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Frequently Asked Questions Performance Management

  • Under no circumstances may a political appointee receive an award in the form of cash or a time-off award during a Presidential election period.  An agency may grant a political appointee an honorary or informal recognition award during a Presidential election period, provided that the form of the award avoids the appearance of replacing a bonus.
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  • Yes. An agency may give length of service certificates and/or pins in recognition of years of service in the Government of the United States. The agency decides whether to credit both civilian and military service when computing eligibility for career service recognition.

    Note: For individual employees, Government service as defined for purposes of issuing length of service certificates is not necessarily identical to "creditable service" used to calculate eligibility for things such as leave accumulation or retirement.
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  • Yes. Agencies can authorize the development of separate appraisal programs under the framework of their appraisal system. This would allow their various subcomponents or subpopulations to determine how best to address their needs and cultures and more effectively manage individual and organizational performance by tailoring specific appraisal procedures and requirements to mission and work technology.
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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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • No. The regulations specifically restrict the delay of a within-grade determination to two conditions. Permitting the delay of a within-grade determination for employees completing a PIP would give an unfair advantage to an employee whose performance has been determined to be unacceptable (a condition upon which the PIP is based) over employees whose most recent rating of record is Level 2 (marginal, minimally successful, etc.) and who are not eligible for a within-grade increase. There is no requirement to give an employee a rating of record before beginning a PIP. If a within-grade increase determination is due during an employee's PIP, the agency needs to make sure it reviews the employee's most recent rating of record and determines whether a new rating of record is needed to support the within-grade decision. If the last rating of record does not support a within-grade denial, a new rating of record must be given for that purpose. If the agency chooses to use the last rating of record of Level 3 (Fully Successful or equivalent) or better and grant the within-grade, they need to realize they are certifying the employee as performing at that level and jeopardizing any future performance-based action that might have been based on performance during that time period.
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  • Yes. Federal employee appraisal law requires Federal agencies to establish one or more appraisal systems. If an agency finds a need to describe different general policies and parameters for different groups of employees, it can develop more than one appraisal system. However, the Office of Personnel Management anticipates that most agencies will not find it necessary to develop more than one set of general policies and guidelines.
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  • An honorary award is a gesture of respect given to an employee to recognize his or her performance and value to the organization. Honorary awards are generally symbolic. Many agencies include as part of their overall incentive awards programs a traditional form of high-level, formal "honor awards." Often, such honor award programs do not use monetary recognition at all, but emphasize providing formal, highly symbolic recognition of significant contributions and publicly recognizing organizational heroes as examples for other employees to follow. They typically involve formal nominations, are granted in limited numbers, and are approved and presented by senior agency officials in formal ceremonies. The items presented, such as engraved plaques or gold medals, may be fairly expensive to obtain. However, they are principally symbolic in nature and should not convey a sense of monetary value.
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