OPM Grants Greater Flexibility With Senior Executive Personnel Appraisal Systems

Acting OPM Director Margaret Weichert said the changes are part of an effort to implement President Trump’s management agenda. Acting OPM Director Margaret Weichert said the changes are part of an effort to implement President Trump’s management agenda. Cameron Whitman Photography LLC

The Office of Personnel Management announced Wednesday that it would provide agencies with additional flexibilities in the process to certify performance appraisal systems for senior executives and technical experts.

In a memo to agency heads, acting OPM Director Margaret Weichert said the changes are part of an effort to implement President Trump’s management agenda by “removing procedural hurdles” for agencies when they look to certify their performance appraisal systems for the Senior Executive Service, Senior-Level and Scientific and Professional pay systems.

“The majority of agencies now have extensive experience with SES and SL/ST certification and have well-established policies and procedures that operationalize the certification criteria,” Weichert wrote. “Therefore, the changed process focuses less on verifying operational compliance and more on the results of agencies’ appraisal systems, thereby saving time and resources.”

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Among the upcoming changes to the system, slated to go into effect Jan. 7, is automatic renewal of fully certified appraisal systems. Agencies will also no longer be required to submit sample performance plans with their certification requests. Additionally, agencies will have greater flexibility to demonstrate pay differentiation using a combination of performance-based pay raises and performance awards.

Fully certified performance appraisal systems for senior executives and expert pay scales allow agencies to award a higher range of pay to high-performing employees in those occupations. OPM argued that these changes will allow agencies to prove that their systems are successful based on outcomes, rather than rote rule compliance.

The Senior Executives Association applauded the changes, describing OPM’s previous role in performance appraisal systems as “a process nanny.”

“These common sense modernization efforts are a big improvement over the previous certification process, which was characterized by unnecessary bureaucratic processes and a misalignment with agency mission performance,” SEA President Bill Valdez said. “I encourage OPM to continue down this path of becoming a strategic adviser to agencies on human capital management and focusing less on operational compliance and more on improving the effectiveness of the federal workforce . . . This trust but verify approach is long overdue.”

Weichert wrote that agencies with an OPM-approved performance appraisal system will be able to make use of the changes as part of their fiscal 2018 performance cycle. Agencies whose certifications are slated to expire between now and Jan. 7 will be granted an extension to allow them to seek renewal under the new process.

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