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Frequently Asked Questions Performance Management

  • Agencies are encouraged to involve employees in the design and implementation of their appraisal programs, award programs, and employee performance plans.  Of course, where a union has been granted exclusive recognition, such involvement for bargaining unit employees must be through their elected union representatives.
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  • No employee has an entitlement to an award. An agency's policy must include the criteria to be considered when making award recommendations and decisions.
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  • Governmentwide regulations specify three types of performance elements:
    • critical elements
    • non-critical elements
    • additional performance elements
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  • Statute restricts performance awards to no more than 10 percent of the employee's annual rate of basic pay, except that a rating-based award may exceed 10 percent if the agency head determines that an employee's exceptional performance justifies such an award. However, in no case may a rating-based award exceed 20 percent of the employee's annual rate of basic pay.
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  • In some limited circumstances merchandise items could be used as an honorary award or informal recognition award. Merchandise may be used for awards purposes if and only if the item meets the criteria for an honorary award or an informal recognition award. Agencies need to be aware that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) considers merchandise to be a taxable fringe benefit that must be taxed on its fair market value. Further questions on taxable fringe benefits should be directed to the IRS.
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  • The modal rating is the latest rating of record summary level given most often within a single pattern to the employees in a specified group that is no smaller than the competitive area and no larger than the agency undergoing a reduction in force. It is important that the employees undergoing a reduction in force understand the basis used to determine the modal rating.
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  • Agencies may present such certificates and vouchers if they are being used as informal recognition awards. Merchant gift certificates should not be confused with cash surrogates (which are vouchers or checks that can be easily and widely redeemable for cash, not merchandise). Gift certificates usually are given when the intent is to give something but let the recipient make the final choice. Merchandise certificates cannot meet a cash surrogate's criterion of being easily negotiable because of limitations on where, how, and for what they may be redeemed. Gift certificates fail to meet the criteria for honorary awards because they convey a clear monetary value and cannot be characterized as symbolizing the employer-employee relationship. Consequently, the only circumstance where a gift certificate may be used to recognize an employee contribution is as an informal recognition award, which may not exceed nominal value. Agencies also need to be aware that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) considers gift certificates to be taxable fringe benefits that must be taxed on their fair market value. The face value of a gift certificate would be considered its fair market value. Further questions on taxable fringe benefits should be directed to the IRS.
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  • No. The regulations require that agency officials evaluate employee performance periodically against agency-assigned elements and standards. Since agencies cannot assign union work, this work cannot be included as elements and standards and is not subject to appraisal. As a result, employees who spend 100 percent of their time as employee representatives cannot receive a rating of record. Subsequently, since a rating of record is the basis for a performance or rating-based award, these employees are not eligible for performance awards.
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  • Additional years of service credit are added to an employee's length of service based on the employee's three most recent ratings of record during the four years prior to the reduction in force. In a competitive area where all the ratings of record being credited were done under a single pattern of summary levels, the additional service credit is computed by averaging the three most recent ratings of record given in the previous four years using the following values: 20 years of service for each Level 5 (Outstanding or equivalent rating); 16 years of service for each Level 4; and 12 years of service for each Level 3 (Fully Successful or equivalent rating). In an agency where employees in a competitive area have ratings of record being credited for reduction in force that were done under more than one pattern of summary levels, the agency can establish the values for the summary levels (within 12 to 20 years) so that performance crediting will be as fair and equitable as possible. Within a competitive area, the agency must use the same number of years additional retention service credit for all ratings of record with the same summary level in the same pattern of summary levels.
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  • Ideally, an agency would close out the current appraisal period and issue ratings of record at the time specified under the existing appraisal program and then begin the next appraisal period under the terms of the new program.
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