Terminating investigators due to lack of productivity


#1

Given all the recent updates it is amazing that these contract companies continue to terminate investigators for lack of productivity. Its time leadership gets out of their chairs and into the field to see what life is really like out here. Cases are more difficult to brief then ever before. Cooperation from the public is at an all time low. Reporting requirements are confusing. Much of what is required to be reported is not even used for anything and is a complete waste of time. The most frustrating thing on my team is that the section lead provides zero guidance but is still able to fire investigators for not meeting source unit requirements. Do any of you have experience or advice on how to handle your career as an investigator when the section lead does not offer any help and only threatens termination for not meeting source units?


#2

Here's the brutal reality. If you're working in the report producing industry commonly known as "background investigations" you can expect to work 60-70 hours per week for an average pay of $40k/year. Apparently the industry has a glut of people looking to do the job and contractor companies just burn through employees and don't seem to give a sh*t about the quality they get or retain. Those they can retain are threatened and instilled with fear to squeeze out more production.

But here's some advice to boast your productivity. View all of your work as report producing and focus on that. Do fieldwork all with an eye to writing the report. Go through other reports and the IHB sample reports and copy and memorize keys phrases you'll use in your reports. Then visualize yourself churning out reports like a factory conveyor belt.

Or just find a job where you can enjoy life and make double the money for half of the work hours.


#3

It really just boils down to how much stress you're willing to tolerate for the pay and for the mission--though I'm not confident OPM knows what the mission should be exactly. Even if you stand behind the execution of the mission (you're just that naive, I suppose?) you have to at least acknowledge BI's (or rather field audits? Security inquiries?) and FI performance shouldn't be measured by conventional business metrics. Things take time when you want things done correctly, though the bureaucrats sailing the ship can't seem to get that through their thick skulls. The industry in its current state makes FI's susceptible to poor judgment. When the incentive is simply "don't get fired," you've got problems. Now that's no excuse for falsification, but you can see how some former FI's wound up making the decisions they did.

I can't name one person within my team, or within two other teams in the same region, who is in good spirits. Everyone wants to jump ship to a different field or to one of the two new vendors. When FI's in NIT begin questioning the nonsensical methods and practices, you've got yet another problem. Don't even get me started on training. But attrition is a huge problem.

I've learned to depend on trustworthy colleagues; I highly encourage new FI's make friends at NIT because they are the only ones who will be able to understand your misery. Unfortunately I don't trust case support, and sometimes I don't trust my SL. One question can get you 4 different "right" answers, and that's not even hyperbole. Get different answers, then do what feels right while simultaneously adhering to the IHB and the interests of national security. As for meeting WTPD? Suck it up, buttercup.


#4

I mentioned it in another thread I believe, but it's not good when you have investigators with only 6 months experience training other new investigators! I do wish the right people were paying attention to these threads, as I'd dearly like to put them in touch with two people that can vouch for my assertion. And these people (to my knowledge) have not even been through any kind of formal "advanced investigator" training, like what USIS used to do to make you a "certified field trainer." How anyone with less than a minimal 2 years of field experience could even remotely "train" a new hire, in this current environment, just boggles the mind and frankly should be criminal!


#5

It has been common practice for KGS to use investigators with less than one year experience to train new investigators. They have been doing it since the inception of KGS. I think RZzzz hit it right on the head that the contractor companies don't give a sh*t about the investigators they hire or retain. Its a win-win for them. If the investigator makes stats great and if not that's fine too because they can bring them back on as 1099's and pay them hardly anything. Its horrible as compensation hasn't changed since before 2010 $25 for a record, $50 for a source, $200 for an ESI, and no mileage. Lets not forget about the unpaid time spent to learn all the new case requirements. You can make better money after one year working for McDonalds.

I've been giving some thought on the report writing factory concept. Its the equivalent of having every worker running their own factory with 10,000 pages of directions that do not have any page numbers.


#6

I'm not an investigator, I'm a defense contractor. We have to prepare bids on jobs and usually the main factor is hours... how long will it take to complete some task.

Management starts out saying that some task will take 40 hours. We do that a few times and after a while we realize, you know what, that task really takes at least 120 hours. So in the future we bid 120 hours (well maybe we knock it down a little bit but we don't try to bid 40 hours anymore). I'm making up the numbers but you get the idea: actual past performance shows its going to take longer than management would like to think.

So why do the investigative contractors keep sticking to this myth that that an investigator can complete some given case in 40 hours when they have seen over and over again it will take 120 hours?


#7

Forget field training, most people need job hacking. I have a lot of experience working as a FI and can recall the days when USIS and KGS were good companies. I'm currently waiting for the bottom to fall out of the contractor BI industry before I consider returning. I would never return to KGS or CACI no matter what. In the meantime, let me give you some job hacks.

In addition to viewing your job as merely churning out reports, here are some other helpful hints to boost your production. If you're gregarious, stop it pronto. The more engaging you are the longer the interviews go and the more people are likely to develop diarrhea of the mouth. People will mirror the way you engage them. If you're a Chatty Cathy, stop it pronto. Be as taciturn as possible. Do not allow dead air-- as they say in the radio profession. It's in those moments of silence where people starting contemplating and digging in the recesses of their mind to pull out nuggets that can take away hours from your life with you having nothing to show for it. Especially dollars. Start quickly, rush through the questions, and get out. You get paid by the report created and transmitted and nothing else. Minimize eye contact whenever possible. Be aloof as much as possible. While you don't want to come across as unfriendly, you don't want to come across as warm and likeable and trustworthy. Merely come across unremarkable at most. And consider this socio-psychological phenomenon: people rarely get angered by, or bother making any formal complaints about, people they view as stupid. This is because they are not seen as a threat. Remember, you're a report writer who gets paid by the amount of reports you churn out. And since this is all what your company wants, this is what you want as well. Not for them, but for numero uno's paycheck and life quality.

NB: I wouldn't give this advice if you were a Fed, just the opposite, but you aren't so I do.


#8

I had an interview with a guy like this once... an actual OPM employee, not a contractor... at the end I felt that I had learned more about his background then he did about mine.

I get what you're saying @RZzzz but if you conduct an interview as you describe, can you still figure out if the person you're interviewing is trying to conceal some information or avoid some topic-- whether it be the subject of the investigation or a reference?


#9

I'd say a factor is "don't ask, don't tell." A good majority work over 40. You just can't meet goals if you always work 40 hours/week for risk of being fired.

Accepting OT can adversely affect your production metrics.


#10

Didn't mean to say only work forty hours a week, I was just using 40 hours as some imaginary metric. It seems like the investigative contractors have some very unrealistic expectation of how quickly a case can be worked, and hold their employees accountable for not meeting that unrealistic goal.


#11

I'm trackin'--I just meant that's where the imaginary number comes from: lack of acknowledgment


#12

Would also like to know if upper management has looked at the productivity/throughput trade-off between an investigator taking too long to complete a case vs bringing on new people constantly.

And then there is the question about how contractor performance expectations (cases finished per week or whatever it is) compared with those for direct-hire OPM government employees.


#13

KGS is pressuring the experienced Fi who are making more money and either demoting them or outright terminating them and replacing them with new hires at minimum pay. They are assigning the new hires with TESI and special interviews which is totally in violation of the DOL Wage Determination. DOL has contacted every KGS FI in NY and is looking at this.


#14

Looks like @lindy.kyzer took notice of these discussions and wrote a short article on clearancejobs.com about the problems faced by investigators working for the OPM contractors (KGS, CACI, etc).


#15

KGS cannot get out of their own way with their deceit and dishonesty. They are burying their own grave once CSRA/ISN and SCIS start getting work.


#16

I'm not familiar with these DOL regs. Can you elaborate? I know CACI treats TESI's and SPINS like standard ESI's in that FI's can be assigned them as soon as they finish training. I've never heard of any type of restriction on what can be assigned based on experience.


#17

Im currently working as a BI and Im already feeling the stress to make numbers and getting it all done in 40hrs . Not realistic at all - call people, field work and visit sites, write reports - Ive ended up doing lots of work from home and not getting paid for it so I can catch up. We cant get overtime unless we meet the numbers and even if we get OT, then they want more production. May as well not take OT. Wonder who I can complain about it


#18

SO if Im a Full timer and feel the FT FI is to much would you switch to 1099? I would do a few sources a day


#19

This is just the first 2 pages of the Wage Determination that governs background investigators.
The Service Contract Act specifies all occupations and describes the working duties and minimum wages for each level.
There are 4 levels of BI and the first two are described below. Read it and you determine if level I and Level II should be doing TESI & SPINS.
4 yeara ago, the DOL used this to force USIS to comply and pay back pay to hundreds of BI.

REGISTER OF WAGE DETERMINATIONS UNDER THE
SERVICE CONTRACT ACT
By direction of the Secretary of Labor
Daniel W. Simms
Director
Division of Wage
Determinations
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
EMPLOYMENT STANDARDS ADMINISTRATION
WAGE AND HOUR DIVISION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20210
Wage Determination No.: 2000-0309
Revision No.: 27
Date of Last Revision: 07/08/2015

Note: Executive Order (EO) 13658 establishes an hourly minimum wage of $10.10 for 2015 that applies to all contractssubject to the Service Contract Act for which the solicitation is issued on or after January 1, 2015. If this contract is covered by the EO, the contractor must pay all workers in any classification listed on this wage determination at least $10.10 (or the applicable wage rate listed on this wage determination, if it is higher) for all hours spent performing on the contract. The EO minimum wage rate will be adjusted annually. Additional information on contractor requirements and worker protections under the EO is available at www.dol.gov/whd/govcontracts.
NATIONWIDE: This wage determination applicable to the entire continental United States, Hawaii, and Alaska.
Fringe Benefits Required Follow the Occupational Listing
Employed on OPM contract(s) for background investigation services.
OCCUPATION CODE - TITLE FOOTNOTE RATE
27006 - Background Investigator
Level I 15 .15
Level II 18 .77
Level III 22 .96
Level IV 27 .78

Level I
Under the close direction of a Supervisory Investigator, the incumbent trainee conducts and reports record searches and
investigations. The work may require travel on detail or itinerary and requires efficient planning of work and the submission of timely and complete records for reimbursement and productivity evaluations.
Duties:
1. As a trainee investigator, the incumbent assists in conducting and conducts background investigations, which provide comprehensive coverage of basic suitability, loyalty and security, for approximately fifty Government agencies having some of the nation's most sensitive missions. These investigations are increasingly tailored to obtain specific information needed by the employing agency to make enlightened selection and/or security clearance determinations. May obtain special coverage or such diverse positions as attorneys, labor mediation officials, scientists employed by the Department of Energy, and U.S.
Marshalls.
2. Conducts investigations initiated to resolve questions of employment eligibility developed by National Agency Checks and Inquiries or arising from employment applications. Is assigned the less complex cases which do not involve prominent subjects or derogatory information of a highly sensitive nature. Assignments are carried out under close supervision and detailed guidance is provided.
3. May conduct the less complex qualification investigations on candidates for top Federal administrative and executive positions. These cases must be completed on a high priority schedule and involve in-depth interviews with key executives at all levels of government, private industry, academia and the professions.
4. The incumbent conducts comprehensive interviews with employers, associates, references and other knowledgeable individuals and reviews appropriate records to obtain the facts needed to establish the background, reputation, character,
suitability or qualifications of the subject under investigation. The investigator is responsible for determining the number and selection of witnesses and the approach and line of questioning for each. Incumbent explores the most significant or promising leads, notes all pertinent facts and records and, under supervisory guidance, enlarges, extends, cancels, or discontinues investigations, consistent with policies, procedures and instructions contained in the Investigator's Handbook.
With similar guidance prepares clearly worded requests for extensions of investigations containing relevant information the receiving investigator must have to conduct a competent investigation. Records and organizes information obtained and prepares grammatically correct and factual reports according to established format.

Level II
Under the general direction of a Supervisory Investigator, the incumbent conducts and reports record searches and investigations. The work may require extensive travel on detail or itinerary and requires efficient planning of work and travel and the submission of timely and complete records for reimbursement and productivity evaluation.
Duties
1. As a trainee investigator, the incumbent assists in conducting and conducts background investigations, which provide comprehensive coverage of basic suitability, loyalty and security, for approximately fifty Government agencies having some of the nation's most sensitive missions. These investigations are increasingly tailored to obtain specific information needed by the employing agency to make enlightened selection and/or security clearance determinations. May obtain special coverage for such diverse positions as attorneys, labor mediation officials, scientists employed by the Department of Energy, and U.S. Marshalls.
2. Conducts investigations initiated to resolve questions of employment eligibility developed by National Agency Checks and Inquiries or arising from employment applications. Is normally assigned the less complex cases which do not involve prominent subjects or derogatory information of a highly sensitive nature.
3. May conduct special interviews designed to afford the subject of a suitability investigation full opportunity to explain or comment on derogatory or discrepant information. Skill, tact and discretion are necessary to assure protection of the subject's legal rights, while obtaining information needed to facilitate evaluation of the case. Interviews conducted involve cases in which the materials facts are well documented and the purpose of the interview is to obtain the well documented and the purpose of the interview is to obtain the subject's comments. Receives extensive briefing and consults closely with supervisor on the formulation of special interview questions. Interviews are conducted together with the supervisor or a more experienced investigator.
4. After receiving formal training on the subject, incumbent may investigate complaints of discrimination pertaining to Equal Employment Opportunity in the Federal service. Normally, cases assigned do not involve complex issues or prominent individuals.
5. Occasionally conducts the less complex qualification investigations on candidates for top Federal administrative and executive positions. These cases must be completed on a high priority schedule and involve in-depth interviews with key executives at all levels of government, private industry, academia and the professions.
6. The incumbent conducts comprehensive interviews with employers, associates, references and other knowledgeable individuals and reviews appropriate records to obtain the facts needed to resolve all materials issues in a case or to establish the background, reputation, character, suitability or qualifications of the subject under investigation. The investigator is responsible for determining the number and selection of witnesses and the approach and line of questioning for each.Incumbent explores the most significant or promising leads, notes all pertinent facts and records and, under supervisory guidance, enlarges, extends, cancels, or discontinues investigations, consistent with policies, procedures and instructions contained in the Investigator's Handbook. Prepares clearly worded requests for extensions of investigations containing relevant information the receiving investigator must have to conduct a competent investigation. Records and organizes information obtained and prepares grammatically correct and factual reports according to established format.


#20

Would hate to make any accusations as I'm not familiar with any other legislation surrounding the contracts or DOL regulations, but what I can say is FI's straight out of NIT do SPINs or TESI's. Once your mentorship is finished, you're on your own. That would seem to conflict with both levels 1 and 2 descriptions based on your citation.