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Performance Management Appraisal Program (PMAP)

This guidance establishes the authority for the Performance Management Appraisal Program (PMAP) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and implements a 5-tier rating system consisting of the following levels of performance: Achieved Outstanding Results (Level 5); Achieved More Than Expected Results (Level 4); Achieved Expected Results (Level 3); Partially Achieved Expected Results (Level 2); and Achieved Unsatisfactory Results (Level 1).

  1. 5 U.S.C. Chapter 43, Performance Appraisal, and 5 CFR Part 430, Performance Management;
  2. 5 U.S.C. 4303 and 4305 and 5 CFR Part 432.104, Unacceptable Performance;
  3. 5 U.S.C. Chapter 45 and 5 CFR Part 451, Awards;
  4. 5 U.S.C. 5335 and 5304 and 5 CFR Part 531, Subpart D, Within-Grade Increases;
  5. 5 U.S.C. 5336 and 5 CFR Part 531, Subpart E, Quality Step Increases;
  6. 5 U.S.C. 3502 and 5 CFR 351.504, Reduction-in-Force;
  7. 5 U.S.C. 552a and 5 CFR 293.404 and 5 CFR 293.405, Employee Performance Records;
  8. 5 CFR 432.104, Unacceptable Performance;
  9. All applicable Collective Bargaining Agreements.

This guidance applies to all HHS employees except the following:

  1. Members of the Senior Executive Service (SES);
  2. An employee appointed to the excepted service under Schedule A 213.3102(o) whose appointment is limited to one (1) year or less;
  3. A fellow appointed under Section 207(g) of the Public Health Service Act, as amended;
  4. An expert or consultant;
  5. A member of an advisory committee;
  6. A person serving under an appointment in the excepted service having a time limit of less than ninety (90) calendar days;
  7. An employee on detail to a public international organization;
  8. An employee in a position for which employment is not reasonably expected to exceed ninety (90) calendar days in a consecutive twelve-month period;
  9. An employee outside the United States who is paid in accordance with local native prevailing wage rates for the area in which employed;
  10. An Administrative Law Judge appointed under 5 U.S.C. 3105;
  11. An individual appointed by the President;
  12. An individual who is serving in a position under a temporary appointment for less than one year, agrees to serve without a performance evaluation, and will not be considered for a reappointment or for an increase in pay based in whole or in part on performance.

This guidance sets forth the policy of HHS’s 5-tier PMAP for non-SES positions. This guidance promotes a performance-based culture as reflected in the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) of 1993; the Chief Human Capital Officers Act of 2002; the Government Performance and Results Act Modernization Act of 2010; the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Human Capital Accountability and Assessment Framework; and the HHS Strategic and Human Capital Management Plans. This system requires:

  1. Adherence to Merit System Principles;
  2. A fair, credible, and transparent performance program which focuses on results and ensures the inclusion of objective performance measures in established performance plans;
  3. Employee involvement in the design and implementation of their performance plan;
  4. Performance Management training for supervisors and employees;
  5. Establishing performance plans including critical elements and performance standards;
  6. Clearly communicating expectations for an effective PMAP by ensuring supervisors communicate expectations at the beginning of an appraisal period, and at the time of changes to performance plans during the performance cycle, before holding employees accountable;
  7. A midyear progress review;
  8. Evaluating each employee during the appraisal period on the employee's elements and standards;
  9. A rating of record on an annual basis;
  10. Recognizing and rewarding employees whose performance so warrants;
  11. Assisting employees in improving performance less than the Achieved Expected Results level;
  12. Reassigning, changing to lower grade, or removing employees who continue to have unacceptable performance, but only after an opportunity to demonstrate acceptable performance;
  13. Alignment with HHS strategic performance goals, cascaded from senior levels down to individual employees;
  14. Accountability at all levels;
  15. Ongoing communication between the supervisor and the employee including regular and timely feedback to employees throughout the appraisal period.
  1. Develops and implements Performance Management policy, guidance, and instructions;
  2. Attains OPM approval of HHS’s PMAP as necessary and required;
  3. Monitors and evaluates HHS’s PMAP for compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including Merit System Principles and prohibited personnel practices;
  4. Provides policy compliance oversight, technical assistance, and direction on issues that arise;
  5. Ensures appropriate and ongoing training occurs for supervisors and employees, as required by regulation.
  1. Provide all employees with information regarding HHS’s PMAP;
  2. Delegate appropriate authority to supervisors and other officials, as required, to effectively implement and operate under the PMAP in a manner consistent with an integrated and informed performance-based culture and practice;
  3. Develop and communicate OpDiv and/or StaffDiv goals, initiatives, and priorities used in developing strategic individual performance plans;
  4. Ensure supervisors are accountable for the accomplishment of their Performance Management responsibilities and employees are accountable for their individual performance;
  5. Ensure employees and supervisors participate in appropriate Performance Management training, as required by regulations.

The OpDiv/StaffDiv PMAP Coordinators, also known as the PMAP Community of Practice, are individuals identified by the OpDivs/StaffDivs as Performance Management liaisons for the operations of the PMAP. The Coordinators are subject-matter experts who share knowledge and best practices across HHS and provide essential advice, guidance, coordination, and support to their respective OpDiv/StaffDiv. Their responsibilities are as follows:

  1. Support the use of performance planning and evaluations to manage, train, recognize, reassign, promote, change to lower grade, retain, and remove employees;
  2. Assist in training and information on HHS’s PMAP for supervisors and employees;
  3. Provide instruction and guidance for linking performance to higher-level organizational goals, and establishing performance plans with results-focused performance elements and credible standards;
  4. Provide assistance and guidance to supervisors and employees in the execution of their PMAP responsibilities;
  5. Conduct reviews to evaluate compliance, determine the need for improvements, and facilitate reporting by Headquarters to authorities such as OPM;
  6. Provide required reports and documentation of Performance Management activities to support HHS and OPM accountability reviews;
  7. Provide assistance to supervisors and employees in dealing with the appeal process, and on procedures for dealing with performance below the Achieved Expected Results level, by facilitating coordination with appropriate Labor Employee Relations Specialists;
  8. Coordinate and collaborate with employees, managers, and leadership in developing, delivering, and supporting products and services to accomplish Performance Management objectives, initiatives, and priorities.

A Reviewing Official has review and approval authority above the Rating Official and is ordinarily two supervisory levels above the employee. Their responsibilities are as follows:

  1. Support a performance-based culture and practice through effective management of individual and team performance;
  2. Implement Performance Management policies and practices within the appropriate span of control;
  3. Ensure that Rating Officials carry out their Performance Management responsibilities within established deadlines and evaluate Rating Officials to ensure accountability for HHS’s PMAP;
  4. If required by the OpDiv/StaffDiv Head, review and approve performance plans developed by Rating Officials for consistency, fairness, objectivity, and completeness, and ensure plans reflect the overall needs and goals of the organization;
  5. Review and approve performance plans with ratings at the Achieved Unsatisfactory Results level.

A Rating Official is ordinarily the employee’s immediate supervisor. However, an employee’s Rating Official can be any delegated official responsible for the day-to-day operations of that employee.

  1. Establish individual performance plans and create a performance-based culture and environment which fosters a results-oriented work unit;
  2. Manage the full performance cycle including: communicating performance expectations clearly and ensuring employees understand what is expected; holding employees accountable; monitoring performance during the appraisal period; providing regular performance feedback to employees; developing employees; making meaningful distinctions for assigned ratings based upon performance; rewarding excellent performance; and taking appropriate actions to address performance not meeting expectations;
  3. Engage employees in the process of establishing and documenting performance plans and provide the employee with a written copy of the plan no later than thirty (30) calendar days after the beginning of each performance year, or upon the employee’s entrance on duty, or upon the assignment of an employee to a detail or temporary promotion scheduled to exceed ninety (90) calendar days, or upon the assignment of an employee to a new or different position, or after plans have been revised during the appraisal period;
  4. Ensure that each employee’s performance plan has all critical performance elements linked to the relevant tasks and the level of responsibilities of the position;
  5. Establish ongoing two-way communications with employees, in multiple ways, and conduct at least one mid-year progress review, preferably in person, giving feedback on the quality of performance during the appraisal period, and preparing ratings as provided for in this guidance;
  6. Prepare ratings of record in a timely manner and equitably consider employees who demonstrate noteworthy performance for awards and other recognition;
  7. Complete required supervisory Performance Management training;
  8. Advise the Reviewing Official when an employee’s performance is at the Partially Achieved Expected Results level or at the Achieved Unsatisfactory Results level;
  9. Initiate prompt and appropriate action when any rating at the Partially Achieved Expected Results level, or at the Achieved Unsatisfactory Results level, does not improve to the Achieved Expected Results level.
  1. Provide input and feedback to their Rating Official concerning the development of performance elements, standards, and measures;
  2. Ensure a clear understanding of performance expectations, and how performance relates to the mission of the organization, and request clarification from their Rating Official, if necessary;
  3. Take responsibility for performing at full potential, supporting team endeavors, and continuing professional development to support performance and results;
  4. Identify work problems, or other obstacles, which may hinder the accomplishment of performance expectations, and work with Rating Officials to resolve them;
  5. Seek performance feedback from their Rating Official and, as appropriate, from internal and external customers;
  6. Participate in progress reviews and performance appraisals by providing relevant and credible oral and written input to their Rating Official on accomplishments toward achieving performance expectations;
  7. Complete required Performance Management training.
  1. Performance Plan: The Performance Plan (HHS Form 704B) is used for all covered employees. The Plan has two categories of critical elements: (1) Administrative Requirements; and (2) Individual Performance Outcomes. The Administrative Requirements constitute one critical element. Each Individual Performance Outcome constitutes one critical element which contributes to the success of the OpDiv/StaffDiv and to HHS’s overall strategic plan. It is expected that there will be three (3) to five (5) outcomes listed, for each employee, in the section on Performance Outcomes.
  2. Critical Elements: Critical elements should be developed using such documents as the HHS Strategic Plan, OpDiv/StaffDiv strategic plans, employee’s position description, project proposals, goals and objectives, job analysis, equal opportunity action plans, individual development plans, or any other sources that assign responsibility for the accomplishment of necessary and proper work. All performance elements are designated as critical ones, and are weighted equally. Critical elements may incorporate sub-elements provided that only one rating level is assigned to each critical element.
  3. Standards: Performance standards should focus on specific, measureable, attainable, relevant, and timely results. Standards must be developed for the Achieved Expected Results level and are encouraged for all levels of each critical element so employees clearly and fully understand performance expectations and results for success.
  4. Employee Participation: Rating Officials should encourage employees to participate in establishing critical elements and credible standards for their positions to give them a clearer understanding of their performance expectations, as well as the role their position plays in meeting the mission of their organization. However, the final decision regarding critical elements and standards always rests with the supervisory official.
  5. Timing: The performance plan should be established and put in place within thirty (30) calendar days of the beginning of the appraisal period, or upon the employee’s entrance on duty, or upon the assignment of an employee to a detail or temporary promotion scheduled to exceed ninety (90) calendar days, or upon the assignment of an employee to a new or different position, or after plans have been revised during the appraisal period.
  6. Review and Approval: Critical elements and standards are established and approved by the employee’s Rating Official. OpDiv/StaffDiv units may establish second-level review/approval procedures at their discretion.
  7. Appraisal Period: The appraisal period is twelve (12) months in length and based on the Calendar Year, January 1 through December 31. If an employee has performed for more than forty-five (45) calendar days under a performance plan but less than ninety (90) calendar days prior to the end of the appraisal cycle, the rating period will be extended. For example, if a performance plan is established for an employee on November 1, there would be more than forty-five (45) calendar days left in the appraisal cycle, which ends on December 31. In this case, the appraisal period would be extended until January 31, to allow for a full ninety (90) calendar-day period on which to base the appraisal. The rating period will not be extended if the employee has performed less than forty-five (45) calendar days under a performance plan prior to the end of the appraisal cycle. For example, if a performance plan is established after November 15, there would be less than forty-five (45) calendar days prior to the end of the appraisal cycle, December 31. In this case, the employee would not receive a rating for that cycle. If the employee was issued a summary rating for another position within HHS, or under another supervisor within HHS earlier in the performance year, the summary rating will become the rating of record. This applies to the employee who has not worked under a performance plan in the new position for at least ninety (90) calendar days.
  8. Progress Reviews: While it is expected that Rating Officials will provide employees with continuous and proactive coaching and feedback on their performance regarding the objectives and expectations set forth in their performance plans, at least one midyear performance review, preferably in person, should be completed at approximately the midpoint of the appraisal cycle.
  9. Basis for Appraisal: A performance appraisal will be based on individual employee performance for the twelve-month period of the rating cycle, including any details over ninety (90) calendar days. The Rating Official may seek input from all appropriate sources to assist in determining the appropriate rating to assign the employee. The Rating Official should make a reasonable effort to obtain written input for details/temporary assignments over ninety (90) calendar days.
  10. Minimum Rating Period: The minimum length of time that an employee must be in a position and under signed performance standards to receive a performance rating of record or summary rating is ninety (90) calendar days.
  1. Each employee’s performance will be appraised by the Rating Official, annually, based on a comparison of performance with the critical elements and standards in the performance plan. A rating will be assigned to each critical element. This rating will be based upon the employee’s performance meeting one of the rating levels (Achieved Outstanding Results, Achieved More Than Expected Results, Achieved Expected Results, Partially Achieved Expected Results, and Achieved Unsatisfactory Results). The rating levels will be assigned a numerical score (see Table 1). After rating and assigning a score to each critical element, the Rating Official will total the points and divide by the number of critical elements to arrive at an average score. This score will be converted to a summary rating using the point values in Table II. If an employee receives a Partially Achieved Expected Results rating on one or more critical elements, he or she cannot receive a summary rating of higher than Achieved Expected Results. A summary rating of Achieved Unsatisfactory Results must be assigned to any employee who is rated Achieved Unsatisfactory Results on any critical element.

Table 1: Critical Element Ratings

Points Assigned

Level 5: Achieved Outstanding Results (AO)

5.00

Level 4: Achieved More Than Expected Results (AM)

4.00

Level 3: Achieved Expected Results (AE)

3.00

Level 2: Partially Achieved Expected Results (PA)

2.00

Level 1: Achieved Unsatisfactory Results (UR) 

1.00


Table II: Summary Ratings

Points

Level 5: Achieved Outstanding Results (AO)

4.50 to 5.00

Level 4: Achieved More Than Expected Results (AM)

3.60 to 4.49

Level 3: Achieved Expected Results (AE)

3.00 to 3.59

Level 2: Partially Achieved Expected Results (PA)

2.00 to 2.99

Level 1: Achieved Unsatisfactory Results (UR) 

1.00 to 1.99

  1. The annual summary rating will be derived from an average of the ratings from each of the critical elements making up the performance plan.
  2. Rating Officials shall not assign employee ratings under any predetermined distribution system. This is contrary to the intent of the appraisal system and would interfere with assigning ratings based on actual performance.
  3. If the employee is not under a performance plan for at least ninety (90) calendar days during a rating period, the employee will not be eligible for a rating. A presumptive rating may not be assigned.
  4. Annual summary ratings are to be completed and presented to the employee no later than forty-five (45) calendar days after the completion of the annual appraisal period.
  1. Interim appraisals are assigned when an employee completes a detail or temporary promotion over ninety (90) calendar days or when an employee has served ninety (90) calendar days under a performance plan and changes positions during the annual appraisal period.
  2. A copy of the interim appraisal must be provided to the employee and, if applicable, to the new supervisor. Any interim appraisals will be considered by the new supervisor in assigning an annual summary rating. If an employee does not have an opportunity to perform a critical element, no rating will be assigned and the words “Not Rated” should be written on the rating form.

A narrative must be written for each critical element assigned a rating of Partially Achieved Expected Results or Achieved Unsatisfactory Results. A narrative is encouraged for each rating and for the summary rating. The narrative should contain examples of the employee’s performance which substantiate how the employee’s performance falls within the levels assigned. Narratives are recorded on the performance plan.

  1. After the rating is completed, reviewed, and approved by the Rating Official, and by the Reviewing Official if required by the OpDiv/StaffDiv Head, the ratings and narratives shall be discussed with the employee. A copy of the completed and signed appraisal will be provided to the employee and the original will be filed with the appropriate office.
  2. If the employee refuses to sign the rating, the supervisor documents the refusal on the rating form. However, the performance plan is in effect from the time it was communicated and delivered to the employee. The supervisor will provide a copy of the rating to the employee, retain a copy of the rating, and file the original with the appropriate office.
  3. An employee may submit written comments to the overall rating of record, the element ratings, and/or the narrative comments if they desire. This may occur if an employee wishes to provide specific information on noteworthy accomplishments that the Rating Official did not mention, or if they wish to include other comments as part of the performance plan.
  1. Whenever supervisors observe employee performance that is less than the Achieved Expected Results level, on any critical element, they must promptly initiate appropriate action such as counseling, increased feedback sessions, developmental opportunities, and assistance from the Labor and Employee Relations Office to elevate performance up to the Achieved Expected Results level. Action must not be postponed until the end of the annual rating period. The supervisor must initiate and document candid discussions with the employee to identify the problems and to assist the employee in correcting deficiencies. The supervisor must provide written notice and documentation to the employee if a rating on any critical element is below the Achieved Expected Results level. Supervisors must make efforts to help employees raise their performance, or any critical element or overall, to the Achieved Expected Results level or at least to the minimum Partially Achieved Expected Results level which is required for retention in the position.
  2. Employees who receive a Partially Achieved Expected Results summary rating are not eligible to receive a Within-Grade Increase, or a non-competitive promotion in a career ladder. If an employee receives a Partially Achieved Expected Results rating on one or more critical elements, he or she cannot receive a summary rating of higher than Achieved Expected Results, regardless of the aggregate summary rating. A summary rating of Achieved Unsatisfactory Results must be assigned to any employee who is rated at the Achieved Unsatisfactory Results level on any critical element.
  3. During these discussions, the performance plan should be reviewed and the employee specifically informed of how he or she failed to meet the established standards. These discussions should outline specific efforts that both the supervisor and the employee will take to assist the employee in overcoming problems. (3)
  4. To initiate adverse action for performance at the Achieved Unsatisfactory Results level, under 5 CFR 432, the employee must first be afforded a reasonable opportunity period, through a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP), to demonstrate performance at least at the Partially Achieved Expected Results level. A performance evaluation is conducted again at the end of the PIP period, and if the employee’s performance is again evaluated at the Achieved Unsatisfactory Results level, appropriate action must be initiated. In accordance with 5 U.S.C. 4303, appropriate actions for employees who continue to perform unsatisfactorily after a PIP include demotion or termination.
  1. Successful individual employee accomplishments and contributions enable organizations to meet their goals. These achievements will be considered when determining and assigning final ratings, conferring recognition and rewards, identifying potential training needs, and planning future assignments.
  2. Performance awards are an integral part of the performance appraisal process. As such, they are linked to the rating of record, and submitted and considered for approval only at the conclusion of the rating period. Employees whose summary rating is at the Achieved Outstanding Results level may be eligible to receive a performance award payment, at the discretion of the OpDiv/StaffDiv and subject to funds availability, of up to five (5) percent of salary, including locality payment or special rate supplement. Employees whose performance is at the Achieved More than Expected Results level may be eligible to receive a performance award payment of up to four (4) percent of salary. Employees whose performance is at the Achieved Expected Results level may be eligible to receive a performance award payment of up to three (3) percent of salary. All performance awards are at the discretion of the OpDiv/StaffDiv and are subject to funds availability. According to OPM, no employee is entitled to an award.
  3. Employees receiving an Achieved Outstanding Results rating are also eligible for a Quality Step Increase (QSI). However, employees will not receive both a QSI and a cash award for the same performance. Only General Schedule (GS) employees are eligible to receive QSIs. QSIs shall only be awarded based on an employee receiving an Achieved Outstanding Results summary rating for the previous rating cycle, and not for midyear performance accomplishments. Further, a QSI may not be granted to an employee who has received a QSI within the preceding fifty (52) consecutive calendar weeks. QSIs are not automatic and are awarded at management’s discretion.
  4. All employees rated at the Achieved Outstanding Results level should be paid first. Employees who receive a Partially Achieved Expected Results rating or an Achieved Unsatisfactory Results rating are not eligible for performance awards or QSIs. OpDivs/StaffDivs may offer employees an option to convert a cash award into a time-off equivalent, not to exceed an aggregate calendar year total of forty (40) hours of time-off. Any remaining cash balance will be paid out in cash. However, OPM prohibits any conversion of a Time-Off award to cash and further discourages allowing employees any option between different types of awards given the potential tax consequences.
  5. Departments may spend no more than the percentage determined by OMB (currently 0.96 percent as of FY 2015) of the aggregate salaries for all employees, including SES employees but excluding Political Appointees, at the end of the previous fiscal year on the combination of: (1) individual performance awards for non-SES/SL/ST employees, and (2) individual contribution awards (e.g., special act awards) for all employees (i.e., SES/SL/ST and non-SES/SL/ST). The Office of Human Resources will transmit this percentage each fiscal year throughout the Department. The Department as a whole must not exceed this calculated budgetary cap on awards.

Employees are encouraged to discuss disagreements with the Rating Official in an attempt to resolve issues informally. If the employee disagrees with the rating of record, the Rating Official must advise the employee of his or her right to respond in writing to the rating. This response will be attached to the performance plan, but it will not change the rating assigned by the Rating Official. An employee may also file a grievance through the HHS or OpDiv/StaffDiv grievance procedures, as applicable. An employee may pursue Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint procedures, if he or she believes the rating is based on discrimination or bias conduct. An employee has the option of requesting a second-level review by the Reviewing Official. The Reviewing Official may make recommendations to the Rating Official to change or modify the employee’s rating levels. The final determination rests with the Reviewing Official.

  1. Probationary/Trial Periods: New employees must be closely observed during the probationary/trial period to determine whether they have the qualities needed to become satisfactory career employees. Proper use of periodic progress reviews to determine progress during the probationary/trial period can substantially assure that these employees have adequately demonstrated their qualifications and fitness. However, an employee may be removed at any time during the probationary/trial period for various reasons, including demonstrating performance below the Achieved Expected Results level.
  2. Reduction-in-Force (RIF): Ratings of record are used to establish service credit for RIF purposes. For RIF purposes, the rating of record is the annual summary rating required at the time specified in this guidance. A Rating Official may not assign an employee a new rating of record for the sole purpose of affecting their retention standing. Ratings of record that were due before the date of specific RIF notices, but were not officially approved and placed on record until on or after the date of the specific notices, will not be used to determine additional service credit (5 CFR 351).

Every Rating Official must be trained in the policies and practices of Performance Management to ensure its effective administration. Training on developing performance plans, conducting progress reviews, assigning ratings, coaching, and using appraisals as a key factor in making other management decisions will be provided to managers and supervisors. Training will be designed to assure that the Performance Management process operates effectively. Rating Officials are expected to explain the system to subordinate employees to enable them to understand the specific aspects of their performance plan.

As part of monitoring performance, supervisors may make notes on significant instances of performance so that the instances will not be forgotten. Such notes are not required by HHS or any of its OpDivs/StaffDivs. Such notes are not subject to the Privacy Act as long as they: remain solely for the personal use of the supervisor; are not provided to any other person; are not used for any other purposes; and are retained or discarded at the supervisor's sole discretion. The retention, maintenance, accessibility, and disposal of performance records, as well as supervisors’ copies, will be in accordance with OPM regulations. Performance records must be retained for four (4) years, under 5 CFR 293.404, and transferred with the employee’s Official Personnel File when the employee transfers to a new organization in HHS or to another department.

Generally, each OpDiv/StaffDiv has the responsibility for monitoring, evaluating, and auditing its PMAP, including issues arising from and connected to performance-based awards, within the framework of these guidelines.

The Handbook supports this guidance and provides employees, supervisors, and leadership across HHS with a uniform working guide for the day-to-day administration of Performance Management. It gives step-by-step explanations and easy-to-follow instructions for key activities conducted throughout the performance cycle. It is a valuable training resource, especially for educating new employees and supervisors quickly, and it standardizes working procedures to ensure consistent conformance to requirements. The Handbook is located in the Human Resources Library, under Performance Management.

Please contact the Performance Management Office, Office of the Secretary, at OSPMAP@hhs.gov for all questions/comments.

Content created by Office of Human Resources (OHR)
Content last reviewed on September 30, 2016