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March 2019
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What’s in It for Me?
TD Magazine

What’s in It for Me?

Federal employers may be falling short in rewarding good performance.

A recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) study found that federal employers have some room for improvement in their performance management process. The study, which reviews Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey data from 2010 to 2017, examined employees' responses to statements about the five phases of the Office of Personnel Management's performance management process: planning work and setting expectations, continually monitoring performance, developing the capacity to perform, rating periodically to summarize performance, and rewarding good performance.

Although most employees agreed with statements about the first four phases, just 39 percent agreed with statements about the rewarding phase. The report also found that supervisors and leaders are much more likely than employees in nonsupervisory roles to agree with statements about how their employers reward performance. While most supervisors and leaders believe employees are adequately rewarded and recognized, their employees feel differently.

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About one-third of respondents agreed that promotions in their work are based on merit. This statement saw the highest discrepancy between supervisors and nonsupervisors. The study found that senior leaders agreed with this statement an average of 40 percentage points more than employees in nonsupervisory roles.

Approximately one out of three respondents agreed that differences in performance are recognized in a meaningful way. The report notes that identifying meaningful distinctions in performance ratings is crucial for adding transparency to the rewards process and helping employees better understand their strengths and areas for improvement.

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About 40 percent of respondents agreed that employees are recognized for providing high-quality products and services. The report states that in effective organizations, recognition should be an ongoing part of employees' day-to-day experiences.

Because performance management can have profound impacts on employee engagement, performance, and more, it is important that employers take steps to recognize and value excellent performance. Organizations reexamining their recognition and rewards processes should ensure these are not one-time occurrences but rather a continual part of the performance management cycle.

About the Author

Shauna Robinson is a research analyst at the Association for Talent Development (ATD), where she prepares surveys, analyzes data, and writes research reports and short case studies. Her previous positions at ATD include human capital specialist and communities of practice coordinator.

Prior to working for ATD, Shauna was a senior editorial assistant at Wiley in San Francisco, California. Shauna received a bachelor’s degree in English from UC Berkeley, and she is currently attending the University of Connecticut remotely to obtain a master's degree in survey research.

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