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Is it time to end annual performance reviews for fed workers?

What good are annual performance reviews? That is the broad question posed in a recent piece by a former Obama administration human resources executive. He now works in the private sector.

The answer to that question, according to Jeff Neal, is not much. Proponents of the traditional reviews are said to claim that they drive performance by providing workers feedback and by offering them financial incentives to do better. But Neal says that's hogwash.

He says workers are motivated by good leaders, interesting work and by being able to take pride in what they do. He argues that performance ratings offered up just once a year do nothing to enhance productivity and, in fact, dishearten individuals. He says that's something large private employers are coming to understand and that it's something federal officials should learn and adopt.

What he suggests in place of annual reviews is a system that provides more immediate and continuous feedback. Under this system, workers would get regular and constructive input and meaningful bonuses would be issued for exceptional work. Those needing more attention to improve would get it.

Everyone would be better off because managers wouldn't waste time filling out forms for the majority of good federal workers and the employees wouldn't have to wait for the once-a-year rating they hate.

What implication such a model might have in the context of the Merit Systems Protection Board is unclear. It seems safe to assume that the guarantees of due process called for under the Civil Service Reform Act would remain intact. And assuring protections for employees from unwarranted disciplinary actions is something to fight for with the help of experienced legal counsel.

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