Measuring up: New SES framework will help evaluate managers

Monday - 8/22/2011, 5:34am EDT

Emily Kopp, reporter, Federal News Radio

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Part 2

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By Emily Kopp
Reporter
Federal News Radio

A new framework is attempting to bring uniformity to the sometimes uneven and confusing manner of evaluating the government's top managers who make up the Senior Executive Service.

The President's Management Council said it aims to complete the framework's design by the end of September so that agencies will be able to use it in the upcoming fiscal year.

"A good metaphor would be in constructing a house, we'd want to make sure certain features of the house are present: the foundation, the structure, the roof and, then, give agencies the flexibility to decorate within the rooms of that house," said Steve Shih, deputy associate director for executive resources and employee development at the Office of Personnel Management.

Agencies will fully implement the new system over the next two years, Shih said.

And while the working group and OPM recognize agencies have spent money and time on previous performance systems over the years, Shih said the goal for the new framework is "to move forward in a way that doesn't disrupt agencies."

Shih said he couldn't offer many details on the framework because a working group is still hammering them out.

However, in an interview with Federal News Radio, he listed several examples of specific measures that could be included. For example, he said, there could be one definition for each performance standard or one manner to derive summary ratings. Currently, each agency has its own way of managing SES performance.

"I don't know if there's necessarily a problem," Shih said. But, a unified system will make it easier for SES members to understand how they are being evaluated as they move from agency to agency, he explained. . The SES was envisioned as a cadre of top managers who could apply their skills at various agencies, Shih noted. The current lack of uniform standards makes that a confusing proposition. In addition, the program has had problems recruiting new members.

"This new system will support the original vision and help senior executives take jobs across the federal government and be considered for new jobs," he said. "It will be much clearer for the selecting official, and put all executive members on an even playing field."

Shih said a single governmentwide standard should save agencies money as well because they will be able to share systems and best practices. OPM also will be able to streamline its certification approval system for SESers, and that too will make it easier on agencies.

In the end, he said, OPM and the PMC believe agencies won't need to work as hard and that will lead to cost savings, and will empower agencies to manage resources more efficiently.

"A key aspect is, this is not a tool just for human resources folks," Shih said, who added that OPM has involved in discussions with the Senior Executive Association in crafting the new standards. "The new system is ultimately a tool for leadership, for enhanced agency performance and effectiveness."

Also helping formulate the new metrics is OPM's recent survey of SESers, Shih said. Those results will help the working group pinpoint potential barriers, and could lead to SES focus groups to get further input on the development of performance management metrics, he added.

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