Critical Read

Partnership for Public Service proposes sweeping changes to hiring and compensation

hand transferring coins

What: "Building the Enterprise: A New Civil Service Framework," by the Partnership for Public Service and Booz Allen Hamilton

Why: The current civil service system is more than 60 years old and was designed for a largely clerical workforce. To recognize the increasingly specialized functions of government workers, and to compete with the private sector, the authors of the report suggest bottom-up changes to the way feds are hired and compensated.

The effort begins with a new classification system that compresses the 15 grade levels of the General Schedule into five work levels that "more closely align with the knowledge work that most federal employees currently perform." The authors recommend benchmarking pay levels to private sector standards. While this might be easier for IT specialists and accountants than for air traffic controllers or intelligence analysts, the authors indicate that benchmarks could be created for every government function.

A new civil service system would also help smooth out the pecking order between those agencies that have the authority to offer higher wages and the relative paupers that don't. A unified personnel system would, the authors say, level the field in terms of competition for top talent. Top managers would be paid under a four-tier senior executive service that encourages movement of top managers between agencies, and the deployment of seasoned leaders to multi-agency missions and key enterprise-wide initiatives.

"Our nation's civil service system is a relic of a bygone era. Our nation's leadership must make it a priority to create a civil service system that our public servants deserve and that will produce the results our country needs," said Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service.

Verbatim: "The federal workforce is treated as a single entity for purposes of compensating professional and administrative personnel, rather than as employees engaged in a set of highly differentiated occupations — an approach that is unheard of among successful private-sector organizations. This federal pay-setting process undermines the ability of the government to attract and retain high-quality, white-collar talent because it treats the workforce as a unified mass, and it bears little relationship to the compensation rates paid for similar work in the broader labor market."

Read the full report

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is a staff writer covering Congress, the FCC and other key agencies. Connect with him on Twitter: @thisismaz.

Reader comments

Thu, Apr 3, 2014

I see this as a non-starter. I work under a 5 band pay for performance system now. Movement within the pay bands is tied back to the current GS system. I don't see OPM letting go of that. As to benchmarking to the private sector, that would involve many of the technical field making 50% more than they are now and many of the unionized fields making 20% LESS. Politically that just won't happen.

Thu, Apr 3, 2014

The problem with the current system has more to do with the people running it (OPM) than with the system itself. When I joined the Fed about 14 years ago we had a special rate for engineers, but it was in the process of being phased out. So it was possible to get some extra pay to more closely match the private sector. My present position description in the Air Force has me as a GS-11, despite the equivalant position in other parts of the DOD and even a few parts of the Air Force is often a GS-12. Now to "fix" the situation they are working to make all those other positions GS-11's as well. It seems that the clerical types running the system do not care for the technical types making more so they do their own "fixes". I first started getting that impression when I was told I had to start off as at Step 1 despite having my PE, 15 years of professional experience, and an MS degree on top of all that. Several of my co-workers, also coming in from the private sector, had to put up with the same bias from Personnel as well. When we went to NSPS and back, we heard plenty of stories about these clerical types in Personnel and other areas making out like bandits in the conversions. When compared to the private sector, it appears that the engineers and other highly technical people are not doing nearly as well as the clerical staff. My concern with going to such a new system, is: Who will be making up this new "improved" civil service system and will the technical types get a fair shake out of it? Right now these clerical types in Personnel, not the existing system itself, seem to be doing their best to make the existing system harder on the technical types to make a fair wage while giving themselves far better compensation than the private sector. How can one trust them to make the civil service system better?

Thu, Apr 3, 2014

You know in the private sector you also get time and a half when you work an hour over time, here they might give you an hour for your over and it is whether your supervisor approves it or not. Then there are times they say well that is expected from IT staff to work over time once in a while, that is so they can say look we are getting our work done with out no over time, whoopy, and the rest of us get screwed. Yet when I see upper management work over time, oh we are working from home today had to work late last night so I will not be in today. That is there way of saying I am not getting comp time but I am working from home even if I sleep on my couch and answer my cell. We need to have the same regulations as the private sector because to much upper management and not enough working people. If we work late pay us or give us that time and a half off just like everyone else in the USA. Should not need to call you to say, working late cause one of the users had a problem and I had to fix it or court was in session and the best time was after work to make sure we had no issues. They do not want to hold our hands but yet they also do not want to give you what is due to you. Most of our field offices keep our people happy but in our main office they have the biggest issues cause everyone has the nose up some one beep...... that is they way they work. So yes I say let us have the same regulations as the private sector, and yes fire us if the work is not getting done, does not take an act of Congress to do that.

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