The Office of Personnel Management announced Nov. 14 that agencies will soon be allowed more flexibility in their performance evaluation processes for Senior Executive Service and Senior Level/Scientific and Professional positions.

“The revised SES and SL/ST Performance Appraisal System Certification Process is a set of administrative improvements to the certification process, hereafter referred to as Certification 2.0, that will reduce agency burden and minimize the time and resources spent on preparing and reviewing certification submissions,” the guidance for agency heads said.

“Certification 2.0 applies to those agencies requesting certification of OPM-approved basic SES or SL/ST performance appraisal systems; those agencies that have designed their own appraisal systems will continue using the SES or SL/ST Performance Appraisal Assessment Tool processes.”

The Certification 2.0 changes include automatic renewal of a fully certified evaluation system for two calendar years, removed requirements for agencies to submit performance plans with their certification requests and greater flexibility for pay differentiation among senior positions based on both performance-based pay adjustments and performance awards.

Agencies will still be responsible for developing performance plans as required by regulation, but agency oversight officials will be required to verify in the certification application that their agency has met necessary criteria.

The changes are designed to focus OPM certification more on the actual outcomes of agency performance evaluation systems rather than on compliance.

“We believe this new approach will better support agencies in meeting their mission, enhance service and stewardship and prepare for the workforce of the 21st century in support of the President’s Management Agenda,” acting Office of Personnel Management Director Margaret Weichert wrote in a memo to agency heads.

“We believe these improvements will reduce agency burden by removing procedural hurdles and will better position OPM as a strategic advisor to agencies on improving employee performance management.”

Agencies with certified systems will have access to higher employee pay options based on performance.

The Trump administration has been particularly focused on altering the federal reward systems to better reflect employee performance, as part of the PMA.

“These common sense modernization efforts are a big improvement over the previous certification process, which was characterized by unnecessary bureaucratic processes and a misalignment with agency mission performance,” said Senior Executives Association President Bill Valdez in a statement on the new certification system.

“I encourage OPM to continue down this path of becoming a strategic advisor to agencies on human capital management and focusing less on operational compliance and more on improving the effectiveness of the federal workforce.”

Implementation of the new system begins Jan. 7, 2019.