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FCW Insider: Readers trash NSPS

We already knew that many readers were not happy with the National Security Personnel System. We always receive scads of scathing letters and comments whenever we publish an article about DOD's pay-for-performance compensation system. Yesterday's article was no different.

Much to the delight of many people, no doubt, DOD has announced it would stop shifting employees to NSPS until officials at the department and the Office of Personnel Management had an opportunity to review the system.

If you want to know why this program is so controversial, just consider this story offered by one reader:

We have a command of about 90 people. We were told that to keep the share value high, we should rate everyone lower. We even had a meeting of the supervisors to force down some of the staff ratings to ensure a higher share value. We were told that if the total number of shares were smaller, the percent payout per share would be higher. This did all come about: each share did end up being higher since there were fewer staff shares to divide into the pay-out pool. Consequently, out of all the staff, we only had 1 "5" rating and a handful of "4's". Everyone else was a "3" -- even those that deserved higher but didn't "walk on water." When it got to the managers, guess what ratings they got? The senior level NSPS managers -- the same ones that set the paypool standards, the same ones that determine who goes up or down in the final ratings -- they got "5's". And of course their shares were worth significantly more since everyone else had sacrificed to make each share worth more. So much for "pay for performance"...

Meanwhile, here are some excerpts from a handful of the other comments we received -- including one that is pro-NSPS. To read the article and all the comments, and to post your own, click here.

* NSPS will run its course to show accountability, it will be abandoned, and a new system will be introduced, which is exactly like the GS system, only with a new and different name. I can't believe they have wasted all this time and money to replace a system that has worked for over 60 years. Some of us are over-achievers, some of us are not, but we are all working as hard as we can as a team. This new system they call NSPS has removed "teamwork" and replaced it with "my objectives."

* According to the managers I have spoken to, NSPS is more work and yet achieves the same results as the old GS merit based system. I also heard it is unfair in that two people with similar jobs and similar job performance may receive different pay incentives depending on the pay pool they are in. This is because pay pools may receive different levels of funding to pay for these incentives.

* Also another matter that hurts good personnel is on the matter of bonus and pay increases. This is reviewed by personnel outside your job who look your rating then reduce it just to meet some bell curve. It does not matter how good you are at your job. These personnel do not know what you do or how the job is supposed to done -- they just go in and change everything.

* I was under the GS scale for half of my career. I only received an average rating once. That was in my first year due to a lot of training time. I always busted my butt, because I felt it was my duty to the nation. I came from private industry so I had the mentality of: "Get the job done right the first time. Then you don't need to redo it." That said; when I switched over to NSPS, I continued to move up smartly, because I gave my managers good return for their investment in me. Trust me, there is plenty of deadwood in the gov't, but by and large, most of us just want to do a good job and get a pat on the back for our efforts.

* The system was supposed to be based on what was called a Demonstration Project that was in effect for over 20 years, and that system did work. However, NSPS did not fully follow the Demo Program, hence the system currently is sorry at best. I can only hope that this system is "dumped," but those of us in it now don't want to go back to the GS system, either. Hopefully, the powers that be can come up with something that is positive for everyone concerned.

* I received three straight years of multiple performance awards prior to converting to NSPS. I continued to perform at that rate but under NSPS got nothing to show for it. Some left, but as is mostly the case, the hardest workers will stay regardless because they are dedicated. NSPS helped out some of the poor performers by letting them develop their own objectives and criteria, management accepted that and the winners were the best at writing, as usual.

* NSPS has proved to be a bureaucratic nightmare for most people with the amount of added paperwork and training. Yet many, if not most, people still cannot properly set up and evaluate people using this system. On top of that, I have already seen firsthand abuse by supervisors giving preferential treatment not based on actual performance.

* NSPS, or a similar pay for performance system is just what the government needs to be a real employer of choice, rather than a last resort. I have seen anecdotal evidence of increases in applications for federal jobs during the current recession -- because people who didn't want to work for government before are "resigning" themselves to apply for fed positions. There is a lot of dead weight around here, people who scrape by doing enough to get a pass or 3 and nothing more because they know that if they just hunker down and put roots time will pass and they will get pay raises under the current "merit" system.


Posted by John Stein Monroe on Mar 17, 2009 at 12:14 PM


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