At Work

Pay for performance government style, you should be so lucky -1.2 million workers, 737 with poor performance

Seal of the United States Merit Systems Protec...

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Several years ago I looked at the relationship of pay to performance at the state and federal level for government workers. The short answer then and now is, there is no relationship.  True pay for performance and indeed effective evaluation of individual performance is virtually non-existent.  In the private sector a normal distribution may result in at least five percent or so of all employees designated as a poor or unacceptable performer.  A larger percentage would have performance resulting in no pay increase perhaps designated as partially meeting expectations.  However, as you see below, only six one hundredths of one percent of federal workers were rated has having poor performance and thus denied a raise.  No wonder more and more Americans are seeking employment within government.  They can expect regular raises, terrific benefits, good job security and little worry of a poor performance evaluation.   Can such an environment create anything better than overall mediocrity?  I wonder if the 737 are still on the job?

Take a look at this from the Federal Times:

Does job performance play a factor in employee raises and step increases?

Unions defending the General Schedule say yes.

But the latest numbers say clearly no.

Only 737 out of more than 1.2 million GS employees — or one in every 1,698 — were denied a regularly scheduled step increase and accompanying raise in 2009 because of poor performance, according to data provided by the Office of Personnel Management at Federal Times’ request.

That equates to a 0.06 percent denial rate, which is far lower than any estimates given of how many poor performers exist in the work force. OPM estimated in 1999 that poor performers make up approximately 3.7 percent of the federal work force. A 2000 survey by the Merit Systems Protection Board found that 14.3 percent of federal employees were judged by co-workers to be performing below reasonably expected levels.

In a 2010 government-wide employee satisfaction survey, only 36 percent said they thought differences in performance among employees are recognized in a meaningful way. Only 35 percent said they thought promotions in their work unit were based on merit.

As low as it is, the 0.06 percent rate of denied step increases in 2009 is the highest rate in recent years. OPM statistics show that between fiscal 2004 and 2008, the number of employees denied step increases each year varied between 556 and 696 — or between 0.04 percent and 0.05 percent.

Each grade under the GS system has 10 steps, and every one, two or three years, employees are eligible for a step increase and accompanying pay raise until they reach their grade’s top level. Raises vary between 2.6 percent and 3.3 percent.

These figures are likely to embolden critics of the current federal pay system who argue that federal pay and promotions have no link to employee job performance.

Defenders of the GS system say that step increases are not automatic, and that managers have authority to deny them to poor performers. They oppose new pay-for-performance systems intended to make it easier to withhold pay raises to unsatisfactory employees.


Categories: At Work, Government

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