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Managers: What tech do you use to evaluate performance?

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Federal Times would like to hear from federal managers on what they use to evaluate employees’ performance. Specifically, what kind of software tools or programs come in handy when you’re tracking someone’s progress and deciding how he stacks up to the goals you set at the beginning of the year? (You are setting those goals, right?)

E-mail me at slosey@federaltimes.com if you’d like to talk. If you’d prefer to speak off-the-record or on background, that’s fine.

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Fed Times on the air: 737 of 1.2M feds denied raises for poor performance

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Just 737 out of more than 1.2 million General Schedule employees were denied their step increases and accompanying raises for poor performance in 2009, as Federal Times’ exclusive investigation found. Senior writer Stephen Losey talked on Monday with Capital Insider’s Morris Jones about what this shows about the government’s performance management problems:


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Fed Times on the air: Step increases for (almost) all!

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I’ll be appearing on the TV show Capital Insider this evening to discuss the government’s inability to hold poor performers accountable. As we reported last week, only 737 out of more than 1.2 million General Schedule employees had their step increases and accompanying pay raises withheld for reasons of poor performance.

Critics of the GS system say this is a clear sign that the government has a hard time disciplining people who can’t or won’t improve, and think the system needs a radical overhaul.

And I’m still interested in hearing from managers about this issue. If you’d like to share your thoughts on what is wrong with the government’s performance accountability culture, e-mail me at slosey@federaltimes.com.

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Disciplining poor performers: What’s holding you back?

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The numbers are in, and it seems pretty clear that the government has a problem disciplining its poor performers. As Federal Times exclusively reported Tuesday, only 737 General Schedule employees — less than 0.06 percent of the GS workforce — did so poorly in fiscal 2009 that their step increases were withheld.

Those numbers confirm what’s long been known through anecdotal evidence and employee surveys: Slackers aren’t held accountable in the federal offices. The reasons why are debatable. Unions say the problem is with poor managerial training. Others say the system is biased against managers, who are tied up in bureaucratic knots and afraid of getting caught up in appeals for months.

Federal Times would like to hear your thoughts on the subject. Are you a manager who has tried to withhold a step increase from a poor performer, but been stymied by the system? Were you intimidated against trying, or did you feel like it just wasn’t worth the effort? Or do you think you need more training on performance accountability? How do you handle poor performers in your workplace, and what changes are needed that would make it easier for you to hold them accountable?

Or if you’re an employee, are your bosses unwilling or unable to crack down on your colleagues who aren’t cutting it? What do you think is the problem?

E-mail me at slosey@federaltimes.com to share your thoughts. If you’d like to talk anonymously, that’s fine.

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Japan disasters won’t halt fellowship program

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Residents of Kesennuma city in Miyagi prefecture, northern Japan, watch the devastation provoked by a tsunami tidal wave that smashed vehicles and houses. (Yomiuri Shimbun via Agence France-Presse)

A fellowship program that sends U.S. government officials to work in Japanese government offices is still accepting applications, despite the nation’s recent earthquake and accompanying tsunami and nuclear emergency.

The Mike Mansfield Fellowship Program — named for the former Montana senator and ambassador to Japan — is accepting applications until April 1. Each year, the program awards two-year fellowships to as many as ten officials. Participants spend one year intensively studying the Japanese language and receiving additional training and then another year working full-time in Japan, and are expected to spend the next two years working on Japan-related projects in the government.

The program is meant to give participants “practical, firsthand experience with Japan and its government,” as well as proficiency in Japanese to make them more effective. And with millions of Japanese people still struggling to get back on their feet after these tragedies, it’s safe to say they’ll need all the help they can get. The online application can be found here, and further details are here.

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Cybersecurity…what is it?

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Top government officials agree that far more cybersecurity professionals are needed to defend the nations networks and solve one of its most pressing issues: hiring and retaining a qualified cyber workforce.

But defining exactly what those roles are and what skills are needed is the challenging part.

“That’s really the issues,” said Nancy Kichak, associate director of strategic human resource policy at the Office of Personnel Management at the Executive Leadership Conference on Tuesday. “Despite the fact that we all use the terminology cybersecurity, just what does it mean? And how do you definite it, and how do you identify these special skills that the cyber workforce has?

Kichak said the government is still determining whether it can hire cyber professionals under the current pay structure and what job positions comprise the cybersecurity workforce.

OPM hopes a recent cybersecurity survey, which wrapped up this month, will help answer those questions. The survey looked at critical tasks and competencies for cybersecurity workers. The agency also led focus groups for human resource managers.

“A lot of people want to be cyber security, but do they have the right training and skills to claim the right occupation, Kichak said.”

Short term, agencies need to offer job training for the current workforce and hone their skills, said David Wennergren, assistant deputy chief management officer in the Secretary of Defense’s office.

Agencies must also attract and invest in younger talent early on by offering scholarship programs and internship opportunities, Wennergren said.


OPM leads cyber workforce focus groups

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The Office of Personnel Management is hosting a series of focus groups to garner solutions for beefing up the government’s cybersecurity workforce.

Starting today, OPM called on dozens of cybersecurity professionals and hiring managers to discuss strategies and best pratices for recruiting and retaining highly skilled workers. During the three-hour sessions, participants were given a list of potential solutions and asked to rank them as being the best or worst options for attracting cybersecurity workers.

Possible areas of focus include:

-Establishing a governmentwide cybersecurity certification process

-Mapping a governmentwide cybersecurity career path

-Create a new occupation definition, classification,  qualification and standards

-Invest more in students

- Boost pay and use flexibilities

The focus groups are an extension of OPM’s work under the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE). The goal is to “ensure that federal agencies can attract, recruit and retain cybersecurity employees,” according to the NICE website.

Sessions will continue on Wednesday morning.

Federal Times on the air

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In case you missed my appearance last night on Capital Insider to discuss the government’s difficulties recruiting qualified Senior Executive Service candidates, here you go:

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A closer look at Hatch’s proposed workforce cuts

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Last week, I untangled Sen. Orrin Hatch’s error-filled claims that the government has grown “at breakneck speed” under Obama. Today, let’s look a little further at what the Reduce and Cap the Federal Workforce Act seeks to accomplish — and whether it will actually have a noticeable effect on limiting the government’s size.

The bill would require agencies (excluding the CIA, FBI, Secret Service and Executive Office of the President) to tell Congress how many employees they currently have, and how many they had as of Feb. 16, 2009. If any agencies except for the Defense and Homeland Security departments have increased in size over that time, they’ll have to cut staff through attrition until they get down to February 2009 levels.

First off, statistics very close to the numbers Hatch is looking for can be found on OPM’s FedScope site. After the jump are statistics from the Central Personnel Data File on how the cabinet-level agencies’ staffing has changed over a year. (All numbers are in thousands, and March 2010 is the most recent data available.)

Read the rest of this entry »

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Federal Career Intern Program: What do you think?

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Are you a hiring manager or HR official who has used the controversial Federal Career Intern Program to bring on new employees? Do you find it to be an efficient, useful hiring tool? Is it better than the standard hiring process, and if so, why? Or have you seen your office abuse its authorities to sidestep veterans preference, merit principles and hire managers’ favorites, as unions allege is frequently the case? 

Federal Times is interested in hearing your impressions of FCIP — how it works, its upsides, and its downsides. Feel free to e-mail me at slosey@federaltimes.com if you’d like to talk. If you’d prefer to talk off the record, or for me to not use your name in my story, that would be fine by me.

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