Senior Executive candidates worry about pay, work/family balance

A new survey reveals that the most likely Senior Executive Service candidates are reluctant to apply for SES positions because of concerns over compensation and the ability to maintain a healthy balance between home and work responsibilities.

Many of the employees in the pool of potential Senior Executive Service candidates expressed reluctance about applying for SES positions because of concerns about pay and the ability to maintain a healthy balance between home and work responsibilities, according to a report drawn from the results of a survey of almost 12,000 GS-14s and GS-15s.

The Senior Executives Association, in partnership with Avue Technologies Corp., conducted the survey to follow up on anecdotal reports that qualified employees did not aspire to serve in career SES or equivalent positions.

The most significant hurdles identified by survey respondents were:

  • The potential negative impact on the balance of work and family responsibilities.
  • The possibility of being reassigned or transferred geographically.
  • The complexity of the application process.

The report also noted that although pay was not a top factor that argued for or against SES service, numerous respondents expressed the sentiment that the difference in pay between a GS-14/15 position and an SES or equivalent position often is not worth the increased workload, responsibility and risk.

Chief Human Capital Officers Council members who responded to a related SEA questionnaire said the top hurdle for SES recruitment was the complexity of the application process, the association said.

The report recommended that the Office of Personnel Management and agency leaders develop additional ways for potential candidates to obtain developmental experiences—including experiences within their current geographic areas—rather than require those individuals to relocate for extended periods. Agencies also should establish performance expectations for SES and senior professional employees that meet agencies' missions, and they should recognize the importance of maintaining a healthy work/life balance, the report states.

“The career executive corps is critical to high-performing government and key to implementing any administration’s political and management agenda,” SEA President Carol Bonosaro said. “We must continue to attract the best and the brightest to these positions, but this report demonstrates that the detractors to serving are substantial.”

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