Fedweek

GAO has credited OPM with addressing four of its 18 high-priority recommendations for that agency over the last year, although issues of direct impact on employees including several related to incentive payments and disciplinary matters remain on that list.

GAO did not add any high-priority recommendations for OPM in its latest assessment, while citing steps the agency took including collecting and sharing agencies’ information on mission critical occupations and hiring data; sharing key practices and lessons learned on employee engagement; and assisting agencies with performance management.

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However, it said that more needs to be done in response to a 2017 report in which it recommended that OPM “track government-wide data to establish a baseline and analyze the extent to which special pay authorities are effective in improving employee recruitment and retention and determine what potential changes may be needed to improve the authorities’ effectiveness.”

It said that while OPM has collected data on such incentives—commonly known as the “3Rs,” for recruitment, retention and relocation payments—it still needs to analyze that data to determine which are the most effective.

GAO also cited two reports it issued the following year regarding performance management, which it said “has been a long-standing government-wide issue and the subject of numerous reforms since the beginning of the modern civil service. Without effective performance management, agencies risk losing the skills of top talent and missing the opportunity to effectively address increasingly complex and evolving mission challenges.”

It said OPM “needs to move forward” with its plans to update training materials for supervisors and HR professionals and to share promising practices and lessons learned among agencies on accountability, performance management and engagement.

Also needing attention, GAO said, is another long-standing topic of hiring, including issues related to the use of the numerous hiring flexibilities already available, many of which GAO has reported are little-used. Those authorities should be reviewed with an eye to streamlining them and developing a legislative proposal if necessary, GAO said.

Many of the other still-pending recommendations relate to strengthening the security and management of OPM’s information technology, another area of long-standing concern.

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