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Civilian pay system in transition

By Mr. Art Powell | | March 22, 2007

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If you are a civilian employee in a non-bargaining unit at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany and Marine Corps Logistics Command, how you get paid will soon change. 

Final regulations for the National Security Personnel System were published in the Federal Register Nov. 1, 2005, and organizations across the Department of Defense have been converting to the new system.

NSPS is officially described as “a pay-for-performance system that provides DoD with the tools necessary to compensate and reward” employees, and “is critical to DoD’s overall  transformation to a results-oriented, performance-based culture.”

NSPS emphasizes accountability, where employees are responsible for their own careers and performance which will pay off through salary increases and bonuses. 

And NSPS is a simplified and adaptable management tool that places the right people in the right jobs at the right time through flexibility. 

The new system is designed to produce results where employees’ performance and contributions link to achieving organizational goals and DoD’s critical mission.

The changeover is scheduled to take place here Feb. 3, 2008. What should civilian employees who will be affected by the new system be doing now to prepare?

“The best thing people can do now is take the NSPS 101 course online. It’s very good and covers the fundamentals of NSPS and takes about an hour to complete. It will be required before employees get classroom training here at MCLB later this year,” said Rich Hooks, human resources director, Civilian Human Resources Office - Southeast. 

The NSPS 101 computer-based course and more details about NSPS are available at www.cpms.osd.mil/nsps.

The GS system has been in place for 60 years and hasn’t evolved with the times, said Hooks. He said NSPS mirrors some private sector systems and is the result of several DoD pilot programs that have run for up to 25 years.

“DoD pulled the best practices from these pilot programs and put them into NSPS. There’s a lot of history showing that it works and we’re looking forward to deploying it aboard MCLB.”

He points out that NSPS represents a “significant difference” in how people are paid, and that nobody loses money in the changeover. According to Hooks, civilian personnel waiting for a within-grade increase will get that increase, prorated up to the conversion date.

Under NSPS, performance standards and the performance management process are very important and are cited by officials as what employees and their supervisors need to know the most about at this time. 

Under the GS system, civilian employees receive an annual review. With NSPS, there is still an annual review, but, according to Hooks, it’s one that will be “more intense.”

“Performance standards are set at the start of the year, and there’s a second level of review to make sure they’re measurable and aligned with the strategic plan of the organization. That doesn’t happen under the GS system today.”

Hooks said the employee and their supervisor create the standards, with the supervisor having final approval at that stage. Then, those standards are reviewed by the next level supervisory official to ensure that they are measurable and consistent with other employees. 

There are four required discussions with employees about their performance each year under NSPS: the initial setting of standards, a midyear review and two discussions at the end of the year.

“With the new system, there is certainly the potential for high-performing employees to make more than they could under the GS system. Under GS, there is no guarantee that you would get a step increase every year. But under NSPS’s pay-for-performance, you would be eligible for a pay increase every year. So, that’s more than you’re entitled to as a GS employee,” said Hooks.  One of the real improvements is that the new system requires managers to ensure that the employee’s individual performance objectives are aligned with their departments and commands’ mission and goals. This “line-of-sight” concept allows employees to see how their individual contributions further the goals of their organizations. Studies have shown that this type of alignment is key to creating high-performing organizations and a culture of employee engagement.   

The NSPS 101 on-line course, among other things, goes into detail on how performance standards will be written and addresses other factors like the “what” and “how” of standards.

“And more training is on the way. There will be classroom sessions here at MCLB this summer for all employees included in the changeover,” said Hooks.

Remember, at MCLB, NSPS affects only civilian employees in a non-bargaining unit, or non-union, position.

If you have questions about NSPS, talk to your supervisor, visit the Web site (www.cpms.osd.mil/nsps), or contact Hooks or Pat Alexander at 639-5240/5280.
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