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Civil Service 2.0 – Reforms 60 Years in the Making

70 percent of federal employees do not believe promotions in their work unit are based on merit, and only 43 percent of employees surveyed feel as though they are recognized for doing a good job.

Those dire numbers are highlights from the latest Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. And worst of all? Only 26 percent of employees believe that agency leaders are taking steps to deal with poor performers who cannot or will not improve.

Something needs to change in the civil service – and it needs to happen now.

The Partnership for Public Service (PPS), along with Booz Allen Hamilton, recently released a report, “Building the Enterprise: A New Civil Service Framework,” that outlines a vision for a more modern civil service system, including improved performance management.

Tom Fox, Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service, told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program that 2014 is the right time to start civil service reforms.

The civil service system the federal government currently uses was drafted more than 60 years ago. “It is hard to think of any other organization effectively operating in a system that was designed that long ago,” said Fox.

The PPS report calls for a massive overhaul of the system. “The need is quite clear and profound,” said Fox. When you look at the results of the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, and you certainly hear it from members of Congress that they’re unhappy with the current operations.”

One of the key areas the report targets is the Senior Executive Service (SES). “I think we could update the system to better support those senior folks and ensure that we get the strong pipeline of future executives we’ll need once the current group of executives retire,” said Fox.

One key change that should be made, Fox said? “Classify senior executives, so that we both have executives who have a broad agency-wide or government-wide responsibilities for the management and operations of their agencies, as well as a track for those who are technical experts.”

A top area of concern for most current and future federal employees is compensation, or the lack of compensation to be specific. “We are looking for reforms so that pay based on market sensitive rates as opposed to the more rigid general schedule system,” said Fox. “The new system would also open feds up to some rewards and recognitions based on performance.”

However, the federal unions are not on board with all of PPS’s recommendations. But Fox isn’t worried. “We’re in a crisis. I don’t think anyone would suggest that the status quo is the way we should continue. How we get to a future vision I think is open for debate. We were clear to propose a framework, not a blueprint, not a concrete proposal. We recognize that we need a good and healthy debate to make sure that we build the best system not just a new system. We can do better and that’s what everyone deserves.”

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