Does the civil-service system operate like a “relic of a bygone era”? That’s how a prominent good-government group described it this month in a controversial report calling for an overhaul of the federal-workforce framework.

The Partnership for Public Service recommended changes that would affect pay, hiring, performance management, job classifications, accountability and workplace justice. Federal-employee unions have rejected the proposals, with one, the National Treasury Employees Union, calling them “unworkable schemes.”

We asked federal workers in a survey this week to tell us what their top priorities would be if they were in charge. Similar to the report, many of our respondents focused on pay, performance and management.

People cross a street in downtown Washington, DC, on Oct. 17, one day after the deal to reopen the government. (Jewel Samad/AFP-Getty).

Robert Black, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration employee from Key Biscayne, Fla., said he wants to implement pretty much “anything that would keep our pay and benefits from being a political football.”

Federal employee Shawn Kenned also addressed compensation, saying the government should use “pay banding,” or determining workers’ salaries based on their performance levels. The IRS employee, from Sullivan, Ind., suggested the system would work well “provided it is coupled with an objective, transparent employee appraisal process.”

Clifton Collee, a civilian Navy employee from Burke, Va., said his top priority would be “revitalizing performance management,” adding that he would support performance-based pay if the review process was fair.  He also expressed doubts that federal managers can “honestly evaluate their direct reports and deal with the ‘difficult conversations’ following an honest rating.”

Nicholas Ritchie, a National Institute of Standards and Technology employee from Rockville, Md., also focused on performance. “I would make it easier to fire people who underperform,” he said. “That would change (improve) the whole civil-service culture.”

Linda Charest, who works for the Department of Housing and Urban Development in D.C., said her main priority would be to provide federal managers with more training on how to deal with their teams. She wrote: “I would mandate supervisor training PRIOR to being promoted to supervisor.”

Keep the ideas coming, federal workers. We may use more of them for upcoming articles on civil-service issues, or we might contact you to discuss other topics relating to your workplace experiences.

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