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Are You Talking to Me? How to Get the Civil Service Reform Convo Started

Back in July of 2013 the president released his management agenda, which focused on three main goals: finding new ways to deliver government services more quickly and conveniently; cutting duplicative and unnecessary programs; and expanding the numbers and type of government data sets provided online. It was a powerful agenda, but now, almost a year later, not much has been accomplished.

The Partnership for Public Services recently took a look at the president’s management agenda in their new report, “Building the Enterprise, a New Civil Service Framework.” The goal of the framework is to help agencies understand where the biggest challenges are in the civil service and how to create a roadmap to implement changes.

Tim McManus, Vice President for Education and Outreach at PPS, told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSDIER program that the framework can also be used to create a dialogue about these issues.

“In order to create a blueprint, we have to talk. We need a lot of input and back and forth between stakeholders,” said McManus. “Not everyone is going to win everything, but we have to look at ways that everybody can win something.”

The legislation that created the civil service was drafted when Truman was president, and hasn’t kept up with the 21st century job market. So these conversations can help agencies discover what they want – and need – the future of the civil service to look like.

One conversation McManus thinks needs to happen soon? A dialogue about the civil service pay grade system. The GS system has not had a major update since the 1970s. “To be honest, somebody who’s hired at a GS-7 level, they’re going to get an adjustment more based on where they work than the type of job they’re doing. That’s not right,” said McManus. “That’s not how the real world works. Part of what we need to fix through Civil Service Reform is to actually pay for the type of work that they’re doing – not because they’re a GS-7.”

As it stands now, the GS system is a 1-15 system, with more than 80% of federal employees at a GS-12 level or above. The system allows for very little flexibility in terms of pay and compensation. “We need to be able to compensate high-performing employees, but we also have to recognize that there are occupations that actually demand higher salaries than other occupations,” said McManus. “For government to look at pay simply based on a degree level or a level of experience, not looking at market trends, then the government’s not really going to survive.”

If the government is not able to attract high-performing employees it will not only hurt the government, but industry as well. Consider if there are not qualified Patent and Trademark officers to approve new patents – then companies cannot get the economic compensation they deserve. There is a strong ripple effect. A strong government starts with strong employees.

“We’ve got to change some fundamental things in order to ensure that we’re attracting the top talent,” said McManus. “Once we get them in, we’ve got to make sure that we’re changing the system so we can manage people and manage the mission much differently than we can right now. That’s the key. Civil Service reform isn’t simply about recruitment, hiring, pay and classification – it’s about fundamentally changing the way that we view people within government.”

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DorobekINSIDER: Why government fails - a list - GovLoop

[…] HR: Again, the process is just broken. Agencies can’t hire efficiently. Agencies can’t fire efficiently. And we have a civil service system that is some 60-years-old. The Partnership for Public Service did a remarkable public service publishing its recommendations for modernizing the civil service system. [GovLoop DorobekINSIDER on this subject: My initial take when the Partnership’s recommendations came out; plus The Partnership’s Tom Fox; and The Partnership’s Tim McManus.] […]