New Performance Appraisals Beneficial but Refinements Needed

GGD-83-72: Published: Sep 15, 1983. Publicly Released: Sep 15, 1983.

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GAO reviewed, on a selected basis, performance appraisal systems for General Schedule employees established by federal agencies under the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (CSRA). CSRA directed agencies to develop objective criteria for supervisors to use in rating employees' performance and determining appropriate personnel actions.

GAO found that, although there appears to be better communication between employees and supervisors since implementation of the performance appraisal systems, many important aspects require improvements before performance appraisal systems can be used as credible bases for personnel actions. A GAO examination of the standard-setting and appraisal evaluation processes at three agencies revealed that: (1) many employees did not actively participate in setting their performance standards; (2) not all employees were advised of the standards by which their performance would be evaluated at the beginning of their appraisal periods; (3) performance levels and measurable performance standards were not clearly defined; (4) some appraisals were not completed on a timely basis; (5) some agencies' procedures for determining summary ratings were ambiguous or unnecessarily complicated; (6) higher level officials' reviews of ratings were often perfunctory; and (7) procedures for linking performance appraisal results with personnel decisions were often vague. GAO concluded that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) needs to ensure that agencies take appropriate actions to make the necessary refinements to their appraisal systems.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OPM is not pursing CSRA amendment development, specifying that the denial of a within-grade increase is a performance-related action. Recent OPM performance management system (PMS) regulations included a provision requiring the granting of a within-grade increase to be a performance-related action. Thus, according to OPM, a denial could be interpreted as a performance-related action.

    Recommendation: The Director, OPM, should develop and propose an amendment to CSRA clearly stating that denying a within-grade increase is a performance-related action covered under section 4303.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to OPM officials, OPM has already developed model standards for specific occupations and is continuing its work in this area, primarily through its assistance to agencies who wish to develop such standards. GAO believes that, by virtue of these activities, OPM acknowledged the value and usefulness of generic standards.

    Recommendation: The Director, OPM, should research the potential value of generic standards for large occupational groups that agencies could use as a basis for developing specific standards for employees in those occupations.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OPM PMS regulations included a provision which requires performance elements and standards to be reviewed and approved at the beginning of the appraisal period by a person higher than the appraising officer. GAO believes that this requirement satisfactorily implements this recommendation because it is designed to ensure that employees' standards are objective and measurable.

    Recommendation: The Director, OPM, should require a second-level review of employees' performance standards at the beginning of appraisal periods to ensure that those standards contain the desired characteristics of objectivity and measurability.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management


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