Performance Management:

Aligning Employee Performance With Agency Goals at Six Results Act Pilots

GGD-98-162: Published: Sep 4, 1998. Publicly Released: Sep 4, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed selected Government Performance and Results Act pilot projects, focusing on the: (1) primary approaches taken by selected pilot projects to align employee performance management with organizational missions and goals; and (2) issues or challenges, if any, that these pilot projects commonly confronted while developing and implementing these approaches.

GAO noted that: (1) although all six pilot projects GAO reviewed included specific efforts to align their employee performance management systems with organizational missions and goals, their approaches varied in significant ways; (2) one way was in the kinds or groups of employees on whom they focused; (3) four of the pilot projects focused on managers rather than on staff at other levels; (4) the projects also varied in the extent to which organizational goals were explicitly reflected in employees' performance plans, and in whether they emphasized creating accountability for results at the individual or team level; (5) the two other pilot projects focused their approaches on essentially all employees, relying on total quality management principles as a guide and organizing employees into self-directed work teams; (6) none of the six pilot projects GAO reviewed reported having formally evaluated its employee performance management approach, but all reported possible benefits; (7) the six pilot projects faced several common issues or challenges; (8) the first of these involved identifying the flexibilities available to them--including human resource management (HRM) waivers and demonstration project authority--to tailor their HRM systems to their organizational missions and goals and other organizational circumstances or needs; (9) the second issue or challenge GAO identified involved the six pilot projects' efforts to include in their performance management approaches appropriate and meaningful goals and performance measures; (10) third, as the pilot projects worked to become more performance-based, each was confronted with the need to redirect its organizational culture toward a new understanding of the organization's mission or way of doing business and to secure the buy-in of employees; (11) the fourth issue GAO identified involved unintended consequences that pilot project officials said they confronted in implementing their new approaches, some finding that employees might try to game the system--that is, manipulate the performance measures to make their performance look better than it might actually have been--or might perceive a lack of fairness in the approach's implementation; and (12) officials at the six pilot agencies were aware of their employees' concerns and reported steps they had taken to keep abreast of the views of the managers and other employees who were the focus of the agencies' performance management efforts.

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