OPM tells agencies to overhaul executive rating systems

Many agencies' systems for evaluating and rewarding senior executives are flawed, according to an official from the Office of Personnel Management.

While one size may not fit all, executives should make sure to use evaluation systems that link individual performance to agency-wide results and provide incentives for even the best performers to improve, said Doris Hausser, assistant director for performance and compensation systems design at OPM, Friday at a forum sponsored by the Performance Institute, a Washington think tank.

"This requires a culture change," Hausser said. "The change has to start at the top and trickle down."

Under the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act, agencies must develop strategic plans and measure progress in meeting mission goals. But some agencies still fail to link senior executive performance ratings to results achieved under GPRA plans, Hausser said.

In addition, agencies often fail to distinguish executives who are merely meeting performance goals from those who are exceeding goals, she said. Nearly 84 percent of federal executives received the highest performance ratings in fiscal year 2001, according to a letter OPM Director Kay Coles James sent to agency chiefs in September.

When agencies fail to make distinctions, they not only miss out on an opportunity to identify weaknesses, they also forego the chance to recognize truly exceptional executives, Hausser said. In some agencies, senior executives all receive the same bonus, regardless of the quality of their work, she said.

This is partly because bonuses are not merely used to reward performance, but to help compensate for the pay compression executives face, said Carol Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association. The Senior Executive Service has a six-level pay scale, but because of pay caps, employees at the top three levels receive the same salary. In some areas of the country, executives at the top four or five levels receive equal salaries.

Despite the difficulty agencies have linking performance to results, two agencies at the forum said they have made strides in improving their executive performance management systems.

Nina Hatfield, deputy assistant secretary of budget and finance at the Bureau of Land Management, said that the agency has gone beyond a one-dimensional rating system and now uses a "balanced scorecard" to rate executives in four areas: financial management, customer service, employee satisfaction and business strategies.

Executives at BLM resisted the new system at first, according to Hatfield. "They did not like to have performance linking to goals," she said. But Hatfield said executive performance has already improved notably under the system.

The Internal Revenue Service now uses a point system to evaluate executive performance and rewards exceptional executives with higher bonuses. The rating system is based on 21 competency areas and five core measures, Chief Human Resources Officer Ron Sanders told participants at the forum. The agency also implemented a mandatory mid-year review process, helping facilitate more frequent communication about performance, he said.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.