DCO PACS FAQs 

(Includes all questions published in Editions 1 – 14)

 

DCO PACS FAQS provide management personnel with additional insight into PACS related topics.  Questions are forwarded to the Office of Personnel or evaluated by Operations personnel working on DCO-specific issues.  Answers are provided below (replies based on information from OPE are in bold and replies from DCO experts are in italics); in some instances, a reply is supplemented to provided additional clarification.  We have grouped Q&A’s by subject matter in these issuances.  You can click on the subject at the top of this document and it will automatically take you to that section of the document.  If you can’t find a question by subject matter, hit Ctrl + F to access the Find facility.    You can also utilize the Keyword Search for PACS FAQs application.  This document is housed on the DCO PACS website which at http://oasweb.ba.ssa.gov/opsos/ManagerLinks.asp.

 

Additional questions are encouraged.  Users should continue forwarding questions to ^PHI PACS Questions which will remain operational throughout the implementation of PACS. 

 

Please Note: This document constitutes intra-management communications concerning subjects directly related to collective bargaining.  Under terms of 5 USC 7114 (b)(4), its contents must not be disclosed to bargaining unit employees or their representatives.

 

ALIGNMENT STATEMENT

LEVEL 5

APPRAISAL 

PACS/NHT

APPRAISAL PERIOD

PACS WEB BASED APPLICATION

AWARDS

PERFORMANCE ASSISTANCE

CAREER LADDER PLAN

PERFORMANCE PLANS

CONDUCT V. PERFORMANCE

REASSIGNMENT

DETAILS

ROLES/RESPONSIBILITIES

DOCUMENTATION

SERVICE LEVEL INDICATORS

EXPECTATIONS

UNION REPRESENTATIVE

GOOD STANDING 

WIGI

INFORMATIONAL APPRAISAL 

 

                                                           

 

ALIGNMENT STATEMENT

 

1.  Alignment statements can be given out in a group for standard positions. If you have GS-13 and GS-12 employees in 105 Social Insurance Specialist positions, can they be given the alignment statement in a group setting despite the grade difference?

 

A.  Yes.

 

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APPRAISALS

 

1. To receive a Level 5 rating in an element, a “substantial number” of the standards must be met.  What’s a “substantial number?”  In the PPM, 5.12.2 and page 25 of the PACS training manual, it states, "To be rated at the Outstanding contribution (Level 5) on a performance element, employees must meet all of the successful standards appropriate to their job for that element and a substantial number of the applicable standards described as "outstanding" for that element.  What defines substantial?   How are we defining “unit” when used in the Level 5 standard?

 

A.  The appraising manager/supervisor determines “substantial number” and also determines what employee grouping constitutes “unit.”  Managers/supervisors are responsible for the accurate assessment of employee performance and must exercise a significant amount of judgment when determining whether an employee’s performance meets a standard.  Expectations should not be so rigid as to eliminate flexibility and judgment in applying them to the standards.

 

2. Both the contract and PPM state that supervisors should solicit feedback from team leaders when holding discussions and evaluating performance.  Should/Can this feedback be in writing and do employees have the right to respond to the feedback? 

 

A.  There is no requirement that feedback from a team leader be in writing; however, if it is reduced to writing, it’s considered intra-management communication – so it does not have to be shared with the employee, nor put in the employee's SF-7B File.

 

3. It is clear in the guidelines that an informational appraisal should be done when an employee changes positions due to reassignment, promotion, etc.  However, what happens when the employee does not change positions, but there is a change in supervisors during the appraisal period?  In some cases, an employee could have 2 or more supervisors during the appraisal period and the process is unclear for how each supervisor is to assess the employee's performance for the period of time they supervised that employee.  One thought is that it would be appropriate for each supervisor to complete an Informational appraisal, but we could not find guidance to that affect.

 

A.  Again there is no provision in the contract or the PPM for preparing Informational Appraisals when the supervisor leaves the unit. The incoming supervisor should conduct and document an expectation discussion with each affected employee, and the supervisor of record at the time the appraisal is due is responsible for preparing the appraisal. 

 

4. Can employees submit self-assessment and activities for the mid-year performance discussion?

 

A.  Although the contract at Article 21, Section 6.E. refers to an “end-of-cycle self-assessment,” employees have always been allowed to enter into their SF-7B file additional information or documents, within reason, that are appropriate, relevant, work related and not in violation of law or government-wide rules or regulations. 

 

5. When is the final rating level and narrative for each element entered into the web-based application-before or after the supervisor has the appraisal discussion with the employee?

 

A.  The PPM does not require a specific approach.  However, since PACS is a system based on meaningful, two-way communication, it may be reasonable not to finalize the appraisal in the web-based application until after the appraisal discussion.

 

6. At what point is the rating "finalized" and HRMIS updated?

 

A.  After the supervisor has indicated a rating level for each element and added comments in the appropriate area for each element, the system will "ask" the supervisor if the rating is "finalized." If the supervisor checks the "YES" block, the system will annotate it as such and HRMIS will be updated with the appraisal information within 2 days. If the supervisor checks the "NO" box, the performance plan will remain active until the supervisor indicates the appraisal is finalized. Regardless of the supervisor's response to the prompt (YES or NO), the supervisor will be able to print a copy of the appraisal. 

 

7.  If the web-based application is entered before discussion with the employee, is the supervisor able to change the rating after discussion with the employee?

 

A.  If the supervisor finalized the appraisal (see response above), s/he will not be able to edit the appraisal and it would have to be changed by the component's PACS coordinator.  If the supervisor left the performance plan active, s/he would be able to edit the element(s) rating(s) following the discussion with the employee.

 

8. Are written comments required for a rating of Level 3?         

 

A.  Yes, written comments, either a short narrative or bullet list, are required for each element in the “Final Rating Sections” on the Performance Plans.  

 

9. Do we have to prepare an Informational Appraisal when an employee is transferred from one office or Area to another?  Is a detail of more than 120 days considered a position change? What about long term details up to 1 year?

 

A.  No, the employee is not changing his/her position (e.g., via a reassignment, promotion, voluntary change to lower grade, temporary promotion, etc.).  However, the receiving supervisor must conduct an expectation discussion with the transferred employee.

 

Also, regardless of duration, under PACS, details are not considered a position change.

 

10. If a manager disagrees with an employee’s self-assessment statement, does s/he have to address it with the employee?

 

A.  The only obligation is to consider the self-assessment statement, i.e., think about it carefully. It may or may not affect the manager’s decision concerning the rating for a particular element.   However, the manager should be prepared to discuss the situation during the appraisal discussion because the employee will probably surface the issue. 

 

11. Where do the comments (the narrative or bullet list) in support of an Informational Appraisal go on the forms SSA-230-233? The only two possibilities are the sections labeled “Performance Discussion (Optional)” or “Final Rating: Level” but neither section really seems to fit.

 

A.  An Informational Appraisal is prepared exactly like a Final Appraisal is prepared. Written comments, either a short narrative or bullet list, are prepared for each element in the “Final Rating Sections” on the PACS Performance Plans.   

 

12. How and when will employees be notified on their right to submit a Self-Assessment?

 

A.  There is no contractual obligation to inform employees of the option to submit a self-assessment at the end of the appraisal period. However, managers should inform employees of this option when issuing the initial PACS performance plan and again at the end of the appraisal period.

 

13. If a workgroup has not completed its task at the time an appraisal is due, would the permanent supervisor ask for feedback from the workgroup supervisor prior to completing the appraisal?

 

A. Yes, the permanent supervisor would ask for feedback prior to completing the assessment of the employee's performance.

 

14. What are some examples of factors outside of an individual's control that could be considered during an appraisal?  Would these include sickness or family emergency?

 

A.  The intent of factors beyond the control of the employee is to consider changes and/or fluctuations in the work environment that are beyond the control of the employee.  For example, learning a new workload or changes to an existing workload could affect an employee's performance and the manager should consider the impact, if any.  There are other factors that could affect an employee's performance, such as sickness, family emergency, use of official time, etc.  The impact, if any, would have to be determined on a case-by-case basis based on the manager's judgment.

 

15.  If an employee prepares a rebuttal to the appraisal, what happens to the rebuttal?  Is it filed in the SF-7B File?  Is the supervisor expected to prepare a response?

 

A.  The rebuttal is placed in the employee's SF 7-B File and appended to the copy of the employee's appraisal that was recently issued to the employee.  The supervisor is not required to prepare a response.  However, as a good management practice, the manager should meet with the employee and discuss the situation.  A conversation of this sort can benefit both the employee and the manager and helps to build trust.

 

16.  Where should the employee sign for receipt of the final appraisal?  In looking through the initial performance plan and the appraisal, there are two places where the employee could sign:  a block on the original performance plan, or the block when you print the final appraisal.     Which is the correct place to sign?

 

While it is preferred that the original performance plan be used for the employee’s signature, it is acceptable for the employee to sign the performance plan that contains the final appraisal.  

 

 

17.   PPM 5.20.1 states that NHT employees serving a probationary period are not appraised during their first year.  The 5th paragraph under 5.20.1 states that the "above also applies to covered employees serving under a trial period for term appointments and to covered employees in the first year of employment under excepted service appointments that are not limited to one year or less."  This would indicate that Excepted Service appointments do not receive an appraisal during their first year.

 

When using the NHT Calculator Tool for Excepted Service appointed employees with an EOD within 120 days of 9/30/07, the Tool indicates an appraisal is due after 120 days of EOD.  This is prior to the one-year duration described in 5.20.1.  Can you please explain the (apparent) discrepancy?

 

The 5th paragraph under 5.20.1 is only referencing the paragraph which immediately precedes it:

At the completion of training, the employee is given a regular PACS performance plan. A rating of record is issued if a rating is due and the employee has been under the PACS-NHT plan for at least 120 days.

The first three paragraphs of PPM 5.20.1 are not applicable to excepted service appointments.  The Office of Personnel will revise the language in the PPM on October 1 to read:

Excepted Service employees (e.g., employees hired under the FCIP) do not serve a probationary period.  They are treated the same as current SSA employees for appraisal activities.  (See Section 5.20.2).

 

If you need an existing reference which more clearly states the policy, please see PPM Chapter 430 Exhibit 8, Block 1, Second Bullet.  The event is listed as the end of the appraisal period for a trainee who is in the first year of an excepted service appointment which is not limited to 1 year or less.  In these situations, a rating of record is prepared as long as the employee has served under the performance plan for 120 days.

 

18.  If an employee retires, should a manager take any action in the PACS Web Based Application?

 

If a retiring employee has been under a PACS performance plan for at least 120 days by the date of his/her retirement, the manager must prepare and issue an Informational Appraisal to the employee. After the manager enters the appraisal information into the PACS web-based application, the manager must change the "Plan Status" from "Current" to "Inactive". At the end of the Appraisal Cycle, 09/30, the manager will have to finalize the Informational Appraisal to ensure that the retired employee receives appropriate award consideration.

 

If a retiring employee has not been under a PACS performance plan for at least 120 days by the date of his/her retirement, he/she cannot be appraised.  However, the manager must change the "Plan Status" from "Current" to 'Inactive".

 

See instructions for Changing Plan/Appraisal Status under the HELP link in the PACS web-based application at https://ssahost.ba.ssa.gov/OPEPACS/WebHelp/OPEPACS_HELP.htm.

 

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APPRAISAL PERIOD

 

1. What happens when a supervisor is replaced in the midst of an appraisal period?  Is the appraisal delayed until the employee is under the performance plan with the new supervisor for 120 days?  Because the employee has been under a plan for more than 120 days, does the new supervisor issue a 9/30 appraisal even though they have only monitored the performance for less than 60 days?  While there is no contract provision that a supervisor prepares an informational appraisal when leaving the Agency, is the departing supervisor prohibited from preparing an information appraisal if they choose to?

 

A.  September 30th marks the end of the appraisal period and the "new" supervisor would prepare (in October) the appraisal for the employee for the period 10/01 through 09/30.  The appraisal is not delayed. The departing supervisor is prohibited from preparing an informational appraisal in this situation.  The departing supervisor could conduct additional performance discussions if he/she chooses prior to leaving but would not indicate the rating level during those discussions.  

 

2. If an employee is issued a performance plan and it is expected that a rating of record will be given at the end of 120 days (the minimum appraisal period), should a performance discussion be held at the mid-point of the period, e.g., after approximately 60 days?

 

A.  Yes.

 

3. Employees who have been under their performance plan for less than 30 days, and are then approved for an extended absence in excess of 150 days, begin a new minimum appraisal period (of 120 days) upon their return to duty.  Do you include the "less than 30 days" when counting the 120 days?

 

A.  The "less than 30 days" served under the plan prior to their extended absence would not count toward the 120 day calculation.  However, the employee's performance during that time would be considered when appraising the individual at the end of the appraisal period.

 

4. Under the above appraisal period exception, is there any limit to the number of times an employee would be eligible to start a new appraisal period?

 

A.  It’s possible that an employee who met the conditions for beginning a new minimum appraisal period could return to work and then go on another extended approved absence.  Again, upon return to duty, s/he would start a new minimum appraisal period.

 

5. Since management officials serve a period of probation on their initial appointment to a supervisory/managerial position, will their appraisal be delayed until the end of that probationary period?

 

A.  No.  Appraisals are not delayed for employees serving a probationary period as a result of initial appointment to a supervisory and/or managerial position. However, if an employee is required to concurrently serve both a probationary period for initial career or career-conditional appointment to a competitive position and initial appointment to a supervisory and/or managerial position, the employee will not be appraised until the probationary period is completed.  

 

6.  I am trying to determine if an employee is due an informational appraisal when he retires.  I know that an employee must serve a minimum of 120 days under their current performance plan before receiving an informational appraisal.  What is considered the start of the appraisal period:  October 1 or the date the manager conducts the expectation discussion?

 

A.     The employee's appraisal period begins on the date the manager issues the performance plan to the employee.

 

7.  In some situations, the employees have been or still are on extended leave and have not served under any plan for a minimum of 120 days.  I’m assuming this would be a situation where the employee would not be issued an appraisal and the appraisal for FY 07 would be delayed.  Is this correct? 

 

If a non-probationary employee on extended leave was issued a 2007 performance plan and did not serve under the plan at least 120 days by September 30, the appraisal is delayed until the employee returns to duty and completes the minimum appraisal time. The minimum appraisal time could be affected by the timing of the issuance of the performance plan in relation to the beginning and duration of the extended absence. If an employee has been under his performance plan for less than 30 days and is approved for an extended absence in excess of 150 days, the employee will begin a new minimum appraisal period upon his return to duty. Also, a subsequent expectation discussion should be conducted and documented when an employee returns to duty from an extended absence of 120 days or more.

 

The requirement that a manager must complete a form to indicate that an employee's appraisal is delayed has been eliminated with the implementation of the PACS web-based application. When an employee's appraisal is finalized in the PACS web-based application, the employee's Element Average, Summary Appraisal Level, and each Element rating will be updated to the employee's HRMIS record.

 

8.   How should a manager handle an appraisal if the employee was under a plan for at least 120 days, went on extended leave and is still on extended leave on 9/30/07?    (In this particular case, the employee also did not receive a required performance discussion.)  Should an appraisal be issued 9/30/07 or be delayed until the employee returns to duty? 

 

If a non-probationary employee on extended leave was issued a 2007 performance plan and served under the plan at least 120 days by September 30, the employee is due an appraisal for the period ending September 30 regardless of whether a mid-year performance discussion was conducted.  

 

The PACS web-based application is a tool for managers to assist them with their performance appraisal responsibilities and provides managers with flexibilities in administering PACS procedures.  While a manager has to wait until an employee on extended leave returns to duty to issue an appraisal, the application provides options for generating and finalizing the appraisal. The correct PACS web-based action to be taken must be determined on a case by case basis. For extended absence situations, the length of the absence, known date of return, absence in relation to the end of the cycle and approval of an awards budget, and other factors affect the action a manager would take in the PACS web-based application. For example, if the employee was expected to return to duty by December, the manager could leave the Plan Status as "Current" (or On-Hold if the Plan Status had been changed when the extended absence began) and issue and finalize the appraisal when the employee returns to duty. The manager could also choose to finalize the appraisal during October and place the appropriate copies in the employee's SF-7B File to be issued to the employee upon the employee's return to duty.  

Regardless of what action is taken in the PACS Web Based Application, the manager should not formally issue the rating of record until the employee returns to duty, in order to afford the employee the opportunity to exercise his or her grievance rights. 

 

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AWARDS

 

1. To be eligible for an Executive Recognition Award (ERA) or Exemplary Contribution of Service Award (ECSA), an employee must have an element average of at least 3.0.  For the coming fiscal year, employees will not yet have a numerical rating under the PACS.  Will we assume that a current "Pass" rating will be equivalent to a 3.0 element average during this transition period?

 

A.  Yes. The new Article 17 will be effective on 10/1/06.  Employees holding a Successful Level (Level 3/Pass) rating of record and who are not serving under a formal performance improvement plan (i.e. PEP or OPS) will be eligible to receive ERA and ECSA awards.  More specific information and guidance will be provided closer to the distribution of the awards budget.

 

2. We understand that when it comes to determining Recognition of Contribution (ROC) Award amounts, there are only a few considerations affecting the amount and/or grade; some of these considerations are legal/regulatory, e.g., award amounts can not exceed 10% of an employee's basic pay, and awards in excess of $10,000.00 to an individual employee require OPM review and approval, and some considerations are contractual, e.g., ROC award amounts for an employee with an Element Average (EA) of 5.0 will be greater than the amounts for employees with lower Element Averages at the same grade level in the same component. 

 

That said, is it possible for an employee with a 5.0 EA to receive a higher award amount  (than a higher graded employee in the same component with an EA less than 5.0, e.g., a GS-7 employee with an Element Average of 5 getting more money than a GS-14 with an Element Average of 4.0 ? 

 

A.  Yes, though in actual practice it may be unlikely. Article 17, Section 4.A. states, "Recognition of Contribution Award amounts for employees with an Element Average of 5.0 will be greater than the amounts for employees with lower Element Averages at the same grade level in the same component" (each Deputy Commissioner’s office will define “same component” within his/her organization).

 

Operations has defined “same component” as:

 

(Note: Since the contract requires that an employee with a 5.0 element average receive a higher award than other employees in the same component at the same grade level, the answer is “yes” because the employees are at different grades and are not compared to one another for purposes of determining award amounts)

 

3. Will the timing of awards in the future mirror that of today, i.e., ROCs are awarded in the year following the subject performance and other awards are for current year performance?

 

A.  ROCs will be awarded for prior year performance and the ECSA and ERA awards can be for prior and/or current year performance. 

 

4. If you have a team that made an overall significant contribution, but the work was done by some and not all of the team members, can only those team members whose contributions were substantial be nominated for a team award, or are individual awards the appropriate alternative?

 

A.  To be eligible for an Executive Recognition Award (ERA), each group/team member must have made a substantial contribution to the group/team's success and must have an Element Average of at least 3.0.  In the situation described, those team members that made a substantial contribution could be awarded an Exemplary Contribution of Service Award (ECSA).

 

5.  At what management level can awards be delegated?

 

A.  The implementation of Article 17 on October 1, 2006 will require changes to the Delegations of Authority for Awards because of the new award types.  It is expected that the Delegations of Authority for the Exemplary Contribution or Service Award (ECSA) will be the same as those currently in force for the Commendable Act or Service Award (CASA). New delegations will be established for the Executive Recognition Award (ERA). The current delegations for the Recognition of Contribution (ROC) award will remain the same. 

 

6. How will the award process work this first time through, i.e., recognized performance rooted in the pass/fail world of FY ’06 but award issuance/process rooted in the PACS world of FY ’07?

 

A.  Effective with the implementation of PACS, on October 1, 2006, Article 17 will also be implemented.  ROC performance awards for the period ending 9/30/06 will be awarded based on the same criteria used to award ROCs for the performance period ending 09/30/05. CASA, OTS, and TO awards, as well as the Awards Panel Process, will be eliminated effective 10/01/06 and eligible employees can receive ECSA and ERA awards.  More information on the new awards will be provided when the Awards allocations are distributed. 

 

7.   We know that 10 percent of salary is the cap for ROC awards.  Is there a minimum amount for ROC awards?

 

A.     No, there is no minimum amount for a ROC award.

 

8.      Is there any plan to prepare an IVT for employees on the new awards system as well?  Managers feel the obligation to educate their employees, but it seems that a standard introduction to the new system would do us well. 

 

A.     During the Employee Training, which was conducted in October 2006, OHR addressed the issue of awards with employees.  (See transcript of the OHR Training at http://s1fba61/opsos/OHRScript.DOC.  The Awards portion begins on p. 13 of the script.)  At this time, there are no plans to supplement awards training, in part, because what remains to be communicated involves component level decisions.  The issues to be resolved are predominantly concerns which need to be addressed by each RC/AC.  However, DCO plans to issue guidance to managers on the new awards, including talking points for discussions with employees.

 

 

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CAREER LADDER PLAN

 

1.   Should a new performance plan be issued when an employee in a career ladder position is promoted to the next grade, or is it just sufficient to hold an expectation discussion to discuss the additional expectations that are to be met at the higher grade?

                         

The promotion to the next grade within the ladder is considered a position change (characterized by a new PD#), so a new performance plan should be issued.

 

2.   I hired a GS 7 Claims Representative using FCIP provisions on July 22 and provided the employee with expectations on July 24.  Therefore, the employee will receive a delayed appraisal on November 21.  Should I wait until I give the employee the FY08 performance plan before issuing the Career Ladder Plan or should the employee receive the Career Ladder Plan at the beginning of October?

 

Since Career Ladder Plans go into effect on October 1, you should give the employee the Career Ladder Plan in October. 

 

 

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CONDUCT V. PERFORMANCE

 

1.     Even though there may have been a decrease in actions since the sanctions provisions were first implemented, we continue to take corrective action on sanction cases.  If an employee is sanctioned, should management also consider it under PACS element, “Demonstrates Job Knowledge?”  If yes, to what extent would a sanction action affect the PACS element?  If a person is sanctioned during the appraisal year, will that automatically give them a “1” rating in that particular element?  If yes, what would take place under a PA or OPS?

 

  1. Examples such as these must be considered on a case-by-case basis.  As a general rule, misconduct addresses isolated instances where the employee violated agency policy.  Performance usually addresses the employee’s ongoing inability to successfully complete job assignments.  A systems sanction violation is not cause for an automatic rating of “Not Successful” in any performance element.  When an employee engages in an act of unauthorized systems access, the manager should consult with the ER Specialist to determine if the situation is more appropriately classified as conduct, performance or both and determine the appropriate course of action.

 

2.      Managers have raised numerous questions regarding the difference between the PACS element of interpersonal skills as a performance issue versus a conduct issue.  If an employee is not treating the public and/or fellow employees with courtesy and respect, at what point is it conduct and what point does it become performance?  Management would like additional guidance and training on this issue for consistency throughout the regions.

 

A.     Instances of employees being disrespectful or discourteous to the public or coworkers should be treated on a case-by-case basis.  As a general rule, misconduct addresses isolated instances when an employee violates agency policy, and performance addresses an employee’s ongoing inability to successfully complete job assignments.  Although each case should be considered on its own merits, certain common guidelines should be used to evaluate the proper approach to dealing with the issue.  If the undesired behavior or performance problem is the result of an underlying knowledge or skills deficiency, it should be addressed through PACS.  Isolated instances that are not expected to be repeated should be addressed through discipline.  Repeated instances of inappropriate behavior or misconduct can be addressed by both discipline and performance. The manager should consult with an ER Specialist to determine if the situation is more appropriately classified as a conduct or performance issue and to determine the appropriate course of action.  

 

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DETAILS

 

1.  Because details are not position changes under PACS, the supervisor is not obligated to issue a new performance plan when the employee begins a detail.  Why would you not change the employee's performance plan?  What happens if the employee is detailed for 1 year to a function (as opposed to a position) that may not be fully covered in a PD?

 

A.  It is SSA's policy not to treat a detail as a triggering event for the issuance of a performance plan.  When the employee reports to the detail, the detail supervisor will conduct an expectation discussion with the employee.  This discussion will not be documented on the employee's performance plan.  Per the contract and the PPM, the supervisor of record is responsible for the performance appraisal plan activities; i.e., issuance of the plan, performance discussions, obtaining feedback from the detail supervisor (regardless of the length of the detail), and preparing the appraisal.  Unlike the current pass/fail program, the PD is not part of the PACS performance plan.

 

It is possible that a temporary reassignment would be more appropriate than a detail for a year or more.  Supervisors should check with their Human Resources Specialists to determine this. 

 

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DOCUMENTATION

 

1.  Would we violate the contract if we used some sort of local data source that was not specifically communicated to an employee in advance?

 

A.  Yes.

 

2.  Are there any limits on an employee submitting written documentation of their performance?

 

A.  The Optional Self-Assessment highlights the employee’s contributions and accomplishments relating to the performance plan. It must be submitted no later than 10 calendar days after the end of the appraisal period. A reasonable amount of time, as determined by the supervisor, will be provided for this activity.

 

Although the contract at Article 21, Section 6.E. refers to an “end-of-cycle self-assessment,” employees have always been allowed to enter into their SF-7B file additional information or documents, within reason, that are appropriate, relevant, work related and not in violation of law or government-wide rules or regulations. 

 

3.  Can memory joggers (informal documentation) be used in PACS? Can they be stored on the hard drive? 

 

A.  Although PACS does not preclude the use of memory joggers, such notes are for the exclusive use of the management official that prepared them and must not be shared with anyone, nor should they be used to circumvent timely disclosure to an employee, nor used to retain information that should be in the SF-7B file (the only authorized file for personnel records which may be maintained by a supervisor, other than the official personnel folder).

 

Memory joggers maintained in electronic form must be kept on a portable electronic medium which is solely under the control of the management official who created it. 

 

4.  How can managers write narratives on an SSA-230 without having some documentation, e.g., performance/case reviews?  Can such documentation go in the SF-7B File? Where is documentation housed when someone is on a PA or OPS?

 

A.  The SF-7B file is the authorized file for housing performance documentation (and a manager can consider any pertinent performance documentation that has been disclosed and provided to the employee).   However, since most employees will meet expectations, it should be unnecessary to collect extensive documentation to conclude that they have; moreover, communication, not documentation, is the cornerstone of PACS.  Of course, documentation becomes much more critical when addressing issues associated with poor performers. All documentation for a PA and/or OPS is maintained in the SF-7B File. 

 

5.  Nothing in the current online version of the PPM references the Employee Performance File (EPF) - Was the EPF obsoleted? If so, when?  If so, what happens to the official ratings of record (and supporting documentation of same) that are less than 4 years old from the purge date of the SF-7B File?

 

A.  No, the EPF was not obsoleted. Annual reminders are sent to supervisory personnel concerning the SF 7-B Employee Record Extensions Files. The following is the information provided in the reminder concerning ratings of record.

 

General Retention Instructions for Ratings of Record

 

Government-wide regulations require all Federal agencies to retain ratings of record for 4 years.  However, supervisors in SSA should normally remove ratings of record (and their corresponding performance plans) a year or more old from their Extension Files, retaining within them only those less than one year old until the next annual purge.  (See the next section for a specific exception to this rule.)

 

Disposition of the purged ratings and performance plans varies by location.  Servicing personnel offices will advise the regional and hearings offices they service as to how and where to retain purged ratings and performance plans 1 to 4 years old and when to destroy them.  Within the Baltimore/ Washington Headquarters (including the Office of Central Operations but excluding the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review), all ratings of record and performance plans removed from the Extension Files which are less than 4 years old must be collectively retained in a separate holding file in a secure location at the second supervisory level or above.  Once material retained in the holding file reaches 4 years of age, it should be removed and destroyed.

 

6.  If the expectation is that PACS will not require a lot of documentation to justify high performers, how will this avoid the historical problems with grievances and arbitrations, i.e., when we were unable to provide evidence that showed a demonstrable difference between an employee with a higher rating than a grievant, we tended to lose the case?

 

A.  Even if not a lot of documentation is required to justify high ratings, supervisors must still have some justification for rating employees at the Outstanding Contribution level, i.e., examples of how the employee’s performance met the performance standard for the Outstanding rating on a particular element.

 

PACS was designed as a 3-tier system to provide clear distinctions between the performance levels.  These distinctions were often difficult to make and defend under the 5-tier system previously used and PACS was designed to resolve this issue.  The fact that there is no level of performance between the Successful Contribution and Outstanding Contribution levels means that those two levels of performance are very different and distinctions between performance at these levels should be readily apparent.  Further, the threshold for Outstanding Contribution performance is so high that it cannot be confused with Successful Contribution performance.   This should enhance management’s ability to defend element ratings at these levels before a third party.

 

7.  Can we consider feedback (possibly written statements) from co-workers when appraising an employee?  If so, is it retained in the SF-7b? 

 

The feedback from a co-worker alone may not be used as justification for a particular rating.  A supervisor has the discretion to determine if feedback is appropriate, relevant, and work related when evaluating an employee’s performance.  If feedback meets these standards, the supervisor may consider this information, share the feedback with the employee and take any appropriate action.  If the manager determines that the information should be placed in the SF-7B file, then the employee must be provided a copy of the information.  Although feedback received may be positive as well as negative, when making determinations on what should be placed in the 7B file, please keep in mind the following provisions of the AFGE contract:

 

Article 3, Section 2.I.  “Complaints to management about an employee from members of the public or co-workers shall be brought to the attention of the employee as soon as possible.”

 

Article 3, Section 4.A.3.  “An employee has the right to be informed about records that are maintained about him or her and are filed, in a system of records that is personally identifiable, that are not legally prohibited from disclosure.  Upon request, an employee may also see such records that are not legally prohibited from disclosure and have a copy made of them.  The Employer will provide an annual notice by electronic medium to each employee regarding these rights.”

 

 

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EXPECTATIONS

 

1. Who is doing expectations for managers?  Will they have expectations for the element Interpersonal Skills?

 

A.  Several workgroups and groups within Operations components convened to develop expectations for Operations employees, including management positions. 

 

Expectations were written for all critical elements, including Interpersonal Skills.  Although expectations were developed for all Operations positions and apply to all incumbents of positions for which they were written, all Operations positions share standard language for Interpersonal Skills.  Two versions of expectations were developed for Interpersonal Skills, one tailored for management positions, one for the bargaining unit. Expectations are posted to Operations web sites centrally for standard positions and at the component level for non-standard positions.  See http://co.ba.ssa.gov/OPSOS/DCO_PDs/DCO%20PACS/ExpectationsMain.htm.

 

2.  Are expectation statements part of the official plan form? If so, where are they recorded?  If not, are they put on a separate form/paper and must they be signed by the supervisor and employee?

 

A.  Expectations are part of the performance plan and are documented in the area for "Initial Performance Plan Discussion." PACS performance plans will be recorded on a web-based application and the area/space for recording the expectations expands to accommodate the amount of information being recorded. The manager and employee will sign the form in the space for acknowledging Initial Performance Plan Discussion. 

 

3. Could you provide an example or further clarification in terms of how the grade-specific expectations should be crafted to reflect the subtle differences in job responsibilities?

 

A.  Just as each component is responsible for determining the positions to be covered by the PACS-NHT provisions and the length of the training period, each component is responsible for determining the expectations for each of the grade levels. The expectations should reflect what the employee needs to do to perform successfully at his/her current grade regardless of whether the employee is under the 2 Level PACS-NHT plan or the full 3 Level PACS plan. 

 

In DCO, expectations are being developed based upon the position.  Different expectations are not being written at each grade level within a career ladder.  Local supplementation to account for unique duties is permitted with higher level concurrence in FY 07.  The rating official should also include the following expectation in the performance plan for any employee in a career ladder positions who have not yet achieved the journey level grade: “Demonstrates acceptable progress towards full achievement of expectations commensurate with time in the position.”

 

4. Can local management supplement the expectations that will be provided with numerics?

 

A.  No, the decision was made in DCO that expectations will not be expressed numerically.

 

5. Is an expectations discussion necessary when an employee is temporarily reassigned or detailed?  If so, which supervisor conducts the discussion?  Because details are not a position change under PACS, the supervisor is not obligated to issue a new performance plan when the employee begins a detail. Why would you not change the employee's performance plan?  What happens if the employee is detailed for 1 year to a function (as opposed to a position) that may not be fully covered in the PD?

 

A.  It is SSA's policy not to treat a detail as a triggering event for the issuance of a performance plan. When the employee reports for a detail, the detail supervisor conducts an expectation discussion with the employee. This discussion will not be documented on the employee's performance plan. Per the contract and the PPM, the supervisor of record is responsible for the performance appraisal plan activities; i.e., issuance of the plan, performance discussions, obtaining feedback from the detail supervisor (regardless of the length of the detail), and preparing the appraisal. 

 

Regardless of duration, under PACS details are not considered a position change.

It is possible that a temporary reassignment would be more appropriate than a detail for a year or more.  Supervisors should check with the Human Resources Specialists to determine this. 

 

6. In previous years, employees had to sign an “Acknowledgement Statement” regarding the Sanctions for Unauthorized System Access Violations.  Is this still required?  Is it part of issuing the performance plan?  Can this be incorporated into a manager's expectation of employees?

 

A.  The implementation of PACS does not affect the policy or process of employee acknowledgement of the receipt of the Sanctions for Unauthorized System Access Violations Memo. While issuing the Sanctions Memo is not part of issuing the performance plan per se, nothing precludes a manager/supervisor from issuing the Sanctions Memo to an employee during the same meeting that the manager is issuing the performance plan – but the Sanctions Memo should not be incorporated into performance expectations for employees. 

 

7.  As we read the performance standards, we believe a person could accomplish more than one standard by doing one action on a routine basis, sort of a double counting.  Is that a correct interpretation? 

 

A.  The standards are not designed to be mutually exclusive. However, the manager’s expectations for the standards should provide a distinction for appraising performance.

 

8. Although a change in supervisor requires the new supervisor to provide his/her employees with an expectation discussion, is there a time frame for this to occur (i.e. 30 days, 60 days)?  Many times the new supervisor will require some training to be able to conduct such a discussion, which could delay this discussion.

 

A.  Since expectations help an employee understand what s/he is specifically expected to accomplish in order to be successful, this discussion should occur as soon as practicable, generally within 30 days of entering the position.  

 

9. If more than the required performance expectation discussions are conducted during the year, where will they be documented?  For example, when an employee returns to duty after an absence exceeding 120 days, a subsequent expectation discussion is required but a new performance plan is not issued. 

 

A.  Subsequent expectation discussions will be documented on the employee's current performance plan in the “Initial Performance Plan Discussion” section following the short narrative or bullet list that documented the initial expectation discussion when the performance plan was issued. The employee and the supervisor will sign the form above the signatures acknowledging the Initial Performance Plan Discussion. 

 

10. When there is a change in component goals/objectives, can this be conveyed in a group setting or must it be done individually?

 

A.  If the change in component goals/objectives changes the expectations previously conveyed to employees, the employees must be given another Expectation Discussion individually and documented on each employee’s performance plan. If the change in component goals/objectives does not change employee expectations, supervisors may meet with employees collectively to convey the changes.

 

11. Will written expectations go in the SF-7B File?

 

A.  The expectations will be recorded on the appropriate PACS Performance Plan in the “Initial Performance Plan Discussion” Section, and the performance plan will be housed in the employee’s 7B File. 

 

12. When an employee returns to duty after an absence exceeding 120 days, a subsequent Expectation Discussion is required but a new performance plan is not issued.  Is this discussion formally documented?  Is a new copy of the expectations issued and initialed by the employee and filed in the SF-7B File?

 

A.  The subsequent Expectation Discussion will be documented on the employee's current performance plan in the “Initial Performance Plan Discussion” section following the short narrative or bullet list that documented the initial expectation discussion when the performance plan was issued.  The employee and the supervisor will sign the form above the signatures acknowledging the Initial Performance Plan Discussion. 

 

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GOOD STANDING

 

1. How will the selecting official know that an employee is not in good standing?

 

A.  An employee is no longer in good standing when he/she is placed on an OPS. At that point in time, the manager must complete the HRMIS Update Form and forward it for processing.

 

The HRMIS update will alert the personnel staff processing the vacancy announcement that an affected individual is not in good standing and the application would not be submitted to the promotion committee.

 

2.  How will the new PACS appraisals, for the year ending 9/30/07, be used in determining which employees will make the BQL for competitive promotions?

 

Applicants who do not meet the good standing performance requirement will be ineligible to compete.  (PPM 335 Section 13.1.2.6) An employee is in good standing when his or her most recent performance rating is at the Successful Contribution level and he or she is not serving under an OPS plan.

 

You may wonder how the selecting official or promotion committee will know that an employee is not in good standing.  This answer was published in a PAC FAQS Edition 2 Q. 13:

 

An employee is no longer in good standing when he/she is placed on an OPS.  At that point, the manager must complete the HRMIS Update Form and forward it for processing.  The HRMIS update will alert the Staffing Specialist processing the vacancy announcement that an affected individual is not in good standing and the application would not be submitted to the promotion committee. 

 

3.  What does good standing mean?

 

A.  An employee is in good standing when his or her most recent performance rating is at the Successful Contribution level and he or she is not serving under an OPS plan.

 

4How long does OPS information remain in HRMIS?

 

A.  The employee's immediate supervisor/manager is responsible for updating HRMIS, through the submission of the HRMIS Update Form, that the employee is no longer in good standing.  When the employee returns to good standing status (receipt of a Level 3 appraisal or successful completion of the OPS), the supervisor/manager should update HRMIS to indicate that the employee is in good standing.

 

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INFORMATIONAL APPRAISAL

 

1.      A Service Representative was recently promoted to a Claims Representative in a different office.   Since the SR had 120 days under the SR performance plan, the SR’s manager provided an Informational Appraisal.  Since this employee does not have 120 days in the CR position on 9/30, the Informational Appraisal as a SR will become the rating of record.  Who finalizes the Informational Appraisal?

 

The current supervisor should finalize the appraisal.  The current supervisor may need to coordinate with the employee’s former office for access to the SR plan in the PACS Web Based Application.  Any one of the individuals listed in the four roles of the employee’s SR plan may assign the plan to the new supervisor.  One of those four individuals will need to access the employee’s performance plan in the PACS Web-Based Application--From the Main Menu, the individual will select “Edit” under “Performance Plans” and then “Edit Rating Official Role”. After the new supervisor’s name is entered into the role, the new supervisor will then be able to access the SR plan. To finalize the Informational Appraisal in the PACS Web-Based Application, the CR supervisor must change the "Plan Status" of the current performance plan by selecting "Performance Plans" and then “Edit” to change the status to either "On Hold" or "Inactive," based on the status of the informational appraisal.  If the informational appraisal’s status is “Inactive," change the current plan's status to "On Hold."  If the informational appraisal’s status is "On Hold," change the current plan's status to "Inactive." The manager will then edit the informational appraisal to change its status to “Current”. After that is done, the manager will select “Employee Appraisals” and “Finalize” the informational appraisal.

 

2.      In the situation above, if the employee grieves the final appraisal, who is the grievance official?

 

The current first line supervisor is the Step 1 official.  If possible, the Step 1 official should seek input from the former supervisor when preparing the grievance decision.

 

3.      If an employee has an Informational Appraisal, do they have to re-sign the form in the “Final Appraisal” block when the Informational Appraisal is finalized?

 

Yes. 

 

4.      An employee retired and the manager did not provide the employee with an Informational Appraisal on her last day.  Should the manager create an Informational Appraisal, finalize it and mail the final appraisal to the employee at their home?  Do we need to obtain a signature?

 

If an employee has served 120 days under a performance plan and leaves the Agency, the employee must be issued an Informational Appraisal. The Informational Appraisal will become the employee’s rating of record and will be used for appropriate award consideration.  When the Informational Appraisal is prepared, the manager should mail a copy to the employee. In this situation, it is not necessary to obtain the employee’s signature.

 

5.      If a current employee is permanently promoted into a position that requires a PACS/NHT performance plan, and has an Informational Appraisal for the prior position, does the Informational Appraisal become the rating of record on 9/30? 

 

If the employee does not serve 120 days under the new PACS-NHT performance plan by 9/30, the Informational Appraisal will become the rating of record. 

 

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LEVEL 5

 

1. Are the Level 5 standards under the “Job Knowledge” element too generic for the field office TE position?

 

A.  Standards under PACS are the same throughout the Agency for all positions.  Managers will determine how to specifically apply the Level 5 standards to any position. For example, Job Knowledge means different things when considering an SR, TE, manager or staff position. 

 

2. Since the contributions of a Level 5 CR would seem to be the norm for a TE/ASC, will different standards be written for these two job positions?

 

A.  No.  The FOUR “core” standards are the same for all positions. 

 

3. The first Level 5 standard under “Assist in managing performance” appears to be asking MSSs to be looking for new sources of numerics. Is this correct?

 

A.  MSS’s (or other Management Team Leaders) may contribute to the development of new methods or techniques to help managers better assess and improve performance. There is no intent that these must be numerics-based tools.

 

4. The DCO conference call (8/31) was outstanding and the DCO PACS Page is wonderful.  Will there be performance standards issued to describe the differences between level 3 and level 5 performance or will each manager have to develop that information for each position?  We need clear information about how to describe those differences in performance.  

 

Planning Document 3 (Performance Plan and Expectations Discussion) says we should have a copy of Level 3 and 5 standards available and be prepared to discuss questions employees have about level 3 and level 5 performance.  Where do I get copies of these performance standards?

 

A.  There are different standards for Level 3 and Level 5.  Standards for each performance plan to which Level 5 applies (employees, managers, MSS/Team Leaders) have been written to describe Level 5 performance.  These can be found in the PPM, or in a separate handout which lists all Level 3 and Level 5 standards for all elements.  Both references are available on the DCO PACS page at:

http://s1fba57/opsos/Copy%20of%20PACSMainAll.asp

 

On the DCO PACS Management Guidance Page, you will also find guidance from OLMER that addresses points management should make to employees if they raise a question about the difference between Level 3 and Level 5 standards.  This guidance is found at http://s1fba61/opsos/OLMERGuidanceAFGE.pdf.

 

5. Is there or will there be a form which lists the Level 5 standards?

 

A.  The Level 5 standards are listed in the Personnel Policy Manual (PPM) 430-1, Section 5.6.

 

A separate handout has been prepared with the Level 3 and Level 5 standards for each performance element from the PPM.  This can be found on the DCO PACS web site (listed under References) at this address:

 http://s1fba61/opsos/Copy%20of%20PACSMainAll.asp

 

6. For those we know to be “high-performing” employees, must we present the standards/expectations in terms of Level 3?  Can we discuss the Level 5 standards?  It seems that it should be tailored to the employee.

 

A.  The contractual obligation is to discuss the Level 3 performance expectations. Managers should not initiate discussions about Level 5 performance. However, if an employee initiates the discussion, the manager should be prepared to discuss the Level 5 Standards. The manager can share the Level 5 Standards from the PPM and provide examples of Level 5 performance, but the manager cannot provide Level 5 Expectations. 

 

7.  Can a supervisor provide a copy of the Level 5 Performance Standards to employees during the Expectation Discussion?

 

A.  There is nothing wrong with providing copies of Level 5 Standards to employees during the issuance and discussion of the performance plan. The manager can also discuss examples of what Level 5 performance might be, but the manager cannot provide Level 5 Expectations.  

 

A complete listing of each Element and the Level 3 and 5 Standards is available on the DCO PACS website.

 

8.  How do Level 5 Standards differ from Level 3 Standards?

 

A.   The Level 5 Standards are intended to identify and recognize those truly high performing employees who day-in and day-out provide outstanding public service even with high workloads and limited resources.  Level 5 Standards afford a means to acknowledge extraordinary performance.

 

The differences between the levels do not rely solely on faster, more, better, etc.  The Level 5 Standards introduce a new dimension for assessment of performance that is based on assuming a larger role and different responsibilities.

 

The performance standards should be the primary basis for determining an Outstanding Contribution rating for each element, and performance should be viewed holistically throughout the entire appraisal period.  Managers should use their knowledge of the job and what is expected to identify those employees who have truly made an Outstanding Contribution.  

 

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PACS-NHT

 

1. If the lowest grade in the ladder indicates the position is a trainee, should the component designate that position as a trainee position requiring the implementation of PACS-NHT for the entire time the employee is in the trainee position grade or for a component determined period of training?

 

A.  The PACS-NHT provisions are for those employees who require a lengthy period of formal classroom training, mentoring, and/or on-the-job training before they can perform the full range of their job duties. Management decides which positions will be covered by the NHT provisions. If management decides that a trainee or career ladder position is appropriate for the PACS-NHT provisions, management will determine the end of the training period.

 

2. If the lowest grade or a mid-level grade indicates the position is developmental may the component determine an adequate training period and implement PACS-NHT only for the component determined period of training?

 

A.  Yes. Management controls the PACS-NHT decisions. 

 

The definition of “trainee” is different for career ladders and PACS-NHT, and it is unlikely that many employees entering a career ladder will still be under a PACS-NHT plan when they become journeymen.  DCO has defined the major career ladder positions which will be covered by PACS-NHT and the training period associated with each one.  These include claims representative and service representative in field offices, claims authorizers, benefit authorizers, technical support technicians, technical support assistants, disability processing specialist (PSCs only), and debt specialists in the processing centers, and claims representative and teleservice representatives in the teleservice centers.   The training period for all of the listed positions was set at 6 months, except for BA and CA, which was set at 12 months.

 

3.  How will the ARC/MOS determine which positions in MOS will be covered by PACS-NHT?

 

A.  Operations will use the criteria determined by DCO (further explained in the training package) in determining whether positions listed in addition to those above should be covered by NHT provisions.  Issues which should be considered in this decision include:

 

·        Lengthy period of training, including classroom, OJT and mentoring that totals at least 6 months

·        Lengthy period of time needed for the employee to demonstrate a successful contribution to office goals and job knowledge

·        Lengthy period of time needed for managers to  fairly evaluate the employee’s contributions

 

The deciding official for NHT coverage beyond the positions listed is the Regional Commissioner or Associate Commissioner.

 

4. When a TSR is reassigned to an SR position, they attend SR training class, would they be placed under PACS-NHT at that time?

 

A.  Yes. This is a current SSA employee moving to a new position requiring a lengthy period of training, including classroom, OJT and mentoring that totals at least 6 months

 

5. At the end of the training period are a PACS-NHT appraisal and a PACS performance plan issued?

 

A.  At the end of the training period, a non-probationary employee under the PACS-NHT provisions should be issued a PACS-NHT appraisal if he/she had been under a PACS-NHT performance plan for at least 120 days. If the non-probationary employee does not have at least 120 days under a PACS-NHT performance plan, he/she should not be issued a PACS NHT appraisal.  Regardless of whether a PACS-NHT appraisal is issued, these employees will be issued the full PACS performance plan upon completion of the training period.

 

A probationary employee, whether under a full PACS plan or a PACS-NHT plan, is not appraised during his/her probationary period.  If the training period ends during the probationary period, no action is taken at that time for a probationary employee under a PACS-NHT performance plan. The employee will remain under the PACS-NHT performance plan until the probationary period is completed. At that time, the employee will receive a PACS-NHT appraisal and be issued the full PACS performance plan.

 

It is important to note that if a PACS-NHT appraisal is prepared as the result of the end of the appraisal period (i.e., 9/30), that NHT rating is the rating of record for the just concluded appraisal year.  However, if the NHT appraisal is prepared as a result of the employee completing the training period but does not coincide with the end of the appraisal period, the rating is considered the employee's current rating of record and can be used for purposes such as WIGI determinations or career ladder promotions.  The NHT rating is not considered an Informational Appraisal (Informational Appraisals are prepared only when an employee changes position).  Therefore, the employee would be rated at the end of the appraisal year based on the full PACS performance plan.  If the employee does not have a minimum of 6-months under the full PACS plan as of 9/30, the rating would be delayed until the 6-month requirement is met. 

 

6. Can a PACS-NHT employee submit a self-assessment?

 

A.  Yes, any employee can opt to submit a self-assessment.

 

7. If a new hire completes the PACS-NHT training period, moves on to PACS, and shortly thereafter is out of the office for an extended period (e.g., called up for military service for a year or more), upon return could we opt to provide another stint under PACS-NHT since they did not work long enough to absorb what they had learned initially?  Same scenario, but it’s a long term employee who needs extensive training upon return?

 

A.  Management has the authority to determine individual employee exceptions for coverage under the PACS-NHT provisions. This would be determined on a case by case basis. Most components have established policies outlining which management officials decide employee exceptions to the normal administration of the PACS-NHT provisions. Managers must obtain approval from a designated management official before allowing exceptions to the normal administration of the PACS-NHT provisions. 

 

In Operations’ components, RCs/ACs will determine inclusion of other positions under NHT coverage. 

 

Any senior executive in the region or OCO (e.g., ARCPCO, ARCMOS) can also make a judgment:

- to exempt from coverage for standard positions (e.g., when an experienced employee resigns but then returns to duty and does not require retraining) or

- to shorten the training period when certain criteria are met.  

Regions/components will communicate processes for requesting approval of exceptions to their managers.

 

8. What impact does a period of extended leave have on the PACS-NHT training period and the minimum PACS appraisal period?

 

A.  A period of extended leave could impact the PACS-NHT training period. For example, a CR trainee could complete the training class portion of his/her training period and, because of illness, be on extended leave for the next 6 months which would be the scheduled end of the training period. The appropriate management official could determine that the employee’s training period will be extended for 6 months upon the employee’s return to work.

 

Also, a period of extended leave could impact the 6 month minimum appraisal time for an employee issued a full PACS plan after the completion of the training period. Factors that could impact the minimum appraisal time are the amount of time involved in the absence and when the absence occurred during the appraisal period. Again, the appropriate management official would make the decision.   

 

9.  In some components, employees often receive a promotion and spend many months before they are actually sent to formal training.  When does the NHT training performance plan start?  When the employee receives the promotion?  Or when the employee completes the formal training?   Is the long delay before formal training begins addressed under PACS?

 

A.  An employee promoted to a new position must be issued his/her performance plan for the new position within 30 days of the promotion.  If the new position is one that has been designated as a position that will be covered by the PACS-NHT provisions, the employee should receive the PACS-NHT performance plan regardless of when the employee is scheduled to attend the training class.  Even though the PACS-NHT performance plan has only 2 elements, it should allow for expectations for the duties the employee will be performing until he/she attends the training class.  When the employee attends training class, the expectations can be changed to be more reflective of performance expected during the training.

 

Just as management determines which positions will be covered by the PACS-NHT provisions, management also determines when the formal training period ends. The end of the training period for employees attending a training class can be the actual end of the training class or the actual end of the training class plus a specified period of time appended to the end of the training class to allow for mentoring.

 

In DCO, the period of training for most positions is defined as classroom training plus an additional 6 months for mentoring and on-the-job training; for BAs and CAs the period of training is extended 12 months after completion of formal classroom training.  Senior executives may shorten the period of training under certain conditions, such as the trainee’s work is no longer under review, the trainee requires minimal assistance and the trainee is able to perform most routine actions independently.

 

10. Are temporary employees rated under PACS and should they be covered under the NHT provisions?

 

A.  Temporary employees must be serving under appointments in excess of one year to be covered by PACS.  Please see the next question regarding NHT coverage.

 

11.  What steps does management take to designate a position as PACS-NHT.  Is the PD amended or personnel notified?

 

A.   Each Deputy Commissioner level component determines the positions to be covered by the PACS-NHT provisions.  The PD is not amended or annotated and the Office of Personnel does not need to be notified.

 

DCO managers who want other positions covered under PACS/NHT should contact their local HR Director for additional guidance. 

 

12.  Can management vary the training period for the same PACS-NHT position?  For example, Employee A may need a 4-month training period but Employee B (because of prior positions or experience) may need only 2 months. 

 

A When the component determines the positions to be covered by the PACS-NHT provisions, it should also establish a uniform timeframe for the end of the training period for each of the positions covered by the PACS-NHT provisions.  It is recognized, however, that employees learn and achieve at different levels, and components should establish a process/procedure for ending the training period sooner if it is determined that an employee is ready to be placed under the full PACS performance plan.

 

DCO Managers who seek an exception to the required training period for a position should contact their local HR Director for additional guidance.

 

13. At the end of the training period, is a PACS-NHT appraisal and a PACS performance plan issued?

 

A.  At the end of the training period, a non-probationary employee under the PACS-NHT provisions should be issued a PACS-NHT appraisal if he/she had been under a PACS-NHT performance plan for at least 120 days.  If the non-probationary employee does not have at least 120 days under a PACS-NHT performance plan, he/she should not be issued a PACS-NHT appraisal.  Regardless of whether a PACS-NHT appraisal is issued, these employees will be issued the full PACS performance plan upon completion of the training period.

 

A probationary employee, whether under a full PACS plan or a PACS-NHT plan, is not appraised during his/her probationary period.  If the training period ends during the probationary period, no action is taken at that time for a probationary employee under a PACS-NHT performance plan.  The employee will remain under the PACS-NHT performance plan until the probationary period is completed.  At that time, the employee will receive a PACS-NHT appraisal and be issued the full PACS performance plan.

 

It is important to note that if a PACS-NHT appraisal is prepared as the result of the end of the appraisal period (i.e., 9/30), that NHT rating is the rating of record for the just concluded appraisal year.  However, if the NHT appraisal is prepared as a result of the employee completing the training period but does not coincide with the end of the appraisal period, the rating is considered the employee's current rating of record and can be used for purposes such as WIGI determinations or career ladder promotions.  The NHT rating is not considered an Informational Appraisal (Informational Appraisals are prepared only when an employee changes position).  Therefore, the employee would be rated at the end of the appraisal year based on the full PACS performance plan.  If the employee does not have a minimum of 6-months under the full PACS plan as of 9/30, the rating would be delayed until the 6-month requirement is met.

 

14. Can the PACS/NHT training period be extended to provide sufficient time to implement a PA for these trainees who are simply not performing at an acceptable level at the point in time that their training period ends and they are due to be converted to a full PACS plan? 

 

  1. No.  A PACS/NHT training period would only be extended if the employee was already serving an Opportunity to Succeed Plan (OPS) when the PACS/NHT training period came to an end.  For additional guidance in this area, please contact your ER/LR Specialist.  (See Article 21, Section 9.G.1 of AFGE 2005 contract and PPM Chapter 430-1 Section 5.17 and 5.24.) 

 

15. We have a situation with an employee who is a 15 year Claims Representative, fully trained in T16.  The employee is now receiving training on T2.    

 

The Q & A's on your site state that as long as an employee is trained on one title, that the employee would not be put on PACS-NHT plan, as they are already trained on the 1st title. It also states that the length of the training period had been determined for certain positions. The CR seems to fall into this category that the training period would be 6 months.

 

Therefore, would the employee be put on a regular PACS plan as they are fully trained on the first title?

 

The employee would be placed on full PACS performance plan with four elements.  The NHT provisions for CRs only apply when the employee is being trained on the first title. 

 

 

 

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PACS WEB BASED APPLICATION

 

1. Will team leaders/MSSs have access to the Web-based application?

 

A.  Team Leaders and MSSs can have access to the PACS web based application if designated by the component’s appropriate management official. The PACS web-based application allows up to four roles to be assigned to each employee plan.  The user roles are limited to the same SAC as the employee.  The roles are creator, rater, reviewer and administrator.

 

In addition to the above roles, there is a component coordinator. Each component and region has identified coordinators who will have overall access to plans in the component or region.  The coordinator function will be to view all plans and gather statistics for reports.  Bargaining unit employees cannot have access to the application.

 

2. In the new system that will be used to record performance plans, reviews and appraisals, the instructors were quite clear that employees will not have access to the system itself.  Will only the supervisor of record have access, or will other non-bargaining unit support staff be granted access too?  In other words, will I, as Executive Officer, be able to get into the system and prepare the plans for the supervisor (employee name, SSN, grade, series, position, etc.)?

 

A.  The PACS web-based application allows up to four roles to be assigned to each plan.  The user roles are limited to the same SAC as the employee.  The roles are creator, rater, reviewer and administrator.  The creator can hold up to two roles and employees will not have access to their own plan.  In the situation described below the Executive Officer will only have access to the plans he/she have been attached to, i.e. identified as either the creator, rater, reviewer or administrator.  In addition to the above roles each component and region have identified two coordinators who will have overall access to plans in the component or region.  The coordinator function will be to view all plans and gather statistics for reports. 

 

3.  I have an employee who will begin a 120 day temporary promotion in November 2006.  How do I revise the performance plan in Automated PACS?

 

A.  The following instructions can be found on the Automated PACS System at https://ssahost.ba.ssa.gov/OPEPACS/WebHelp/Changing__Plan_Appraisal_Status_.htm:

 

·         An employee can only have one current appraisal in the system at any one time.  The “Plan/Appraisal Status” needs to be updated if the employee moves to another position, goes on long-term leave-without pay, etc.

·         To change the “Plan Appraisal Status”, click on “Choose from list” under “Edit”—“Performance Plans.”  Next, click on “Edit Performance Plan” and then “Edit Basic Info”.  Scroll down to “Plan Status” and click on the drop down box.

·         You may select either “Inactive” (for employees who have moved to a new job and you do not expect them to return) or “On-Hold” (for employees on long-term leave-without pay or are serving, for example, on a temporary promotion/reassignment and you expect them to return to this position). 

 

4. In the PACS system, the PACS forms requires the entry of a reviewing official's name.  The PPM mentions that a level one rating must have a reviewing official’s concurrence.  When a level 3 or level 5 rating is given, is it possible to delete the reviewing official's name before printing the form?    Having the additional name without a signature could confuse employees. 

 

A.  A PACS appraisal printed from the PACS web-based application, regardless of the appraisal level, does not reflect the Rating Official's name or the Reviewing Official's name. The printed form contains an area identified as "Final Appraisal" for both the employee and the supervisor to sign. The form does not contain an area for signature by a higher level management official. If a Level 1 appraisal is to be issued, it must be reviewed and approved by a higher level management official. The higher level management official would sign his/her name above the supervisor's signature in the "Final Appraisal" area.

 

The PACS web-based application requirement for identifying a different Rating Official and Reviewing Official for each performance plan is not tied to the legal requirement that a Level 1 appraisal must be reviewed and approved by a higher level management official. Since only the identified Rating and Reviewing Officials can finalize an appraisal in the web-based application, identifying different individuals in those roles is a safety measure to ensure that an appraisal can be finalized when needed.

 

5. When is employee information available in the PACS system (i.e., how soon after a personnel action effective date can the performance plan be created)?

 

A.  Updates will be reflected in HRMIS the second Monday after the processing date of the action. 

 

6. Can you input a performance plan without the date the plan is actually given?  I am trying to get the plans for my office put into the system.  It will not keep my data without a date the plan was given to the employee - which hasn't happened yet.  Can I put in a date and change it later with the actual?

 

A.  A date needs to be entered to save the information, otherwise you will receive an error message.  It can be changed to reflect the actual date of the discussion so it will be correct on the copy given to the employee and filed in the SF-7B. 

 

7. Does the use of the web-based system eliminate the need to house performance documents in the SF 7B file?

 

A.  No.  The PACS web-based application will be used to record, store and print the issuance of the performance plan, performance discussions and the completion of the appraisal.  These events will be printed, appropriately signed and acknowledged by the appraising official and the employee, and housed in the SF 7B file.

 

8.  Q.  As the coordinator or rating official, how does a person change the title, grade, PD # etc., for a temporarily or permanently promoted employee?  Should the rater do a pen and ink change on the hard copy?

 

A.  A promotion, whether it is temporary, permanent, competitive, or noncompetitive, is an event that triggers the issuance of a new PACS performance plan. The PACS web-based application requires that a SF-50 be successfully processed before the new PACS plan can be created. Page 8 of the PACS Web-Based Application User's Guide contains additional information. 

 

 

9.  Q.  I was in the PACS automated system and several of my employees have incorrect Grade Levels and one employee has the incorrect last name.

 

I've prepared the FPPS actions necessary to promote the four employees to the next grade level and the name change for the employee who recently got married.

 

In the PACS instructions, it states that these corrections would take place automatically once the FPPS actions were processed.  My question to you is "Why aren't these changes being reflected in PACS?"

 

A.  The PACS application will NOT automatically change a created GS-9 plan, for example, to a GS-11 plan once an effective date of promotion occurs.

 

In the PACS instructions, it states that these corrections would take place automatically once the FPPS actions were processed.

 

This statement means that the new position number will be reflected in the PACS application when the user goes to create the new plan for the promoted employee.  We have told our coordinators that "The change will update HRMIS and the PACS application by the 2nd Monday following the effective date of the position change".

 

Once the incorrect plan is deleted, and the allotted time for the position change has passed, the creator should be able to go into the PACS application and create the correct plan for the promoted employee.  If the incorrect position is still pulling up, then the Administrator Contact for that office needs to be contacted.

 

10.  Q. We have one employee on Military LWOP. He has not been issued a performance plan, yet his name does not appear on the list of employees with no current or final plans in PACS for 2007.  Can you tell me if the system automatically deletes those employees who are on LWOP?  It would be difficult for us to track these plans (to ensure that they are issued) when the employee returns to duty.

 

A. The database that the PACS web-based application uses to extract employee basic information is a database for all current SSA employees. The database does not include those employees on long term absences and that is why your employee does not appear on your list of current employees with no 2007 plans. When the employee returns to duty, the employee's supervisor/manager must process a SF-50 returning the employee to duty. The 50 will update HRMIS and then HRMIS will update the database used by PACS to extract employee basic information. After the database is updated, a performance plan can be created for the employee.

 

11.  Are there any plans in the future for PACS signatures to be electronically captured?

 

   A.  Currently, there are no such plans.  As negotiated with the Union, the official            performance plan is the signed copy housed in the SF-7B File.  The PACS web-based application was created to facilitate the creation of the performance plan.

 

12.  How can I edit Basic Information in the PACS Web Based Application such as name changes, or organizational changes?

 

A.  The "Basic Information" portion of the performance plan does not allow edits to all fields of information.  Currently, users cannot edit the following fields: SSN; NAME; ORGANIZATION; POSITION TITLE; POSITION NUMBER; SERIES; and GRADE.  When an SF-50 is processed that changes the information in those specified fields, the current performance plan is not automatically updated with the new information.  In order for the PACS web-based application to reflect the updated information, the "Plan Status" for the current plan must be changed to "Inactive" or "On-Hold," as appropriate, and then a new plan must be created.  While the issuance of a new performance plan is correct for promotions and position reassignments, there are other administrative actions that require only a correction to the current plan but not the issuance of a new performance plan.  The following guidance is provided for those situations involving a correction only to PACS web-based performance plans.

 

NAME CHANGES

 

After an action is processed to change an employee's name, the manager/supervisor should send an email message to your local PACS Coordinator.  The local PACS coordinator will ensure that the information is provided to the OPE staff.

The message should request a name change and provide the employee's name currently reflected in the web-based application, the last 4 digits of the employee's SSN and the employee's name as it should appear.  OPE will manually update the application with the name change.  Thereafter, when the performance plan is printed, it will reflect the employee's correct name.

 

POSITION TITLE and POSITION NUMBER CHANGES

 

Position title and Position number changes which occur due to a promotion or a reassignment will require a new plan under the PACS Web Based Application.  However, in those rare situations when the Position Title or Position Number changes for reasons other than a promotion or reassignment, take the following action:

 

Changes to the Position Description title and/or number should be annotated on the performance plan in the employee's SF-7B File.  The manager/supervisor must have the employee initial and date the change on the performance plan.  The next time a performance plan is created for the employee, the "Basic Information" will reflect the changes.

 

ORGANIZATION CHANGES

 

An employee reassignment to a different organization only (not involving a position change) requires coordination to ensure that the new management team can access the employee's performance plan.  The PACS coordinators for the losing and gaining offices, as appropriate, will change the names of the Rating Official, Reviewing Official and Administrator.  Even though the "Basic Information" will contain the prior Organization, it will be transparent to the employee as that information is not reflected on the performance plan. The next time a performance plan is created for the employee, the "Basic Information" will reflect the change.

 

13.  Should a plan for Performance Assistance or an Opportunity to Perform Successfully (OPS) be documented in the PACS Web Based Application?

 

Performance Assistance (PA) and Opportunity to Perform Successfully (OPS) documentation should not be annotated on the PACS performance plan.  This type of documentation is separate and apart from the PACS performance plan.

 

The procedures for PA and OPS can be found in PPM-430-1, Sections 5.16.1 and 5.17, and in SSA/AFGE National Agreement Article 21, Section 7.  Links to the PPM and the National Agreement can be found by clicking on the "Link" icon to the left of the screen on the PACS web-based application website: https://ssahost.ba.ssa.gov/OPEPACS.

 

14.   If an employee retires, should a manager take any action in the PACS Web Based Application?

 

A. If a retiring employee has been under a PACS performance plan for at least 120 days by the date of his/her retirement, the manager must prepare and issue an Informational Appraisal to the employee. After the manager enters the appraisal information into the PACS web-based application, the manager must change the "Plan Status" from "Current" to "Inactive". At the end of the Appraisal Cycle, 09/30, the manager will have to finalize the Informational Appraisal to ensure that the retired employee receives appropriate award consideration.

 

If a retiring employee has not been under a PACS performance plan for at least 120 days by the date of his/her retirement, he/she cannot be appraised.  However, the manager must change the "Plan Status" from "Current" to 'Inactive".

 

See instructions for Changing Plan/Appraisal Status under the HELP link in the PACS web-based application at https://ssahost.ba.ssa.gov/OPEPACS/WebHelp/OPEPACS_HELP.htm.

 

15.  Can a selecting official review information in the PACS Web Based Application when trying to assess applicants for a job?

 

No.  The PACS Web-based Application is not an official system of records; therefore it should not be used to obtain performance-related information.  If selecting officials want/need recommendations or performance related information, they should contact the employee’s rating official for the information.  If the rating official refers to any performance related documentation, it must be the information housed in the SF 7-B file, as this is the official system of records.  In addition to the performance plan, required performance discussion and rating, the SF-7B file may contain other information such as letters of commendation, rebuttals from the employee of pejorative feedback, etc that represent a far more comprehensive picture of performance than the information contained in the PACS Web Based Application.

 

16.  When I create a performance plan in the PACS Web Based Application, it asks “Retrieve Standard Expectations?”  Can I click “Yes” if my employee is in a non-standard position?

 

Yes.  Clicking “yes” will allow you to retrieve expectations for either standard or non-standard positions.

 

17. Are any instructions going to be issued as to what action is to be taken on PACS plans that are currently on hold? 

 

OPE has issued guidance concerning 2007 end of year and 2008 beginning of year instruction, and  additional  guidance concerning Informational Appraisals.  Consequently,  there are no plans to issue additional instructions concerning actions to be taken for PACS performance plans that are currently "On Hold" in the application.

 

Normally, employees performance plans are placed "On Hold" because of a temporary action - promotion, reassignment, or approved extended absence. In some instances it is necessary to change the status of a plan to "On-Hold" even though it is not a temporary action because of the application's restriction that allows only one plan in "Current" status, one plan in "Inactive" status and one plan in "On-Hold" status for the current appraisal cycle. When a manager finalizes an appraisal on a performance plan for an employee with multiple plans, none of the performance plans can be changed by the manager and no additional action is necessary.  

 

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PERFORMANCE ASSISTANCE

 

1. Please explain the procedures if a manager has placed an employee on a PAP or PEP which continues into the new rating period, e.g., October 2006 or later.  Managers would like some guidance on the transition from PAP/PEP to PA/OPS.

 

A.  If performance assistance, PAP or PEP, was initiated under the conditions and provisions of the 2000 Contract, it will be brought to conclusion under the conditions and provisions of the 2000 Contract. Those employees under a PAP or PEP on 10/01 when PACS is implemented will remain under the PAP or PEP. In other words, an employee placed on a PAP on 08/01 will remain on that PAP until 11/01 (unless performance has improved and the employee is removed from the PAP). If the employee meets the conditions of the PAP, he/she is removed and no further action is necessary. If the employee does NOT meet the conditions of the PAP and formal assistance is necessary, the employee will be placed on a PEP. The PEP will remain in effect for 90 days and the employee is entitled to Union representation. 

 

2. Previously, OPE provided sample memos, plans, forms to be used in the PAP and PEP process.  Is OPE updating any of these samples/forms for management to use or can we use what's currently available with modification?

 

A.  Forms and samples currently on the OPE website that support EPAP (PASS/FAIL) will be updated to support PACS.  Until that is completed, the information in PPM 430-1 (PACS) can be used to modify the existing forms/samples if necessary.

 

Within Operations, managers are encouraged to contact your Employee Relations Staff for assistance in developing a plan of action to address a performance problem.

 

3. How many times can an employee be on a PA before you put them on an OPS? Many employees will improve and then backslide on the same element.

 

A.  Contractually, there is no limit on the number of times an employee can be placed on a PA.

 

4. If an employee is "not successful" after completing an OPS plan, is a level 1 rating prepared immediately after completion of the OPS or after 9/30?

 

A.  If an employee does not successfully complete an OPS, a Level 1 appraisal is issued at the end of the OPS period and a performance-based action must be taken.

 

5. Can an OPS be terminated in less than 120 days for failing to show progress prior to 120 days?  For example, if after 30 days the employee fails to live up to the expectations outlined in a OPS and it is clear that it is impossible for them to do so, can the OPS be terminated at that point and the supervisor proceed to taking some type of performance based action?

 

A. No. The law requires an Agency to assist employees in improving unacceptable performance and provide an opportunity period to demonstrate acceptable performance; contractually, this period is 120 calendar days. 

 

6.  Article 21, Section 8, E reads: Managers have the option of taking a performance-based action without instituting a new OPS Plan if: (1) the employee has successfully completed an OPS Plan by demonstrating improved performance, and (2) within a one-year period following the beginning of that OPS Plan, the employee’s performance again falls below the Successful Contribution level in the same element, and (3) there is sufficient documentation to support a performance-based action.  Section 8, F reads: If these three conditions are not met, the manager will initiate a new OPS Plan.

 

Does F above mean that a PA is not required, just an OPS?

 

A.  No, it does not. The above language reflects OPM’s requirements for taking a performance based action without instituting a new formal period to improve performance. Contractually, we have the obligation to provide an informal period of assistance, Performance Assistance, before the formal assistance period, Opportunity to Perform Successfully. 

 

7. Since there is no union representation during a PA/OPS, can the employee grieve a PA/OPS?

 

A.  Since the filing of such a grievance for being subject to a PA or OPS is not precluded under article 21 of the SSA/AFGE National Agreement, nor is it excluded under the negotiated grievance procedure, employees can grieve such an action.  

 

8.  Do we have to allow 120 days under a PACS plan before instituting a period of Performance Assistance?

 

A.  Management does not have to allow 120 days under a PACS performance plan before initiating a period of Performance Assistance.  It is management's right and responsibility to address and attempt to resolve performance issues as soon as possible.  The manager should attempt other corrective measures (informing the employee of the performance issues, providing goals and feedback, etc.) before initiating Performance Assistance even though it is not a contractual requirement. 

 

9.  How much notice is given to an employee before putting the employee on an OPS?

 

A.  An employee must be given a period of Performance Assistance, normally 30 days duration, before he/she can be placed on an OPS.  At the completion of the Performance Assistance, the manager will inform the employee whether performance has improved to the Successful Contribution Level.  If the employee did improve to the Successful Contribution Level, the manager will prepare a brief note for the employee reflecting the improvement and ending the period of Performance Assistance and a copy will be placed in the SF 7-B File.  If the employee did not improve his/her performance to the Successful Level, the manager will inform the employee and schedule a meeting to issue an OPS plan. 

 

10. With respect to OPS plans and the fact that the employee is not entitled to representation during the meeting regarding the OPS plan, how does that fit with Weingarten rights, since this could be considered a meeting that could lead to a performance-based action?

 

A.  The Weingarten Right (5 USC 7114(a) (2) (B)) does not apply to discussions concerning performance.  Weingarten Right is applicable when management is questioning an employee about possible misconduct and there is a reasonable belief that management may use the results of the examination in a disciplinary or adverse action.

 

11.  How long should documents relating to Performance Assistance or an OPS be kept in the SF 7-B File?

 

A.  Documents pertaining to Performance Assistance and OPS should remain in the SF 7-B File for one year from the date of completion.   After the one year, if no administrative need exists, the material should be purged during the annual purge each February.

 

12. If an employee is placed on an OPS, and at the end of 120 days some improvement is noted but not sustained improvement to a successful level, may the supervisor extend the OPS?

 

A.  Yes, the OPS may be extended.

 

The requirement of the OPS is that the employee's performance improves to and is sustained at an acceptable level (at least Level 3) during the 120 day period.  However, the manager must exercise his/her judgment in determining whether significant progress is being made toward Level 3 performance and whether or not the 120 day period should be extended.  There are many factors that could affect his/her decision; e.g., number of elements with deficient performance, availability of work and/or assistance, factors beyond employee's control, family emergency, etc.

 

13. Must an extension of an OPS be for 120 days or can it be for a shorter period?

 

A.  If the manager decides to extend the period, it does not have to be for another 120 days.  In fact, it should not be for another 120 days unless there are unusual extenuating circumstances, such as the employee being on extended approved leave for the majority of the OPS period.  Again, the manager must exercise his/her judgment in determining the amount of time to extend the period.  The purpose of an extension is to satisfy the manager’s concern that the employee can sustain Level 3 performance.

 

14.  We will shortly be initiating a PA for an employee.  Since it is close to the time for the required mid-year performance discussion, can the PA discussion suffice or should separate interviews be held?

 

A.  Meeting with an employee to discuss a performance issue and the initiation of Performance Assistance (PA) does not satisfy the requirement of conducting at least one formal performance discussion during the appraisal period with the employee.

 

The purpose of PA is to help the employee return to a successful level of performance. PA consists of a written document that specifies the deficient performance, the expectations that must be attained for successful performance, and assistance that will be provided to attain a successful level of performance. This written document is housed in the employee's SF-7B file but is not part of the employee's performance plan.

 

The purpose of the formal performance discussion is to provide a summary of the employee's performance for each element in the employee's performance plan. The performance discussion also provides the opportunity to reinforce expectations; recognize employee contributions; identify employee strengths, areas needing improvement and employee development; and to encourage an ongoing dialogue between the manager and employee. The performance discussion is documented in the PACS web-based application.

 

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PERFORMANCE PLANS

 

1. Should a new performance plan be issued when an employee in a career ladder position is promoted to the next grade, or is it just sufficient to hold an expectation discussion to discuss the additional expectations that are to be met at the higher grade?

 

A.  The promotion to the next grade within the ladder is considered a position change (characterized by a new PD#), so a new performance plan should be issued.

 

2. It’s noted that the forms SSA- 230, 231, etc. have parenthetical instructions to include Job Element performance discussion narratives or bullets that highlight employee accomplishments/contributions.  Is the omission of any documentation of discussions about employee deficiencies or areas needing improvement intentional or is it a misprint?

 

A.  The parenthetical instructions on the PACS Forms SSA-230/231/232/233 were for training purposes only. Those instructions do not appear on the PACS web-based application.  It is appropriate to document employee deficiencies or areas needing improvement discussed during the performance discussion.

 

3. In going through the materials, we noted that, generally, the original plan is kept in the SF-7B file and the employee is given a copy.  (See slide #30 in the instructor material.)  However, slide 44, Documenting Performance Appraisal, indicates that the employee gets the original and a copy goes in the 7B.  Is that correct? 

 

A.  The performance plan with original signatures is maintained in the SF-7B file. When the final appraisal is issued, the employee receives the original and a copy is placed in the SF-7B file.

 

4. We have a number of positions that are quasi-management, i.e., Area Administrative Assistant, Area Systems Coordinator, Area Work Incentive Coordinator, Staff Assistant, Area Operations Analyst, which performance plan do they receive?

 

A.  The AAA is a “management team leader” position and will receive the performance plan for management team leaders (SSA-231).  The ASC, AWIC, SA and AOA are “non-management/team leader positions,” and they will receive the SSA-230 performance plan.

 

5. What performance plan does a Project Manager in the RO receive?

 

A.  Each regional office will make this determination for incumbents.  If the employee is performing as a management team leader, it will be the SSA-231, for those not serving in that capacity, it will be the SSA-230.

 

6. Does a switch from a BU position to a NBU position have any special implications for PACS/PACS mechanics?

 

A.  No.

 

7. For the initial performance plan discussion what exactly is to be documented on the SSA-230/231/232/233?

 

A.  The issuance of a performance plan will involve a detailed discussion with the employee.  However, the documentation of the discussion does not have to be as detailed as the actual discussion.  For example, the discussion concerning the Alignment Statement, performance plan terminology and methods for determining levels of performance will require some time with the employee; however, the documentation would be a brief statement that the discussion occurred but not an account of what was discussed.  The expectations for Successful Contribution Level performance will require the most documentation and the documentation may be a short statement or bullet list of the expectations conveyed to the employee.  In addition to the required documentation, a manager can document other discussion items that he/she thinks are pertinent.  The area for documenting the issuance of the performance plan on the PACS web-based application expands as text is entered, so space for documenting should not be an issue.

 

8. If a temporary promotion is for less than 120 days, do we provide these employees a new performance plan?

 

A.  A performance plan is issued at the beginning of a temporary promotion (regardless of the expected duration); however, an informational appraisal would not be prepared when the temporary promotion ends because the employee has not served under the plan for a minimum of 120 days. 

 

9. Can the SSA-230s be given out in a group meeting but not discussed until the individual sessions? 

 

A.  No. The issuance of a PACS performance plan involves sequential steps. The first step is the Alignment Statement discussion which provides the line of sight from the employee's contributions to the achievement of Agency goals and objectives. The next step is discussing the performance plan terminology to ensure that the employee understands the terms and process. The final step is the discussion concerning what the employee is expected to do to successfully perform in his/her position.

 

10. The Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) requires that SSA certify that the security awareness reminders and the sanctions statements have been discussed and signed by employees.  At this time, there is no way to certify this but we assume that managers do it and place the appropriate document in the SF-7B files.  Because we suggest that managers handle the sanctions statement at the same time they issue the performance plans in October, is it possible to have a "FISMA  YES___  NO____" block added to the SSA-230, 231, 232, 233 so managers could just check yes or no? 

 

A.  The PACS performance plan is the vehicle used for capturing the performance related activities for the appraisal period and the final appraisal. We do not believe it is appropriate to use it for certification that the sanctions statement was issued.

 

11.  We are hiring a reemployed annuitant for 6 months as of 9/06. Do they get a PACS plan as of 10/06?  Do they get a PACS plan at all?

 

A.  No, a reemployed annuitant is not covered by PACS.  ----> This question was answered based on the incorrect belief that a reemployed annuitant's appointment could not exceed one year. However, it is possible that a reemployed annuitant's appointment could be in excess of one year and would not be excluded from PACS coverage. Therefore the answer should have been the following;

 

Employees serving under temporary appointments limited to one year or less are not covered by the PACS procedures. Since the appointment is for less than a year, the reemployed annuitant would not be issued a PACS performance plan.

 

12. What type of plan will a PMF employee receive?

              

A.  Participants in SSA’s national leadership development programs will be evaluated under this new appraisal system under the provision of PACS-NHT. The Office of Training (OT) has determined that the PACS-NHT provisions will cover employees in the national developmental programs (LDP, ALP and PMF).

 

13.  Do Stay-in-School Students get a PACS/NHT Performance Plan?

 

A.  Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP) participants are not covered under PACS and should not be issued a performance plan using the PACS web-based application.   The PPM S308-9 covering STEPs has been rewritten and will be updated on the Digital Library as the process for issuing performance plans and the subsequent assessment of STEPs has been changed.  STEPs will no longer receive a performance plan and will no longer be assessed under the Employee Performance Assessment Program (EPAP).  Even though they will not be issued a performance plan managers must continue to explain the expected level of performance and that will be captured on an Evaluation Form that will be appended to the revised PPM.

 

Students/Summer aides who are in STEP positions are not covered by PACS since their appointment is, by definition, limited to one year.  Students in SCEP positions would be covered by PACS but again the decision on coverage by NHT provisions would be a component decision. 

 

14.  Do LDP and ALP program participants receive PACS-NHT performance plans or normal four/six element performance plans? What about new managers?

 

A.  The decision on which positions are covered by the PACS-NHT provisions is made by each component.  The Office of Training (OT) has determined that the PACS-NHT provisions will cover employees in the national developmental programs (LDP and ALP) who are below the GS-15 level.  OT is currently modifying the written guidance that is provided to managers of program participants.  The decision on coverage of NHT provisions for new managers would also be made at the component level. 

 

Participants in DCO development programs in headquarters and the regions/OCO will be given full performance plans, rather than PACS NHT plans.

 

15.     An employee has been on maternity leave since July 2006.  Should she be contacted at home to have the initial performance discussion?  Or should the manager wait for the employee to return to work to issue the performance plan and have the expectations discussion?

 

A.     In the above situation, it would be inappropriate to contact the employee at home to issue the performance plan.  The manager must wait for the employee to return to duty before issuing the performance plan.  An employee’s performance period begins when he/she acknowledges receipt of the performance plan.  When an employee is issued his/her plan, the expectation is that the employee will perform, and be held accountable for, the Elements and Standards of his/her position. Also, in this situation, this is the employee’s first PACS performance plan and the employee must view the PACS Overview prior to receiving his/her performance plan.

 

16. The Operations Specific PACS Decisions recently changed to show that employees selected for formal Operations development programs should be placed in a PACS/NHT performance plan.   I have an employee who was selected for a formal developmental opportunity that will last less than 120 days on October 14.  Am I correct that this employee should be placed in a PACS/NHT plan? 

 

This revision only applies to competitive selections to formal development programs that will last 120 days or more.  If an employee is non-competitively promoted or reassigned into a developmental opportunity of less than 120 days, this decision does not apply and the employee should be placed in a full PACS plan.  We have revised the wording in the Operations Specific PACS Decisions document to reflect that clarification.

 

 

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REASSIGNMENT

 

1.      An employee recently accepted a reassignment to the same position in a different region.  What actions are necessary under PACS and in the PACS Web Based Application?    Also, how long must I wait before I can update the Organization Code for the employee in the PACS Web Based Application?

 

Based on PACS procedures, the change in location is not an event that triggers the issuance of a new performance plan. The gaining supervisor will need to coordinate with the employee’s former office for access to the reassigned employee’s performance plan in the PACS web-based application.  Any one of the individuals listed in the four roles of the employee’s plan may assign the plan to the gaining supervisor. One of those four individuals will need to access the employee’s performance plan in the PACS Web-Based Application. From the Main Menu, the individual will select “Edit” under “Performance Plans” and then “Edit Rating Official Role”. After the gaining supervisor’s name is entered into the role, the gaining supervisor will then be able to access the plan.

 

The ability to update the PACS performance plan will be available the second Monday after the FPPS reassignment action is approved. To effectuate the update, the gaining supervisor must edit the affected employee's performance plan (Select "Edit" from the "Performance Plans" section of the Main Menu, and then select the box "Edit Performance Plan").  The gaining supervisor must select the "Update Basic Information" option from the menu.  At that point, the gaining supervisor will be presented with a box divided in the middle labeled "Basic Information".  The left hand side of the box reflects the "Basic Information" currently in the PACS application; the right hand side of the box reflects the "Basic Information" that can be changed as the result of the processed SF-50.  The gaining supervisor will verify that the information to be updated is correct and then click on "Update Employee Information".  Thereafter, whenever the performance plan is printed, it will reflect the updated employee information.

 

Even though the change in location is not an event that triggers the issuance of a new performance plan, a subsequent expectation discussion must be conducted when there is a change in the employee’s supervisor of record. This discussion should be conducted within 30 days of the employee reporting to the new office. The subsequent Expectation Discussion will be documented on the employee's current PACS web-based performance plan in the “Initial Performance Plan Discussion” section following the short narrative or bullet list that documented the initial expectation discussion when the performance plan was issued. The employee and the supervisor will sign the form above the signatures acknowledging the Initial Performance Plan Discussion.

 

ROLES/RESPONSIBILITIES

 

1. Currently, the MSS is deemed “the supervisor” for all practical purposes.  What’s the plan under PACS to deal with this (very real) logistical problem (i.e., under the 'real life' makeup of FOs today, how can a limited number of supervisory personnel be expected to conduct 'ongoing, meaningful discussions' with employees, when the reality is that non-supervisory personnel are currently doing the lion's share of communicating with these employees)?

 

A.  PACS is not intended to interfere with meaningful work discussions MSS’s (or management team leader positions, in general) have with employees.  The only restriction is that an MSS cannot conduct formal PACS discussions, such as issuing performance plans, conducting progress reviews, or providing end of year ratings.

 

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SERVICE LEVEL INDICATORS (SLIs)

 

1.  After FY ’07, will SLI’s be subject to local modification?

 

A.  We will assess our experience with SLIs in FY07 before deciding at what level they will be developed in FY08.

 

2.  We understand the SLI's are still under development - will they be linked to the critical elements and will there be SLIs for each element? 

 

A.  As of this date, and as described on the 8/31/06 DCO All-Managers’ Conference Call, SLIs have been developed at the component (FO, PSC, TSC and staff) levels.  SLIs are not a part of the performance plan, or the critical elements, and they are not intended for use as a reference point for appraising performance.  Rather, SLIs help define the role employees play in our organizational success by connecting important indicators of good service to other, higher level objectives like the DCO Alignment Statement and workplans.

 

3.  Why aren't the alignment statement and SLI's covered in the IVT since these are national guidelines?

 

A.  Both topics will be covered in the broadcasts.  SLIs are national, but Operations only, supplements to the Alignment Statement and will be referenced only in the Operations

portion of the training.

 

4.  Do you envision the SLI group discussion to be held by the manager of an office or by the individual unit supervisors in unit meetings?

 

As a manager, am I expected to cover the alignment statement and SLI's in depth with all the employees?  I already covered the DCO plan in a meeting with the staff when it was released last month.  Do I need to go over this material again?

 

A.  The manager can determine whether these group meetings will involve meeting with all employees in an office or if the supervisor should have unit meetings.  Even if a manager recently reviewed the DCO Operating Plan with staff, it is contractually required that managers conduct the Alignment Statement discussion at the outset of the performance period in October when PACS is implemented, so that employees get a clear picture of how their contributions help attain the goals in the plan.  Each manager can tailor the points of emphasis covered to their particular staff and environment.  The important outcome is a clear understanding of how employees connect to larger Agency goals and objectives.

 

5. Are we considering the group meetings where SLIs will be discussed with employees as "formal" discussions that require notice to the Union?  My understanding is that this issue was raised during a Train the Trainer session but was not resolved.

 

A.  The union should be provided with the opportunity to attend as if these meetings were formal discussions.  Guidance on this was recently released by OLMER and distributed to all managers (and can be found on the DCO PACS site).  This topic was also discussed during the 8/31/06 DCO All-Managers’ conference call.

 

6.  Must the Alignment Statement be read word for word? Is there any union participation during the group meeting of the Alignment Statement?

 

A.  The Alignment Statement is meant as a tool for discussing the Agency mission, values, goals and objectives with employees.  It serves as the framework for having the employee understand the importance of his/her contribution to the success of the Agency. The intent was not to read it “word for word”, but to review its contents and highlight important information from it.  In “Planning Document 2: DCO Alignment Statement and Service Level Indicators Discussion Guide” which was reviewed on the 8/31/06 DCO All Managers’ Conference Call, there is a list of “Suggested points of emphasis” which provides some guidance on critical points to be covered (this document is linked to the DCO PACS site).  Also, as mentioned above, the union will have the opportunity to attend and participate in these meetings.

 

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UNION REPRESENTATIVE

 

1. How will union representatives who spend 100% of their time on representational duties be appraised?

 

A.  Based on regulations, an employee serving as the representative of a labor organization is performing duties for that labor organization.  To associate performance of the representational duties into the appraisal program would be inappropriate because appraisal of the employee’s performance must be based solely on the employee’s performance of agency duties. Therefore, employees who spend 100% of their time as labor representatives cannot be appraised.

 

The union representatives authorized to use 100% of their time as union representatives should not be issued performance plans.  Since they will not have a rating of record, these individuals will not be eligible for promotions or awards.  However, they are entitled to WIGIs.

 

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WIGI

 

1. If an employee successfully completes an OPS, can they be granted a previously denied WIGI?

 

A.  Yes.  The employee would need to be issued an appraisal at the Successful Contribution Level to support the WIGI approval; also, the WIGI would not be retroactive; rather, it would be effective the first day of the first pay period after the acceptable determination is made (Article 22).

 

2. How is a WIGI calculated if an employee is demoted?  For example, an employee is demoted from a GS-12 to a GS-11, however, he would have been eligible for a WIGI at the GS-12 but he was demoted two months before his eligibility.  Does the period start all over again when he is demoted to a GS-11 or does the time at a GS-12 count at the GS-11? 

 

A.  Since this question is not PACS dependent, please follow existing guidance and procedure for WIGI calculations. 

 

3. If a performance-based action is being taken in August; e.g., demotion, and no WIGI is due, when will the rating and/or new plan be issued? When would the employee be considered in "good standing"?

 

A.  An employee demoted for cause will have a Level 1 rating of record in effect until s/he receives a rating of record in the new position.  At that point, and assuming performance is Successful in the new position, s/he would return to good standing.

 

In the example provided, the employee would be given a performance plan for the new position when demoted (in August).  Since s/he would not have 120 days coverage under the new plan on September 30th (the close of the performance cycle), a delayed appraisal would be issued after completing 120 days under the plan.

 

4. If an employee has been demoted from a GS-12/10 to a GS-11 what step would they be and are they eligible for salary retention?

 

A.  Since this question is not PACS dependent, please follow existing procedure and guidance on Salary Setting.

 

5. If a WIGI comes due for an employee who is successful at the current grade within a career ladder position, but has not demonstrated the potential to handle the next grade level, is the WIGI granted, denied, or delayed?

 

A.  When an employee has a rating of record of at least Successful, and current performance is at least Successful (i.e., not on an OPS and still in good standing), the employee is performing at an “acceptable level of competence” and the WIGI should be granted.

 

6. How is a WIGI calculated if an employee is demoted?  For example, an employee is demoted from a GS-12 to a GS-11, however, he would have been eligible for a WIGI at the GS-12 but he was demoted two months before his eligibility.  Does the period start all over again when he is demoted to a GS-11 or does the time at a GS-12 count at the GS-11? 

 

A.  An employee reduced in grade because of unacceptable performance can receive the WIGI if he/she has demonstrated successful performance in the new position for the minimum period of time for the appraisal program.  In the situation you cite, the employee would have to demonstrate successful performance an additional 30 days beyond his/her eligibility under PASS/FAIL and an additional 60 days under PACS. 

 

7.  If an employee has been demoted from a GS-12/10 to a GS-11 what step would they be and are they eligible for salary retention? 

 

A.  PACS does not change the policy for salary setting and retained pay for employees who are changed to lower grades for personal cause.  A demoted employee’s pay will be set in the lower grade so that there is a reduction in pay equivalent to at least two within-grade increases in the higher grade from which being reduced.  Employees downgraded for cause are not eligible for retained pay.

 

8. In the situation where a WIGI is due and the employee is serving under an OPS, procedures require preparation of an unsuccessful rating of record and denial of the WIGI.  Why issue a rating of record if the OPS period to improve is not complete?  Does the OPS period, including a possible extension of the OPS, continue even though the rating of record was issued?  Because an unsuccessful rating has been issued, is there an obligation to take action to terminate, return to a lower grade, etc?

 

A.  OPM regulations do not permit the delay of a WIGI determination because the employee is on an OPS.  The regulations mandate that when current performance is not accurately reflected by the rating of record prepared at the end of the most recently completed appraisal period, a more current rating of record must be prepared and issued to the employee before the WIGI can be denied.  In this situation, the OPS will continue.  If the level of performance is not successful at the conclusion of the OPS period, a performance-based action would be initiated.

 

9. What happens to an employee who has been reassigned or demoted due to a performance-based action, a new PACS was issued and 120 days has elapsed in the new job, a WIGI is due and the employee is still at the Not Successful performance level?  Do you have to complete a new appraisal before denying the WIGI or do you have to go through the Performance Assistance and OPS steps again before completing the new Not Successful appraisal?

 

A.  In the situation described, while probably rare, it would not be necessary to issue another appraisal reflecting Not Successful performance since the affected employee already has a Level 1 rating of record.  It would be necessary to timely implement Performance Assistance and an OPS so that the employee is on the OPS when the WIGI becomes due.  At that point, the WIGI would be denied and the employee would be informed of his/her reconsideration rights. This is in line with Article 22 and management's commitment to identify performance issues as early as possible and to assist the employee in returning to a Successful Contribution Level of performance.

 

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