Pay for performance back on the table

Congressman pushes for another try


The new chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform federal workforce subcommittee plans to pursue a federal pay-for-performance system, reports Federal Times.

Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., said a subcommittee hearing slated for March 9 will be his “first step” toward establishing that system, according to the article.

The move would dovetail with his plans to trim back the number of federal employees.

Alyah Khan, Federal Computer Week's workforce reporter and blogger, predicted in January that the idea might resurface. "Federal agencies have experimented with pay-for-performance systems, but they have not formally taken root anywhere," she wrote in a blog post published Jan.28. "It’s important to note that implementing pay for performance might be a hard sell, even if it is proposed by lawmakers or the administration, because of Congress’ decision to eliminate the Defense Department’s National Security Personnel System."

Still, she wrote, "a properly designed and managed pay-for-performance system will provide added motivation to talented, hard-working federal employees and pressure dead-weight employees to step up their game or get out. "

But the fate of NSPS, which had been viewed as the government's best hope for making pay-for-performance work, could still be a setback.

"The demise of NSPS has left federal officials and reform advocates grappling with a fundamental question: Did NSPS fail because of poor planning and execution? Or, more worrisome, did it fail because the concept of linking pay to performance — however sensible it sounds — is simply not possible in the federal government?" wrote Federal Computer Week Editor John Monroe in an article published in November 2009.. "The answer to the latter question will shape future efforts to update or revamp the government’s antiquated system for managing its workforce and attracting and retaining a new generation of workers, particularly in the highly competitive fields of acquisition and technology."

The General Schedule system, under which most federal employees today are paid, isn't well-regarded either. “As much as the unions have been throwing rocks at NSPS, they are not advocates for the General Schedule system,” said Howard Risher, a consultant who specializes in pay and performance, quoted in Monroe's article. “Everyone seems to understand the damn thing is broken.”



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