OPM Promises ‘Engagement’ on Pay for Performance Plan

OPM has said that before trying to put in place changes in pay for performance policies, the administration will engage with stakeholders including federal employee organizations—which in general are deeply skeptical of the concept, if not outright hostile toward it.

In a newly issued five-year strategic plan, OPM said it would: “Partner with agency stakeholders to identify concerns and priority areas for improvement related to pay and leave systems; identify and engage with nonpartisan groups, think tanks, key congressional leadership, and employee organizations to understand perspectives and pay and leave reform proposals; and develop options for pay and leave reforms that address agency workforce management challenges and advance fair and competitive pay and leave systems that drive high performance and align with merit system principles.”

In terms similar to those used in the White House’s recently issued budget proposal, the OPM plan says that the current pay system “is not focused on driving performance, and is not as sensitive to changes in the broader labor market as would be desirable.”

Also like the budget proposal, the plan is short on specifics; it doesn’t even mention the budget’s proposal to stretch out waiting periods for within-grade increases or a proposed $1 billion fund to reward good performance government-wide. Nor does it give an indication of how long it expects such a period of engagement to last before formally proposing changes in law.

Federal employee unions strongly oppose pay for performance, arguing that employees are left vulnerable to favoritism and bias, although many individual employees view such systems more favorably, complaining that their efforts currently are not rewarded.