Understanding Federal Pay Systems

Pay plans help to organize and identify information about employee’s pay and the authorizations surrounding the dissemination according to position. They help determine positions, agency relation, or occupational groupings; statistical data is then reported and provided to a myriad of entities such as the OPM, as well as payroll and HR systems in a variety of agencies.

Within the Federal Government, there are a myriad of pay systems that are governed by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). OPM is the mastermind behind the development, implementation and management of how pay is administered; they set the pay, determine locality along with any special salary requirements and rates, determine bonuses, cost of living and more. Each of the agencies, however, are able to determine their own administration of such policies when it comes to their employees.

Within the Department of Transportation (DOT) for example, they have five levels of pay: Executive, Senior Service, General Schedule, Wage Grade and Pay Banding. Most employees fall under the General Schedule and within that, there are 15 grade levels and steps within each that are aligned with pay compensation.

Within the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for example, Pay Banding is utilized to determine the appropriate range of pay for a particular position; locality is not included in the calculation. With a minimum, midpoint and maximum, pay is offered at the lowest base pay rate, median and highest pay rate for that position within the band. Additional information about the FAA’s specific pay banding system can be found here: http://jobs.faa.gov/FAACoreCompensation.htm.

The National Security Agency (NSA) utilizes the OPM pay tables with a 15 grade system and it is based on education, experience and job titles. With the ability for employees to work across the U.S. and beyond, salaries at the NSA are adjusted accordingly to ensure specific cost of living is in accordance with location.

Additionally, some federal employees may receive a specialty pay. Entitled “Law Enforcement Availability Pay (LEAP)”, this example includes Federal Law Enforcement Officers that are poised in criminal investigation work roles. IT management, Cybersecurity and Computer Professionals may also fall under specialty umbrellas. These incentives are put in place by OPM to foster competition and to attract those in demanding skill sets.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has recently implemented measures to recruit, hire and pay its employees off of the traditional General Schedule. With a flexible benefits package, incentives are provided at various stages within the employee’s professional career. In order to recruit top talent effectively, specifically in the areas of Border Patrol and Cyber, DHS has sought and utilized new and improved pay, recruitment and hiring tactics.

The Department of Justice (DoJ) offers the Administratively Determined (AD) Pay Plan that enables Assistant United States Attorneys, Supervisory Assistant United States Attorneys, Senior Litigation Counsel, Special Assistant United States Attorneys and United States Attorneys to take part in this pay for performance based plan.

There are many pay systems that are centered around the traditional General Schedule Pay System. When applying for federal positions the pay system designation is provided on the job announcement along with the position’s pay range. Read the job announcement thoroughly and provide all of the required information to ensure your application is accepted for consideration. There are certain conditions that warrant the applicant to request a higher pay rate than initially offered. You must negotiate a pay increase before signing an acceptance agreement.

References:

Career Planning Tools

The information provided may not cover all aspects of unique or special circumstances, federal and postal regulations, and programs are subject to change. Our articles and replies are time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic human resource guidance and factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM, the postal service or any federal entity. You should consult with school counselors, hiring agency personnel offices, and human resource professionals where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

New Performance Pay Plan for Federal Employees

The Office of Management and Budget is focusing on a new way to reward and retain high performers. These government employees will likely benefit from this new structure as it seeks to replace older, more inefficient processes and focus on new initiatives. Essential skills, high performance and targeted pay incentives are the baseline for this new and improved pay plan; funding is being proposed for the 2018-2019 plans for implementation. Additionally, each Agency can work to create innovative and exciting rating systems to reward and retain employees with critical skills, knowledge and abilities. Further, monies will be provided to support robust training and education programs that focus on enhancing performance; opportunities to pilot new efficiencies, processes and procedures are being provided and encouraged across the federal government and beyond.

Specifically, the plan will enhance rewards and incentives so that organizations can retain high performers and most importantly, those with the best skill mix. In order to accomplish this, agencies will have flexibility with any number of innovations. Some may choose to elect pay banding which is accomplished by consolidating the GS system’s 15 grades into a limited number of pay bands, usually four or five Pay Bands or perhaps change ratings to a pass/fail system. The Federal Aviation Administration has used a core compensation alternative pay system incorporating pay bands since the late 1990s. Additionally, others may opt for the ability to offer cash awards for critical skills…and the list goes on and on. Developmental programs are being refined in each of these areas to determine which system works best for each particular agency based on the skills, knowledge and abilities required for those missions.

Recognizing employees for their performance is a critical piece to a successful mission; these new opportunities to alter the plans to the most appropriate solution are a good one. New forward leaning ideas will arise, and communication, collaboration and information sharing increased. Measures will be implemented so as to ensure compliance and accountability with the new system and to ensure it is working properly.

In conjunction with the new pay system, many companies are opting to revisit their education and training programs. Skill mix and development are critical to many of these mission sets and therefore, hiring and performance assessments are key to their success. By revisiting many of these education and training plans, agencies can provide additional opportunities and coursework that will in turn, enhance performance. The link to the new pay system and education and training is critical and one that should go hand in hand with the implementation of new performance requirements. This system will encourage employees to develop creative Individual Development Plans (IDPs) to improve their skill sets and be rewarded with higher pay and awards as they accomplish their targeted goals.

Many organizations are providing additional funding for coursework, on the job training, college programs and skill enhancement initiatives that foster increased performance. These opportunities, particularly in the area of information systems, cybersecurity, science, technology, engineering and math, for many of the agencies, are increasing performance and providing a more holistic way forward for the organization in meeting their goals and objectives.

Although each approach may vary, agencies will have the ability to implement what makes the most sense to them; they will now have the flexibility to  appropriately reward employees for performance and meet the needs of their mission. Each will need to ensure they work to establish a mechanism as well, to measure success; feedback on these new processes and procedures are critical and must be captured so that that they can make adjustments, as necessary.

References:

Career Planning Tools

The information provided may not cover all aspects of unique or special circumstances, federal and postal regulations, and programs are subject to change. Our articles and replies are time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic human resource guidance and factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM, the postal service or any federal entity. You should consult with school counselors, hiring agency personnel offices, and human resource professionals where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.