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Is It Really Pay for Performance?
By Chuck Mulidore
As a result of the fact-finding report issued April 30, 2019, in response to the unilateral imposition of the 2016-2019 pay package by the USPS, NAPS has declined to be involved in developing 2020 NPA goals. Traditionally, the USPS has rejected most of NAPS’ recommendations for improvements to the NPA goals. The agency simply uses NAPS to help justify implementing the NPA system, claiming that “NAPS was involved in the process”—almost as an endorsement of the process by NAPS.
To be clear, NAPS has not endorsed NPA. However, we did attend talks regarding NPA goals in years past in hopes of influencing the policy decisions that drive this process. Now that the fact-finding panel has found that the USPS Pay-for-Performance (PFP) system is seriously flawed and NPA is the foundation of PFP, it vindicates NAPS’ position that participation in developing NPA goals is not in the best interest of EAS employees in the Postal Service.
Moreover, we all have known for years that the current PFP system developed by the Postal Service provides neither pay nor performance. If the development of goals were objective and based on input provided by employees, then the Postal Service would have seen great improvements in service and increases in EAS pay. However, the goal-setting process has been used in recent years to drive pay increases “to the left” of the bell-shaped curve, toward the lower-paying boxes in the PFP system, regardless of performance. Thus, NPA goals are being manipulated to drive down EAS pay.
In his June 2019 Government Executive article on pay-for-performance systems in government, nationally recognized pay consultant Howard Risher wrote:
“Where those decisions are subjective, the awards are far less motivational for two reasons: Year-end awards cannot be anticipated and claims of bias or discrimination are probably inevitable.
“Government has… additional problems. There is a seemingly high level of distrust and fear that a… system will not pay employees fairly… If employees do not believe the decisions are fair, a pay-for-performance system can exacerbate morale problems.
“Those problems can be avoided by involving employees in the planning. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency relied on that approach in planning its highly successful pay program. It’s a common approach in higher education. Another strategy increasingly used in business is requiring managers to explain and justify their rating decisions to a committee of peers.”
Another problem cited by Risher “is the contentious annual analysis showing federal employees are underpaid by 30% or more. Pay-for-performance is not likely to be accepted when employees believe their pay is unfair. Government needs to develop credible market pay data.”
There, in a nutshell, are the issues the Postal Service has not addressed in its approach to a PFP system. They underlie the foundation of the fact-finding panel’s unanimous report to the Postal Service on EAS pay that recommended substantial changes to the Postal Service’s compensation for EAS employees. The report also found the Postal Service’s PFP system to be broken and counterproductive.
So, is it really a pay-for-performance system or an attempt by senior leadership at the Postal Service to drive down your pay and benefits compensation while senior executives and craft employees continue to receive regular pay increases, bonuses and cost-of-living adjustments?
Pay for performance? I think the answer is obvious.