Senior Executive Service members said they feel pride in their work, but a growing number said the pay and benefits offered to SESers might not be enough to bring in top talent.
The Office of Personnel Management conducted the survey of SES members in mid-2011. The last time OPM conducted the survey was in 2008 — before the two-year federal pay freeze had begun. In the last survey, half of the respondents said SES pay and benefits helped in attracting high-quality executives, compared with 39 percent of respondents in the 2011 survey.
The minimum basic pay for SES members is $119,000, with a maximum of $179,700, according to OPM’s SES salary table.
In the coming years, the federal government faces the challenge of attracting executives to replace retiring SES members. Fifty-six percent of respondents said they planned on retiring within five years.
SES members also had mixed reviews of pay for performance. While 92 percent said SES pay should be based on performance, only 43 percent said pay for performance actually promotes better performance.
Compared with the 2008 survey, less respondents said their performance rating was closely linked to their salary, with more than 30 percent saying their salary and performance rating were not linked at all.
A bill introduced by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) would provide an SES pay increase when General Schedule employees receive a pay increase, and allow SESers to count performance awards as base pay in their retirement calculations.
Low mobility among SES
Federal executives are unlikely to move around to a new agency or location once they enter the SES, according to the OPM survey. Respondents who did move often did so within their current agency, the survey found.
The responses echo the findings of a Partnership for Public Service report in February that found nearly half of the government’s executives have stayed in the same position throughout their SES careers. The report stated that SES mobility was not rewarded and often seen as punishment instead of a career advancement.
In March, Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) said he was crafting a bill that would make mobility experience an asset when being considered for an SES position.