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    Frequently Asked Questions::When situations arise where it is not possible to close out appraisal periods in a...

    When situations arise where it is not possible to close out appraisal periods in a normal manner before shifting to a new appraisal program, what advice does the Office of Personnel Management have for how an agency could transition between appraisal programs (i.e., handle appraisal periods, minimum periods, performance ratings, and ratings of record) in the following situations? (See descriptions (a) through (e))

    Few straightforward answers are possible here. Agencies have a lot of flexibility for how mid-period transitions could be handled. At the same time, however, such transitions may stimulate employee complaints and grievances. This is especially true as many agencies seek to implement changes and transitions during a time when the Government is facing serious downsizing. It is only prudent to consider the effect and timing of program changes in light of their possible reduction-in-force implications.

    A few simple principles can help guide decisions about program transitions:

    1. The appraisal regulations in part 430 of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations, contemplate only one formal rating of record per appraisal period.
    2. The reduction-in-force regulations in part 351 of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations, defer to ratings of record as defined in part 430.
    3. A sense of fairness and equity is generally not well served by "changing the rules late in the game" unless there is clear evidence that the rule changes are well understood and widely accepted by the affected parties. It's generally a good idea to stick by the "rules" that are in place when the employee's performance plan is communicated, unless program changes are imminent (see (a) below).
    4. It's generally a good idea to let employees get credit for their positive achievements, rather than ignore them.

    These principles were applied in developing the following advice about situations (a) through (e) below. Please note that in each situation, the new program would have to be in effect and employees would have to be under their new performance plans for the minimum period before a rating of record could be prepared under the new program. Also, a new program should not be implemented with its performance plans and ratings of record unless management and employees have received appropriate preparation and training.

    (a) It's early in a new appraisal period (or rating cycle) and the minimum period has not been completed yet.

    This is the simplest case. Because it is not permissible to rate performance under the old program before the minimum period is complete, implementing the new program should not cause serious problems. However, agencies must remember to comply with the requirement to communicate with supervisors and employees about the relevant parts of their appraisal programs.

    (b) It's near the end of the current appraisal period and the new appraisal program has fewer summary levels than the old.

    This may be the second simplest case. Assuming adequate warning and preparations are made, relevant parties are in agreement, and the agency system allows the flexibility, it should be possible to in effect "shorten" the old appraisal period to close out the old program. Ratings of record would be prepared using the old pattern with more summary levels. The agency could have the discretion to lengthen the next appraisal period so that two ratings of record would be assigned to cover a 24-month period. This approach would be most consistent with giving employees credit for their accomplishments and avoids disadvantaging employees by "changing the rules late in the game."

    (c) It's near the end of the current appraisal period and the new appraisal program has more summary levels than the old.

    In this situation, it may be more desirable to let the rating of record be assigned under the new program with more summary levels. A performance rating could be prepared (with or without assigning a summary level) to "close out" the old program before implementing the new program. When the appraisal period ends and a rating of record must be prepared, that earlier performance information would be available and applied as appropriate. Of course, an employee could not be rated under the new program or assigned a performance rating or rating of record until the new program's minimum period was completed, which in effect could lengthen the appraisal period. In that event, the agency would have the option of shortening the subsequent appraisal period to end up with two ratings of record covering a 24-month period. Agencies should consider designing their programs to accommodate the need for a transitional appraisal period.

    d) It's the middle of the current appraisal period and the new appraisal program has fewer summary levels than the old.

    In this situation, unless relevant parties are in agreement and a lot of groundwork has been laid with employees, it may be advisable to delay implementing the new program until the next appraisal period. Closing out the old program with a summary rating of record (as in (b) above) by substantially "shortening" the appraisal period might be more acceptable than just implementing the new program with its fewer summary levels, but it's still "changing the rules" in midstream.

    (e) It's the middle of the current appraisal period and the new appraisal program has more summary rating levels than the old.

    In this case, the fact that more summary levels would be available under the new program may make shortening the appraisal period less desirable. As in (c) above, the old program could be closed out with a performance rating (with or without a summary level) that "counts" when the rating of record is prepared under the new program at the end of the appraisal period. This presumes the new program is more attractive and there is shared interest in implementing it. If that is not the case, the scenario in (b) above still could be played out.

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