DOE headquarters gets new performance appraisal system

DOE headquarters gets new performance appraisal system

Union members had felt that the previous five-tiered appraisal system was too subjective and lacked accountability for supervisors. So in 1996, NTEU and DoD management began discussing ways to change the system, and the the following year a working group was formed to come up with proposals for a new system. The group proposed a three-tied system, but NTEU criticized it as "nothing more than pass-fail," because, the union argued, very few employees would qualify for the third level.
ksaldarini@govexec.com

It took three years, but the Energy Department has managed to knock one level off its five-tiered performance appraisal system for employees at the department's Washington headquarters.

DOE headquarters employees will be ranked on a new four-tiered system under an agreement between DOE management and the National Treasury Employees Union, union representatives announced last week.

The four levels of performance ratings are:

  • Level 1: "Unsatisfactory performance."
  • Level 2: "Adequately plans work and handles problems."
  • Level 3: "Demonstrates initiative by taking responsibility for planning work and handling unexpected problems ... supervisory intervention is periodically required to overcome significant barriers to performance."
  • Level 4: Same as Level 3, except "the supervisor is rarely involved in overcoming barriers to performance and this performance is sustained throughout the rating period."

DOE declared it would implement the working group's system anyway beginning January 1, 1999. But Energy Secretary Bill Richardson agreed to hold off after meeting with NTEU President Robert M. Tobias. A new bargaining process began, using "interest-based negotiations." Under that process, the two parties agreed on the problem, placed their interests as secondary goals and made coming up with a solution the priority. The four-tiered system was the result.

NTEU credits Richardson for his willingness to compromise. "This agreement is good not just for the agency and its employees, but for the public we both serve," Tobias said. "It is the result of parties of good will working hard toward a common goal."

The new agreement addresses NTEU's concerns about supervisor objectivity, saying, "employees will not be rated on elements and standards that are inconsistent with their assigned duties and responsibilities." It also gives employees the right to take part in the development of appraisal standards.

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