Overview of the SES Performance Management System
Beginning in FY 2013, HHS began implementation of the new government-wide Senior Executive Service (SES) performance management system (PMS). The HHS Senior Executive Service Performance Management System (SES PMS) is applicable to all Senior Executive Service (SES) and the following Senior-level Title 42(f) scientists:
- NIH Deputy Directors,
- IC Directors,
- IC Deputy Directors,
- Scientific Directors,
- Clinical Directors,
- Scientific Executives (as designated by T-42 Extramural Committee) and
- Associate Directors and Office Heads in the NIH OD who report directly to the NIH Director.
The SES PMS consists of five critical elements based upon the Executive Core Qualifications:
- Leading Change,
- Leading People,
- Business Acumen,
- Building Coalitions, and
- Results Driven
It is based on a five-level rating system:
- Achieved Outstanding Results,
- Achieved More than Expected Results,
- Achieved Expected Results,
- Partially Achieved Expected Results, and
- Achieved Unsatisfactory Results
The rating period is October 1 – September 30. For more information on coverage, please see a comparison of the two HHS performance management programs.
The establishment phase of the executive performance cycle typically occurs in October of each year when the fiscal year begins (October 1st). HHS issues guidance for establishing executive plans in approximately August. Following HHS’s guidance, the NIH Office of Human Resources (OHR) will submit agency-specific guidance to the executive community via the OHR Director’s Desk (email).
Senior-Level T-42, Senior Executive Service, Senior Level and Senior Technical executives are expected to establish their performance plans in either USA Performance (USAP) or via the HHS Basic SL-ST Template (SL/ST only) by the requested due dates. All new executives are required, by HHS, to be placed on a plan within 30 days from their Entry on Duty (EOD) date.
Resources & Forms
- FY 2023 NIH Executive Establishment Guidance
- Definitions of Measurable Outcomes
- HHS Strategic Plan
- NIH Strategic Plan
- HHS Basic SL-ST Template
- OHR Email Notification FY 2023 Executive Establishment
- HHS Basic SLST Performance Appraisal Program Guidance
- SL/ST Performance Management Plan Character Limitations
Midyear for executives typically occurs in the April timeframe. During midyear Rating Officials must conduct progress reviews with each executive for whom they are responsible. Progress reviews provide an excellent opportunity to:
- discuss progress in accomplishing performance goals;
- review and revise organizational goals and objectives;
- discuss results executives are expected to personally accomplish;
- ensure a common understanding of current performance, expectations for the remainder of the performance period, and new actions (if any) that will be initiated
- ensure that performance requirements in the Results Driven (for SES and Senior-Level T-42) and Program Results (for SL) critical elements have measurable results for each performance standard and are aligned to the Department's and/or organization's strategic plan with the alignment properly notated in the plan.
A progress review does not result in an initial summary rating and written documentation is not required unless performance on an element is less than the “Achieved Expected Results" (AE) level. If performance on any element is deemed to be less than AE, the rating official must provide the employee a written assessment that clearly denotes performance deficiencies and steps required to raise performance to the AE level. To document completion of the progress review for SES and Senior-Level T42 executives, both the rating official and executive will electronically sign the performance plan in USA Performance (USAP). For SL executives, both the rating official and executive will continue to sign and date the HHS Basic SL-ST Template.
Executive Closeout occurs annually in approximately September. The NIH Office of Human Resources (OHR) receives guidance from HHS on how the Secretary will implement the OPM/OMB guidance, including the limits and criteria, which are issued separately. Following HHS’s guidance, OHR will submit agency-specific guidance to the executive community via the OHR Director’s Desk (email).
Senior-Level T-42, Senior Executive Service (SES), Senior Level (SL) and Senior Technical (ST) executives are expected to close-out their performance plans in either USA Performance (USAP) or via the HHS Basic SL-ST Template (SL/ST only) by the requested due dates.
Eligible executives (based on performance rating) may receive awards and pay adjustments. The NIH Director makes awards and pay adjustment recommendations for all SES, SL, and Senior-Level T-42 executives in compliance with HHS requirements. Executives must have been in their position and on an established Executive performance plan for a minimum of 90 days as of September 30th in order to be rated and eligible for a performance-based bonus and pay adjustment.
Executive Awards Overview
Senior Executive Service (SES), Executive Officers (SES & GS-15), Senior-Level Title 42 Executives/“Top 5” (T-42) are eligible to receive a variety of awards. The awards process crosses over three OHR divisions, depending on the type of award. Please see the resources section below for detailed guidance on each award type.
Senior-Level T-42, SES and SL/ST executives can receive performance-based awards based on their performance rating. To be considered eligible, the executive must receive a rating of a Level 3, Achieved Expected Results (AE), or higher. Each fiscal year, the Department provides agencies with directives that outline the award parameters. Awards are processed and paid out in approximately mid-December.
Performance-based Pay Adjustments
Senior-Level T-42, SES and SL/ST executives can receive performance-based pay adjustments based on their performance rating. To be considered eligible, the executive must receive a rating of a Level 3, Achieved Expected Results (AE), or higher. Each fiscal year, the Department provides agencies with directives that outline the pay-adjustment parameters. Pay adjustments are processed and appear in paychecks in approximately January. SES pay adjustments can be delayed based on the release of the Executive Order.
Presidential Rank Awards
SES and SL employees are eligible to receive Presidential Rank Awards (PRA). The PRA call comes from HHS and originates with OPM. An employee may be nominated under two categories of awards - Distinguished and Meritorious.
Distinguished Rank Awards recognize individuals for a sustained extraordinary accomplishment. They receive a cash award of 35 percent of their base salary. Only one percent of the career SES or SL/ST may receive this rank.
Meritorious Rank Awards recognize individuals for a sustained accomplishment. They receive a cash award of 20 percent of their base salary. No more than five percent of career SES or SL/ST members may receive this award.
Resources & Forms
- OPM Policy & Guidance
- Total Compensation
- PRA Guidance
- Biographical & Career Summary Template
- Code of Conduct
- Nomination Template
- Nomination Template Supplemental Information
- Release Authorization
- PRA Privacy Act Statement
Special Act Awards
Senior Executive Service (SES) and Senior Level (SL) executives are eligible to receive Special Act awards for superior performance above and beyond the normal scope of their duties. The Office of Human Resources (OHR) will issue one call per year within the allowed timeframe. OHR will update guidance and instructions yearly; please see the resources section below for the most recent information.
Resources & Forms
- NIH Special Act Instructions FY 2023_QRG
- NIH Special Act Submission Form FY 2023
- OHR Email Notification - Call for FY 2023 SES SL Special Act Awards
USA Performance (USAP)
USA Performance (USAP) is an automated performance management system for Senior Executive Service (SES) and Senior-Level Title 42 executives. It is managed by OPM and rolled out HHS-wide for the FY 2019 performance management cycle. NIH SES and Senior-Level Title 42 executives will use USAP for their individual performance plans. At this time, USAP will not apply to SL/ST employees. SL/ST employees will continue to use the HHS Basic SL-ST Template. A timeframe for USAP implementation for SL/ST employees has not been established by HHS. For more information on USAP, please visit the USAP Resource Page.