It’s the time of year that many federal employees are starting to prepare for annual performance appraisals. If you have the opportunity to work closely with a member of the Senior Executive Service (SES), you may be asked to help your executive prepare for it. Executives can designate a proxy to informally or formally assist with their plan development, monitoring and rating. If you are invited to take on this support role, you can hopefully save your executive precious time, gain exposure to executive requirements and importantly, help contribute to your executive’s and organization’s success.
Having assisted several executives over the years with their performance plans, I will share some advice that may help anyone serving in a proxy role, as well as executives who work with proxies.
1. Get access and obtain the schedule
To get started, proxies need access to the executive plan. As the proxy, to effectively assist with the tasks related to the executive’s performance plan, you need to have access to the plan.
Many departments and agencies use the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) USA Performance system for administering their SES performance appraisals. Whether it is that system or an alternative one, if the executive designates you as a proxy, they need to provide you access to the system. Training material on the performance system should also be made available. For example, you may access OPM’s USA Performance Training here. Executives should also inform those in the agency who are tracking the SES plans that you are serving as their proxy.
Next, you need to understand the plan and rating cycle. The SES performance plans’ rating cycle is frequently the fiscal year, which may or may not be the same as your rating period. You will need to obtain the dates that activities are expected for plan establishment, midyear review and the annual review for planning purposes. Place reminders on your calendar and plan to build some time into your schedule to work with the executive on their plan.
2. Develop and establish the plan
You should have a copy of the prior fiscal year performance plan to aid with the development of the next plan. A portion of the executive performance elements is often determined by the department or agency that needs to be incorporated into the plan. There may be other elements that cascade from department or agency leadership performance requirements. The executive usually has some latitude to make recommendations on elements within their plan that relate to results for their program or scope of responsibility. It will be important to get the executive’s input on their expectations and goals and incorporate them into the plan accordingly. Adjustments may be made before the plan is established.
Once established, it is a good idea to start a tracker that includes the plan elements that can be updated with initiatives and support for accomplishments. It helps to have the executive involve other staff who are responsible for carrying out assignments that support the plan to give input on accomplishments.
3. Midyear review
While performance discussions should be frequent, the midyear performance review is the formal opportunity to discuss progress and identify any changes that need to be made.
To prepare for the midyear review, it helps to have the tracking ready to share with the executive. It helps to periodically update the tracker before the midyear review rather than having to go backward in time to recreate the past six to 12 months. It saves the executive and staff valuable time if it is proactively prepared in advance.
4. Annual review
Towards the end of the rating period, you may be asked to help draft the executive’s narrative that corresponds to his or her performance elements and addresses accomplishments. If you have used a tool to keep track of the plan through the year, this should not be a monumental task. By including specific data and metrics, the narrative response you develop will be stronger. Build time into the schedule to work with colleagues and stakeholders to gather the data and complete the review with the executive and others whose input is needed or desired. After the performance cycle is complete, the establishment phase will begin again.
Related Resource Materials
In addition to materials your agency provides, there are a number of other resources about SES performance that you can utilize.
Office of Personnel Management Resources:
- Senior Executive Service Desk Guide (OPM, December 2020) https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/senior-executive-service/reference-materials/ses-desk-guide.pdf
Please feel free to add comments below with other information, resources and tips that you’d like to share.
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Christine is Deputy Director, Office of Ethics and Integrity of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This article was prepared by the author in her personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the FDA, DHHS or the federal government. Christine also serves as a Community Volunteer Leader for the American Red Cross, Montgomery, Howard, and Frederick County Chapter, and on the advisory committee for her city pool and fitness center. She is inspired to write about endurance, volunteerism, and career management, among other topics. In her “spare” time she is an avid swimmer and runner, and enjoys spending time with her family, friends and pets. Her motto is: “Work hard, play hard.”
This writing was prepared by the author in her personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the FDA, DHHS or Federal Government.