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Senior Executive Service to get standard evaluations

Oct. 15, 2011 - 06:00AM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments
Staffers leave the EPA on their way home. The Senior Executive Service's 7,000 or so members will get a new performance management system as early as this month.
Staffers leave the EPA on their way home. The Senior Executive Service's 7,000 or so members will get a new performance management system as early as this month. (Chris Maddaloni / Staff file photo)

The Senior Executive Service's 7,000 or so members will get a new performance management system as early as this month. The new system, being finalized by the Office of Management and Budget, aims to evaluate SES members on how well they demonstrate the SES's five "core qualifications": leading people, leading change, business acumen, building coalitions and being results driven.

The new system aims to correct a recent trend at some agencies to overemphasize results when evaluating executives' performance, and guarantee at least some consideration for the other four qualifications.

Agencies will be able to weight the five qualifications differently, but OMB will require the "results driven" qualification to make up at least 20 percent of someone's final score. The other four qualifications will have a minimum weight of 5 percent, the Senior Executives Association said.

"It's going to provide some level of uniformity governmentwide on what appraisals look like, while allowing agencies some local discretion," said Bill Bransford, general counsel for SEA, which represents thousands of SES members. "The idea is to get them on the same page."

SEA published details on the plan last week in its latest newsletter, Action.

Some agencies currently don't consider all five core qualifications when evaluating executive performance, Bransford said. Over the last several years, he said, several agencies have overwhelmingly focused on results, to the exclusion of other core qualifications.

But the new system will still emphasize executives' need to show results.

"If you're a good leader, results will follow," Bransford said.

According to SEA's newsletter, OMB sent an email Sept. 21 that said the new system "will provide a consistent and uniform framework for agencies to communicate expectations and evaluate the performance of SES members, particularly centering on the role and responsibility of SES employees to provide executive leadership."

Currently, some agencies have four rating levels and others have five levels. The new government-wide system will require all agencies to have a five-level rating system. If an executive receives an unsatisfactory rating in even one category, his overall rating will be unsatisfactory.

SEA said it was originally concerned that the rules were skewed to allow only executives serving at the highest ranks to receive the highest rating, "outstanding," and it objected to the way the plan was written. A later draft addressed those concerns, SEA said.

The final plan will be unveiled this month, and all federal agencies will transition to it within two years.

But SEA said that designing a new performance management system isn't the hard part executing it well is.

"Efforts to re-tool the performance management system are really only valuable in terms of focusing people's attention on executing the system consistently and well," SEA said in comments sent to the Office of Personnel Management. "The actual structure is less important than how it's implemented."

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