Building Trust Between Classifiers and Managers

In today’s federal government, it is vital for HR staff of every speciality and at every level to recognize that, in an environment of diminishing HR budgets and growing delegations of HR functions to managers and supervisors, it is essential to build relationships and prove to line managers and first-line supervisors the importance of  the knowledge and skills the HR practitioner brings to the table.

In his article below, Steve Oppermann discusses what HR staff have to gain from developing and maintaining relationships of trust with managers and supervisors.

In addition to the ideas presented in Mr. Oppermann’s article, think through other ways that you, the HR practitioner, can help those who need what you have to offer to recognize the value of your skills.

Position Descriptions: Dead Letters or Living Documents?

In the Federal civil service, jobs are documented in position descriptions (PDs) that describe the key duties, responsibilities, and requirements. Because PDs provide a basis for qualification requirements and pay administration, attention tends to center on the position classification. However, as shown in the figure below, PDs provide a basis for a wide range of HR decisions and activities—they are not “just for classification.”

HR Applications of PDs - An Illustration

For these reasons, it is important that PDs remain accurate. A dated PD can have unanticipated and undesired results. For example, a job announcement based on an inaccurate PD may yield few or no highly-qualified applicants, making it necessary to reannounce the job. Worse yet, if you hire someone for a job that exists only on paper, your new employee may quickly become dissatisfied and quit—and complain to friends, family, and future colleagues about your agency’s false advertising.

So, if you are a Federal manager, consider the PDs for your staff or the organization you lead. Does the organization that exists on paper also exist in practice? Do the PDs provide a realistic and useful picture of your employees’ roles and how they perform them? Are PDs free of information that is irrelevant or dated?

Reviewing a PD requires time and effort. Fortunately, you are not starting with a blank sheet of paper. You have, of course, the existing PD. You also can look to guides developed by OPM and the advice and expertise of your HR staff.

Resources for Preparing and Reviewing PDs

Reprinted from Issues of Merit, a publication of the Office of Policy and Evaluation, U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board

FLSA Decisions Cost Agencies Millions

Recent articles discuss the number of recent arbitration decisions that have gone against Federal agencies and have resulted in tens of millions of dollars in overtime payments to bargaining unit employees wrongly designated as exempt from the FLSA. The overtime and associated costs paid by multiple Federal agencies in arbitration decisions or in settlements reached by the parties has been truly staggering and should trigger in federal agencies the need to ensure that all individuals making decisions that relate to FLSA–the HR specialists who determine FLSA exemption status and the managers and supervisors who assign and track work hours–know how to apply FLSA requirements. Has your agency yet re-evaluated your FLSA designations and reviewed how they are applied by managers and supervisors?

Matching the Market: Classifying Jobs and Setting Pay

[The introduction and report excerpts below are from the Partnership for Public Service 2014 report, Building the Enterprise: A New Civil Service Framework.]

The way forward: A transformed civil service

A modernized civil service system should continue to be based on these long-held principles. It should have the consistent policies and procedures and level playing field that are characteristics of a single enterprise, but also be flexible and adaptive enough to accommodate the wide variety of agency missions, cultures and constituents.

The system should be designed to more easily attract, hire, promote and retain the best qualified employees, and place greater attention on the development of leaders. It should be based on state-of-the-art human capital practices and have a total compensation system that is occupation specific and market-sensitive. And it should have career paths that support progression and job mobility, and be designed to reward performance, not just time on the federal payroll.

Matching the Market – Classifying Jobs & Setting Pay   [report excerpt]

Which, if any, of the system components discussed in the report excerpt do you think would work in helping your agency accomplish the goal of a “total compensation system that is occupation specific and market-sensitive”? What roadblocks or resistance do you think your agency would face if they were to implement these recommendations?