Critical Read

Partnership for Public Service proposes sweeping changes to hiring and compensation

hand transferring coins

What: "Building the Enterprise: A New Civil Service Framework," by the Partnership for Public Service and Booz Allen Hamilton

Why: The current civil service system is more than 60 years old and was designed for a largely clerical workforce. To recognize the increasingly specialized functions of government workers, and to compete with the private sector, the authors of the report suggest bottom-up changes to the way feds are hired and compensated.

The effort begins with a new classification system that compresses the 15 grade levels of the General Schedule into five work levels that "more closely align with the knowledge work that most federal employees currently perform." The authors recommend benchmarking pay levels to private sector standards. While this might be easier for IT specialists and accountants than for air traffic controllers or intelligence analysts, the authors indicate that benchmarks could be created for every government function.

A new civil service system would also help smooth out the pecking order between those agencies that have the authority to offer higher wages and the relative paupers that don't. A unified personnel system would, the authors say, level the field in terms of competition for top talent. Top managers would be paid under a four-tier senior executive service that encourages movement of top managers between agencies, and the deployment of seasoned leaders to multi-agency missions and key enterprise-wide initiatives.

"Our nation's civil service system is a relic of a bygone era. Our nation's leadership must make it a priority to create a civil service system that our public servants deserve and that will produce the results our country needs," said Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service.

Verbatim: "The federal workforce is treated as a single entity for purposes of compensating professional and administrative personnel, rather than as employees engaged in a set of highly differentiated occupations — an approach that is unheard of among successful private-sector organizations. This federal pay-setting process undermines the ability of the government to attract and retain high-quality, white-collar talent because it treats the workforce as a unified mass, and it bears little relationship to the compensation rates paid for similar work in the broader labor market."

Read the full report

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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