Federal managers retain wrong employees, feds say

Survey finds supervisors are not properly cultivating their workers.

Federal employees worry their agencies are allowing their best employees to leave public service while retaining poor performers, according to a new report.

Less than a quarter of federal workers believe their organization “addresses poor performers effectively,” the Merit Systems Protection Board found in a workforce survey. Only 41 percent said their organization retains the best employees.

MSPB -- an independent, quasi-judicial agency that serves to protect federal employees -- conducted the survey to assess the federal workforce’s perceptions of the merit systems principles, or the “human resources policies and practices designed to ensure that people are recruited, managed and retained on the basis of their abilities and performance.”

While MSPB said managers need to improve their “stewardship” of employees -- how they use and develop talent -- feds said they feel protected and treated fairly under the merit system's principles. A majority of respondents said their agencies prevent discrimination, offer fair pay and recruit a diverse application pool.

There remained room for improvement in the fairness category, however, as less than 30 percent of respondents felt their agency did not engage in favoritism.

The government also has room to reduce waste, as more than 70 percent federal employees said their agency does not adequately eliminate unnecessary functions and positions.

To address the perceived shortcomings, MSPB recommended additional education for federal supervisors on MSPB’s guidelines. It also suggested involving employees in identifying ways to remain efficient and target redundancies. Managers should take an active role in retaining good employees, while recognizing and dismissing the bad ones, MSPB said.

“Eliminating unnecessary functions and positions and effectively addressing poor performing employees,” MSPB wrote in its report, “are particularly vital for agencies if they are going to show Congress, the President, and the American people, that they have done as much as possible with as few resources as possible.”

MSPB also recommended increasing efficiency by better preparing the workforce, as only 60 percent of employees felt they received the necessary training for their job.

MSPB surveyed a random sample of full-time employees across 24 departments and agencies in 2010, though the report was just recently released.