Sarah J. Bonilla, director of human capital management at the Energy Department, believes that when government says something is excellent, it really should mean it.
In fiscal 2010, more than one-third of Senior Executive Service members received the highest possible rating,
or “excellent,” on their performance evaluations. At some agencies, that total reached 95 percent. In January, the President’s Management Council recommended a new performance management system in which only federal managers who go above and beyond the call of duty would receive the top rating.
Energy has been at the forefront of this shift thanks to Bonilla and her boss, Chief Human Capital Officer Michael Kane, both members of the council’s working group to examine performance management across agencies.
Bonilla began her career as a civilian in the Air Force, where she says accountability is expected. She hopes that principle takes hold governmentwide as agencies streamline evaluations and crack down on inflated ratings to create greater consistency.
The transformation began at Energy
about six years ago. “There were a lot of unhappy campers,” says Bonilla, who found herself having to defend the tougher standards. “We need to see what you did to contribute to the mission. These are hard jobs. We don’t do these things to make your life miserable, but there are laws we have to follow.”