- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Senior Executive Services pay and performance management program started two years ago for federal employees has not increased performance and has hindered morale, the Senior Executives Association said Monday.

The nonprofit association, which represents career executives in federal agencies, released findings of a two-month survey of 860 Senior Executive Services (SES) members.

The pay and performance system was intended to end pay compression. SES members often failed to receive pay increases equivalent to similar employees on other pay schedules. The new system bases pay increases on ratings of executives’ performance.

Carol Bonosaro, president of the association, said her organization initially supported the system.

Much of the discontent stems from concern that agencies were downgrading executives to meet certain ratings quotas or to create a ratings curve, even when a large portion of the executives qualified for the highest ratings.

The survey indicated that 42 percent of SES members in 2004 and 53 percent in 2005 thought this was how their agencies rated executives.

An executive from the Environmental Protection Agency wrote, “[My] boss admitted I had met all conditions for ‘outstanding’ but still gave me a ‘fully satisfactory’ [rating] because someone had to have lower ratings.”

Ms. Bonosaro said she would expect many SES members to meet the criteria for the highest ratings because these executives have passed a rigorous selection process. “The SES is not a random population,” she said.

“We don’t expect [the SES] to have a random distribution of performance capability,” she said. “If they did, there would be something wrong with how they were selected.”

Survey results indicated that 22 percent of executives who received high ratings in 2004 did not receive a pay increase. In addition, 86 percent of respondents indicated that the system did not result in a change in their performance.

Ms. Bonosaro warned that the new system threatens to create a “retirement tsunami.”

“We cannot afford a situation where these people are being motivated to leave earlier,” she said.

As a result of the survey findings, the Senior Executives Association recommended that Congress enact measures to ensure pay increases for executives who achieve a rating of “fully successful” or higher. It also seeks to abolish ratings quotas to ensure that all executives who perform at high levels receive high ratings and pay increases.

The association will present its survey results and recommendations Sept. 26 to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee on oversight of government management, the federal workforce and the District of Columbia.

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