The Defense Department has launched a new online program for employees transitioning out of the National Security Personnel System to teach them how to navigate the General Schedule.
The training program, called GS 101, takes about 30 minutes to complete and includes quizzes at the end of each section.
The program focuses largely on pay, but also includes a substantial section on performance management that emphasizes similarities between the GS and NSPS systems. According to the program, under GS and NSPS, employees' assignments and work goals should align with their organization's priorities; supervisors should monitor and address performance issues; there should be opportunities for training and professional development; and "monetary and nonmonetary rewards are available for exceptional performance." Within 30 days of joining a new system or organization, employees and their supervisors should collaborate on a performance plan, according to the online program.
Lt. Col. April Cunningham, a Defense spokeswoman, said the transition office developed the training, and "while we encourage all NSPS employees to take the course," there is no requirement that employees complete the program.
Randy Erwin, legislative director for the National Federation of Federal Employees, which lobbied hard to end the alternate personnel system, said he was pleased the Pentagon was making progress on the transition from NSPS back to the General Schedule system. But, Erwin said, training should be a first step rather than a comprehensive program.
John Palguta, vice president for policy at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, said he believed all NSPS managers and supervisors should be required to take the online training, and additional reinforcements would be important for employees who were not primarily visual learners.
Erwin said the majority of NSPS employees had worked under the General Schedule system before and mainly would need a refresher on the rules and clarification on how the transition would affect them. But Palguta said it was important to remember that not all Defense employees were familiar with the GS system.
"There are probably some people at DoD who came into a position covered by the NSPS pay-for-performance system and don't know about the General Schedule because they haven't worked under the General Schedule," he said.
But Palguta said the program could be useful for introducing new federal employees, whether they work in Defense or not, to the General Schedule system. Because the training already has been designed and paid for, he said, it would be cost-effective for the Office of Personnel Management to adopt it for governmentwide use.