Federal Workforce:

Opportunities Exist for OPM to Further Innovation in Performance Management

GAO-19-35: Published: Nov 20, 2018. Publicly Released: Nov 20, 2018.

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Robert Goldenkoff
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goldenkoffr@gao.gov

 

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Agencies need effective performance management systems to hold employees accountable for results and achieve their missions. Although the Office of Personnel Management—the government’s central human resources agency—has identified potentially innovative performance management practices, it needs to do a better job of sharing them with agencies.

We recommended, among other things, steps OPM should take to make this information more accessible.

 

 

Graphic showing these 5 phases: planning, monitoring, developing, rating, and rewarding.

Graphic showing these 5 phases: planning, monitoring, developing, rating, and rewarding.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Robert Goldenkoff
(202) 512-2757
goldenkoffr@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

What GAO Found

GAO found that from 2010 through 2017, surveyed employees generally demonstrated positive responses to selected Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) statements related to four of the Office of Personnel Management's (OPM) five performance management phases, including: planning and setting expectations, monitoring performance, developing the capacity to perform, and rating performance. Employees responded least positively to statements related to rewarding performance, with only 39 percent of employees, on average, agreeing with statements regarding this phase.

Results of Selected FEVS Statements Related to OPM's Performance Management Phases Government-wide, 2010 to 2017

Results of Selected FEVS Statements Related to OPM's Performance Management Phases Government-wide, 2010 to 2017

Note: The margin of error for all estimates was within plus or minus 1 percent, except for 2010, when the margin was within plus or minus 2 percent.

Of the four agencies with among the highest average scores for the performance management phases (Bureau of Labor Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency), GAO identified practices that may contribute to improved performance management including strong organizational culture and dedication to mission; use of FEVS and other survey data; and a focus on training.

OPM provides guidance and opportunities for agencies to share promising practices on performance management; however, some of this information is not easily accessible on its performance management website. In addition, OPM does not leverage its leadership position to formally identify and share emerging performance management research and innovation with agencies. As a result, agencies, and therefore their employees, may not benefit from the best information available.

Why GAO Did This Study

Managing employee performance 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 not only losing the skills of top talent, they also risk missing the opportunity to effectively address increasingly complex and evolving mission challenges.

GAO was asked to examine federal non-Senior Executive Service performance management systems. This report examines (1) government-wide trends in employee perceptions of performance management as measured by the results of selected FEVS statements, (2) practices that selected agencies use to improve performance management, and (3) OPM's guidance and resources to support agency efforts to improve performance management government-wide.

GAO analyzed responses to selected FEVS statements related to the five performance management phases from 2010 through 2017; selected four agencies based on the highest average scores for the five phases, among other criteria, to identify practices which may contribute to improved performance management; reviewed OPM documents; and interviewed OPM and other agency officials.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making three recommendations, including that OPM improve its website and share innovations in performance management with agencies. OPM agreed with GAO's recommendations.

For more information, contact Robert Goldenkoff at (202) 512-2757 or goldenkoffr@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Priority recommendation

    Comments: OPM agreed with this recommendation. To fully address this recommendation, OPM needs to implement a process to regularly update its performance management website with all available guidance and resources.

    Recommendation: The Director of OPM, in consultation with the Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCO) Council, should establish and implement a process for regularly updating the performance management website to include all available guidance and resources, making this information easily accessible, and providing links to other related websites. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  2. Status: Open

    Priority recommendation

    Comments: OPM agreed with this recommendation. To fully address this recommendation, OPM needs to implement a mechanism for agencies to share lessons learned.

    Recommendation: The Director of OPM, in consultation with the CHCO Council, should develop and implement a mechanism for agencies to routinely and independently share promising practices and lessons learned, such as through allowing agencies to post such information on OPM's Performance Management portal. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  3. Status: Open

    Priority recommendation

    Comments: OPM agreed with this recommendation. To fully implement this recommendation, OPM needs to develop a strategic approach for identifying and sharing emerging research and innovations in performance management.

    Recommendation: The Director of OPM, in consultation with the CHCO Council, should develop a strategic approach for identifying and sharing emerging research and innovations in performance management. (Recommendation 3)

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

 

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