Uniform performance management system coming for civil servants

The government's top-level civil servants - those in the Senior Executive Service (SES) - will soon have their performance evaluated on a more level playing field, the Washington Post reports.

The government's top-level civil servants - those in the Senior Executive Service (SES) - will soon have their performance evaluated on a more level playing field, the Washington Post reports.

The Obama administration is launching a new appraisal system that will replace the old one that varied from agency to agency. The new initiative is intended to create greater consistency, and will favor demonstration of leadership qualities over more technical performance measures, Nextgov notes.

"Under the new system . . . agencies will be able to rely on a more consistent and uniform framework to communicate expectations and evaluate the performance of SES members," according to a government memo, as quoted by the Post. "The system will provide agencies with a standardized approach to managing the performance of SES members — furthering Congress' original vision . . . of an executive cadre that can readily move into different assignments as needed by the Government."

Nextgov points out that most agencies consider Executive Core Qualifications to evaluate SES members. These include leadership qualities such as leading people and building coalition, although some attributes are weighted more heavily than others depending on the agency.

Under the new system, ECQ weight will be the same throughout.

"This is going to focus people back on the fact that SESers are supposed to be more concerned about managing and leading, or equally concerned, if you will," Michael Kane, chief human capital officer at the Energy Department, told Nextgov.

The new structure will also require performance management to go beyond surveys and retention rate reviews, with a greater emphasis placed on colleagues' input "across a variety of levels," the news source notes.

This isn't to say SES members will have issues impressing under the new standards. According to the Post, over 99 percent of more than 6,800 SES staff members were rated as "fully successful" or better during fiscal year 2010, with nearly 50 percent rated as "outstanding." A mere four people were reported "unacceptable."

However, Carol Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association, worries whether everybody will be rated fairly under the new rules, as the Obama administration may dole out lower ratings for "its own political benefit."

The initiative is being implemented at six agencies to start, with more to be added over the next two years. Most agencies will be deploying the system on their own timelines.