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Goalsharing: A GSA Experience

Group incentive programs can channel employee efforts toward achieving preestablished goals. When the General Services Administration's (GSA) Realty Services Division was reorganized in 1995, it established an award program that balanced individual and team recognition, linked performance measures to strategic goals, and provided feedback to employees on their team and organizational performance. The following is a description of GSA's successful program and the positive results it achieved.


In partnership, the Division created a team to develop an awards program focusing the organization on customer service, rewarding actual outcomes, and creating an environment that encouraged innovation and risk taking. After researching design options, the team felt that an award program that included elements from profitsharing and gainsharing programs would work best for the Division.

The team analyzed the Division's activities from the customer's perspective and divided the activities into three major categories:

  • Direct Value Added: work for which the customer is willing to pay.
  • Indirect Value Added: work that creates no value for the customer, but is required to accomplish the value-added work.
  • Waste: work that is not related to providing customer service.

The direct value-added activities became the focus for the development of goals to be measured. The team also recommended all of the monies normally set aside for rating-based and other incentive awards be combined and two new categories of awards be used. The team determined that 70 percent of the total award funds would be allocated for Category I awards, the quarterly group goalsharing payouts from which every employee would benefit. The remaining 30 percent of the funds were earmarked for Category II awards, which would allow supervisors to recognize individuals and teams with cash awards for extraordinary effort and accomplishments throughout the year. Monies not spent for Category I could be shifted to Category II, but could not be used for other expenses such as travel or supplies.

Using the direct value-added activities and the GSA strategic plan, the team developed four goals; customer satisfaction, timeliness, cost effectiveness, and program efficiency. Measurable standards were established for each goal. Payouts would be determined based on a formula that included weighted goals and the number of teams meeting each goal.

The design team also determined that feedback should be provided by posting performance results where all employees would have access to them. This would allow employees to track how well the teams and the organization were performing against the established goals.

Finally, the program would be evaluated annually by a committee of employees representing labor, management, and the personnel office.


The program went into operation April 1997. Employees received 50 percent of the possible payout in the first two quarters and have improved performance in the third quarter. Currently, despite the threat of another reorganization, morale has been high and teams are providing assistance to one another in meeting the organizational goals. The Realty Services Division is excited about the progress being made, but no program can be implemented without lessons being learned:

  • Communication and trust are two of the most important factors in any successful program. Employees must trust that the program will be administered fairly.
  • The Division has also realized that the 30 percent of funds set aside for individual and team awards must be carefully controlled to avoid the risk of rewarding employees based solely on subjective measurers.

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