Leadership and the enlisted evaluation system

  • Published
  • By CMSgt Mark A. Hagen
  • Command Chief, 97 Mission Support Group
As the 97th Mission Support Group Superintendent, I have spent much time thinking about my new role. I asked myself, "What exactly do I want to accomplish in this position?" Some of this was answered for me when my new boss, Col. James Peccia provided me with my first official feedback. However, beyond that, I decided on one area that I would concentrate my focus - the Enlisted Evaluation System and the challenges it presents to leaders. In my role as superintendent, I have the opportunity to talk with not only our enlisted force but our civilians, officers and commanders as well. Overwhelmingly when this subject is brought up, the resounding response is the same - everyone should not be rated a five.

So let's start with a little history. In the late 1980s we transitioned from the Airman Performance Report to our Enlisted Performance Report format, which was subsequently revised in 2007 and evolved into the current one. There were many bumps in the road throughout the transition. As these changes were taking place, I was a young Staff Sergeant waiting to see where I would fall out in the rating scale. Strange comment you may say, but in an effort to make the system work the way it was intended, there were quota guidelines provided. However, those guidelines were translated by some into "quotas" for ratings. For example, only 10 percent of a unit should be awarded five on their EPRs. Unfortunately, in some units there was no forward thinking as to how to apply these quotas. This led to great Airmen being rated below what they deserved, and others who should not have been rated lower and then were rated a five. Ultimately, this created the system many today refer to as inflated.

Well how do we fix it? The answer is really simple; however, the action is much harder. The simple answer is honesty or integrity, our number one core value. Be honest with yourself, your Airmen and your commander. Know the expectations of your commander, identify your own expectations and lay them out clearly and concisely for your Airmen. Give your Airmen timely and honest feedback and do not wait until 10 days prior to the EPR close-out and tell your Airmen how you feel their performance has been. Waiting until the last minute is simply not being honest, nor is telling the Airmen they are better or worse than they actually are to avoid an uncomfortable conversation or conflict. I am convinced most people, particularly our Airmen, want to do and be the best they can possibly be. No one comes to work and says, "I think I will do a mediocre job today." Some of them certainly miss the mark of meeting and exceeding expectations and standards, but no one can be expected to improve performance if they are not given expectations and standards, timely and honest feedback and finally, the time to make identified corrections with the appropriate guidance and supervision.