Personnel chief: Career ladder data ‘a blip, not a trend’

Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry OPM photo

Recent data showing a large increase in federal employee career ladder promotions could be mounted on shaky ground.

Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry said Wednesday that a recent Federal Times analysis of OPM data showing a 75 percent increase in career ladder promotions during the past three years reflects “a blip, not a trend.”

Berry said “a significant percentage” of the data, which “may be as significant as 50 percent,” does not actually reflect career ladder promotions, but rather Defense Department employees who were reconverted back into civil service ranks after Congress repealed the pay-for-performance National Security Personnel System in 2009. By federal law, he said, reconverted Defense personnel were brought back into the previous pay system at “equal or above” their pre-NSPS pay level, and these figures were included in the data Federal Times reported.

Berry’s comments immediately followed a meeting of the National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations. During the meeting, American Federation of Government Employees labor relations specialist Terry Rosen gave a presentation on the March 8 session of the federal government’s Career Development Working Group, where expanding career ladders was one of the topics. Rosen also discussed the career development benefits of OPM offering classes for college credit.

Nevertheless, there has been an actual increase in career ladder positions during the last few years, Berry said. But the personnel chief reiterated several times that promotion is not a guarantee within such positions.

“Even with the career ladder, you still need to be certified,” Berry said. “Your manager still needs to approve that your performance and your training make you eligible for that promotion. And we need to make sure that our managers are taking that responsibility to do it seriously, because it is never a guarantee.”

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