Performance Management as a Core Competency of Federal Leadership

One of the primary roles of managers in federal agencies is to provide feedback and remediation for their direct reports as part of the performance management cycle.

That process, which is supported by HR specialists, is a vital point of communication with employees and can have a direct impact on overall employee engagement and satisfaction and the ability of agencies to identify and develop future leaders.

Because of how important this responsibility is, the Federal Government implemented a web-based skills assessment for managers that measures several core competencies. The Federal Competency Assessment Tool – Management (FCAT-M) assesses several competencies to help identify areas for improvement and ensure managers have both the hands-on experience and soft skills required to be a reliable support for their teams.

An important part of this assessment is performance management processes and practices. Let’s look at the five steps and pieces that managers have direct control over.

1.   Planning and Setting Expectations

To effectively measure and monitor performance, an employee must first fully understand what is expected of them. A performance plan should be established with clear metrics that can be used to measure the employee’s progress over time.

Equally important is that goals are clearly aligned between the employee and the agency. The better the employee understands the purpose of what they are doing and the impact it will have on the organization as a whole, the better their overall performance will be and the easier it will be to provide feedback in the future.

2.   Monitoring Performance

Performance monitoring is not a once-per-year task. It should be an ongoing, continuous process that managers undertake and document in their software. Ongoing monitoring allows managers to make course corrections, provide intervention or remediation training when needed, and to communicate expectations before there is a problem.

When there is a problem, this process ensures the manager can take action before the rating of record is due, to help the employee and hopefully address the issue without formal personnel actions.

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3.   Development of Employees

Employee development is an ongoing process and comes in many forms, but often it is only included in the performance cycle when an issue is identified. By constantly monitoring and noting good performance, managers can also identify opportunities for growth. This is critical in identifying future leaders and those who are ready for movement within the agency.

Development plans might be formal classroom training, online courses, coaching or mentoring with the manager or another member of staff, new responsibilities to stretch the employee beyond their comfort zone, or other experiences designed to enhance or add competencies.

4.   Rating Performance

The rating of record involves comparing overall performance against an employee’s expectations and records to date. If the manager has provided ongoing feedback and completed the three steps above consistently, the final rating should not be a surprise to the employee. This is a good time to have a more in-depth conversation about the path that led to this rating (whether good or bad) and what the next steps will be.

5.   Rewarding Good Performance

For those employees who have met or exceeded expectations, rewards may be provided. This can be a challenging process in which the manager needs to clearly distinguish what the different potential performance levels are, how the employee rated against those expectations, and what a comparable award looks like. Software that supports this process can be invaluable in maintaining consistent, documentation for awards in the agency. 

By following all five of these steps and fully understanding not only their own role, but the subsequent impact that their input can have on the success and future opportunities of their employees, managers can become instrumental in systematic improvements in the agency’s workforce.

To support this process and to ensure the best possible resources are in place so managers can focus on these five core pillars and not the paperwork behind them, EconSys FedHR Navigator features a federally-focused, FedRAMP compliant, automated performance management module. Learn more about our approach to performance management and the benefits it can provide to your management team.