Performance bill hearing emphasizes training

Federal Workforce Performance Appraisal and Management Improvement Act

Agency managers need better training on how to handle employees, and agencies need to better manage their training budgets, according to lawmakers, agency leaders and union officials who spoke during discussions on two workforce performance bills proposed by Sens. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii).

In a June 29 hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Senators and union officials discussed and debated the proposed legislation.

“There is an absolute need for training," said Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), the only member of Congress involved. "Any organization this size and this complicated needs constant management training. It’s interesting that funds either aren’t used or aren’t there."

Akaka’s Federal Supervisor Training Act focuses on training managers to acclimate them to their jobs and mentor employees. Managers would receive additional training every three years. Voinovich’s bill, the Federal Workforce Performance Appraisal and Management Improvement Act, would establish annual performance appraisals for all federal workers and deny annual pay grade raises to workers who perform poorly.

The bill would also emphasize training for management to ensure they would have a better understanding of how employee evaluations worked.

“I believe most employees want to know their supervisor is paying attention,” Lautenberg said. “They want to know where they stand, and how they are doing their jobs.”

Other concerns included the apportionment of money for training. Dan Blair, deputy director of the Office of Personnel Management, said there is a “frustrating inability to see how agencies are spending their training" funds.

Panel members also found that the cost benefits of training are difficult to calculate. “One of the things that often blocks training out of the workplace is the staff time away from the job to be in training, and that’s never built into the budget,” said Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union.

Jacqueline Simon, public policy director of the American Federation of Government Employees, had questions about the effectiveness of the training. “What would be the content of the training? How much discretion will managers have to define those standards? What role will employees play in developing those standards?” she asked.

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