Managers say promotion opportunities lacking

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Federal managers want to reward high-performing employees with promotions, but few promotion opportunities are available, according to a Merit Systems Protection Board survey of federal supervisors.

In the downsized federal government of the late 1990s, supervisors say a lack of promotion opportunities-for their employees and themselves-is their top personnel management concern. MSPB asked about 1,000 federal managers to identify the five most pressing human resources concerns for the next five years. The survey results were released in the April edition of MSPB's Issues of Merit newsletter.

"It is a difficulty for a manager when his or her top-performing employees are leaving for other federal agencies or the private sector in part because of a lack of promotion opportunities," said John Palguta, director of MSPB's office of policy and evaluation.

With about 350,000 fewer civilian positions available in the federal government today than in 1993, it's harder for managers to reward employees with promotions. Employees who think they're stuck in dead-end jobs will often begin looking elsewhere for career advancement opportunities.

After promotion woes, the second concern most often cited by managers was hiring employees with the right skills, followed by improving productivity and helping employees keep their skills current. Managing technology and automation came in as the fifth-ranking problem.

"Managers are under constant pressure to improve unit productivity," MSPB reported. "While new technologies are one way to help, the speed and magnitude of their influx must be carefully managed to ensure that employees receive the training needed to maintain their specialized skills and use new technologies productively."

The top 10 personnel management concerns federal supervisors identified are:

  1. Dealing with a lack of promotion opportunities
  2. Hiring employees with the right skills
  3. Improving productivity
  4. Helping employees keep their skills current
  5. Managing the influx of new technologies and automation
  6. Providing developmental opportunities for employees
  7. Reengineering work processes
  8. Implementing new mission requirements
  9. Reorganizing the work unit
  10. Empowering employees

Managers also identified dealing with a diverse and older workforce, reducing the number of employees in work units, and managing employees working at alternative work sites or on alternative work schedules as concerns.

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