Performance pilot launching at Veterans Affairs

National Cemetery Administration to adopt GEAR program in November.

The Veterans Affairs Department's National Cemetery Administration is joining a growing list of agencies signing on to a pilot program that aims to change performance appraisal procedures.

NCA will use the Goals, Engagement, Accountability and Results pilot to examine how supervisors and employees assess performance, according to a Federal News Radio report.

Until now, the agency has not defined employee performance above a basic level. GEAR focuses on enhancing feedback to employees and aligning employee performance with agency performance. It aims to encourage employees to discuss skills they have that their employers might not be taking advantage of, as well as capabilities the employee wants to develop that would benefit the agency.

The National Cemetery Administration’s program will focus on cemetery representatives, caretakers and equipment operators -- jobs that play a key role in maintaining the cemetery and represent about 66 percent of the division’s positions in 36 regional locations, FNR reported.

The National Cemetery Administration's southeast region, which includes Puerto Rico, Arkansas and North Carolina, will begin testing this approach Nov. 1, FNR said.

The pilot was launched by the National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations in November 2011. The Energy and Housing and Urban Development departments and the Office of Personnel Management began their GEAR programs earlier this year, FNR said. The U.S. Coast Guard will launch its program in April 2013.

Members of the Senior Executive Service have been under new performance standards since early this year. Under the GEAR program, SES members receive an “outstanding” ranking only if the agency’s scores on some aspects of the Employee Viewpoint Survey have risen by 5 percent. This aspect of GEAR has drawn mixed reviews from labor unions.

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