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High-ranking federal workers reluctant to join Senior Executive Service, study finds

By Ed O'Keefe

Heavier workloads and the negative impact on family and potential relocation to a different city are deterring federal workers from joining the top civilian ranks of the government, according to a survey set for release on Wednesday.

A majority of respondents said the ability to contribute more to their agency's mission attracted them to the Senior Executive Service, according to the survey by the Senior Executives Association. Increased responsibility and the honor of serving in the top ranks were also leading reasons to join, the survey found.

But association President Carol Bonosaro said potential SES members might see the drawbacks at the office.

“They see people sending e-mails at midnight and having difficulties with career-political relationships," she said.

The SES comprises the most senior and highest-paying positions in the government.

About 90 percent of the 8,000 SES members are eligible for retirement in the next decade, according to SEA, which represents service members and is concerned that the government will fail to attract and retain talented replacements.

“It’s not like there’s nobody applying for the positions, but the question is, are we going to get the best?” Bonosaro said.

Her group commissioned the online survey after hearing from federal workers at the top of the General Schedule who don't want to transition to SES, Bonosaro said.

Workers in the service earned an average of $163,764 in fiscal 2008, with some earning as much as $179,700, according to figures from the Office of Personnel Management. However, respondents did not cite compensation as a major attractor or detractor to SES, most likely because pay scales for senior officials and workers at the top of the GS scale overlap, the report said.

Workers at the top of the GS scale earn between $100,000 and $159,999 annually. Some written responses from survey participants said the small change in pay did not justify the higher workload, responsibility and potential political risks.

SEA received responses from about 11,700 of the roughly 121,000 GS-14 and GS-15 employees. The results mirrored the findings of a 2008 OPM survey that found most SES members did not think their pay and benefits would help attract and retain new recruits, SEA said.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | April 20, 2010; 3:00 PM ET
Categories:  Workplace Issues  
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SES program is basically a joke, because it has little to do with actual qualifications and education, but being sponsored into an SES position. I dont how we can have so many SES and senior GS-15 personnel without even a bachelors degree. And people wonder why government is not getting it done.

Posted by: gwtfo | April 20, 2010 10:37 PM | Report abuse

if they really wanted to do something to fix SES, they wouldn't let contractors write SES applications for Feds and they wouldn't require being supervisor for a year in order to qualify for SES training.

Posted by: rufkd | April 23, 2010 11:17 AM | Report abuse

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