Posts Tagged ‘John Berry’

Performance Pay: Here to Stay?

August 27, 2009

Not unlike the recent public healthcare debates, the mention of performance-based pay generates much passion.  The continued rollout of the Defense Department’s version of performance pay was put on hold at the beginning of the Obama Administration, pending a study.  That study is now out.  It is short and clear:  continue the pause, rethink some of the initial premises put in place in 2004, engage employees in re-designing the system, and be sure to invest in training managers. While the report concludes” “Successful performance management systems have the potential to enhance organizations performance and drive effective results,” it pointed to several implementation actions taken in recent years that led to frustration by both managers and employees.

Media played up the unions’ disappointment that the system was not rejected outright.   But separately there were strong signals from John Berry, director of the Office of Personnel Management, that President Obama is committed to linking pay to performance as a condition of any broader governmentwide pay reform efforts.

What should be the focus of the “rethink?”  A coalition of good government groups, the Government Performance Coalition, outlined several “key drivers for enhancing the prospects of success:”

Focus first on instituting a proven performance management system.  Performance management must initially be separated from pay.  The system has to be tied to proven improvements in performance, and “an effective performance system must be recognized as benefiting employee motivation and engagement, as well as recruitment and retention, regardless of pay.”

Second, provide for the proper level of transparency.  Without the ability to understand one’s rating or the way in which the process functions, a major reason for the enhanced system is lost.”

And third, reinforce the value of constructive ongoing communications.  Employee-manager feedback and dialogue are important, but oftentimes difficult to achieve.  Training helps, but it is important for leaders to “sustain a workplace culture that values constructive communication.”

Interestingly, these elements were reflected several years ago in an assessment of the performance pay system implemented at the Government Accountability Office.   This isn’t a new topic.  This blog has highlighted several other related IBM Center reports on this topic, if you want to dig into some of the background.


Human Capital is Out, People Are In

June 2, 2009

PeopleJohn Berry, the new director of the Office of Personnel Management, seems to want to change the conversation!  He doesn’t like the term “human capital,” but does like the term “people.”  Maybe the General Services Agency’s the new star agency, since they already have a Chief People Officer!

But more substantively, he’s beginning to outline the Obama Administration’s people policies, according to Government Executive’s Alyssa Rosenberg.  He has defined three near-term priorities and three longer-term priorities:

Near Term priorities, which he has assigned to action teams within the Office of Personnel Management, to:

  • simplify the hiring process
  • design more ambitious work-life balance programs, and
  • improve veterans’ preference programs.

Long Term priorities, which will likely require large scale study and stakeholder involvement:

  • Pay reform, which will focus on the need to:
    • create a fair and credible performance appraisal and accountability system
    • develop training that would prepare employees for promotion and support them throughout their careers; and
    • establish genuine parity between federal and private-sector salaries for employees in comparable occupations.
  • increasing the diversity of the federal workforce, and
  • controlling costs in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

According to Federal Times’ Stephen Losey, Berry says he met with President Obama to outline his agenda and the President told him he could pursue pay parity only if he can put in place a credible employee performance management system.

In tandem to Berry’s agenda, Congress is also taking some action on personnel issues.  A Senate committee has voted out legislation on expanding telework and allowing temporary hires of retired federal employees in critical jobs, without having their pensions reduced.  The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe notes, in “Congress to Consider a Flurry of Bills Aimed at Federal Workers,” that this may be the result of a friendlier climate on the Hill toward federal workers, but “Some senior Republican staffers say the flurry of legislative activity is more a signal of growing discontent on Capitol Hill with a government hiring-and-pay system that lags far behind the private sector than the manifestation of a friendlier political climate for federal employees.”

In either case, the actions of both the Administration and the Hill will likely contribute to Obama’s goal of “making government cool again.”

Obama Workforce Agenda

May 20, 2009

PeopleA lot of people have been asking me – what is Obama’s human capital agenda?  I think it’s still evolving.  But in conversations over the past few weeks with friends and colleagues who are at the Office of Personnel Management, the Office of Management and Budget, and who are agency chief human capital officers – and reading the new budget proposals – I’m beginning to see an outline. 

This notional outline, though, was reinforced this morning when the Partnership for Public Service released its biennial “Best Places to Work” survey.  It got a good nod via a front page Washington Post article, as well: “Money’s Nice, But a Good Boss is Better,” by Steve Vogel.

The Partnership’s breakfast event featured OMB director Peter Orzag, who offered some brief, but significant, remarks.  First, he said that OMB will be expecting improvement plans from agencies that ranked low on the Partnership’s survey results.  And second, he said there are four things he thought would help achieve President Obama’s goal of “making government cool again.”  Those four include efforts to: revamp the hiring process; increase training and mentoring programs; emphasize that performance matters; and promote public service.

So what am I seeing as the outline of the Obama workforce agenda?  There seem to be four areas of emphasis.  They are not quite as direct as the Bush President’s Management Agenda’s “strategic management of human capital” emphasis, but they do build on the Obama commitment to make government “cool” again:

Succession planning.  In the Bush Agenda, this was called strategic human capital planning. Being strategic is important in defining an organization’s capabilities.  But the reality is that this will occur in the context of a huge demographic shift in the workforce over the course of the next four years.  The Partnership and others estimate that one-third of the workforce – about 600,000 — will turn over before the end of the first Obama administration.  This offers a chance to change the skill mix, but it also means there has to be a hand-off of institutional knowledge on a very large scale.

Streamlined hiring.  The federal hiring system is seen as largely deficient because it almost screens out top talent by being so slow.  Efforts, such as the Partnership’s “Extreme Hiring Makeovers” haven’t changed agency behaviors on a large scale.  Congressional frustration has led to legislative proposals to dictate what should be done administratively.  President Obama’s first budget proposes reform.  The new director of the Office of Personnel Management, John Berry, promises quick action.  Given all this high level focus, maybe something positive will happen.  The hiring of 600,000 new employees should be a good “burning platform” to prod action!  Best practices in places like the Border Patrol are worth examining.

Engaged employees.  Engaged federal employees, according to the Partnership, are 20 percent more productive than the average employee.  Engaged employees derive a sense of personal accomplishment from their work, believes their talent is well used and is given a chance to develop professionally.  The source of this is good agency leadership and good line managers, so there will need to be a concerted effort to undertake a number of specific actions related to their training and mentoring to reach this goal.  The budget proposes investment in training and management rotations to better develop leaders.

Collaborative workplaces.  The Millennial Generation expects to work collaboratively, and to leverage their social networks to get work done, often via Web 2.0 technologies.  To them, work is not a place but an attitude.  The Obama Administration says it wants to be increasingly collaborative.  It’s a different way of working.  A directive for how to do this is still under development.  But there are some interesting efforts already underway to develop the foundation for this, such as the

Obviously, there is potentially any number of other issues that could be on the agenda – performance pay is being reconsidered, the human resources management line-of-business seems to be quiet, and developing greater capacity among the HR workforce itself. But if new agency leaders and the chief human capital officers across the government focus on these four areas, they’d likely be well on the way toward making government cool!