Analysis: Ten reasons to replace the General Schedule

By Howard Risher

November 23, 2011

The General Schedule needs to be replaced. It is an impediment to the effective management of payroll dollars and the workforce. The federal pay system is broken, and agencies deserve better.

Last spring, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, asked the Government Accountability Office to evaluate the GS system and develop recommendations that would make it acceptable. GAO should know it cannot be fixed. Now it has become a political football that promises to surface during the presidential campaign.

A recent study commissioned by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development looked at changes in government pay programs triggered by recession around the globe. As chief consultant on the study, I found that a number of countries are struggling with compensation issues, but some have successfully transitioned to new pay programs. It can be done.

Outside of the U.S. government, no other employer in the world -- in any sector -- has relied on the same salary system for six decades. The armies of clerks who were prevalent in 1949 have been replaced by technical "knowledge workers." Management practices that were dominant then were rejected by most employers long ago. Pay programs are decidedly different today.

With the exception of locality differentials, the General Schedule has been static. With salaries frozen, this is the best time to make the tough decisions about pay. Then a new program could be in place when agencies are allowed to grant salary increases. Agreement now on replacing the GS system could avert unnecessary wrangling in next year's political debate.

Here are 10 reasons why a new system is needed:

The evidence speaks for itself. The General Schedule fails every test and needs to be replaced. There's no better time than the present.

Howard Risher is an independent compensation and performance management consultant. He was the managing consultant for the studies leading to the 1990 Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act. He is the author or co-author of five books, including Planning Wage and Salary Programs (WorldatWork Press, 2009).


By Howard Risher

November 23, 2011

http://www.govexec.com/pay-benefits/2011/11/analysis-ten-reasons-to-replace-the-general-schedule/35481/