While MSPB cautions agencies to consider the effect their recruitment and assessment strategies have on competition, we recognize that competition does not always result in better selection decisions. MSPB’s study, The Federal Merit Promotion Program: Process vs. Outcome, reports that the process is resource-intensive, timeconsuming, and often adds little value to the end result.
The study found that selecting officials often feel they know who would be the
best person for an internal job promotion before they announce the vacancy. And
they select that person 80 percent of the time. This knowledge is gained from
observing and assessing their employees over a long period of time—a highly
predictive form of assessment. In addition, the study found evidence to suggest
that even when they had someone in mind for the position, supervisors still gave
fair consideration to
outside applicants and based their selections on the relative
ability of the applicants. In our view, having someone in mind for a position is not
inappropriate as long as the candidates are given fair consideration and evaluated on
their relative ability.
The cost of applying this competitive process—when selecting officials already have
a good idea of whom they will promote—was about $102 million in 2000, just in
supervisory expenditures. This does not include the costs of administrative tasks
performed by the HR staff.
88 Therefore, the overall result is that supervisors spend
unnecessary time and money promoting the person they had originally planned to
promote, and unselected applicants became frustrated at spending the time applying
for a job for which they had little chance of being selected.
Based on the findings of this study, MSPB recommended that supervisors be
permitted greater authority to promote employees without competition. This
could be done through expanding the use of accretion of duties promotions or
broadband pay systems that allow noncompetitive advancement. We posited that
expanding noncompetitive advancement meets the merit principle of fair and
open competition in the same way that competition is achieved through limiting
the area of consideration to employees within the organization. The difference
is that competition for future promotions would be ongoing. Supervisors would
continually evaluate their employees to determine if they are a good fit for
upcoming promotion opportunities.
This approach offers several advantages. First, it recognizes the need for continuous
assessment through observation of job performance—a strong assessment tool.
Second, it provides managers flexibility in tailoring selection decisions to meet mission
needs. Third, it would save resources through minimizing unnecessary competition.
Finally, it would likely add credibility to the current process by reducing “sham
competitions,” or those in which supervisors have a fairly good idea of whom they
will select based on their observance of the organization’s employees. These benefits
would be in the public’s best interest and further supervisors’ abilities to accomplish
their mission without the unnecessary wait time caused by the current process.
However, numerous concerns would need to be addressed before implementing
such a system. For instance, agencies would need to ensure that supervisors are
held accountable for making fair, objective decisions based on structured criteria
and that they have the skills necessary to carry out this type of observation-based
assessment. While this approach raises valid concerns, it is worthy of consideration
as decision-makers look at potential hiring and promotion reform.