Officials Highlight Pay for Performance, Streamlined Firing in New Management Document

Just weeks after the announcement of President Trump’s management agenda, three agency leaders have put together the first roadmap for implementation of the White House’s workforce goals.

In a quarterly report released last week, the Office of Personnel Management, the Defense Department and the Office of Management and Budget described some aspects of the federal civil service system as “a relic of an earlier era that ill-serves federal managers and employees.” The document focuses on three key goals: improving employee performance management and engagement; reskilling and redeploying human capital resources; and enabling simple and strategic hiring practices.

Although the report, issued by OPM Director Jeff Pon, Defense Chief Management Officer Jay Gibson, and OMB Associate Director for Performance and Personnel Management Peter Warren, noted that some of the White House’s workforce reform initiatives will require legislative and regulatory action, it outlined a number of short-term goals that can be achieved administratively.

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By the third quarter of the 2018 fiscal year, all agencies will be required to identify their “bottom 20 percent” of work units in the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey’s Employee Engagement Index and target a 20 percent improvement in their scores by the end of 2020.

On the topic of employee performance, OPM committed to identifying “leading practices for” incentives to reward, recruit and retain high performers by the fourth quarter of 2018, while OPM and the Defense Department will identify policies to best address poor performers by the first quarter of 2019.

All agencies were instructed to update their policies to remove “non-statutory steps from the discipline process” by the second quarter of 2019, and by the fourth quarter they will need to improve training and support for managers on performance management and addressing poor performers.

The General Services Administration has a unique role in the management agenda roll-out: a “tiger team” of personnel experts, led by Boris Arriata, senior adviser for the Performance Improvement Council, will complete “at least five” organizational assessments on poor-performing work units across government. And in conjunction with OPM, the acquisition agency will develop a “parachute team” to assist agencies on performance management issues.

Some targets hint at the Trump administration’s future plans to implement broader changes to the federal civil service system. OPM and the Defense Department will “examine best practices of alternative personnel systems” by the fourth quarter of 2018, and officials will consider new ways to gauge the qualifications of prospective members of the Senior Executive Service on a rolling basis over the next two years.

In an effort to ease the federal hiring process, OPM will develop the “initial capability” of an automated hiring adviser for managers later this year, as well as identify an official to be responsible for governmentwide HR and workforce development. And next year, the agency will begin development of a “standard employee digital record” to make it easier for workers to transfer between agencies.

The report outlined plans to begin consideration of introducing automation to federal agencies, noting that 5 percent of federal occupations could be automated entirely, while an additional 60 percent could see at least 30 percent of their work activities automated.

“Although the impact of machine assistance varies by occupation, the use of automation has the potential to provide employees with time to focus on more important work,” officials wrote.

To that end, OPM and OMB’s Office of Federal Procurement Policy will develop pilot programs to test automation in three areas of government by early 2019, and they will develop “a reskilling plan” to provide employees negatively affected by automation to do other work.

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