Trump Administration Sets New Expectations For Employee Awards Performance Evaluations
In effort to more strategically reward the best of the best within the federal workforce, the Trump administration wants agencies to rethink how and who they recognize with employee awards and bonuses.
New guidance, which the administration released late last week, describes how agencies should reevaluate their employee awards programs and develop evidence-based plans to reward the very best with limited funding.
The guidance also serves as a reminder: perhaps not all employees are performing in a way that justifies a top rating.
First, the administration has directed all agencies to develop specific workforce fund plans, which will serve as a base line for how each department will reward and recognize employees who have made special contributions to their organizations.
The goal, as acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought and acting Office of Personnel Management Director Margaret Weichert explained in new guidance, is to help agencies more strategically reward employees within their workforces whose performance is truly outstanding or who have in-demand skills that are difficult to find.
Separate guidance from OPM specifies how exactly agencies should view these rating-based employee rewards.
The Feedback On Feedback
The first question was, Do you get adequate feedback during the year regarding your job performance? The decided majority responded in the negative. While not unexpected on my end, its clear that our evaluations systems in government are not encouraging the level of interaction agencies might prefer.
Om a recent survey of Federal SESers and GS managers, McKinsey & Company found 34% of GS12-15 public sector respondents encouraged to provide honest feedback to people within the agencies (compared with 51% of the SES sample and 48% in the private sector. In 2000, the Merit Systems Protection Board found that only 20% of their sample responded favorably to the statement, The performance appraisal rating system has helped increase communications about my job between my supervisor and me.
Performance appraisals exist to answer the age-old question, How am I doing? While the need for attention and validation may be never satisfied, both studies indicate Federal managers are not adept in this area. As I recommended in a previous article , perhaps quarterly feedback should be incorporated into supervisory/managerial appraisal criteria.
The Scale Ranges From Unacceptable To Exceptional
There are five different ratings that could be assigned to you as part of your federal performance assessment. Some agencies use their own unique terminology, but generally the measures intend to label workers either as exceptional, superior, fully or minimally satisfactory, and unacceptable. An exceptional rating is typically reserved for individuals who go above-and-beyond, who communicate effectively, and who arent afraid to take on difficult tasks.
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Considerations When Developing The Logic Model
There are many different approaches for developing the logic model. A participatory process9 is recommended, as it helps to improve the accuracy of the logic model and provides stakeholders with a common understanding of what the program is supposed to achieve and how it is supposed to achieve it. It is important to remember that the logic model is not static it is an iterative tool. As the program changes, the logic model should be revised to reflect the changes, and these revisions should be documented.
The following key questions should be considered once the program logic model is completed:
- Are all activities, outputs and outcomes included?
- Does each outcome state an intended change?
- Is it reasonable to expect that the program’s activities will lead to the program’s outcomes?
- Are the causal linkages plausible and substantiated by the program theory?
- Are all the elements clearly stated?
- Are the outcomes measurable?
- Do the activities and outcomes address a demonstrated need?
- Is the final outcome at a lower level than the expected results of the departmental PAA?
Overview Of The Logic Model
The logic model serves as the program’s road map. It outlines the intended results of the program, the activities the program will undertake and the outputs it intends to produce in achieving the expected outcomes. The purpose of the logic model is to:
- help program managers verify that the program theory is sound and that outcomes are realistic and reasonable
- ensure that the PM Strategy Framework and the Evaluation Strategy are clearly linked to the logic of the program and will serve to produce information that is meaningful for program monitoring, evaluation and, ultimately, decision making
- help program managers interpret the monitoring data collected on the program and identify implications for program design and/or operations on an ongoing basis
- serve as a key reference point for evaluators in upcoming evaluations and
- facilitate communication about the program to program staff and other program stakeholders.
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Defense Performance Management And Appraisal Program
The Defense Department uses a performance management program called the Defense Performance Management and Appraisal Program for the majority of its civilian employees.
It features three levels of ratinglevel 5 , level 3 , and level 1 . Other features are: a rating cycle of April 1 through March 31 for all employees direct involvement of employees in crafting performance standards, which have to clearly document how performance will be measured according to specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely criteria at least three performance review discussions between the supervisor and employee within each cycle early warnings if a supervisor believes performance is falling below the fully successful level steps to take to attempt to improve performance before taking disciplinary action and the right of employees to write self-assessments that a supervisor would have to consider in setting a rating.
There are special provisions for situations such as employees who are on detail, extended leave or military service, and those who transfer or whose supervisor changes during a cycle.
Performance Appraisals And Ratings
Federal employee performance appraisal regulations require that employees annually be assigned a summarizing rating that describes their performance throughout the entire year compared to the elements and standards established in their performance plans. This summarizing rating is called a rating of record and is described using summary levels.
A summary level must be assigned when the rating of record is prepared at the end of the appraisal period. A summary level can be determined at any time agencies deem appropriate and specify in their appraisal programs . However, the ways in which summary levels are applied are always in the context of the rating of record.
The rules include flexibility to design appraisal and awards programs that support the culture, type of work, and goals of team-structured organizations as well as those structured traditionally.
It further told agencies to be rigorous in conducting performance ratings and to ensure only employees who have demonstrated the highest levels of individual performance receive the highest annual ratings of record and the highest performance awards.
OPM also reminded agencies that forced distribution of employees among levels of performance is prohibited and that employees are to be assessed against documented standards of performance versus an individuals performance relative to others.
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Whats The Best Approach For Performance Reviews
With so many practices, HR policies, tools, and techniques involved, no two performance management programs will look the same. Some have grading systems. Others have question and response formats, while others are expected to be free-form.
Just like your company culture, your performance management system will be unique and specific to your values, your goals and your purpose.
However, every good employee performance review process seeks to improve how the overall organization performs while supporting the performance, development, productivity and well-being of its employees.
Despite this common goal, data suggests that traditional approaches to performance management can be demotivating, uninspiring, and make people want to give up rather than work harder and progress.
In fact, traditional performance management is universally disliked by both managers and employees. It is seen as having little value, and has failed to meet its intended goal of improving performance. According to research reported in the Journal of Industrial and Organizational Psychology:
- Among managers, 95% are dissatisfied with their PM systems.
- Among employees, 59% feel PM reviews are not worth the time invested, while 56% said they do not receive feedback on what to improve.
- Almost 90% of human resources heads report that their PM systems do not yield accurate information.
Can I Take Legal Action
It depends. If you believe your supervisor gave you a bad performance review because of discrimination or retaliation, you can take legal action. Keep in mind the deadline to file a legal claim is very short. You must typically file a grievance within 5 to 15 days, and you must file an EEO complaint within 45 days of the bad performance review. If you file a grievance, you may not have the right to file an EEO claim as well.
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Overview Of The Performance Measurement Strategy Framework
The PM Strategy Framework identifies the indicators required to monitor and gauge the performance of a program. Its purpose is to support program managers in:
- continuously monitoring and assessing the results of programs as well as the efficiency of their management
- making informed decisions and taking appropriate, timely action with respect to programs
- providing effective and relevant departmental reporting on programs and
- ensuring that the information gathered will effectively support an evaluation.
Program managers should consult with heads of evaluation on the selection of indicators to help ensure that the indicators selected will effectively support an evaluation of the program. See Section 2.3 of this guide for more information on the roles and responsibilities of program managers and heads of evaluation.
Hard Numbers Or Soft Prose
In response another question, How are your performance standards/objectives/expectations generally composed? almost half of those taking the survey felt their appraisal criteria were purely subjective.
Fewer than 10% view their performance standards as purely objective. The remainder felt that their criteria represented a combination of the two. This has implications for those who advocate for GPRA oriented, data-driven standards, SMART objectives, and similar calls for metrics.
Of greater interest to me, was the fourth question which read, Is your performance actually evaluated against specific expectations? As many respondents as not felt they were rated by their evaluation criteria. About a fourth of the group wasnt sure.
When more than a third of people responding feel the written performance appraisal criteria are determinant of their rating, problems are inevitable. By the same token, the results indicate that a sizable portion felt that standards/objectives really are being used to evaluate their achievement.
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Key Components Of A Performance Measurement Strategy
In Annex A of the Policy on Evaluation, a PM Strategy is defined as “the selection, development and ongoing use of performance measures for program management and decision making.” To support the PM Strategy process and align it with future evaluations, the document outlining the PM Strategy should include the following components:
- a program profile
- a Performance Measurement Strategy Framework
- an Evaluation Strategy8
These components represent the foundation of the PM Strategy and ensure that the performance measures selected and developed produce useful and comprehensive information for program monitoring and evaluation.
Chapter 6 Timetable Of Performance Management Activities Annual Performance Cycles
Employees covered by this system are appraised annually under one of the following appraisal periods: October 1 through September 30, or November 1 through October 31 .
Minimum Appraisal Period
The minimum performance appraisal period is 120 days. A minimum appraisal period is normally determined using calendar days, except when an adjustment to the minimum appraisal is needed due to an employee who is in a nonpay status for part of the appraisal cycle .In these cases, workdays are used.
Performance plans for all employees must be established and approved within 60 days of the beginning of the appraisal cycle. When an employee enters a position or changes positions after the start of the annual appraisal cycle, a plan must be established and approved within 60 days of the effective date of the appointment to the new position.
When an employee is detailed or temporarily promoted to a position within the Department and is expected to serve in the position for 120 days or longer, an approved performance plan must be established and approved within 60 days from the beginning of a detail or temporary promotion.
Summary ratings/ratings of record must be completed within 30 days of the end of the annual appraisal period, except:
There is no minimum required period that a supervisor must be in place before completing an employees appraisal as long as that supervisor was in place on the last day of the rating cycle.
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Merit System Principle : Performance Standards
“Employees should be retained on the basis of the adequacy of their performance, inadequate performance should be corrected, and employees should be separated who cannot or will not improve their performance to meet required standards.”
What is the intent behind the sixth Merit System Principle?One of the problems the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 was designed to address was the difficulty of discharging employees for poor performance. Many people felt that the patchwork of statutes, regulations, rules, and judicial restrictions built up over time had conspired, in effect, to tie the hands of the personnel managers. The existing system was described as the refuge of the incompetent employee, and when incompetent and inefficient employees are allowed to stay on the rolls, it is the dedicated and competent employee who must increase his workload so that the public may be benefited. Remarks of Senator Abraham A. Ribicoff, II House Committee on Post Office and Civil Service, 95th Cong. 1st Sess., Legislative History of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 at 1607 . The Reform Act codified the nine merit system principles, including number six on performance, and made other changes, to create a civil service that is worthy of the public and its confidence: One in which hiring, promotion, and pay are truly based on merit and one in which those who cannot or will not perform their jobs well will not perform at all for the Federal Government. Id., at 1606.
Why Are Performance Reviews Important
As well as long-term positive outcomes, performance reviews offer an immediate lift not only for businesses, but for employees who want an overview of their strengths and weaknesses and progress in their careers. Here are some of the benefits performance reviews can offer:
1. Aligning personal roles to business goalsA job performance review is a chance to make sure everyone understands the organizations vision and goals and how their work fits into the bigger picture. Individual performance drives organizational performance.
2. A clear understanding of job rolesPerformance management empowers individuals to think about their role within the organization and clarify any areas where they have questions. When employees and supervisors can clearly understand and own their specific job duties, any ambiguities in the workplace are eliminated. Each person is accountable for their own work and responsibilities.
3. Regular feedback about performanceRegular feedback contributes to better all-round communication in the workplace. Performance reviews help to identify an individuals strengths and weaknesses, and most importantly, give employees a better understanding of the expectations that they are being held to.
Performance management can be a motivational tool, encouraging employees not only to feel more satisfied in their work, but to take action beyond whats expected.
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Trump Administration Tells Federal Agencies To Use Rigorous Performance Standards In Rating Employees
The Trump administration has ordered federal agencies to apply rigorous performance standards when rating employees, calling for tougher assessments used in deciding promotions, cash bonuses and disciplinary measures such as firing.
Agencies should ensure only employees who have demonstrated the highest levels of individual performance receive the highest annual ratings of record and the highest performance awards, said one of a pair of memos issued late last week.
Employees who get the highest ratings should receive meaningfully greater rewards, said the memo from Office of Personnel Management acting director Margaret Weichert.
A companion memo from both OPM and the Office of Management and Budget directs agencies to make sure their awards policies foster a culture of recognition and lifts a limit on how much they can pay out to employees as awards although it does not provide more money for that purpose.
Administration officials said the guidance will help the government retain high-performing employees and compete with the private sector.
The existing federal employee compensation system is outdated and fails to respond to labor market signals, said Jacob Wood, a spokesman for OMB.
Federal employee unions argue that ratings are often tainted by favoritism and other considerations beyond actual performance.
It also reminds agencies that forced ratings distributions grading on the curve are prohibited.
Performance Appraisal Associate Self
Current Revision Date: 01/2018
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What Makes A Fully Successful Or Outstanding Employee
OPM went on to specify exactly who should be in line to receive top recognition from their agencies. Only the best should receive top recognition and honors from their agencies, Weichert said.
By law, forced distribution of employees among levels of performance, or grading on the curve, is prohibited, because employees are required to be assessed against documented standards of performance versus an individuals performance relative to others, she said.
The latest memo from Weichert doesnt direct agencies to undergo a massive overhaul of their employees performance standards and evaluations. Instead, the guidance serves more as a reminder for agencies to reevaluate how theyre defining performance standards and the specific activities and quantitative goals employees should have completed to achieve a certain rating.
OPM also provided more clarity on the kind of performance the administration expects of employees who earn specific ratings.
Performance at the fully successful level is a positive notation, Weichert said. Fully successful individuals deliver on behalf of our citizens, meeting prescribed objective, measurable outcomes relating to the duties that they perform. Fully successful should be seen as the category for employees who are meeting valid performance standards designed to deliver on what the American public should expect from their civil servants.