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OPM's Berry Deals Out First Set of Civil Service Reform Suggestions

OPM's Berry Deals Out First Set of Civil Service Reform Suggestions

OPM Director John Berry

Jason Miller | Executive Editor | FederalNewsRadio

November 03, 2009

Berry says training is necessary because some of his ideas on how to change the civil service systems would require skills that many managers and employees don’t have now.

“Getting the best people into the positions where they’re most needed is, in my opinion, one of the greatest organizational challenges facing the federal government today,” he says. “The problem here is the systems, not the people. Every day I come to work, I see great employees and great managers who are hamstrung by regulations that are unnecessary or have outlived their usefulness.”

To start with, Berry asks if the federal appraisal system and career ladders should be broken down into three categories: apprentice, journey-level and expert.

He asks whether such a system could evaluate the entire person and their skills, and not tied to a specific position.

“Maybe such a three-stage system could help ensure that we’re promoting the best people, and it would take some of the pressure off of the hiring decision,” he says. “We don’t want hiring managers to be paralyzed by the thought that they’re hiring people for life. Maybe the entire apprentice stage is probationary or maybe the probationary period is shorter, but instead we require an affirmative step to keep someone on at the end of their probation instead of automatically tenuring them. So we have the concept of setting a high bar at the beginning of each of the three stages. What might that bar look like? For me, the three most important qualities are fairness, comprehensiveness, and transparency.”

Berry says there could be independent performance review boards to determine when the employee is ready to move from apprentice to journey level or journey level to expert.

Each of these stages would have workable standards that agencies apply uniformly, and the employee’s entire breadth of work inside and outside government could be a part of the discussion.

And all of this would be transparent to both the employee and the manager. Berry, time and again, stressed transparency as a key piece to any and all HR reforms.

He says one reason DoD’s National Security Personnel System failed it was not transparent to the employee unions. Berry promises he will not make that same mistake on any of the HR changes.

Another idea Berry has is the concept to results-only work environment (ROWE).

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