NAPA: Pay for performance

An independent think tank is the latest organization to endorse a new way of giving pay raises to white-collar federal workers — by rewarding them for good work instead of how many years they have been punching a clock.

In a new report, officials from the National Academy of Public Administration said performance-based pay should be the standard for workers in the 21st century — rewarding excellence instead of ignoring it.

"People — in this case, public servants — are the lifeblood of any organization, and the federal government will not serve its taxpayers well if it cannot attract, reward and keep the best workers," said NAPA President C. Morgan Kinghorn.

NAPA's conclusions confirm the opinion of Office of Personnel Management officials — that the General Schedule salary system, which has been in effect since the 1930s, is an antiquated way to pay federal workers.

Instead, NAPA officials suggested that pay banding, the term for the new system, would provide equity across government occupations and better management control. It also would give agencies the flexibility to pay more for hard-to-find skills and attract workers who move from the higher-paying private sector into the government.

The change will be hard to put into effect because it represents a major shift in how managers control salaries.

"From an organizational standpoint, the change can be characterized as a move from an entitlement culture to a performance-earned culture," according to the NAPA report.

But "it is unlikely that managers and employees will think differently about performance as long as the GS system is in place," the report stated.

Union representatives disagree.

"We have ongoing issues with the rush to dismantle the GS system," said Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union. "We're not opposed to pay for performance if there were a system fully funded and credible to employees. But if it is not fully funded and credible, it will fail."

"The most vivid difference between federal and private-sector practices in the United States is the lack of financial rewards," according to the report. "When companies undertake new strategies, financial rewards commonly are part of the strategy."

But that is not the case with the current system. "Critics contend that the system has contributed to an entitlement culture," the report stated. "It was not conceived — nor was it administered — to support performance initiatives."

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