Survey: Most HR officials favor ditching GS pay system

Federal Human Capital: the Perfect Storm

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A majority of chief human capital officers want to abandon the General Schedule pay system as a relic of the past and move to a modern performance-based system, a survey of 55 key federal human resources officials found.

More than a third of chief human capital officers said the GS system should be immediately scrapped, according to "Federal Human Capital: the Perfect Storm," which was released July 19 by the Partnership for Public Service and Grant Thornton.

However, most of those officials agreed that pay for performance should be a long-term goal and that it will require small, measured steps to accomplish.

In addition, agencies first will have to establish credible performance management systems, said survey respondents, who represented 28 departments and agencies.

"There is a real fear of quotas or the possibility of politics driving [performance-evaluation] decisions," said one official in the survey. "That’s something only time will change. The more transparency we have and the more employees are involved in the process, the better it will be."

Speaking at a panel discussion July 19 on the survey results in Washington, Homeland Security Department CHCO Marta Perez said that pay for performance in government must be demystified.

"Pay for performance is really not rocket science," Perez said. "It’s how most of the world gets paid."

Nonetheless, recent legal setbacks at DHS and the Defense Department in implementing performance-based pay systems have made some human resources officials reluctant to fully embrace the idea, the report said.

The survey also found that many CHCOs credit the human capital component of the President’s Management Agenda, launched in 2001, with helping their agency leaders focus more on workforce issues. Indeed, commitment from top leadership is crucial to human capital reform, most respondents said.

The Office of Personnel Management got mixed reviews in the survey. More than two-thirds believe that OPM doesn’t fully understand their needs and resource limitations. On the other hand, many respondents said the current OPM leadership was receptive to input from the federal human resources community.

Many CHCOs are taking a wait-and-see position on the Office of Management and Budget’s Human Resources Line of Business initiative, the survey revealed. They like the concept of shared-service centers but are concerned about the logistical aspects of moving to a governmentwide service provider, according to the report.

"I’d like to see how it works for someone our size," said human resources official at a large department.

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