OPM proposes changes to SES performance standards

By Ginger Whitaker
Federal News Radio

The Office of Personnel Management has proposed changes to performance standards for Senior Executive Service members. According to the proposed rule published in the Federal Register, OPM is seeking, specifically, to amend subpart C of part 430 of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations. The goal is to clarify and update the three-year-old performance appraisal system for senior executives, and provide more oversight.

The initial SES performance appraisal system was issued on Jan. 4, 2012. The system was intended to improve government-wide performance management of the SES through a consistent agency framework.

OPM’s proposed changes would offer “an updated framework and system standards for agencies to use in designing their SES performance management systems,” OPM stated in the proposed rule. The rule would require “critical elements in each executive’s performance plan to be based on the OPM-defined executive core qualifications (ECQs). ECQ-based critical elements provide a balanced emphasis on strategic leadership and results, and enhance the consistency and equity of SES performance management systems within and across agencies.”

“It’s not so much that this is a new system, necessarily. It’s really clarifying and highlighting OPM’s commitment to the system,” Jenny Mattingley, Director of Government Affairs at the Senior Executives Association, told Federal News Radio’s Francis Rose.

The proposed changes would expand the functions of agency Performance Review Boards, requiring them to consider agency performance during the review process and make recommendations on pay adjustments. Additionally, OPM wants each agency to designate an oversight official to oversee the performance management system.

OPM also proposed expanding rating levels from three categories to five:

  • Outstanding,
  • Exceeds fully successful,
  • Fully successful,
  • Minimally satisfactory,
  • Unsatisfactory.

Mattingley said right now, agencies are using both the three- and five-level rating systems. The rule would standardize that so agencies are all using one system.

In a letter released this week by OPM director Katherine Archuleta, agencies were asked to forecast how many SES positions they will need for the next two fiscal years. Agencies will have to tell OPM whether or not they plan to change the size of their SES workforce and submit written justification for any change. A deadline for requests was set for Dec. 31.

Just last week, President Barack Obama rolled out a series of SES reforms. The reforms include creating a Leadership Development Program to provide managers with rotational assignments at different agencies so that they can develop new skills. He also called for the formation of an advisory group made up of SES members and aspiring senior executives to focus on how the government recruits, hires and retains senior executives.

OPM and the President aren’t the only ones looking for SES changes. In November, former government officials drafted a blueprint for reform, working toward a strategy to be released next spring. Among the changes the group is eyeing is to make it easier for senior executives to rotate positions and updating the list of skills required to join the SES.

OPM is seeking comments on the proposed rule. Comments may be submitted via the Federal eRulemaking Portal, via email, by fax, mail or hand delivery. Any comments must be received on or before Feb. 9, 2015. Click here for details.

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