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In an interview, Bill Jenkins, Assistant Regional Administrator of the General Services Administration's (GSA) Public Buildings Service (PBS) Region 2, provided his views of the Linking Budget to Performance initiative (described in the article Measurement and Rewards Improve Performance at GSA). Region 2 was the winner of the first annual PBS Performance Excellence Award, given to the region with the best overall regional performance based on the initiative's measures.
Q. How would you characterize the effect that the initiative has had on your region?
A. I think that it has really gotten everybody focused on results and the performance that is necessary to achieve those results. Everybody is given a common set of performance results to shoot for that we all had a hand in developing, and people generally know what is expected of them in their job. This has been good for the organization and has had a great impact on our achievement.
Q. What were the key challenges your region faced in achieving the results it did?
A. Number one was understanding the goals. What were these goals, what did they mean, and how could we score well in those particular areas? Once we understood the goals, people focused on achieving them and spent less time on other less important programs.
Q. Were employees financially rewarded for doing a good job and, if so, how was the award money distributed?
A. Yes, in many cases around the country employees were well rewarded for their performance. Distribution of the monies in the Performance Excellence Pool varied from region to region. In the case of our region, we decided to grant an equal award amount to each employee, prorated for recent hires. We chose this approach to show that we were all part of the same team, that the team was the whole region, and that we were going to reward team members equally. Other regions did it differently. I think one region distributed award monies strictly as a percent of salary and another strictly based on managers' input. As an example of an option for distributing awards, a region could decide to grant 50 percent of the money to employees as awards and put 50 percent back into the business. The region could then take the 50 percent for awards and decide that one third would go in equal amounts to each employee, one third would be granted at the discretion of the managers, and one third would be distributed based on peer input. This is just an example of how it could work.
Q. Do you think similar initiatives could be successful at other Government agencies?
A.Absolutely. But it takes a forward thinking organization to do this. Too many agencies in the executive branch would never dream of doing something like this. It's there for agencies to do, to use as a tool and as an incentive, but it has to be done with restraint—it can't just be a give- away program. We don't want this thing to become an entitlement program. We're trying to get people to realize that the real object of this is rewarding employees for improved performance.
Q. Any key lessons learned so far?
First, competition is healthy, but it is not a be all and end all. It's healthy in that you have an established, quantifiable target that you are trying to achieve, which lets people know where they stand. People like to know how they are being measured and they like to receive feedback that they are doing a good job. While I think there was pride in trying to hit those targets, it also helped us improve our teamwork. In addition, the object was not to stress competition among regions, but to better ourselves. If you established a benchmark and a goal for your region, your goal was to beat that benchmark, not to outdo the other regions. And that's an important point. Our goal was to improve. We are more focused on competing against the private sector than against other regions.
Finally, if we really want to reward the high performers, we need to develop a better system to do so. I don't think we've gotten there yet as an organization. That's the result we are trying to get to in terms of rewarding employees.
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