Workforce Plan Stresses Pay for Performance, OPM Nominee Advances, and More

A weekly round-up of pay and benefits news.

The Office of Personnel Management joined President Trump’s call for pay-for-performance in the federal civil service when it released its five-year strategic plan last week.

The quadrennial Federal Workforce Priorities Report listed a number of priorities for agencies in the realm of workforce management, particularly succession planning, improved technology, and better employee development and recognition of top performers. It also stressed enhancing productivity by encouraging physical activity among employees to improve their health. 

The report said OPM plans to introduce programs that “appropriately recognize and reward employees who demonstrate high levels of performance,” specifically citing the White House’s agency reorganization plans and management agenda, which is slated to be released next month, as avenues to achieve better retention of high-performing feds.

“Employee recognition programs encourage sustained excellence and productivity and help retain top talent, which becomes increasingly important as the workforce is streamlined,” OPM wrote. “Recognizing high performers is highlighted in both the Office of Management and Budget’s agency reform memo and OPM’s workforce reshaping guidance. It is a proactive and accountability-based practice that can help avoid performance problems and conduct issues.

OPM also suggested a number of specific ways agencies could encourage workers to stay active and healthy.

“The workplace benefits that employee health can provide, especially in light of the relatively low investment costs, can be a valuable tool for organizations that are called upon to do more with less,” the report said.

Among the ideas floated for agencies are installing standing desks, encouraging employees to exercise during their breaks, and creating opportunities to play sports recreationally.

Over on Capitol Hill, a Senate panel finally moved forward with the nomination of Jeff Pon to lead OPM, after months of stalling over a request for documents from the agency.

The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday morning approved Pon’s nomination and that of deputy director nominee Michael Rigas to advance to the full Senate. The appointments had been held up by Chairman Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., as the latest spat in a years-long saga by Republican lawmakers seeking information about OPM’s decision in 2013 to allow congressional employees to purchase insurance on the D.C. Small Business Health Options Plan and receive an employer subsidy, rather than the individual market.

Since Trump’s inauguration last January, Kathleen McGettigan has led the agency on an acting basis. Trump’s first pick for the federal government’s top HR official, George Nesterczuk, withdrew his name from consideration for the post in July, following outcry from labor groups regarding his role in the creation of a failed performance-based pay program at the Defense Department, as well as his past work as an adviser for the Ukrainian government.

Meanwhile, OPM on Tuesday announced that it is seeking nominations for the fiscal 2018 Presidential Rank Awards, the most prestigious internal award available to career federal employees. The awards were established as part of the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act and are open to senior professionals and members of the Senior Executive Service.

Agencies may nominate up to 9 percent of their career SES and SL/ST workforces for the rank awards. Additionally, agency inspectors general may nominate individuals separately from their parent agencies.

OPM instructed agencies to conduct due diligence with each candidate, including any past conduct issues; whether they have paid their taxes; and any findings of misconduct related to discrimination, office of the inspector general proceedings, or other potential blemishes on their record.

Nominations are due March 30.