If you oversee the human resource (HR) group of a federal agency or are heavily involved with HR performance management for an agency, you can be forgiven if it sometimes feels as if you’re stuck in the 20th century with no way out.
Ingrained Federal Performance Management Problems
Here are just a few of the problems I hear about when speaking with federal HR professionals regarding performance management:
- Performance reviews are backlogged
- There are too many paper processes
- Too much of the process is manual
- The federal government has weird and seemingly unreasonable requirements for its review forms and processes
- Required forms can be difficult to process
- Performance management systems do not generally integrate,with other systems, such as talent acquisition systems
- Organization charts are difficult or impossible to produce.
At first glance, the situation seems dire for agencies experiencing these shortcomings. Existing systems are too ingrained, backlogs are high and employee and management expectations are low. Furthermore, these issues often lead to other problems that exacerbate the underlying problems. Can a reasonable person have expectations that these issues can be solved?
Fortunately, the answer is yes.
Matching Agency Mission, Goals and Objectives with Employee Performance
Solutions do exist today to help federal agencies overcome each of these HR obstacles. Do the research and you can find the solution to these problems that are ingrained in many federal agencies today.
At a high level, your managers are likely feeling the pain of time consuming employee review processes that are manual and not necessarily in line with the agency’s mission. Furthermore, these reviews do not lend themselves to ongoing interaction between managers and employees, resulting in a lack of engagement and decreased morale among employees and managers – a Lose-Lose situation.
The following benefits are what you should be seeking out of your federal performance management system:
- Automated employee performance tracking
- Employee goals aligned with departmental and agency goals
- Easy identification of top performers
- Help retention and growth of your best performers
- Insight into employee competencies
- Automatic assurance of compliance and procedures
- Automated regulatory reporting.
As in the private sector, federal performance reviews can bring a cringe to managers and employees alike.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
With a flexible, easy-to-use automated system, you can obtain buy-in from the entire organization, because everyone sees and experiences benefits. Everyone sees value such as improved communication and engagement, improved loyalty, improved employee development, better recognition and improved sense of purpose.
Addressing the Peculiarities of Federal Performance Management
While the high-level benefits seem straight forward enough, you will need to have an attention to detail when considering federal performance management systems. That’s because the environment is, like most aspects of the federal government, quite unique and presents a range of peculiarities.
So you’ll need to dig deeper to ensure the system is truly up to the task of tackling federal performance management. Because when it comes to HR performance management, one size definitely does not fit all. A system that can align employee and department goals within a private business may not be able to easily align employee and department goals within an agency.
Here are some key requirements for a federal performance management system:
- Automatic adherence to federal regulations that define the three types of elements of a performance review plan, including critical elements, non-critical elements and additional performance elements
- Automatic incorporation of the agency’s unique and specific performance evaluation forms
- Automatic incorporation the agency’s unique terminology used in its employee review process
- Automatic incorporation of the agency’s unique, and possibly weird requirements for employee evaluations
- Integration with the agency’s talent acquisition system
- Integration with the agency’s learning management system
- Utilization of federal-specific performance management terminology
- Configurable rules and workflows
- Easy production and viewing of organization charts and employee-manager relationships
- Seamless integration with OPM’s Electronic Official Personnel Folder.
Performance management in federal agencies is a huge challenge, as HR leaders and specialists fight cumbersome, outdated, manual and demoralizing systems. It might seem as if it is destined to be that way forever. Not true.
There’s hope – and there are available solutions.
Good points, but the system is just a tool and just the beginning! We need to start measuring the right goals continuously (versus periodically) and involve the right people (multi-rater) in evaluating results. Systems are the baseline for an efficient process, but to be truly effective, you need to look at what is being measured, when, and by whom.
Thanks for your comment, Terry. You are right, the system is just the beginning. I agree this needs to be an ongoing process and in the end, people are going to make it work! People also need tools and systems, but I like your point — look at what is being measured, when and by whom — and tools help.