|Personnel Management Manual|
What is the purpose of this section? The purpose of this section is to provide broad statements of policy, basic requirements, and guidance for administering the probationary period for supervisors and managers of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The requirements and guidance in this section apply to all FHWA employees initially assigned to a supervisory or managerial position in the competitive service, which includes General Schedule (GS) and Wage System positions at the GS-15 level and below.
Does this directive cancel an existing FHWA directive? Yes. This directive cancels FHWA Personnel Management Manual (PMM) Part 1, Chapter 2, Section 6, Probationary Period for Newly Appointed Managers and Supervisors, dated June 28, 1996. This section number has been changed to Section 5 due to the earlier elimination of one section from this chapter.
What references were used in writing this section?
Title 5, United States Code (U.S.C.), Section 3321, as amended by Section 303 of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (Public Law 95-454).
Title 5, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Parts 315.901-909.
Department of Transportation (DOT) Departmental Personnel Manual (DPM) Letter No. 300-26, Recruiting, Selecting, Developing, and Appraising Supervisors, dated October 17, 2002, as amended, supplemented, or superseded.
DPM Issuances 315-40 and 315-43, Subchapter 9, Probation on Initial Appointment to a Supervisory or Managerial Position, dated January 27, 1986, as amended, supplemented, or superseded.
Office of Personnel Management (OPM) General Schedule Supervisory Guide, HRCD-5, dated June 1998, as amended, supplemented, or superseded.
OPM Federal Wage System Job Grading Standard for Supervisors, TS-66, dated December 1992, as amended, supplemented, or superseded.
The DOT Human Resources (HR) Supervisors Toolkit.
What are the key definitions used in this section?
Managerial position. A position classified as "managerial" under the OPM General Schedule Supervisory Guide. The incumbent of such a position typically will direct an organization, be accountable for success of programs, monitor progress toward goals, and perform a full range of managerial duties.
Supervisory position. A position classified as "supervisory" under the OPM General Schedule Supervisory Guide or, if under the wage system, the Job Grading Standard for Supervisors. Such a position is usually classified with the title of "Supervisory," "Officer," or similar designation. The incumbent typically will assign, direct, and evaluate the work of his/her subordinates, recommend selections and promotions, as well as plan and coordinate work operations.
Probationary period. A trial period to assess a new supervisor's or manager's supervisory and managerial performance, particularly his/her aptitude for the human relations aspects of the supervisory work. The probationary period provides an opportunity to improve performance deficiencies and, if warranted, return or reassign an employee to a non-supervisory or non-managerial position without most of the procedures and appeal rights granted to individuals who have already completed a supervisory or managerial probationary period.
What is the FHWA policy on using the probationary period for newly appointed managers and supervisors? It is FHWA policy to:
Ensure that supervisors and managers maintain a high quality of performance through careful and effective use of the probationary period for newly appointed supervisors and managers;
Give new supervisors and managers adequate opportunity to prove themselves and encourage support of efforts to help them succeed; and
Make every effort to adequately train new supervisors and managers to perform their supervisory and managerial duties.
What steps should FHWA managers take during the probationary period to ensure the success of new supervisors and managers? FHWA managers who supervise newly appointed supervisors and managers in a probationary status should adopt and implement as many of the recommended strategies listed below as are feasible for their individual situation. Assistance with these strategies is available from the FHWA Office of Human Resources (HAHR). Additional information and resources for managers supervising newly appointed supervisors and managers can be found in the DOT's Supervisors Toolkit. The recommended strategies for success are that the supervising manager do the following:
Notify the probationary supervisor or manager of the probationary status and performance expectations. Within 30 calendar days of appointing an employee to a supervisory or managerial position, the supervisor should notify the appointee of the probationary status, duties, and responsibilities of the position, and establish a written performance plan in accordance with PMM Chapter 5, Section 2. If at any point during the probationary period performance deficiencies are identified, the first level supervisor and the probationary employee, in consultation with the servicing human resources office, should develop an improvement plan. This plan should be carried out in an effort to help the probationary supervisor improve his or her performance before a final determination is made, and it should be incorporated into the counseling and development processes described in paragraphs 6b and 6c.
Provide feedback, coaching, and counseling. The immediate supervisor should provide feedback to each newly appointed supervisor or manager early in the probationary period (during the first 90 days of the probationary period, if possible) with follow-up face-to-face coaching and counseling sessions at regular intervals (180 days and 270 days into the probationary period are suggested points). Providing coaching and feedback to a new supervisor or manager is essential to his or her success in the position, and the supervising manager should ensure that this routinely occurs. If at any point during the probationary period performance deficiencies are observed, the supervisor of the probationary employee must initiate a counseling session with the individual to address the problem in a timely manner. The servicing human resources office and DOT's Supervisors Toolkit can provide additional information for correcting performance deficiencies.
Develop an individual development plan (IDP). In accordance with existing FHWA practices (and particularly recommended during the first 90 days of the probationary period), the probationary supervisor and the appropriate manager or supervisor should develop an IDP. The prime responsibility for the preparation of the IDP rests with the newly appointed supervisor/manager and his/her manager, with assistance provided by the servicing human resources office. The IDP should include the mandatory 40 hours of supervisory training specified in DPM Letter No. 300-26, paragraph V, and should address approaches to correct any identified deficiencies.
Provide mandatory supervisory training. To maximize the effectiveness of the probationary period, every effort should be made to ensure completion of the initial 40 hours of mandatory supervisory training within the first 6 months of the probationary period.
Assign a mentor. Wherever feasible, it is recommended that the manager of the probationary employee assign a mentor to the employee for the duration of the probationary period. This is subject to the availability of an appropriate mentor, interest on the part of the probationary supervisor or manager, and other workforce conditions. A "mentor" is one who has supervisory or managerial experience in FHWA, has a demonstrated ability to effectively supervise employees or perform managerial duties, is savvy concerning how to navigate the organization's culture, and can provide advice from personal experience, leaving the decision to act to the mentee. To be effective, the mentor must also be someone who is accessible to the mentee, is skilled in establishing a positive rapport, and is committed to helping the newly appointed supervisor or manager succeed in his or her position. The mentor is not involved in any facet of the employee's performance evaluation; rather, he or she serves as a resource to the newly appointed manager or supervisor. This approach provides an environment in which the new employee is free to share ideas or concerns that he or she might otherwise be hesitant to share with a first level supervisor.
Obtain multi-source input where appropriate. Wherever feasible, it is recommended that the probationer's first level supervisor obtain multi-source input to the extent possible from individuals who have had a frequent opportunity to observe the employee's ability to perform the supervisory or managerial aspects of the position prior to conducting counseling sessions during the probationary period. Subordinate employees, customers, and peer supervisors are candidates to provide multi-source feedback. This is an informal feedback process intended to assess how the new supervisor or manager is progressing in the position. The first-level supervisor of the probationer will use this feedback to focus the job coaching and counseling session held at a point such as 270 days into the probationary period. The DOT's Supervisors Toolkit contains a checklist of questions that may be used to obtain information from participants in the multi-source feedback process.
What is the basic requirement and length of the probationary period? Upon initial appointment to a supervisory position, an employee is required to complete a one-year probationary period. Upon initial appointment to a managerial position, an employee is also required to complete a separate one-year probationary period for managers unless he or she has satisfactorily completed a probationary period for supervisors and has demonstrated competence in performing managerial duties. The manager of the organization requesting the personnel action to appoint an employee to a managerial position will recommend whether or not a separate managerial probationary period should be required. This recommendation must be documented in writing, and it must be based on specific criteria, using an analysis of the employee's experience and the managerial duties to be performed. If the employee's experience has not adequately demonstrated competence in performing the managerial duties of the position to which he or she is being assigned, a new probationary period should be recommended. The servicing human resources office will review the recommendation, assure compliance with DOT and FHWA regulations and procedures, and take appropriate action.
How is service credited toward completion of the probationary period? When an assignment to a supervisory or managerial position is expected to exceed 120 days (including by service on officially documented temporary assignments such as temporary promotion, reassignment, or detail), the employee is required to serve a probationary period. If the employee serving on a temporary assignment to a supervisory or managerial position successfully completes the full term of the probationary period required in paragraph 7 while on the temporary assignment, the time shall be fully credited toward completion of the required probationary period. Temporary service in a supervisory or managerial position prior to the establishment of the required probationary period, and/or service not officially documented by a personnel action (such as serving in a designated "Acting" capacity while continuing to occupy a non-supervisory position in absence of a detail or temporary promotion action), will not be credited toward completion of a supervisory or managerial probationary period. If an employee serving a supervisory or managerial probationary period is assigned to another supervisory or managerial position (not for cause) without a break in service, all time served in the first position will be credited toward completion of the probationary period in the new position. Time served in a supervisory/managerial probationary period will not be credited in the following circumstances:
Upon leaving the position. When a probationary supervisor or manager leaves the supervisory or managerial position for any reason before one year and is later reappointed to another supervisory or managerial position, the time in the earlier position will not be credited to the subsequent probationary period. Failure to successfully complete the supervisory or managerial probationary period will not preclude an employee from applying and being considered for such positions in the future.
Upon transfer from another Federal agency. When an employee transfers into a covered FHWA position from another Federal agency and the employee did not successfully complete a full supervisory or managerial probationary period prescribed by the former Federal agency, that time will not be credited toward the probationary period for the FHWA position.
Absences in non-pay status. Absences in non-pay status while on the rolls (other than for compensable injury or military duty) are creditable up to a total of 22 workdays. Non-pay time in excess of 22 workdays extends the probationary period by an equal amount.
What documentation is required for satisfactory completion of the probationary period? Satisfactory completion of the probationary period must be certified by the immediate supervisor and the second level supervisor. A certification form for this purpose is automatically generated four months before the end of the period for distribution by the servicing human resources office to the appropriate supervisor. The completed form must be filed on the right-hand side of the employee's Official Personnel Folder (OPF).
What is the applicability of the probationary period? The probationary period applies to new supervisors and managers, except as provided in paragraphs 7 and 8. A probationary period is required for the initial assignment of an employee from a supervisory position to a managerial position only when the employee's performance and experience as a supervisor have not adequately demonstrated competence in performing the duties of the position to which he or she is being assigned, subject to the determination required in paragraph 7. An employee who has satisfactorily completed a probationary period in a supervisory or managerial position in FHWA or another Federal agency need not complete another comparable probation in FHWA.
How is failure to satisfactorily complete the probationary period handled? The decision to return or reassign an employee to a non-supervisory or non-managerial position because of supervisory or managerial deficiencies should be initiated by the employee's immediate supervisor. Because of the need for a fair period of evaluation of performance, such action may not be taken until the employee has completed at least 90 calendar days as a supervisor or manager (90 days after the effective date of appointment to a supervisory or managerial position). The 90-day requirement applies only to actions taken with regard to an employee's supervisory or managerial performance while serving in a probationary period for supervisors/managers. The decision must be concurred in by the next higher official in the organization after consultation with and review by the servicing human resources office. This decision is not appealable under adverse action procedures and is not grievable. However, the employee may request a review by a higher level official (the third level supervisor, unless otherwise designated by the FHWA). The servicing human resources office will insure proper documentation and notice of the decision to the employee in accordance with OPM regulations. Within a reasonable period of time after notification, the employee will be returned to a position of no lower grade and pay than the one left to accept the supervisory or managerial position.
What is the relationship between the supervisory/managerial probationary period and the probationary period for competitive appointment? The probationary period for new supervisors and managers does not take the place of that which is required for competitive appointment (which generally applies to new Federal employees). However, if upon appointment an employee is required to serve a probationary period for both a supervisory/managerial position and for competitive appointment, the latter requirement takes precedence and completion of that probation fulfills the requirements of this section.