NB_360_22_10 - NB 360-22-10 PER – Fiscal Year 2022 Quality Step Increase Process
NB 360-22-10 PER – Fiscal Year 2022 Quality Step Increase Process
National Bulletin: 360-22-10 Date: July 11, 2022
Subject: PER – Fiscal Year 2022 Quality Step Increase Process


                                                           Action Required By:  October 28, 2022
 
Purpose.  This bulletin announces the process for Quality Step Increases (QSIs) for fiscal year (FY) 2022.
 
Expiration Date.  September 30, 2023
 
Background.  In FY 2021, USDA transitioned to a two-tier (pass/fail) performance and awards system using the Enterprise Performance Management Application. On June 24, 2020, the USDA Office of Human Resources Management provided additional system information in Departmental Regulation (DR) 4040-430, “Employee Performance and Awards”. Section 6, Paragraph d., “Quality Step Increase,” provides USDA guidance for awarding QSIs. This national bulletin describes the process NRCS will employ for implementing DR 4040-430 in FY 2022.
 
Explanation.  QSIs for the FY 2022 performance rating cycle are limited to no more than 2 percent of NRCS employees on board as of September 30, 2021. If an allowance holder elects to not use their allocated QSIs, they should notify the Regional Conservationists Office (RCO) or the Deputy Chief for Management & Strategy (M&S) for potential reallocation while ensuring NRCS remains within its 2-percent cap.

Before an employee may be awarded a QSI in EmpowHR, the QSI review committee must review the submission and pass their recommendation to the respective Regional Conservationist or Deputy Chief for approval or denial. NRCS has established a QSI review committee consisting of the Deputy Chief for M&S as the chair of the committee, a representative from the RCO, and a state conservationist from each region. The Farm Production and Conservation Business Center (FPAC-BC) Chief Human Capital Officer serves as the executive secretary and technical advisor to the committee. The Chief may add other members as appropriate. The purpose of the QSI review committee is to ensure fairness and equity in the determination and approval of QSIs.

Employee Eligibility. Selected employees must meet the QSI eligibility requirements of DR 4040-430. Some of the highlights of these requirements include —

  • Be a General Schedule employee below step 10 who has performed in the same grade and type of position for at least 18 months before the end of the performance rating period.
  • Have received a rating of record of at least fully successful for the past three performance years (or the past two performance years if the employee has not been a Federal employee for more than three years).
  • The final ratings must demonstrate sustained performance of the highest quality, significantly and demonstrably above the expectations defined at the Fully Successful level of their performance plan.
  • The final performance appraisal must also list the accomplishments that contributed substantially to the organization’s goals, commensurate with the classification of their position.
  • Be expected to continue at the same high level of performance.
  • Have not received a QSI within the previous 104 weeks.

Process for States. An employee’s supervisor may submit the employee for a QSI with Form AD-3115, “Recommendation and Approval of Quality Step Increase.” The steps for completing this form are as follows:

1. The employee’s supervisor completes the form through block 12, then signs in block 14. The supervisor then attaches the last three performance appraisals (or last two performance appraisals if the employee has not been a Federal employee for more than 3 years) and forwards to the second level supervisor or leadership team member.
2. The second level supervisor or leadership team member reviews the Form AD-3115, signs block 15, and then forwards the Form AD-3115 to the Assistant State Conservationist for M&S (ASTC-M&S).
3. The ASTC-M&S completes any missing information on Form AD-3115, bundles with any other state QSI submissions, and obtains concurrence of the state conservationist.
4. The ASTC-M&S then forwards the state’s approved and bundled QSI submissions to the Deputy Chief for M&S. Please copy Bart Huber, Management and Program Analyst, at bart.huber@usda.gov.
5. The Deputy Chief for M&S (or designee) completes an initial eligibility review and holds QSI submissions to bundle with other QSI submissions until the QSI review committee is called to meet.
6. The QSI review committee conducts a panel assessment, makes a recommendation, and the Deputy Chief for M&S signs in block 16.
7. The Deputy Chief for M&S (or designee) then returns the Form AD-3115 to the Regional Conservationist for the region in which the employee works for final decision.
8. The Regional Conservationist signs the AD-3115 form in block 18 authorizing the QSI and returns to the Deputy Chief for M&S (or designee).
9. The Deputy Chief for M&S (or designee) then gathers all approved AD-3115 forms from the Regional Conservationists and forwards to the FPAC-BC, Human Resources (HR), Performance Management Section Chief for final review, approval, and input into EmpowHR.

Process for Above State Offices. An employee’s supervisor may submit an employee for a QSI with Form AD-3115 “Recommendation and Approval of Quality Step Increase”. The steps for completing this form are as follows:

1. The employee’s supervisor completes the form through block 12, then signs in block 14. The supervisor then attaches the last three performance appraisals (or last two performance appraisals if the employee has not been a Federal employee for more than 3 years) and forwards to the second level supervisor.
2. The second level supervisor reviews the QSI submission and, if in agreement, signs block 15 of form AD-3115 and forwards to their Deputy Chief.
3. The Deputy Chief reviews the QSI submission and, if in agreement, forwards all submissions bundled for the deputy area to the Deputy Chief for M&S. Please copy Bart Huber, Management and Program Analyst, at bart.huber@usda.gov.
4. The Deputy Chief for M&S (or designee) completes an initial eligibility review and holds QSI submissions to bundle with other QSI submissions until the QSI review committee is called to meet.
5. The QSI review committee conducts a panel assessment, makes a recommendation, and the Deputy Chief for M&S signs in block 16.
6. The Deputy Chief for M&S (or designee) then returns the Form AD-3115 to the Deputy Chief for the deputy area in which the employee works for final decision.
7. The Deputy Chief signs the AD-3115 form in block 18, authorizing the QSI, and returns to the Deputy Chief for M&S (or designee).
8. The Deputy Chief for M&S (or designee) then gathers all approved AD-3115 forms from the Deputy Chiefs and forwards to FPAC-BC, HR, Performance Management Section Chief for final review, approval, and input into EmpowHR.

Submission Deadline. QSI submissions (Form AD-3115 and last three performance appraisals) must be submitted to the Deputy Chief for M&S after final performance appraisal for 2022 and no later than October 28, 2022. The AD-3315 should be fully completed through block 15 at time of submission to the Deputy Chief for M&S (or designee). Please copy Bart Huber, Management and Program Analyst, at bart.huber@usda.gov, on all submissions.

Effective Date. QSIs take effect on the first day of the first pay period after it is processed in EmpowHR by the FPAC Business Center. QSIs may not be retroactive except to correct an administrative error.
 
Contact.  Questions regarding this bulletin should be directed to Bart Huber, Management and Program Analyst, at bart.huber@usda.gov.    
 
 

 /s/

LOUIS ASPEY
Associate Chief

 
 
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