HUD, VA test revamped performance management system

Tuesday - 7/24/2012, 5:34am EDT

Joseph Smith, Chief Performance Officer, HUD

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Larry Ables, Director of Employee Relations, Veterans Affairs

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The Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs departments are making slow but steady progress toward deploying a new employee performance management system that could one day set the bar for all federal agencies.

Both agencies are piloting the system, called Goals-Engagement-Accountability-Results (GEAR), which aims to link employee performance more directly with agency goals.

"We definitely have full engagement in the department," said HUD Chief Performance Officer Joseph Smith in an interview with Federal News Radio. "And people are in fact helping us shape what the guidance and direction [of GEAR] should be."

A work group of the National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations recommended the GEAR program in 2011 as a possible solution to improving agency performance. The new approach, task force members said in their report, could eliminate a disconnect between the performance of organizations and employees.

HUD, which is one of five agencies in the GEAR pilot, began collecting employee feedback about the program Monday through its internal social network.

"This will allow HUD employees to collaborate together to achieve a collective vision of what they think the content and process of performance management should look like going forward," a spokeswoman said in an email to Federal News Radio.

HUD will present its GEAR plans and employee feedback to its union in August, Smith said.

But Smith said even as the department works on implementation, it also must overcome difficulties with the process of converting its broad strategic goals into specific, actionable tasks for individual employee performance plans.

VA faces similar challenges

The VA also is addressing similar challenges in its pilot, said Larry Ables, the agency's director of employee relations.

"There are certain core occupations that we're really focusing on," he said. "We believe that we can get good standards if we tie them to our organizational goals, as well as feedback from both employees and management."

The VA's GEAR pilot focuses on the National Cemetery Administration (NCA).

The department is deploying a three-step performance review process to improve communication between NCA managers and employees, Ables said. Managers in the pilot will provide employees with periodic formal progress reports.

"What we hope is by … final ratings time, there will be no surprises," he said.

VA plans to implement GEAR in October, during its next cycle of employee performance reviews.

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