OPM's Berry: Performance and pay need not be linked

OPM director promises to revamp performance evaluation system

Performance reviews in the government are too “infrequent and rote” and the system needs tobe improved, said Office of Personnel Management Director  John Berry during a speech today at the Interagency Resources Management Conference.

He said a new system would aim to harness federal employees’ creativity and productivity, set clear measurable goals that align with an agency’s missions, and facilitate constructive and regular feedback from managers.


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Berry identified performance management reform as one of OPM’s three long-term goals, which also include examining the federal pay system and promoting innovation.

Berry said he thinks the government must first get performance right before it starts discussing federal salaries or the possibility of implementing a federal pay-for-performance system.

“They don’t have to be linked,” Berry said about pay and performance. “There’s a lot of literature out there that says what drives performance really isn’t pay.”

The first step in fixing performance management is to understand the missions of the federal workforce and to recognize what kind of workforce the federal government wants to build, he explained.

The Chief Human Capital Officers Council has formed a working group to begin deliberations on performance evaluation. The CHCO Council is being led by two senior executives – one from the Energy Department and the other from the Housing and Urban Development Department – and coordinating its effort with the National Labor-Management Council, Berry added.

The existing method for evaluating federal employees includes performance standards, reviews, rating and rewards. Berry said these tools have “essentially dehumanized our management. For many employees, performance standards are unclear and too subjective.”

He also said not all federal employees should receive above-average ratings, as is often the case.

“Failing to remove poor performers disrespects and demotivates the entire team,” Berry said. “In declining budget times, we don’t have a position to waste.”

Berry proposed that the government change the way it manages personnel performance by engaging employees in the process of setting clear expectations and promoting constant feedback, or what he called a “far more reliable motivator than pay.”

About the Author

Alyah Khan is a staff writer covering IT policy.

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