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.”


Nominate Today!

Nominations for the 2018 Federal 100 Awards are now being accepted, and are due by Dec. 23. 


Reader comments

Thu, Mar 17, 2011

The "GS" system is a "pay for performance" system. Within-grade increases and promotions are contingent upon performance. The problem is that many managers cannot articulate the practical differences between pay grades and, thus, do poorly at defining performance elements and standards. This is fundamentally troubling because this problem indicates that managers also lack the ability to describe work, i.e., prepare meaningfully stratified position descriptions. Cronyism isn't even as much of an issue as is the inability to articulate the scope and complexity of work, which is the basis for defining the pay grade, the degree to which an employee performs that work, etc. In other words, it doesn't matter much if a manager picks a friend or not for a supervisory position; what matters is whether that person can clearly and precisely craft HR documents.

Thu, Mar 10, 2011

I agree with the notion by Alyah Kahn that "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. "

I welcome and will embrace such system with both arms. However, before such system is designed and management is well trained, implement any imature system will only hurt the morale and performance.

Thu, Mar 10, 2011

I can't say the GS is broken, and to say we make more than people in the private sector, well I think it depends on the job catagory. In the private sector I could be making between $70k and $100k a year to start in my specialty, but I chose to work for the federal government and am starting out at less than $40k a year. I pay half of my benefits (50%) on top of a morgage, car payment and student loans. I agree that there are some federal government agencies that need to manage their funds better, like the department of education. We are paying them to teach the children of this country and they are poorly managing the funds given to them, so the people getting hurt are the children, which ultimately hurts our country as well. If the federal government goes to a performance based system, people who deserve the raises can be left out and people who don't deserve the raise will be the ones to get it. Supervisors and managers have historically given raises and promotions to those they favor, regardless of job performance, so either way (GS or performance based) supervisors and managers can hinder the promotion of an employee.

Thu, Mar 10, 2011

The only Federal Employees who are nine months behind on their constitutional duties are U.S. Senators and Representatives. Amend the Constitution to withhold all Legislative branch pay until all full year appropriations are in place for the fiscal year.

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 Ted America

What is absolutely required for Pay for Performace to work, is that the decision makers who get to decide who receives performace bonuses and/or raises have to be held personally accountable for those choices. In private industry a Manager can use cronyism and nepotism as her criteria when awarding performance pay, but that Manager will be held accountable when her department fails to perform. Private industry doesn't tolerate for long those Managers that cost the company money. The problem in the Federal sector is that we've all seen instances of cronyism and nepotism, and if anybody tries to bring it to the attention of higher management that person gets labeled as a whiner and complainer. So pay for performance ends up doing nothing more than providing Managers with a structure for rewarding their buddies.

Show All Comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group