New senior executive performance measurements emphasize ‘leadership qualities’


The new performance management system recently announced by the Office of Personnel Management will require all federal agencies to favor the demonstration of leadership qualities over more technical performance measures, according to a member of the system's working group.

Agencies already consider Executive Core Qualifications to evaluate Senior Executive Service members. The qualifications include: leading people, leading change, results driven, business acumen and building coalition. Under the new system, however, the weight given to ECQs and to performance metrics will be the same across all agencies.

"This is going to focus people back on the fact that SESers are supposed to be more concerned about managing and leading, or equally concerned, if you will," Michael Kane, chief human capital officer at the Energy Department, told Government Executive. Kane was a member of the working group that created the new system.

At Energy, for example, 60 percent of an executive's evaluation is based on "tech milestones," considerations such as: "Did I get the project done? Did I have five physics experts?" he said. The remaining 40 percent of the evaluation would be based on the leadership attributes.

"Those areas are nebulous, so it was hard for people to focus in and say, 'What did you do in leading people? What did you do in driving change?'" Kane said.

Tools like employee value surveys and retention rate reviews can be helpful in measuring those nebulous qualities, but Kane admits that the new system still will require "an adjustment." The new system encourages surveys of employee performance will be "360s" -- where all SES employees, including top secretaries, must get input from colleagues at a variety of levels - something that's worked at DOE he said.

While the new performance evaluation system will not affect senior management pay levels, it does make appraisal systems more uniform and transparent since all agencies will have the same criteria. In the past, some agencies had more stringent standards than others, according to Kane.

This push toward uniformity does not apply to implementation dates of the new system, however. Every agency will implement it on its own timelines, Kane said.

A standardized approach also will eliminate some bureaucracy in the certification process federal employees undergo to become members of the SES. In the past, all federal agencies had OPM and the Office of Budget Management review applications on a cyclical basis and award conditional approval or reject employees seeking to become senior executives. Many hiring decisions on various ends of the SES pay scale would get held up through the certification process, Kane said.

The new process will "reduce the likelihood that you're going to stay in conditional approval forever and a day and focus in on more standard elements;" he added.

The Senior Executives Association, however, is concerned that the new system might "tighten the level of performance," its president, Carol A. Bonosaro said last week.

Some senior executives have expressed concern over whether they will be rated fairly under the new system, fearing an Obama administration could give out lower performance ratings for its own political benefit, Bonosaro said, adding that under the current system, "plenty of executives have seen their ratings lowered without explanation."

The Energy Department is among agencies involved in GEAR -- goals, engagement, accountability and results -- a pilot effort to reform the evaluation system for General Schedule federal employees. OPM, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs departments also are participating. Kane said the pilot involves some of the same elements as the new SES system.

"One of the things GEAR is saying is, 'Hey, you have to have a marriage between the CHCOand the agency's performance improvement officer, the person who is looking at quantifiable performance," Kane explained.

"The two have to be together because you can't separate organization performance from people," he said. "That's a big change."

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
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


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