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Army civilian panels – Professional development, communications

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Expect to talk a lot more with your supervisor or, if you are a supervisor, with your employees, as communication is key and evaluations will happen more often during the myriad personnel changes coming to Army civilians.

Two panels at the Army’s Civilian Professional Development Seminar emphasized the new focus on professional development, particularly for higher GS-level employees to advance; and the Defense Performance Management and Appraisal Program (DPMAP) which has, among other features, new ratings and performance evaluation metrics.

The seminar was convened during the 2016 Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington.

Nearly all of the 10 panelists – personnel specialists and civilians who have gone through programs themselves – spoke of the need to communicate with supervisors and mentors as well as a time investment to keep a career on track and even expand.

There are things the Army can do to empower and support its employees, said Gwendolyn DeFilippi, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for civilian personnel. The DPMAP system is one of those tools.

More than 13,000 Defense Department employees transitioned to the new personnel system in April, which will continue to full implementation of all 200,000 employees by 2018. DPMAP’s focus is on improving overall performance and fomenting continuous supervisor and employee discussions.

That includes a change in the ratings scale from five levels to three, a move that has many employees nervous, said Peter Hosutt, part of HR training management under the Civilian Human Resources Agency.

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Peter Hosutt, with the Civilian Human Resources Agency, describes changes in the ratings scale for civilian employees during the AUSA Annual Meeting’s Army Civilian Professional Development Seminar. (AUSA News photo)

The new rating scale, the system as a whole really, is a big culture change, he said, but the new Level 3 of performance isn’t like the present Level 3, which some people interpret as a warning.

Supervisors “need to reinforce that Level 3 is a good rating,” Hosutt said. Under DPMAP, Level 3 is “a solid, positive rating. We need to start, as a community, to talk about Level 3 as a positive thing.”

Changes also include a rating cycle from April 1 through March 31; a 90-day minimum to be eligible for a rating; and at least three performance review discussions between supervisor and employee.

DPMAP is a result of the “New Beginnings” effort to improve Defense Department’s human resource practices and policies.

The focus on communication puts an onus on supervisors to make employees feel comfortable to come and talk to them, said Teresa Briley of the labor and employee relations division of the Defense Department.

About half of supervisors’ performance ratings will be based on their interactions with staff.

“Before, there was less opportunity for supervisors and employees to talk about performance,” Briley said. Once-a-year discussions “didn’t seem sufficient.”

With three employee reviews a year now, there is more time to plan and talk.

The panelists who discussed Executive Leadership Development Programs spoke from their own experiences in the systems and were enthusiastic in how the schooling prepared them to take their careers to next levels.

Terrance Battle, who is part of Army G-4, for instance, talked of his time as one of 29 civilians among nearly 400 students in an Army War College program. The schooling broadened his experience as well as his mind for the possibilities available to him, he said.

Christopher Collins, in defense compliance and control, was among those chosen for Defense Senior Leader Development Program Cohort 2016. For six months, Collins learned through the State Department how that agency uses both the Army and Defense Department.

It wasn’t just the experience, Collins said, “but also what we gave back to the classes. It tees up more robust opportunities that can add to a career and resume.” It also contributed to more deep and critical thinking, he said.

Michael Mahoney, a retired Army colonel and current GS-15, spoke effusively about the Executive Potential Program, geared to develop GS-13 and higher level employees make it into the Senior Executive Service.

The program, specific the Senior Enterprise Talent Management program, put Mahoney into situations that required more communications and face-to-face meetings, something that he said taught him more about management and delegation.