Voinovich offers workforce improvement bill

Proposal would mandate managerial training and rigorous employee performance reviews

Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) introduced a bill June 13 that requires more rigorous performance appraisals of federal employees. The Federal Workforce Performance Appraisal and Management Improvement Act would ease the transition to pay-for-performance systems governmentwide, he said.

“By instituting a more rigorous performance management standard on top of the current General Schedule [pay system], I am optimistic this will cause less anxiety among federal employees,” Voinovich said.

As chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia Subcommittee, Voinovich supports pay-for-performance reforms.

But with the new bill, Voinovich signaled his support for less drastic changes than those the Bush administration proposed in its Working for America Act. No lawmaker has yet agreed to sponsor the administration’s bill.

“Instead of taking one giant bite at the apple, I believe it will be easier for federal agencies to implement enhanced employee appraisals first,” Voinovich said.

If lawmakers pass the Voinovich bill, federal workers would be subject to annual written performance evaluations by their managers. Under the legislation, federal managers would undergo mandatory training to learn how to evaluate employee contributions to the agency’s strategic goals. Managers and employees would work together to develop performance metrics. A provision would allow managers to dock annual pay increases and limit some raises of poorly performing workers.

Linda Springer, director of the Office of Personnel Management, said she supports Voinovich’s bill as a first step toward reforms to make pay commensurate with job performance rather than length of federal service. “This legislation will help achieve this goal by requiring managers to receive the training necessary to make sound, objective judgments on employee performance,” Springer said.

Previous federal pay-for-performance initiatives remain mired in court battles, and some critics say Voinovich’s bill only adds another layer of bureaucracy. The National Treasury Employees Union and other federal employee unions have lambasted federal pay-for-performance initiatives and sued the Homeland Security Department over labor relations provisions in the department’s new MaxHR pay-for-performance system.

“The proposed legislation fails to recognize that agencies already have a number of flexibilities available to reward good performers and deal with poor performers,” said Colleen Kelley, NTEU’s president. “NTEU would support efforts to get agencies to actually use these flexibilities and any necessary resources.”

Voinovich said one of the mistakes DHS made with MaxHR was to allow continuing negotiations rather than opt for final arbitration, which would have forced the unions to place their issues on the table. “Had we done it that way, I don’t think we’d be in court,” Voinovich said last month at an event sponsored by the Council for Excellence in Government, a nonprofit group that promotes government performance.

Other recent efforts to implement federal pay-for-performance systems have had little success and met great resistance from workers and unions. The National Security Personnel System, the Defense Department’s new pay-for-performance system, suffered major setbacks in court. DOD was forced to scale back its initial deployment of NSPS at the end of April from 65,000 civilian employees to 11,000.

A new pay system at the Government Accountability Office has drawn criticism internally and from some pay-for-performance advocacy groups for not having proper evaluation metrics. GAO found that it was paying too much to midcareer workers who had all been rated above average or higher and overdrawing the pay pool.

A charter for changes in employee performance reviewsA bill that requires more rigorous performance appraisals of federal employees would ease the transition to future pay-for-performance systems, according to the bill’s sponsor, Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio).

Voinovich’s bill would also require federal agencies to provide training to help managers:

  • Design an employee performance appraisal system that is consistent with the agency’s strategic goals and annual performance plan.
  • Involve employees in the development of the performance standards on which they will be evaluated.
  • Provide each employee with an annual written performance appraisal.
  • Recognize meaningful distinctions in employees’ performance.
  • Use the results of performance appraisals as the basis for training, rewarding, compensating, reassigning, promoting, reducing in grade, retaining and removing employees.
  • Seek technical assistance and review from the Office of Personnel Management before implementing a new performance appraisal system.
  • The Federal Workforce Performance Appraisal and Management Improvement Act would mandate that each federal agency:

  • Communicate performance expectations and conduct employee performance appraisals.
  • Mentor employees and improve employee performance and productivity.
  • Deal with employees whose performance is unacceptable.
  • Source: Federal Workforce Performance Appraisal and Management Improvement Act

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