MSPB: Room for Improvement in Rewarding Federal Employees

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By • January 8, 2013 Comments

The Merit Systems Protection Board said in a recent report that federal workers generally appear to be motivated in their work, but that there is room for improvement in terms of linking rewards to employee performance.

The MSPB notes in its report that focusing on rewards for the federal workforce is important because compared to private sector employees, federal employees tend to see weak relationships between their performance and the rewards they receive, a trend reflected in OPM’s 2010 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.

For rewards to be effective, the report says that three key things must happen:

  1. Employees must believe that their effort will make a difference
  2. Employees have to believe that high levels of performance will be rewarded
  3. Employees must value the rewards they are given

Rewards don’t always come in the form of money. The MSPB report says that a larger percentage of federal employees rated non-monetary rewards such as personal satisfaction and having interesting work as important compared with monetary awards and bonuses. The more strongly an employee valued a specific reward and the more strongly he or she believed that high-level performance would help obtain that specific reward, the greater the likelihood that the employee was in a high performance appraisal rating category.

Agencies will need to find ways to give individual employees a greater voice in rewards while ensuring fair and equitable treatment; any revised reward policies will need to treat similarly situated employees in the same manner while moving away from a one size fits all approach to giving rewards.

Agencies also need to ensure that the criteria for receiving different rewards are clearly communicated and that reward decisions are fair, transparent, and grounded in good performance management practices.

The full report (link below) offers more detail on the types of rewards analyzed as well as the MSPB’s recommendations for how agencies can implement new reward policies that treat employees fairly.

Federal Employee Engagement: The Motivating Potential of Job Characteristics and Rewards (PDF)

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About the Author (  |   )

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce. Ian also has a background in web development and does the technical work for the web site and its sibling sites.


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