New Personnel System Presents Opportunity, Program Officer Says

 By Samantha L. Quigley
 American Forces Press Service

 WASHINGTON, Feb. 9, 2006  - The Defense Department's new National Security Personnel System is on track for initial implementation, the system's program executive officer told the human resources specialists attending the a symposium here yesterday.

"Were still on track to deploy folks into Spiral 1.1 in April," Mary Lacey told attendees. "We've got over 11,000 (non-union) employees that are going in."

The NSPS Program Executive Office designed the system for a staggered implementation based on a spiral model, she said. The approach has lead to delays, she noted, but this has given the office a chance to tweak the program as it builds it.

The purpose of the spiral model to introduce NSPS was to build a little, test a little and learn a lot, Lacey said. "I'm actually confident that we're doing this the right way," she added.

The most recent implementation delay was caused by a need to take another look at the system's evaluation system. Lacey said it was robust but hard to understand and to put into operation. The NSPS has spent the last six weeks reworking that portion of the system, she said.

Some whom NSPS will affect have expressed hesitation over changes it will bring, even if the changes are good for them, Lacey said. She added that communication and training will help ease these fears.

"Conversations need to happen very, very frequently. Employees will be demanding more of supervisors' time. They'll be demanding more thoughtful conversations," she said. "If you find the time, while it's painful the first year, you will get paybacks forever."

One thing supervisors should be communicating to their employees is results.

"We're not just going to measure transactions," she said. "Transactions are interesting, but they're not necessarily something that compel us to action or the only thing that helps us achieve our (objective)."

Supervisors also should set and level expectations for employees, Lacey said. Employees need to realize not everyone is a star performer every year.

"When supervisors are giving their people feedback throughout the year, you need to talk in NSPS terms," she said. "A '3' is not a bad evaluation. That's a great, solid evaluation."

NSPS evaluation ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 5, with the former number being an unsuccessful evaluation and the latter a 'role model' assessment.

Under NSPS, evaluations will determine an employee's compensation. The system's three pay bands allow flexibility to adjust salaries and compensation to be competitive with the civilian sector, Lacey said.

"It's an important flexibility that we think we need to have in the department," Lacey said. "But we need to watch it. It needs to be fair (and) we need to make sure that in the process of being fair we don't ... price ourselves out of business."

Also important is that employees feel the system is being applied fairly, she said, adding that feeling will come from continuous conversations with supervisors so that employees know what's expected. These conversations, and the formal evaluations, need to be conducted with a measure of sensitivity, she said.

"People's feelings are important in this," Lacey said. "The people are the appreciating assets in the Department of Defense."