Department of Homeland Security employees, like college students, will have to keep an eye on their grade-point averages when Bush administration officials put in place their plans to overhaul pay rules.
The department's plan for implementing a performance management system next year calls for a rating scale to summarize job performance. After the kinks are worked out, the ratings will be used to determine pay raises and bonuses, starting in 2008.
Although annual job evaluations are fairly common across government, the model being developed at Homeland Security may be adopted by other agencies if the Bush administration can win passage of legislation to require performance-based pay systems across government.
About 90,000 employees at Homeland Security are scheduled to be covered by the job evaluation system, and the draft plan, posted by a union on its Web site yesterday, shows how the mechanics of federal employment may be changing.
Under the plan, Homeland Security employees will be rated on a 4-point scale. Employees scoring 3.6 or higher will be deemed to have "achieved excellence," and employees scoring 2.8 to 3.5 will have "exceeded expectations." Employees who score 2.0 to 2.7 will have "achieved expectations."
Most Homeland Security employees should safely score at least a 2.0, the minimum required to receive an annual pay raise.
Some of the goals set for employees will receive greater weight in the ratings than others, according to the plan.
Half of the overall job rating will be based on how well an employee meets performance goals, and the other half will hinge on "technical proficiency" and skills in communications, teamwork and customer service and other abilities valued by the department.
The plan reflects the Bush administration's dislike for the government's current white-collar pay and job classification system, the General Schedule. Bush appointees contend that the GS system provides predictable pay raises that reward employees for length of service rather than job performance.
The Homeland Security proposal, known as MaxHR, has been sharply criticized by federal labor leaders, who warn that it will fail unless employees see it as credible and fair.
The American Federation of Government Employees, which posted a copy of the department's "final draft of the management directive" on its Web site (www.afge.org), contends that the plan "won't improve the performance appraisal process."
The union posted a point-by-point response to the department, asking for explanations about how the rating system will be implemented and used.
For example, the union asks, "Who will decide the weight of a goal and at what level will that decision be made? Will there be the same weight for the same goal for all employees in the same occupation?"
AFGE, headed by John Gage, said the proposal provides scant information on an automated system that will be used to track job ratings and employee accomplishments.
The union pointed out that numerous employees in field operations do not have easy access to computers and recommended that the department provide classroom training to help employees understand how the system will operate.
One tip for employees: Keep a copy of your job ratings and pay-related records. The automated system, the draft plan said, will retain only the three most recent ratings within the last four years.
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