Poll: New Pay Plan for Senior Federal Execs Needs Fixing

September 19, 2006 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A new survey of federal managers found that a new pay-for-performance plan has created more problems than solutions.

Managers who responded to the poll about the Senior Executive Service pay system reported seeing not much of a tie-in between their performance evaluations and their rewards, the Washington Post reported. Twenty percent of the executives who were awarded the highest job evaluation in 2005 said they received no pay increase and 82% said they had been given more responsibilities but no salary bump.

The new Senior Executive Service system, which covers about 6,000 career professionals who serve as the government’s top day-to-day managers, was instituted in January 2004. It has been held out as a possible blueprint for the pay scheme covering other federal workers.

“Something has been lost in translation as the system has been implemented,” Carol Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association, which sponsored the survey , told the Post.

According to the Post report, federal lawmakers put in the new program to deal with complaints that too many career executives were up against salary caps and to give job performance a greater role in determining executive compensation.

The previous pay system, which had six pay levels, was abolished, and agencies were given discretion to set executive salaries in broad ranges. Under the new system, federal executives may be paid up to $165,200 annually, but they are no longer guaranteed annual raises and are no longer entitled to receive locality pay adjustments that go to most other white-collar federal workers.

Accountability

The survey found most (96%) of the respondents said they should be held accountable for helping their agency achieve its goals and 69% think it is possible to establish measurable performance standards for their job.

Just over half (53%) said their agencies rated executives to meet a quota or to produce fewer high ratings in performance reviews. Asked if their ratings were fair and accurate, 17% said yes; 27% said yes, to a limited degree; and 33% said no.

According to the survey respondents, the system has not had the desired effects. Eighty-six percent said it had not affected their job performance, and 83% said they had not seen a change in the performance of their peers.

As for morale, 47% reported a “negative change,” 40% saw no change and 13% said morale had improved because of the new pay system. Sixteen percent said the new system has led them to accelerate their plans to retire.

The survey was conducted on a voluntary basis over the Internet between April 28 and July 3 and received 849 completed responses. Avue Technologies Corp., a human resource consulting and technology firm, helped the association administer the survey, which the association said was not based on a random sample.

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