NSPS offers change for the better

  • Published
  • By Michael Briggs
  • 12th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
Change is not often welcome in large organizations where people are comfortable with predictable work patterns and compensation.

It was natural, therefore, that the introduction of the most comprehensive change ever in the Department of Defense human resource management system was not received with standing applause by all of the 700,000 DoD employees affected.

The National Security Personnel System that now looms large on the horizon for many units transitioning to the new system in the near future is making many people anxious about what lies ahead.

Fear not. According to the people who are working hard to provide a smooth transition to the new system, NSPS will deliver a flexible civilian human resource system that will allow DoD to take better care of its employees while strengthening the department's ability to accomplish its mission.

"NSPS replaces our outdated human resource system with a modern way of attracting, retaining and rewarding DoD's best work force ever," said Barbara Bragg, chief of the NSPS Program Office at Randolph. "Knowledge of the system is essential as we move closer to implementation."

The first bit of NSPS knowledge people should learn is the new system replaces the current system that no longer meets the needs of the civilian work force of the 21st century. Whether those comfortable in the old system want to admit it or not, it doesn't allow for the efficient and effective employee management.

"Nearly 700,000 civilian Defense workers have been laboring under a cumbersome, inefficient system designed for another century," said President George W. Bush when he signed the fiscal year 2004 Defense Authorization Act into law Nov. 24, 2003. "The bill I sign today reforms this system. It gives DoD managers the flexibility to place civilian workers where they are most needed, without needless delay. It speeds up the hiring process, so that new employees will not have to face a wait of many months before beginning their service to our country. It introduces pay-for-performance bonuses and streamlines the promotion process, making a career at the Defense Department more attractive to talented workers."

NSPS changes a decades-old General Schedule system and impacts the one thing the workforce is most passionate about: pay, Ms. Bragg said.

In the 2002 Federal Human Capital Survey of more than 100,000 federal employees from 24 government agencies, including DoD, more than 85 percent of respondents ranked pay as their No. 1 compensation and benefit.

To make pay more meaningful, NSPS will reward performance rather than longevity, which is basically the system under which employees now receive pay raises. This will not only retain high-performing employees, but it will allow DoD to attract desired employees.

In contrast with today's system, top-rated employees will also be able to receive larger pay raises.

Employees will not lose pay upon conversion to the new system. They will be converted into NSPS at their current salary. In many cases, people will receive a salary increase equal to the amount they have earned toward their next within-grade increase.

The new system also gives supervisors more responsibility in determining employees' pay raises and promotions. While that puts more authority in the hands of the people who directly monitor employee performance, it also raises the concern that favoritism could play a role in who gets ahead and earns more.

NSPS officials have built safeguards into the system to prevent that from happening. Supervisors will be trained and held accountable for giving fair appraisals. They will communicate performance expectations and employees will have the chance to take part in the process of linking performance tasks to the mission.

Supervisors will be evaluated on how well they conduct their performance management. Their effectiveness will be tied to their own pay raises.

Supervisors and employees will learn all about NSPS during a series of classes that will take place leading up to the transition to the new system.

"Training is important to making the NSPS transition as smooth as possible for supervisors and employees," Ms. Bragg said. "We want to make sure everyone fully understands this system and that they have the tools to succeed in a results-focused, performance-based environment."

Some people might think or even hope NSPS is just a trend that will be replaced when new leaders take over in a few years. They are the ones who will flounder instead of flourish when the transition takes place.

NSPS counters all that was inefficient and ineffective with the current system and creates a flexible system that can adapt to future force structure changes to provide DoD its most agile and responsive human resources system ever. It is a system that will stand the test of time.

Prepare now for what lies ahead. Visit the NSPS Web site at www.cpms.osd.mil/nsps to read the latest news and get answers to frequently asked questions.

Civilian employees and their supervisors should embrace the NSPS concepts and learn all they can about them for a successful transition to the new system.