Federal Workforce: Opportunities Exist for OPM to Further Innovation in Performance Management
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.
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
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.
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.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Office of Personnel Management||
Priority Rec.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)
OPM agreed with this recommendation. As of February 2021, OPM stated that they had identified available guidance and resources and have accordingly updated the OPM Performance Management website. Additionally, OPM stated that they have established and documented a process, which is documented via standard operating procedures (SOP), to regularly update the performance management website with available guidance and resources. For example, in the SOP, OPM states that the Performance Management website will be reviewed and updated at least quarterly and that all memoranda pertaining to performance management be made available on the website in a timely manner. As a result of OPM implementing a process to identify and update the Performance Management website, we are closing this recommendation as being implemented.
|Office of Personnel Management||
Priority Rec.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)
OPM agreed with this recommendation. As of March 2021, OPM stated that it was identifying and implementing mechanisms for agencies to routinely share promising practices and lessons learned on OPM's Successful Workforce Practices repository on MAX.gov. According to OPM at the time, the initiative was in its early phases of development. OPM stated that it anticipated that the repository would be focused on areas such as employee engagement, accountability, and performance management. OPM also stated that it planned to sort the repository into those categories to make it more user-friendly. OPM stated that it was accepting email submissions from agencies and would post the information on their behalf. In March 2022, OPM reported that its Senior Executive Service Performance Management Team included a new quarterly survey in their Executive Resources forums requesting that agencies share any promising practices and lessons learned. However, OPM told us that there had not been a strong response to the survey. In addition to the survey, OPM also reported requesting agencies share their promising practices at OPM's annual Performance Management forum but did not receive many comments. In February 2023, OPM reported that there was no change to the status of this recommendation. To fully address this recommendation, OPM needs to continue identifying and implementing mechanisms that encourage agencies to share lessons learned. We will continue to monitor OPM's progress.
|Office of Personnel Management||
Priority Rec.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)
OPM agreed with this recommendation. As of March 2021, OPM stated that it established strategic partnerships that are producing emerging research and is drafting a formal strategy to share these materials with agencies. OPM stated that it is expecting this will result in leveraged partnerships for sharing research and ideas with agencies. As of March 2022, OPM stated that due to agency vacancies and a focus on other priorities, it has not made substantive progress on establishing a strategic partnership to produce emerging research and innovations in performance management. However, OPM stated that hires made in 2022 will allow the agency to apply resources to finalizing its strategy. In February 2023, OPM reported that progress on this recommendation was delayed because of vacancies in the responsible program office, funding for the other courses, and a focus on other government-wide priorities. To fully address this recommendation, OPM needs to finalize and issue its strategy to share emerging research and innovations in performance management. We will continue to monitor OPM's progress.