Did Your Retention Rating Drop?

We receive numerous calls from employees regarding "retention ratings". In the interest of clear communication and understanding, we are providing the following information. Your retention rating is assigned by management to determine the order of layoff. First, your performance is ranked by comparison with that of others. Second, ratings are applied to the ranking, or "totem". The highest ranked 40% receive an R1 rating; the next 40% receive an R2 rating; the remaining 20% receive an R3 rating. Both the ranking and rating are done within the same major organization, skill code or job classification and level. In theory, your risk of layoff increases when your retention rating drops. However, your actual risk of layoff also depends on other factors, such as the number of employees in your skill code or job classification and level, your major organization, the magnitude of the layoff, and how management determines to organize the work. Therefore, a low retention rating does not mean that you will be laid off. It does mean that, in the event of a layoff within your major organization, skill code or job classification and level, in the normal order of layoff, those with R3 ratings will be laid off before those with R2 ratings, and those with R2 ratings will be laid off before those with R1 ratings. Your retention rating can drop for many reasons. In most cases these are related to the way performance is ranked and rated. It does not mean that someone whose performance is rated as R3, for example, is doing unsatisfactory work. Unsatisfactory work is dealt with by management through performance discipline. It does mean that management ranks the performance of others in the retention group higher. Below are COMMON REASONS FOR DROPS in retention ratings:

  • Change in retention group composition. Retention exercises occur about once each year. It sometimes happens that the people in a retention group can change from one exercise to another. Therefore, your work would be compared to that of different people than before, a change which may cause your retention rating to drop.

    Layoffs cause a slightly different problem. When people with lower retention ratings are laid off, they leave a void in the mandatory 40%/40%/20% distribution of the retention system. As a result, some of the higher-rated employees will notice their retention ratings drop during the next retention exercise. This is a result of the mandatory retention distribution and does not necessarily reflect a drop in performance.

  • New group or supervisor. When you change groups or supervisors, it is possible that a retention exercise can occur before your new supervisor has the opportunity to fully appreciate your contributions. It is also possible that a new supervisor may evaluate your performance somewhat differently than was done in the past. Either situation could result in a retention drop.

  • Tech upgrades. When Techs are upgraded from one level to another, they receive an automatic R3 rating until the next retention exercise. At that time, they will be ranked and rated with employees who have probably been doing the higher level work for some time. It is not unusual, therefore, for that person's retention rating to rise slowly over time, as he or she is competing at a higher level and will normally take time to develop.

  • Change in quality/quantity of work. None of us are as consistent in our job performance as we would like to be. There are times when we seem to surpass ourselves and times when we fall short. Just as improvements in performance can, if they affect your relative value in the retention group, cause your retention rating to rise, so periods of lower productivity can cause your rating to drop. Though you have little control over your relative standing in the retention group, you do have control over your own performance. If your retention rating drops, it is imperative to talk to your supervisor to determine whether the quality or quantity of your performance has fallen. Though serious performance problems may be dealt with by management through discipline, you may be able to catch the problem early and get back on track before reaching a "point of no return."

  • New assignments. Your work could change for any number of reasons. If the result is that you must learn new systems or new skills, the time this takes may affect your retention rating. Make sure you and your supervisor agree on how long you have to come up to speed and how you can get help if you need it.
Both the Tech and Prof contracts create rights of appeal when your retention rating drops (the formal grievance procedure does not apply to drops in retention). There are explicit limits on these rights and a long history of cases indicating what appeals will succeed. If your retention rating has not dropped since the last exercise, you may not appeal; if your rating has dropped for any of the reasons given above, your chances of a successful appeal are poor. A successful appeal requires documentary proof that management has rated you incorrectly relative to your peers. Much but not all of this proof comes from information about your retention group which can be accessed and analyzed by a SPEEA Contract Administrator who will then be able to tell you whether your appeal warrants further review. It is your responsibility to provide your reasons for wishing to appeal in writing to the Contract Administrator for evaluation. This must be done within 30 days following notification of your retention drop. We suggest that you talk with your supervisor about the drop before notifying SPEEA of your desire to appeal. RETENTION CHECKLIST:
  • Talk with your supervisor about the reasons for your retention drop.
  • An appeal is unlikely to succeed or is disallowed by contract if the drop was due to:
  1. Change in retention group composition from consolidation of retention groups or layoffs
  2. Tech upgrade
  3. New/unfamiliar assignments
  4. Drop in quality/quantity of work
  • If the drop was due to a provable error in your rating, write to your SPEEA Contract Administrator requesting a review. Include the name(s) of the manager(s) you have talked to about your retention drop, what they told you, and why you are not satisfied with that information. You should also enclose copies of your last three WPR's / Performance Management documents and any letters of commendation or awards you have recently received.

SPEEA retention appeal request form  (Fill out and save to your desktop before emailing back to SPEEA.)