attempt to address these issues, the Government of India came out with the Performance Monitoring and Evaluation System (PMES). Under this system, every Central government ministry makes its Results Framework Document (RFD) highlighting its objectives and priorities for the financial year against pre-specified targets at the end of the year. At the end of the year, the PM office with assistance from the Performance Management Division of the Cabinet Secretariat reviews the performance of the Ministry against the targets defined in RFD. Similar steps to measure employee performance have been taken by several state governments as well. In 2020, the Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Empowerment (DAFE), Government of Odisha launched a new programme called Dakshyata (efficiency) to identify and incentivise high-performing agriculture officials in the state.

What is Dakshyata?

Dakshyata is an outcome-based framework to measure the performance of employees against the targets set by (DAFE). Dakshyata covers more than 3500 field officials. The roles and responsibilities of these officials have been mapped to quantifiable parameters. Officials are given marks out of 100 distributed across five components--Scheme Delivery, 5T Implementation, State Priority, Risk Management, Mo-Sarkar (citizen feedback). 5T and Mo-Sarkar are flagship programmes of Odisha to promote the transformation of citizen service delivery. Each of these components has been given a different weightage for calculating the score of officials.

This score is shared with the employees through a scorecard generated every month. Top-ranking employees based on scores are recognized each month, and those doing consistently well over the year are recognised by the Agriculture Minister during the annual ‘Krushi Odisha’ event. As an added incentive, the Odisha government also recently announced an “Out of Turn Promotion” policy for the transformation performance in governance. Under this policy, employees are offered an out of turn promotion if they perform consistently well for 2-3 years. Other monetary and non-monetary benefits have also been announced under this policy.

For Group B employees, the government provides Leave Travel Allowance to countries that are directly connected through flights with Bhubaneshwar, or preferential postings. Similarly, for Group C employees, the government provides 2 months salary or reimbursement of school or college tuition fees of children. DAFE has linked these benefits directly to Dakshyata. Only employees who have done well in Dakshyata will be recommended for the awards under “Out of Turn Promotion” policy.

The Decision Support System (DSS) developed by DAFE over the last three years has been essential to the implementation of Dakshyata. DSS is an integrated platform with data from more than 26 schemes and programmes like Kalia, Farmer Database, Pest Surveillance, National Food Security Mission Scheme (NFSM), Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India (BGREI) scheme. Most of the data that was recorded in DSS or any other system in the department was at an administrative unit level. Due to the lack of an updated Human Resource Management System (HRMS), it was difficult to link the performance in an administrative unit with the employees. Under Dakshyata, a system has been created to map administrative units with employees. This has helped in the assessment of employees’ performance on the KPIs defined in the scorecards.

There are three key highlights of the programme.

  1. Dakshyata has been rolled out in a phased manner. In the first phase, only field officials (Block and GP) have been included. The phasing was done because officers at the block and GP level are the delivery agents on the ground. DAFE implements all its programmes and schemes through them. If they do well, the department will be able to meet the majority of its goals.
  2. The selection of roles and responsibilities was done based on two parameters--1) priorities of the government, and 2) the quality of the technology system through which performance data would be captured. The quality of the data itself was ascertained based on four parameters - availability, reliability, granularity, timeliness. For example, Pest Surveillance data was considered a parameter for evaluation for Agriculture Extension Officers because this data is being captured through a mobile app (real-time availability) and is geo-tagged and beneficiary-tagged (granular and highly reliable). On the other hand, quality control was not considered in the scorecards for Assistant Agriculture Officers because there is no existing system which can be leveraged to capture quality control data in an objective manner. AAOs are block-level agriculture officers.
  3. The mechanism of scoring the employee was designed keeping the employees at the centre of the system. The number of KPIs were limited to a maximum of 10. The hypothesis is that if the number of KPIs is greater than 10 then neither the employee will remember the KPIs nor will they be able to focus on the key priorities of the department. Similarly, the calculation mechanism was kept extremely simple just like a school report card.

The implementation of Dakshyata has come with its share of challenges. First, equitable distribution of targets for every Agriculture Extension Officer. There were certain officers who were given much more targets whereas some officers weren’t given any targets. Second, taking into account the ad hoc additional responsibilities given to officers while scoring their performance. Third, making GP officers aware of the nitty-gritties of the new programme in the most efficient manner. COVID-19 exacerbated this challenge because physical meetings were not possible.

Although these challenges are still not solved completely, DAFE has taken multiple steps to address them. The Department is continuously monitoring the allocation of targets till the GP level to ensure equitable distribution. The scoring algorithm has been tweaked to consider only the original responsibilities given to officials, and not include ad hoc ones. Digital content has been created in Odia and English for widespread dissemination through video conferences and Whatsapp groups.

What have been the results so far? More than 288 employees achieved a score of more than 80% in December compared to 93 in October. A recently concluded feedback survey through IVRS suggests that more than 85% of targeted employees have understood the objective of Dakshyata and are aware of the components of the scorecard. More than 70% of employees understand the KPIs and how the score is calculated. More than 95% of the employees check their scores regularly on an Agri-Extension mobile app.

While the Department is trying to improve the system on an ongoing basis, this is a meaningful first step towards identifying and incentivizing good performance in a government setting based on data.