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.

Related stories:

Rating feds' performance: Changes are in the works

OPM director discourages move to pay for performance at hearing

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.

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.


  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Fri, Mar 18, 2011

“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.”

Yes, and it makes the rest of the workforce look bad. This is something the Unions should understand and not fight.

Fri, Mar 18, 2011 George Wash Dist

Next month I will be at 40 years federal service. As I reflect, I contend that "poor performers" do not exist. The term is bantied around loosely, especially amongst management and supervisors. I cannot recall any new employee coming aboard with the attitude of doing as little as possible for the most pay possible. No! They come aboard wanting to make a positive contribution to the mission, make an impact on the nation's security, and maximize the use of their particular skill sets. However, after a fashion, they become discouraged, disenchanted, and even disenfranchized. Not through lack of wanting to be the best, but through POOR MANAGEMENT! Cliques, nepotism, buddies, etc. get recognized fow what? For being able to schmooze. It has very little to do with ability. You get the point, I'm sure. There are no poor performers, just poor managers! Now, this is not to say there are no good managers, there are a lot of them. What I'm saying is look at an individual branded 'poor performer' and before subscribing to the monicer, take a very close look at that person's leader(s) and I'll show you lack of qualification to lead; someone(s) who concentrate on their subordinate's weaknesses (and we all have them) and not instead capitalizing on their strengths. Thank you for listening.

Thu, Mar 17, 2011

This is like Active Duty OERs. Great idea, but misused. Either the leader does not understand and wants a vent for blame, because they demand doing something their way, or it becomes a career blackmail tool. The system needs change, but I have seen change mean insulting senior personnel and demanding more when workers are doing the work of three people. Dont' even go into the subject of pay pools!

Thu, Mar 17, 2011 Jaded Southern CA, USA

I have been part of NSPS, part of GS, and now I'm under the Interim Performance Management System for GS (IPMS) which is just NSPS with greater destructive latitude for management. All these systems deny the employee any actual say in their performance review. The supervisor's word outweighs the employee's 1000 to one. Where is the feedback mechanism for the managers to be rated? Poor management skills and unclear performance metrics potentially demoralize the motivated workforce far more than lack of bonus cash.

Thu, Mar 17, 2011

I have been threatened by a manager when I was trying to go above and beyond in my duties. I am known as one of the few in my group who add value- it has been stated many times by external organizations. The government limits an employee's ability to excel by placing more priority on who can scream "racism" or state some other excuse for not performing and being otherwise accountable for their work product. Managers are scared stiff because even if they had enough guts to do the right thing- upper management won't support them because of political or other concerns. DC is the worst because "entitlement" rues the day when it comes to who gets, and keeps the government jobs.

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