Wanted: A Job Series for GPRA Specialists

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An Energy Department official responsible for performance improvement at her agency recently bemoaned how tough it is to recruit a certain type of federal executive. She meant those with up-to-date experience in the priority goals and metrics vocabulary of performance management required under the 2010 Government Performance and Results Act.

“For one job, for which we had 17 candidates, only one mentioned experience with GPRA,” Roxanne Reisman, Energy’s performance improvement officer for cyber, said at a May 6 conference put on by the Performance Institute and the Association of Government Accountants. In advertising a vacancy, her team realized “there was not a current job series for a performance analyst that captured all the competencies for the job skills required.”

So the Energy Department’s cyber performance improvement specialists made do with the Office of Personnel Management’s 24-year-old GS-0343 classification, which, Reisman noted, contains 34 functional role core competencies, seven of which are performance-related enough for successful hiring, she confirmed to Government Executive.

OPM’s flysheet for the classification, which obviously was written long before the era of the modernized GPRA’s goals and metrics and data analytics, reads in part:

“Positions in this series serve as staff analysts, evaluators, and advisors to management on the effectiveness and efficiency with which agencies and their components carry out their assigned programs and functions. Such positions may be found at any organizational level within federal agencies. The primary purpose of the work is to provide line managers with objectively based information for making decisions on the administrative and programmatic aspects of agency operations and management.”

The 0343 flysheet, however, goes on to describe duties such as “analyzing and evaluating (on a quantitative or qualitative basis) the effectiveness of line program operations in meeting established goals and objectives; developing life cycle cost analyses of projects or performing cost benefit or economic evaluations of current or projected programs; advising on the distribution of work among positions and organizations and the appropriate staffing levels and skills.”

Though many job candidates have experience evaluating individual employee performance, familiarity with program evaluation under the GPRA regime is scarce.

Reisman during the past year has attended meetings of the governmentwide Performance Improvement Council, run by the General Services Administration and the Office of Management and Budget. “A Performance Improvement Council Working Group called for OPM to work with OMB on the designation of a job series for performance professionals,” she said.

Efforts to implement GPRA have not necessitated an update of the 0343 classification, an OPM spokeswoman said.

The revised GPRA law “required OPM to come up with a new job series around performance management, but it proved to be too difficult for them to create a whole new job series, and so they settled for a ‘special’ type of 343 management analyst with performance skills,” said Jon Desenberg, policy director of the Performance Institute. “The PIC and OPM have not been able to effectively communicate this work in my opinion—almost every performance person I speak with in government has never heard of this effort,” he said.

Desenberg has been working with Bethany Blakey, a performance manager for the Performance Improvement Council who is developing the competency set for “true organizational performance analysts,” Desenberg said. Blakey is considering creating a website to link performance trainers with federal employees.

Shelley Metzenbaum,  the former OMB associate director for performance and personnel management who is now president of the Volcker Alliance, said that while she’s not familiar with the specifics of Energy’s situation,  “this sounds like a vivid example of why Congress needs to change the law to allow cross-agency hiring authority,” she told Government Executive. “If one agency successfully recruits more highly qualified candidates than it needs, say, in cybersecurity, then other agencies should be allowed to hire from its roster.  It will save money and time, and allow for specialization of recruitment capacity in certain skill areas.”

Beyond that, Metzenbaum added, “I suspect this example raises serious and legitimate questions about the rigidity of the classification system. We ought to step back to be more clear about the objectives of classification, and then ask if there isn’t a smarter, simpler, more effective way to accomplish those objectives.”

(Image via docstockmedia/Shutterstock.com)

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