According to annual performance reviews, nearly all government employees are good at their jobs. Less than 1 percent of the federal workforce receive unsatisfactory performance reviews, according to recent analysis by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
Analysis of federal employee performance reviews revealed that 61 percent of non-executive staff were ranked in the top two categories — “outstanding” and “exceeds fully successful.” About 39 percent of employees were considered “fully successful” in annual reviews. Less than one percent received reviews “less than successful” or “unsatisfactory.”
Every federal agency is required to conduct an annual employee review, but the GAO said that performance appraisals should be “more than simply checking off boxes,” and that agencies may need to raise the standard of success for workers. “A cultural shift might be needed among agencies and employees to acknowledge that a rating of “fully successful” is already a high bar and should be valued and rewarded and that “outstanding” is a difficult level to achieve,” the GAO said.
Outside the federal workforce, satisfaction with the government’s performance is low, according to a Pew Research survey conducted last year. “At a general level, the public finds the government frustrating and badly managed. Just 20% say the federal government runs its programs well, and 59% say it is in need of “very major reform,” up 22 percentage points since 1997.”
In a statement to the Washington Post, Sen. Ron Johnson said that “if government managers simply give essentially every employee a passing grade, then at best they are encouraging mediocrity and at worst they are failing to hold accountable those who fail to serve the public well.”
The GAO admitted that measuring federal employee’s performance has been difficult. “Developing modern, credible and effective employee performance management systems has been a long-standing challenge for federal agencies,” the GAO said in the report to the House Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, which requested the study.
The GAO studied all available data from 2013 federal performance reviews. All civilian federal agencies, except legislative and judicial branch employees, intelligence agencies, and the U.S. Postal Service, were included in the study.
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