What is the ARL Demo?
The Army Research Laboratory (ARL) Personnel Management Demonstration Project (Demo) provides a means for testing innovative personnel processes by waiving existing Federal human resources (HR) management law and regulations. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1995 authorized the Secretary of Defense, with Office of Personnel Management (OPM) approval, to conduct personnel demonstrations at DoD laboratories designated as Science and Technology Reinvention Laboratories (STRL). The ARL Personnel Demonstration project was designed by ARL with participation and review by DoD and OPM. The Demonstration, which was seen as an opportunity to achieve the best workforce for the laboratory’s mission, was implemented on June 8, 1998.
The ARL Demo covers all science, engineering, technician, and administrative employees with a few exceptions for senior executives/professional employees. The ARL Demo instituted many interventions to break away from the rigid rules and regulations of traditional government employment. These more efficient practices allow ARL to better compete with other world-class technology producers.
A design team made up of ARL management, HR staff and employees developed a unique demonstration project plan with four primary objectives:
- To provide ARL increased authority to manage human resources flexibilities.
- To provide recruitment and staffing processes that will assist ARL to hire and retain the best qualified employees.
- To enable ARL to compensate its employees equitably at a rate that is more competitive with the science and technology labor market.
- To provide a direct link between levels of individual performance and the compensation received.
Over the years, STRLs have received further authorities through legislation that continue to shape the Laboratory workforce into a more flexible structure that can effectively respond to rapid changes in the technology market place. The ARL Demo provides the following benefits in its HR administration with regards to:
Hiring, Appointment and Internal Placement
- Recruiting: ARL competes more effectively in the labor market through a stream-lined delegated hiring process for all positions; a direct-hiring authority for science and engineering candidates with advance degrees; distinguished scholastic achievement appointments; five year term appointments; voluntary emeritus corps; market salary reference to compare the ARL salary structure to that of the competitive job market, resulting in flexible entry salaries.
- Retention: ARL retains good performers more effectively by rewarding high performers, not longevity; with increased pay potential using broad banding, which broadens the spread of available pay ranges; and from supervisory differentials, which allows greater pay for supervisors.
Expanded Developmental Opportunities
All employees eligible to apply for and participate in academic degree training, developmental assignments, leadership training, centralized Army training programs, and sabbaticals.
Pay for Performance
ARL compensates its employees equitably at a rate that is commensurate with their levels of responsibility and performance. Supervisory assessment of employee performance is done through the Pay for Performance (PFP) rating system, which replaced the tenure-based grade and step structure of GS. The project’s PFP allows for more employee involvement in the assessment process, and is designed to increase communication between supervisor and employee, promote a clear accountability of performance, facilitate employee career progression and provide an understandable basis for salary changes.
Career Tracks and Levels
The most noticeable difference between the ARL Demo and the GS pay system used by other federal agencies is that ARL positions are classified according to career track and level, instead of by grade. ARL pay levels encompass broader salary and classification ranges than a GS grade. Career tracks are categories of occupations grouped by similarities in work, qualification requirements and pay ranges. Advancement within a career level is based upon performance and level of work, up to the position’s target level. ARL’s career tracks and levels are outlined in the ARL Personnel Demo Pay Tables brochure.
Performance-Based Compensation System
The corner stone of the ARL Demo is our PFP system, which integrates performance appraisals, position classification, and compensation adjustment decisions in order to provide an effective, efficient and flexible method for assessing, compensating, and managing the laboratory’s workforce. The system combines goal setting, tied to corporate objectives, with a descriptive rating system. The performance evaluations made under the Demo project are intended to ensure that top performers receive a performance pay out commensurate with their achievements. Supervisors assess the level and value of employee’s performance accomplishments and determines a score for each element. Individual pay increases are primarily based on an employee’s performance score on a scale of 1-100.
Overall performance scores and salary determine compensation adjustments, which may be pay increases, cash bonuses or a combination of both.
Awards and Recognition
The goal of the Army and ARL’s Incentive Awards Program is to foster mission accomplishment by recognizing excellence and motivating employees to achieve high levels of performance and service. Awards are not entitlements, but may be initiated by management when applicable criteria are met. Some of the various types of awards that are available include:
- Performance awards, which are based on your annual performance evaluation.
- Superior Accomplishment awards, such as special act or service awards, on-the-spot cash awards, or time off awards which are based on a meritorious personal effort, act, service, scientific or other achievement.
- Honorary awards such as medals and certificates are used to recognize accomplishments or achievement when a monetary or performance award may not be appropriate.
In addition to the special flexibilities ARL features above, employees can also take advantage of incentives offered to all federal employees:
- Recruitment & Retention Incentives
- Locality pay increases (if applicable)
- General Increases
- Career Progression Opportunities