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OPM Approval of Revised SES Performance Management Syst

Wednesday, January 10, 2001
MSG 2001-005
Human Resources Directors
K. Joyce Edwards, Director, OERM
OPM Approval of Revised SES Performance Management Syst

When we published the final regulations on SES Performance Management in October, we described a new, streamlined approach for requesting OPM approval of your revised SES Performance Management Systems.

During the public comment period on the proposed regulations and in briefings on the final regulations, we explored options for obtaining OPM approval to comply with statutory requirements at 5 U.S.C. 4312. The general consensus was agency self-certification, similar to the method OPM uses when agencies request approval of performance management systems for the general workforce.

Using this approach, we developed the attached checklist of key system requirements for agency heads to use to certify that the agency's revised SES performance management system, and all subordinate systems and variations, comply with statutory and regulatory requirements. There should be one certification from each cabinet department and independent agency that is covered by the SES provisions at 5 U.S.C. 3132(a). More detailed guidance about the certification is attached.

Please send us a copy of your revised performance system documents and any other relevant materials - particularly descriptions of how you are experimenting with balanced measurement - as soon as they are available. We need this information for oversight purposes and for sharing information and innovative ideas with other agencies.

Agency certifications are due to OPM at least 60 days before the beginning of your next SES performance appraisal cycle. For example, if your appraisal cycle begins on October 1, 2001, we would expect to receive your certification by August 1st. Please send or fax your certifications, and any supplemental documentation, to:

    SES Management Center
    Office of Executive Resources Management
    1900 E Street NW, Room 6484
    Washington, DC 20415
    fax: 202-606-0557

We will review the agency certifications and send return letters, stating our decision about system approval. We will continue to monitor your systems through our routine contacts and as we share information about implementation and experiences with balanced measurement. In addition, we will integrate an SES component into the scheduled evaluations conducted by the Office of Merit Systems Oversight and Effectiveness to ensure a more formal and ongoing evaluation of agency performance systems.

If there are any questions or you need additional information, please contact Anne Kirby (202-606-2696, email: or Virginia Buettner (202-606-2167, email:

Guidance on Completing the SES Performance Management System Certification and Requesting OPM Approval

This is a certification that your agency's SES performance management system, including all subordinate systems and variations, complies with law and regulation. It is a departmentwide certification - there should be one certification from the head of each cabinet department and independent agency whose senior executives are covered by the SES provisions at 5 U.S.C. 3132(a).

Due Date

Certifications are due to OPM at least 60 days before the beginning of your agency's next SES appraisal cycle. For example, if the cycle begins on October 1, 2001, OPM should receive the agency head certification by August 1st.

1. System Coverage

This statement certifies that the agency's SES performance management system(s) covers all senior executives who are subject to the SES provisions of title 5.

2. Appraisal Period

Agencies must establish an official performance appraisal period as well as a minimum appraisal period of at least 90 days. In item 2, indicate that both of these requirements have been accomplished and that each has been defined. Please tell us if your agency has several different appraisal periods. We are often asked for information about agency appraisal periods.

For example, you could state that you have an "umbrella system" that allows components to vary appraisal periods and minimum appraisal periods, and then state the range that has been established. If you wish to provide the appraisal periods for each variation, you may attach that information to the certification.

3. Summary Performance Levels

Agency systems must have at least the three statutory performance levels and a method for deriving summary ratings from appraisals. In item 3, indicate that both of these requirements have been accomplished. We also ask you to state the number of summary levels you have established and how you have
defined them. Tell us if your system allows components to have different numbers of performance levels and attach a list of the component variations. We maintain information on performance level variations for reporting purposes.

For example, as in number 2, you could state that you have an "umbrella system" that allows component systems to vary performance levels. Attach a list identifying each component system and the performance levels established.

4. System Structure

Agencies may establish a single, standardized performance management system for the entire agency, or establish a generic system that allows agency components to vary some requirements, such as setting appraisal periods and establishing summary performance levels. Agencies could also provide for a substantially decentralized system. In item 4, tell us if you have one standard
system for the entire department or agency, or you have a system that provides for variations and/or decentralized component systems.

5. System Components

Section 5 addresses the main system components: planning and communicating performance; monitoring performance; appraising and rating performance; and using performance information. Your system(s) must include each of these components.

6. Performance Review Boards

In section 6, indicate that your agency has established one or more Performance Review Boards to make recommendations on senior executive performance and that members have been appointed, as required.

7. Training and Evaluation

Agencies must ensure that supervisors and senior executives receive information and training on performance management. Agencies must also periodically evaluate the effectiveness of agency system and any component systems and variations. In section 7, indicate that both of these requirements have been

Agency Head Certification

Finally, the agency head (or a designee) certifies that the agency's system, component systems, and/or variations comply with law and regulation. By designee, we mean the deputy agency head or an acting agency head or deputy.

The responsibility for this certification should not be delegated below the Assistant Secretary level in a department or an equivalent level above the Human Resources Director in other agencies.


For __________________________________________________


1. System Coverage

  • This agency's SES performance management system(s)
    applies to all senior executives covered by subchapter II of
    chapter 31 of title 5, United States Code.

2. Appraisal Period

  • We have established an official performance appraisal period
    for which an annual summary rating must be prepared. This
    appraisal period is:_____________________________________________ .
  • We have established a minimum period of performance that
    must be completed before a performance rating can be given.
    The minimum appraisal period is:_____________________________________________ .

3. Summary Performance Levels

  • There are at least three summary performance levels for
    each system: one or more fully successful levels, a minimally
    satisfactory level, and an unsatisfactory level.

    Number and description of summary performance levels: ______________________________________________.

  • We have developed a method for deriving summary ratings from appraisals of performance against performance requirements. This method ensures that only those employees whose performance exceeds normal expectations are rated at levels above fully successful.

4. System Structure

  • There is one agencywide system.
  • Our system provides for variations and/or subordinate systems.

5. System Components

In accordance with 5 CFR 430.304, our SES performance management system(s) provides for:

Planning and Communicating Performance

  • Developing performance plans for each senior executive that describe the critical elements of the senior executive's work and any other relevant performance elements and describe the level of performance expected for fully successful performance. Elements and requirements will reflect individual and organizational performance expectations and will be consistent with the goals and performance expectations in the agency's strategic planning initiatives.
  • Developing plans in consultation with the senior executives and communicating the plans to them on or before the beginning of the appraisal period.

Monitoring Performance —

  • Monitoring each senior executive's performance during the appraisal period, providing feedback on progress in accomplishing the performance elements and requirements in the performance plan, and providing advice and assistance on how to improve performance.
  • A progress review at least once during the appraisal period.

Appraising and Rating Performance —

  • Appraising each senior executive's performance in writing. Appraisals will be based on individual and organizational performance, taking into account such factors as —
    • Results achieved in accordance with the goals of the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993;
    • Customer satisfaction and employee perspectives;
    • The effectiveness, productivity, and performance of the employees for whom the senior executive is responsible; and
    • Meeting affirmative action, equal employment opportunity, and diversity goals and complying with merit syste principles.
  • Developing a written initial summary rating and sharing that rating with the senior executive, review by a higher level official, review and recommendations by the Performance Review Board to the appointing authority, and an annual summary rating by the appointing authority at the end of the appraisal period.

Using Performance Results —

  • Using performance information as a basis for adjusting pay, granting rewards, assessing continuing development needs, removing senior executives, and making other personnel decisions.

6. Performance Review Boards (PRBs)

  • We have established one or more PRBs to make recommendations to the appointing authority on the performance of our senior executives and have appointed members in accordance with 5 CFR 430.310.

7. Training and Evaluation

  • We will provide appropriate information and training to supervisors and senior executives on performance management, including planning and appraising performance.
  • We will periodically evaluate the effectiveness of our performance management system(s) and implement improvements as needed.


I certify that the agency's SES performance management system, and any subordinate systems, and the use of appraisal results conform or will conform to applicable law and regulation by the beginning of this agency's next appraisal cycle. I request OPM approval of this performance management system.

(Signature of Agency Head or Designee)