Thursday, May 18, 2017

Fair Share and Bidding Privileges

Bidding Bidding Bidding. It has begun. Possibly the worst part of the Foreign Service (or the best?) is the process of determining your next Post. It's not unlike my former life, as a contractor, where we continually interviewed for positions for new contracts, as our old ones ended.

This year marks the beginning of the condensed bidding cycle (more on that later), but today is our first 'surprise' for the season. Many factors play in to determining which positions you are eligible to bid on. Two of those factors changed today and I'll break down each of them:

Fair Share Bidding is a requirement that you serve in a hardship positions every 7(ish) years. The general idea is to keep someone from spending 20 years doing 7 tours in London, Paris, Rome, Tokyo, etc. This year the definition of a hardship to fulfill this requirement changed from 15% to 20%. This means that if you are bidding this year and have not served in a 20% hardship position in the last 7 years, you are required to either bid on exclusively domestic assignments or include at least 3 at-grade and in-specialty positions with 20% or higher differential, in at least two geographic regions. Fair share bidders are required to accept any offered handshake (or find another hardship handshake) within two weeks of it being offered. If, by some weird turn of fate, they are continually not offered a handshake for 5 months... then they can accept any position offered. This increase of just 5% therefore drastically changes the 'popularity' of certain posts in the bidding cycle. A 15% post is now substantially less appealing, because it doesn't meet this requirement (and I imagine we'll see a proportional drop in their overall bids.)

Bidding privileges allow a person to bid one grade higher than their current grade if they're bidding on, or currently serving in, a hardship. However, the definition of a hardship for this changed also, but instead of increasing 5%, it went from 15% to 30%! This is a gigantic increase and drastically reduces the viability of stretching into a higher position (which had become quite common among people looking to get promoted early). This change will also effectively hinder bidding at 15% posts, with a possible benefit to 30+% posts. It will be interesting to see how this pans out. Bidding privileges are also granted for employees receiving a Meritorious Step Increase award or if the post has been designated as historically hard to staff.

Keep in mind, much like going to a non-fair-share-post as a fair share bidder, it is possible to go just about anywhere, but only at the tail end of the bidding season. Initial handshakes go out ~early November, but in March the restrictions drastically relax for the poor posts and bidders that have been left out in the cold.

It's going to be an interesting next few months.

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