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Frequently Asked Questions Performance Management

  • A retention standard describes the level of performance necessary to be retained in a job (i.e., the standard written for performance one level above the Unacceptable level). In appraisal programs where a Minimally Successful or equivalent level exists for appraising elements, the retention standard is the Minimally Successful or equivalent standard. In appraisal programs that do not have a Minimally Successful or equivalent level available, the retention standard is the Fully Successful standard. The Merit Systems Protection Board and the courts have held that an agency
    • must ensure that retention standards:
    • are reasonably attainable
    • are not impermissibly absolute (allow for no error)
    • inform the employee of the level of performance needed to retain his or her job
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  • A performance-based cash award, also commonly known as a rating-based award, is a lump-sum cash payment and requires only the most recent rating of record as the sole justification for the award. Rating-based cash awards must be based on a rating of record at the "fully successful" level (or equivalent) or higher, and rating-based awards programs, as designed and applied, must make meaningful distinctions based on levels of performance.
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  • Informal recognition awards are a type of award that may be given to recognize performance that, taken alone, does not merit a larger award, such as cash, time-off, or an honorary award. Agencies are finding that they can effectively and efficiently achieve many of the goals of a recognition and incentive award program by providing more frequent, timely, and informal recognition of employees and group contributions. Informal recognition awards must meet the following criteria: The item must be of nominal value. The item must take an appropriate form to be used in the public sector and to be purchased with public funds.
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  • While employees must receive a rating of record at the highest summary level used by the program and meet the agency-specified criteria for qualifying for a quality step increase, a separate written justification is not required. However, the Office of Personnel Management strongly encourages agencies to require some form of recorded justification, assuring compliance with agency-established criteria for quality step increase eligibility. This will enable the agency to show that the proposed recipient has performed at a truly exceptional level to justify a permanent increase in his or her rate of basic pay.
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  • Yes.  Governmentwide regulations define a rating of record as the performance rating completed at the end of the appraisal period that reflects performance over the entire period, or an off-cycle rating of record given when a within-grade increase (WGI) decision is not consistent with the employee's most recent rating of record and a more current rating of record must be prepared.  These are the only times that a rating of record can be issued.
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  • Yes. In the Federal Government, there are four types of awards — cash awards, time off awards, honorary awards, and informal recognition awards. Agencies may use any combination of award types to reward a specific contribution.  For example, an employee might receive both a certificate and a cash award as recognition for a single contribution.  However, the overall combined value of the awards should not exceed the value to the organization of the contribution recognized. Thus, the award should be commensurate with the contribution of the employee.
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  • No. An employee must have a "fully successful" or equivalent rating of record or higher to be eligible to receive a rating-based cash award.
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  • No.  Both a performance rating and a rating of record involve the evaluation of an employee's performance against all the elements and standards in the performance plan.  At any time during the appraisal period, an agency can make the determination that an employee's performance is unacceptable on one or more critical elements.  This determination is sufficient to begin the process that could lead to a performance-based action if the employee's performance fails to improve to an acceptable level.
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  • Yes. An employee may receive both an award based on a rating of record and an award based on a specific contribution in a single year. The most important factor in deciding whether to grant multiple awards is that the total value of the awards must be commensurate with the value to the organization of the accomplishment recognized. In addition, agencies must ensure they comply with all applicable requirements, including OPM approval of awards over $10,000.
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  • An acceptable level of competence determination can be delayed for only two reasons: when an employee has not had the minimum period of time to demonstrate acceptable performance on his or her elements and standards; and when an employee is reduced in grade because of unacceptable performance to a position in which he or she is eligible for a within-grade increase or will become eligible within the minimum appraisal period.
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