Human Resources

Counter signatory guidance

Recommendations for managing the counter signatory process

We strongly recommend the use of a counter signatory (normally the next level line manager) in our annual review processes.  At the University the use of a counter signatory is our strategy to make sure that all staff experience a quality Annual Review. 

Counter signatories will review the documentation to:

  • Check on alignment with University strategy, fairness, consistency and to identify any themes that may need to be considered or addressed.
  • Identify areas for improvement in the quality of the Annual Reviews in their wider area (e.g. identifying the need for improving the objectives set or increasing the focus on specific strategy).  In these situations you may also involve your local HR team to support you in this continuous improvement process. 

As a Counter Signatory you must:

  • Read and sign off the written records of the Annual Review meeting noting the comments, actions and resource implications of these.
  • Check the Annual Review documentation has been completed in accordance with the definition of a quality annual review.  Providing feedback to staff when this is found not to be the case. 
  • Provide feedback to both line managers/reviewers and the staff members if you identify any concerns or areas for improvement in the review documentation.   This may happen immediately after the paperwork is submitted or may be done between reviews to ensure the next year’s annual reviews are improved. 
  • Follow up with Reviewers who haven’t forwarded the completed documentation in the allotted timescale.
  • Mediate any concerns with the Reviewer to staff member allocation, gathering reasons for these concerns and considering whether a new Reviewer needs to be appointed. 
  • Exceptionally, act as a mediator to help a Reviewer and staff member reach resolution if they are having a disagreement about the content of the Annual Review documentation.  To understand more about your role please read the below. 
  • Provide feedback to your wider senior management team. This feedback should include confirming that agreed objectives are consistent with the expected performance. Raising anything which might impact on School/Deanery/Support Group planning such as training and development proposals, resource planning issues, input to strategy, resource or funding requests).

In a situation where there is no counter signatory on the form, the Reviewer is expected to escalate any themes or concerns to their line manager, as part of their normal management process. This would be done through their one to one meetings or through other appropriate communication channels.    

When considering the completed documentation you should think about:

  • Strategic Alignment: are the agreed objectives appropriate for the individual and link to the department and wider School/Service objectives
  • Fairness: This includes reviewing the documentation to ensure that it is consistent and in line with other University Policies (i.e. Equality and Diversity – are reasonable adjustment being considered? Dignity and Respect – are staff being treated fairly?)
  • Consistency: check that the following has been recorded in the completed annual review documentation:
    • Clear expectations for the staff member’s full role
    • Key role specific achievements
    • Next year’s objectives
    • Personal and professional development achieved and development goals for the next year.