Update on Performance Management System Issues


4/2/12: Last week, the SEC's Office of Human Resources sent out this SEC Today communication concerning the recent trial run of the new, so-called "evidence-based" performance management system. This message has generated some confusion and a lot of questions from employees. 

In its communication, OHR asserted that it "is using the numerical ratings in conjunction with information gathered from focus groups, surveys, and interviews to evaluate and refine the system." OHR then went on to state that its "preliminary findings show that the EBP system is a marked improvement over the previous SEC performance management systems, particularly as it relates to consistency, fairness and transparency of the process."

It is not clear to the Union what OHR is referring to when it mentions its "information gathering" and "evaluation." The only such review as far as we know is being conducted by an independent outside consultant, Robert Tobias. Mr. Tobias is an expert who has been retained for this purpose pursuant to a contract negotiated by the Union with the SEC.

Mr. Tobias teaches courses in public management, leadership, facilitation and team development, conflict management and alternative dispute resolution, and managing labor management relations at American University. In addition, he is the Director of the Institute for the Study of Public Policy Implementation which brings together members of Congress, political appointees, career federal executives, union leaders, consultants, and academics for the purpose of resolving difficult public policy implementation issues. Mr. Tobias was selected by Thomas Ridge, Secretary, Department of Homeland Security, and Kay Coles James, Director, Office of Personnel Management to the Human Resource Management System Senior Review Advisory Committee, which reviewed and assessed the National Security Personnel System at DOD, to determine whether that performance management system was operating in a fair, transparent and effective manner.

In recent weeks, Mr. Tobias has conducted a survey, interviews and focus groups about the performance management system at the SEC. He will be carefully reviewing this data, along with data concerning the actual numerical ratings given to employees. He will then prepare a report which will be provided jointly to the SEC and the Union at the SEC's Labor-Management Forum.

None of these steps have been completed. To be clear, at this time, neither the SEC nor the Union have been provided the survey, focus group or interview data that has been gathered by Mr. Tobias. For that reason, we were somewhat perplexed to see that OHR has already concluded that the new performance management system is a "marked improvement" over prior systems at the SEC. For its part, the Union is waiting for the actual data to become available, as well as to receive Mr. Tobias' independent report, before we draw any conclusions about the latest pilot run of the new performance management system.

Also, as you may have noticed, OHR's recent communication contained a link to some of the data concerning the distribution of ratings during this most recent trial run of the system. As we reported last week, the Union has an outstanding information request demanding information about ratings broken down by further categories. The SEC has not yet responded to this information request. When this information is provided to the Union, we will provide it to the employees.

Finally, OHR's communication also states that OHR representatives are "currently meeting with numerous organizations to discuss how we can improve the committee process for future performance cycles." You should know that OHR is not meeting with your Union representatives as part of this process, despite the fact that the parties were ordered to work together on this new system by the Federal Service Impasses Panel. For many months, SEC management has been acting unilaterally to put together the system without responding in a meaningful way to the concerns of the Union or the employees that it represents.

We will continue to keep you updated about the performance management system as more information becomes available.