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Senior executives give mixed views of job

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Managers in the Senior Executive Service are proud to be in the government’s elite corps of civil servants, but a growing number of them say the pay and benefits are not enough to attract talented candidates.

A survey released last week by the Office of Personnel Management also found that almost three-fourths of SES managers think that leaders of their agencies do not deal effectively with poor-performing executives.

The survey of career and politically appointed SES managers was designed to help federal leaders learn about the system’s strengths and challenges.

The results are compared with those of a similar survey of the group done in 2008. A total of 4,954 managers responded this year, about 65 percent of SES members.

The survey results come as the government faces the challenge of replacing retiring SES members; 56 percent of those surveyed said they plan to retire within five years.

The executives had mixed reviews of a new system for evaluating and rewarding performance. Only 43 percent said pay for performance promotes better work, and 77 percent said they understood the system being used to evaluate SES members’ performance, compared with 83 percent in 2008.

Pay for SES members starts at about $120,000, and tops out at $179,700. SES positions are more heavily weighted with management responsibilities than are positions at the top of the General Schedule.

The survey confirms findings of a recent study of the SES by the Partnership for Public Service, which found that federal executives are unlikely to move to managerial positions at other agencies once they join the SES.

Managers said mobility, rather than being considered a means of career development, was not rewarded and was seen as a punishment.

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