Is it true that assignment officers at U.S. Army Human Resources Command save the great jobs for their friends? Or, that assignment officers sit on the promotion boards?
HRC’s Command Sgt. Maj. Wardell Jefferson has heard many of the fallacies about HRC and urges Soldiers to reject the myths.
“A lot of [the negativity] is [because of a] lack of education,” Jefferson said before a town hall for senior noncommissioned officers in December at Fort Bliss, Texas. “What we try to do is inform the field of what we are doing and why we do it …
If a Soldier doesn’t get a promotion or assignment he or she wants, “it’s not because the assignment manager doesn’t like you or doesn’t want to send you to those locations,” he said. “It’s because you have to meet certain criteria. The way we dispel those myths is to talk Soldiers through it and educate the leaders. The leaders can help us to educate the Soldier on how the assignment process works.”
Jefferson and Maj. Gen. Thomas Seamands, HRC commander, visited Fort Bliss on Dec. 14 to reach out to both noncommissioned and commissioned service members. For Jefferson and Seamands, the advantages of doing these HRC road shows are twofold.
“There’s a benefit for us at HRC because we get to come out here and listen to the Soldiers in the field, to find out what’s on their minds and how we can make things better for them and their organizations,” Jefferson said. “The other part is for us to show transparency. We inform the Soldiers of what’s going on and what kinds of changes are taking place within their career management fields. That way, they are aware of what’s taking place and how it affects them and their families.”
As the Army downsizes, Jefferson said talent management is not just HRC’s responsibility.
“We [at HRC] identify the Soldiers that need to move to these different positions in our Army, but once we place Soldiers on assignment, then the unit has the responsibility in managing that talent,” Jefferson said. “The leaders on the ground ensure that Soldiers get to the right schools they need in order to develop the talent and go forward.”
He also recently spoke about the issue during Army Training and Doctrine Command’s third town hall in November at Fort Eustis, Virginia.
Many questions and complaints heard during HRC’s road shows are linked to recent revisions in Army policy.
“It’s just the fear of change,” Jefferson said. “When we decided to make the change to a new noncommissioned officer evaluation report, a lot of people were in an uproar about it. But now that we have been doing this NCOER for almost 12 months, not a lot of people are arguing about it. Now, it’s just learning how to write those evaluations. Same thing with STEP,” the Select, Train, Educate, Promote policy for promotion.
Jefferson often offers his assistance to Soldiers at the road shows. If, for example, a Soldier has an issue with his or her assignment and is not connecting with the assignment officer to discuss it, Jefferson will take the Soldier’s information and meet with the assignment officer in an effort to get both parties in touch. Also, if Soldiers continue to take issue with a certain policy or question its relevance, they may count on Jefferson to take up the debate with the deputy chief of staff, G-1.
“If it’s something we think we should look at, we’ll take that back to the Army G-1 and say, ‘We have got this feedback from the Soldiers out in the field. Maybe we could look at this policy, and see if it’s still relevant or if we need to adjust it,’” Jefferson said.
As for those NCOs looking for advice on how to get ahead in the Army, Jefferson said it’s all about self-improvement.
“The way you do that is by going to military schools, by taking the hard jobs and developing yourself and making sure that you are technically and tactically proficient in your career management field,” he said. “Also, reach out to your mentors and find out what else you need to be doing. But the most important thing to prepare yourself for promotion, regardless of what job you are in, is do the best you can and ensure that your evaluation says exactly how you did in that position. Along with going to the schools, that’s the major way to develop ourselves.”
The command sergeant major said he has grown a lot in his 18 months on the job and learns something new every day, especially in his interactions with Soldiers.
“I want to make an impact on the Soldiers and families because that’s what it’s all about,” he said. “Our job is to ensure that Soldiers and our families are taken care of, and I am very passionate about that. There are going to be some Soldiers saying, ‘It’s just HRC again,’ but there is another Soldier out here who I am going to have an impact on ─ something that I am going to say today is going to impact him and his family, or I am going to be able to assist them with something and they are going to put that trust back in HRC and think, ‘Well, maybe they are not the bad guys.’”
Jefferson often leaves NCOs with the same bit of advice ─ develop a passion for what they do, and success will come.
“If you are passionate about something, you are going to be successful in doing that,” he said. “Remain competent and relevant. If you are a leader, all these changes affect all of our Soldiers and their families. You have to know what’s going on in our Army today in order for you to be an effective leader.”
By SGT. MAJ. WILLIAM E. WHITE JR.
The United States Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps
Rating officials face significant opportunities and challenges as part of the Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Report system update, which begins Jan. 1. Both the opportunities and challenges stem from the fact that U.S. Army Human Resources Command will be tracking rater tendencies and constraining senior rater profiles. This increased accountability will help focus the target group for promotion and increase the percentage of strong NCOs selected for the next rank. It will also be a mammoth leadership challenge, specifically for senior raters who will carry the burden of informing the majority of NCOs during their Annual Performance Review that they are not the “Most Qualified” NCO in their peer group. To achieve the potential benefit, we rating officials must accept the challenge before us — to do our jobs better and make our Army stronger. Leaders must begin laying the foundation for success now, and the key to that success is simple: effective counseling.
Consider these three facts: Inflation of NCOERs has been the accepted standard for years; the NCOER is not the problem, but rather the rating officials’ execution of the evaluation; senior raters have not previously been required to conduct counseling.
These are not easy facts to face. But, as leaders, we must step back from the situation and view it objectively. From a purely logical perspective, in any group of NCOs, only one can be the best. However, the inflation of NCOERs over the years has led to far too many NCOs receiving “1 and 1” ratings, which AR 623-3 defines as “the cream of the crop and … a recommendation for immediate promotion.” We have taught ourselves and our young NCOs that only a “1 and 1” is acceptable and, therefore, far too few of our NCOs are being honestly and accurately assessed. Not every NCO is the cream of the crop. Not every NCO deserves a recommendation for immediate promotion. If senior raters were already executing noninflated reports based on consistent counseling, there would be no reason to implement a constrained senior rater profile because senior raters would be self-regulating.
The lack of self-regulation, resulting in consistently inflated NCOERs, has led to systematic regulation: the constrained senior rater profile. Under this new system, which limits senior raters to no more than 24 percent of evaluations assessed as “Most Qualified,” 76 percent of rated NCOs will now only be “Highly Qualified” (or “Qualified” or “Not Qualified”) on their evaluations. This will be the first time that many NCOs are told they are not the best among their peers. That will be a hard pill to swallow for many, even if they know deep down that the NCO to their left or right is usually one step ahead of them. Effective counseling is the best remedy leaders have to address this situation.
Counseling by the book
We already have Army doctrine and regulations providing leaders with guidance regarding performance counseling. The current NCOER system requires raters to counsel rated NCOs quarterly. The new system requires senior raters to counsel the rated NCOs at least twice during the rating period.
ATP 6-22.1, The Counseling Process, states, “Counseling at the beginning of and during the evaluation period ensures the subordinate’s personal involvement in the evaluation process.” The primary purpose of quarterly counseling, as defined in AR 623-3, is “telling the rated NCO how well he or she is performing.” These definitions are fine minimum standards, but effective counseling is far more important than enforcing a subordinate’s “personal involvement” or cataloguing a list of tasks completed or not.
ATP 6-22.1 outlines the basic structure for counseling. Anyone in position to senior rate a NCO should already understand the four stages of counseling, the various types of developmental counseling and the three basic skills required of a counselor. One section of this ATP, however, provides important information that our new NCOER system will likely make critical for counselors.
With at least 76 percent of NCOs now assessed as less than “Most Qualified,” counselors will need to understand “Addressing Resistance.” Traditionally, resistance to counseling has been a situation associated with negative performance or disciplinary counseling. In the case of laying the foundation for success with the new NCOER, counseling resistance may become a more frequent issue to face, and as the ATP states, that resistance may come from either the counseled individual or the leader conducting the counseling.
The subordinate’s resistance is easy to foresee. More than a few NCOs will be resistant to the idea that they are not being evaluated as “Most Qualified.” This will lead to some resistance from the counseled NCO, but our current inflated NCOERs should indicate that some resistance to counseling will also come from leaders.
The leaders’ resistance may stem from a hesitance to be completely honest about their assessment of an NCO. Every senior rater would like to think that he or she is consistently providing honest assessments, but if this lack of forthright assessment didn’t exist, there would have been far more NCOs receiving 3s or even 4s on the current NCOER.
Senior raters owe it to their Soldiers and to the long term health of the Army to provide honest and specific evaluations of a rated NCO’s potential. Though we leaders are charged with developing our subordinates to the limits of their potential, we are not responsible for ensuring that all our subordinate NCOs get promoted. This false notion, however, is alive and well. Quite often, when a rating official executes an honest evaluation that assesses an NCO at less than “Among the Best” and “1 and 1,” the rated NCO is surprised by the less than stellar rating and feels betrayed by his or her leader. If a rating official conducts regular effective counseling, however, there is no reason for the rated NCO to be surprised.
Counseling beyond the book
When an NCO has just been told, perhaps for the first time, that he or she is not “Most Qualified” for promotion, one of the first things he or she will want is an answer to some version of this question: “How do I change your mind?” or “How do I get ‘Most Qualified’?” or “What did ‘Joe’ do that I haven’t?”
The answer is, there is no clear answer. The training materials for the new NCOER explicitly state that most NCOs will be rated “Highly Qualified.” Senior raters will no doubt find they have to make a hard choice between two or more competent and fully qualified NCOs. When assessed against the standard of duty performance, the two NCOs may appear virtually equal, with similar experience and results during the rating period. It will be up to the senior rater to decide who is the most qualified, and that will probably come down to small details and a subjective assessment of the NCOs’ comparative potential. In short, there is no way for a senior rater to provide a checklist of items for a “Most Qualified” rating.
Instead of providing a checklist, rating officials must be prepared to clearly define the performance standards against which the NCOs they rate are being assessed, but this is only a first step. The act of senior rating — considering an NCO’s potential — is more subjective. At some point, senior raters will have multiple NCOs who perform exceptionally well against the performance standards. This is when a senior rater must make a subjective comparison between NCOs to identify the “Most Qualified” among a pool of “Highly Qualified” NCOs. Senior raters must be prepared to “own” their assessments and use the NCOER counseling to mentor subordinate NCOs. This ownership begins and ends with honest and effective counseling.
Leaders at all levels must mentor raters and subordinate leaders on effective counseling. The emphasis here is on effective counseling. Leaders and Soldiers should not be satisfied with counseling that does little more than provide a list of tasks to be accomplished or a list of deficiencies to be overcome. Certainly counseling has to address the standard quantifiable subjects such as Army Physical Fitness Test performance, schools attendance, primary duty performance assessments and individual qualifications, but more than this, counseling has to address the intangible elements that traditionally set the great NCOs apart from the good ones. The importance of initiative, determination, resilience, lifelong learning and broadening opportunities, to name just a few, must be part of the mentorship an NCO receives in counseling.
Most importantly, counseling should be a frank, two-way discussion between the counselor and the NCO that includes the NCO’s strengths and weaknesses and how those strengths and weaknesses manifest themselves in the performance of daily duties. This requires a balanced discussion involving both positive reinforcement of what an NCO is doing well, along with candid feedback about where the NCO needs to improve. The leader must also listen to the Soldiers and their perception of their own performance, strengths and weaknesses in order to fully understand their developmental needs. Having had that two-way discussion, the leader can then focus on mentoring the subordinate on ways to emphasize strengths to minimize or mitigate weaknesses and providing resources and opportunities to the counseled NCO to directly address those weaknesses.
Of course, the subordinate NCO also has a role to play. The best mentorship in the world is wasted on an NCO who does not want to accept constructive criticism and seriously consider how to apply it to grow. These NCOs exist throughout the Army and are the ones most likely to be upset and vocal when they find they are among the 76 percent rather than the 24 percent. Frankly, NCOs who consistently refuse to accept and apply counseling provided to them should be rated “Not Qualified.” Refusal to seek and apply constructive criticism is a failure of the Leader Attributes “Character” and “Intellect,” and the Leader Competency “Develops,” and should not be assessed as “Qualified” at any level.
It is critical that we all recognize that counseling requires preparation on the part of the counselor and the individual counseled. This preparation and counseling require a commitment to consistently make the time. Time is a leader’s most precious resource, and a leader’s time should be prioritized for those activities that only the leader can do and which provide a high payoff when the leader uses his or her time for that activity. Counseling must be a leadership priority.
Effective counseling is a consistent dialogue between leader and Soldier that provides mentorship, direction, coaching, development and, perhaps most importantly, trust on both sides. Ultimately, this is where the NCOER process transitions from an administrative responsibility to a leadership function. With coordinated effort among raters and senior raters to produce honest NCOERs supported by frank counseling and dedicated mentorship, the NCOER process becomes a real tool for leader development and enhancement of potential. Long-term dedication to this effort will benefit the Army exponentially as we grow a more competent and potential-laden NCO corps. If the next generation of leaders maintain a dedication to mentorship and counseling, they will be capable of propelling the Army further than the current generation can conceive, and that will be the measure of our success.
All the ideas above are quickly summarized in the words of retired Col. Joe Buche, who said, counseling “is not designed to make you feel good about yourself. It is designed to help you improve your performance and therefore feel good about yourself. … Graduate-level leaders listen to counseling and use it as they approach the future. Amateurs leave counseling sessions [complaining] about their boss. Decide to which group you wish to belong and act accordingly.”
Let us, as an NCO Corps and as leaders, decide to be graduate-level counselors who build graduate-level leaders for the future of our Army.
Sgt. Maj. William E. White Jr. is the sergeant major of the United States Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps.
After an Army Times article detailed the seven-day workout plan for Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey, he got a lot of comments telling him, “That’s not PRT.”
Dailey has also heard Soldiers using their dislike of Army Physical Readiness Training as an excuse for not exercising. During a recent interview with the NCO Journal, Dailey made it clear that he believes in PRT, but that PRT is just the beginning of staying physically fit. Dailey said he does his workout routine in addition to PRT to maintain his fitness for the things he has needed to do throughout his career as an infantryman.
“I think PRT is actually very good, and it’s proved a success in our training environment,” Dailey said. “We’ve reduced injuries, and we’ve increased physical fitness scores coming out of basic training and AIT. What I need units to understand is PRT is not the end. … We shouldn’t be blaming PRT for our failure to have success in physical fitness. It’s a tool to use in achieving that success. … PRT is not the problem; 6:30 to 9 [a.m.] is the problem. We’ve failed the sacred hour. We need to get that back. It’s something that’s not going to take months; it’s not going to take years. Leaders can change this tomorrow morning. All they have to do is find a flag, wait for the music to go up, salute it and start getting after it.”
Dailey agrees with concerns that there should be stricter consequences for failing the Army Physical Fitness Test, and he said there will be stricter consequences as the Army continues to implement STEP (Select, Train, Educate, Promote).
“When we moved into Select, Train, Educate, Promote about two and a half years ago, we made physical fitness a critical part of succeeding in your institutional training experience,” Dailey said. “So if you go to your institutional training experience now and fail the APFT, you will get a derogatory [DA Form] 1059, which will remain in your records. Previously, that was not true. You could fail your school, and then when you passed, that 1059 would come out. It stays in there now. That’s critically important, because when we look for promotion we need to see the whole Soldier concept. So now with STEP, you have to go to your institutional training experience before you can get promoted. It’s a gate. So we’ve said that noncommissioned officers need to be promoted because they’re certified across all three leadership development domains, and now that’s going to be true with STEP. So until you’ve completed your selection, your training in your organization, your education through self-development, and your institutional experience, then and only then will you be able to be promoted. Physical fitness is a key and critical part of that.”
Recently, Dailey announced that the new Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Report would be delayed until 2016. Dailey expressed complete confidence in noncommissioned officers adapting to the changes in the coming NCOER, but he said it was necessary to slow the process down to make sure the NCOER is implemented correctly.
“We have to get this right,” Dailey said. “We worked really hard on the new Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Report. It is an excellent product. But how we roll it out and how we make it applicable to our noncommissioned officers is essential to the move forward. It’s OK if we slow down to take the time to make sure we train and educate the force on how to appropriately do it. We need buy-in from all the leaders here and across the Army, because this is intended to fix our Noncommissioned Officers Evaluation Report. So I’m not concerned about the Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Report; it’s the right way to go. But I am concerned that we make sure that we get it right as we roll it out to the Army. And we’re going to do just that.”
Because the Army as an organization is so large, it has suffered from moving people administratively instead of really managing talent, Dailey said. Though it will be difficult, Dailey hopes leaders can begin to be more involved in some of those decisions.
“We’re a leadership organization,” Dailey said. “I want leaders involved in that. That doesn’t mean leaders will control every facet about where someone PCSes or where they’re going to stay or extending them. But I do need leadership involvement with regard to managing the knowledge, skills and attributes needed to move an individual to the appropriate position that maximizes the capabilities of the organization and strengthens the mission of the United States Army. That’s complex stuff. As big as we are, that’s very complex and very hard to do. So as we move forward, my senior enlisted counsel will work on doing that. Of course, a lot of that will occur at the senior noncommissioned officer ranks. But internal to the organization, I need talent management from the perspective of, ‘I have to give back to the Army sometimes. I have to invest in the future of the Army by sending our young men and women to school to enhance their performance.’ Sometimes that takes sacrifice from a unit. Maybe they’re going to miss a unit field training problem. But what’s more important? Is it more important to invest in that noncommissioned officer for the future or just that two-week field training exercise?”
At the NCO Solarium in May at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., Dailey expressed concern about how some Soldiers are behaving on social media. “When Soldiers harass, put [damaging] things on the Internet, they are not in keeping with the honor, tradition and the stewardship of the profession,” he said.
Dailey told the NCO Journal he thinks NCOs can solve the problem without needing new rules and regulations in place. He wants NCOs to have an attitude of “Not in My Squad.”
“It sounds very simplistic, and that’s exactly what I want it to be,” Dailey said. “I want noncommissioned officers to know we trust them, because this is about trust. Trust runs both ways, up and down the chain of command. I want them to understand that we do trust you. We trust you with the lives of … the young men and women that we’ve given you. We’ve bestowed the greatest honor the American society can give to one individual and that is to lead those men and women into combat. That same trust applies when we’re back in garrison. More accurately, there’s no such thing as combat leadership. There’s no such thing as garrison leadership. There’s something called military leadership and Army leadership. It exists regardless of where we are and what we do.”
Every Soldier a billboard
Another topic of discussion that began at the NCO Solarium was the effectiveness of Army branding campaigns. Dailey said he wants Soldiers to see that what is more important than the slogans of “Army Strong” or “Army of One” is the everyday effect a Soldier has walking around his or her community. Dailey wants NCOs to know they are walking billboards for the Army.
“My billboard has and will always say Army Strong,” Dailey said. “I encourage leaders to think about how they are going to paint their own billboard for Soldiers. What is it going to say? You have so much influence on what that billboard says. It can affect whether a Soldier stays in the Army or they transition. It’s critically important that our nation clearly understands and knows that we will always be the organization that is most trusted in America. It takes a lot of billboards to maintain that. It takes a lot of hard work as well. But I always ask this: What do you want your billboard to say? What does it say today? What is it going to say tomorrow?”
Working on their personal billboards and striving to be the best will also help Soldiers have a better chance of staying in the Army as it downsizes, Dailey said. He offered his advice to Soldiers and NCOs looking to take charge of their careers.
“I’ll tell you that you can start first and foremost by listening to your noncommissioned officer every day,” Dailey said. “Do good PT and keep yourself physically fit. When you get the opportunity to go to a military school, stay in it and study hard. Strive to be in the top 10 percent of every school you go to. You should want to, if you want to maintain that edge over your peers. Those are the things you have to go after.”
The new policy for the noncommissioned officer evaluation report, or NCOER, due out in January, includes a limit on how many “most qualified” ratings can be handed out by a Soldier’s senior rater.
Under the new system, a senior rater may rate only as many as 24 percent as being most qualified. That limit applies when those being rated are in the rank of staff sergeant through sergeant major. The expectation will be to make the rating of “highly qualified” as the “new norm,” said Sgt. Maj. Stephen McDermid, the evaluations branch sergeant major for the Adjutant General Directorate, Human Resources Command.
“It’s important to understand that the ‘highly qualified’ selection will be the norm and that noncommissioned officers [NCOs] will remain competitive for promotion with highly-qualified NCOERs, given they complete their required professional military education,” McDermid said.
The senior rater profile is new on the NCOER, and similar to what is already being done on officer evaluation reports. Army leaders hope that implementation of a senior rater profile will help reduce “rating inflation” within the enlisted evaluation system, which makes it difficult for promotion boards to select the most qualified for promotion.
“It’s hard to use [the NCOER] as a determiner of success and for potential for promotion when everybody is a 1,” said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey. “That should be the number-one thing we are using to decide promotion potential. And unfortunately, because it is so equivalent for everybody, you can’t. You have to go to other things like school reports, awards and decorations and all those other things.”
McDermid said the limit of 24 percent is designed to reflect the promotion percentages common across various military occupational specialties within the enlisted ranks. The intent is to make it easier for promotion boards to identify those Soldiers who are most qualified to be promoted.
The decision to set the limit to 24 percent was made by the sergeant major of the Army and his senior enlisted council. The recommendation was passed to both the Army’s chief of staff and Army secretary, who both agreed with the recommendation.
“It’ll give promotion boards the ability to see who actually are the best by using the NCOER as a true discriminator of talent — what it’s supposed to do,” Dailey said.
The NCOER includes a block labeled “Senior Rater Overall Potential.” That block includes check boxes where senior raters are asked to compare an NCO’s “overall potential” to that of other NCOs of the same grade that the senior NCO has rated in his or her career. For the NCO being rated, senior raters may select from: “most qualified,” “highly qualified,” “qualified,” or “not qualified.” They may choose only one of those ratings, and may rate up to 24 percent of their Soldiers as “most qualified.”
Another change to the NCOER includes the supplementary review.
Army leaders have asked for a supplementary review on NCOERs when the senior rater is a sergeant first class, first sergeant, master sergeant, warrant officer one, chief warrant officer two, second lieutenant or first lieutenant.
“This supplementary review will be performed by a uniformed Army Soldier, senior to the senior rater within the rated NCO’s organization,” McDermid said. “As designed, the supplementary reviewer will monitor evaluation practices and provide assistance and/or advice to rating officials as needed.”
With the implementation of the new NCOER, counseling will remain critical in reviewing the Soldier’s demonstrated performance and potential while focusing on leader development throughout the rating period.
Raters must counsel the rated Soldier initially and quarterly, while the senior rater should counsel the rated NCO twice during the rating period.
“Ideally this will occur within the first 30 days of the rating period and then at the mid-point,” McDermid said. “To account for this, senior raters will have a section on the form to annotate comments from any counseling sessions conducted with the rated NCO.”
The requirement for counseling is also expected to help curb rating inflation, Dailey said, because senior raters, who in the past have neglected to engage in counseling with an NCO for an entire rating period, have been reluctant to rate that Soldier as anything less than the best.
“That’s why they got 1 blocks in the past,” Dailey said. “[Senior raters] didn’t do their job counseling, so they just gave them a 1 block.”
Dailey said that when senior raters hold counseling with the Soldiers they senior rate, they are more comfortable providing an honest rating at the end of the year.
“If I tell you all throughout the year in counseling that you are not doing a good job, I have no problem at the end of the year telling you that you are not doing a good job,” Dailey said. “But if I haven’t done my job in telling you what you have done wrong … then we tend to shy away from that when it is performance evaluation time. ”
The new NCOER was at one point expected to hit the streets at beginning of the new fiscal year, which is Oct. 1. But Dailey asked the Army’s chief of staff and Army secretary to move the date to Jan. 1. The additional time will allow for a fine-tuning of the process and procedures for tracking senior rater profiles to ensure Soldiers have a fair chance at promotions while also preventing rating inflation.
On Aug. 1, the secretary of the Army approved the new Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Report. Implementation will be in September 2015.
“The new NCOER will come out in five phases: inform, educate, train, roll-out and after-action review. Human Resources Command is beginning to build the NCOER into the Evaluation System now,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Charles E. Smith, senior enlisted adviser for Human Resources Command.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III provided his take on the new NCOER:
“The biggest challenge during the preparation and transition of the new NCOER over the next year will be to ensure NCO leaders at all levels clearly understand the new report, and its role in evaluations. We must ensure the new NCOER is perceived as a tool that delivers the best measures available to review and evaluate performance.
“NCO leaders must understand the process on how to effectively manage rating profiles,” Chandler continued. “It is very important to the future of the Army that Soldiers view the Army as an institution which is clearly able to identify premier leaders in a highly competitive environment. Therefore, as we prepare for the system to roll out around September 2015, I expect all NCOs to take the time to learn and understand how the evaluation system works, and how it supports the selection and promotion processes.”
The new NCOER will require insightful narratives instead of what are often nondescript, bulleted lists in the current NCOER. Also, the evaluations themselves will be different for junior and senior NCOs, explained Sgt. Maj. Stephen J. McDermid, with HRC’s Evaluations Selections & Promotions Division, Evaluations Branch.
The interval between approval and implementation will allow enough time for training on how to use the new NCOER. The months ahead will also ensure that the critical information technology portion of the implementation goes smoothly upon launch, he said.
In the coming weeks and months, regulations and pamphlets will be updated and Soldiers from installations Armywide will travel to HRC at Fort Knox, Ky., for two weeks of training so they can go back and train their assigned units and personnel, he added.
Besides training at Fort Knox, HRC will send out mobile training teams Armywide, to include the active component, Guard and Reserve,” to train the whole force from sergeants through general officers in this process,” Smith sai.
“If more training is required, we’ll send out additional teams, because we’ve got to make sure the foundation is done properly,” he added.
In 2010, the chief of staff of the Army directed a review of the current NCOER, which has been in place since 1987, McDermid said. The chief had concerns that it did not reflect current leadership doctrine and was over-inflated. He also wondered whether or not there needed to be more than one type of NCOER, instead of the one currently used for all NCO ranks.
By 2012, the sergeant major of the Army, his board of directors, and NCO working groups had reviewed the process and came up with some recommendations, which were then validated by a Council of Colonels and General Officer Steering committee.
HRC was then tasked with gathering feedback from the field and reviewing the Department of the Army Centralized Selection Board after-action reviews and also leader engagements with general officers and command sergeants major.
Earlier this year, the new Officer Evaluation Report was implemented. It has some similarities to the new NCOER, so feedback and after-action reviews on that were helpful in preparing the launch of the NCOER, McDermid said.
How it works
There will actually be three different NCOERs, McDermid said.
The direct level form is for sergeants, and it’s pretty straightforward, he said. It will have only two categories: “Met Standard” or “Did Not Meet Standard.” Whichever category is selected for this NCOER will require a bullet comment, also called a “task statement,” to support the checked category, he said.
The organizational level form is for staff sergeant through first sergeant/master sergeant and will have four categories. “Far Exceeded Standard” is the highest or best, he said. The next highest category is “Exceeded Standard;” the third category is “Met Standard;” the least desirable category is “Did Not Meet Standard.”
The strategic-level form is for command sergeants major and sergeants major. It will contain an in-depth narrative on his or her effectiveness to the organization. Because a narrative style of writing is much different than bulleted lists, training will focus on effective writing and how to write clear, accurate, descriptive, and thorough assessments, McDermid said.
There will be “a delineation of rating roles and responsibilities for the raters and senior raters,” McDermid said. The current NCOER has both rater and senior rater assessing performance and potential. In the new NCOER, the rater will focus only on “performance” and the senior rater only on “potential.”
“Senior raters will provide an assessment of the rated NCO’s overall potential compared to NCOs in the same grade, establishing a Senior Rater Profile for senior raters of staff sergeants to command sergeants major. Similar to Officer Evaluation Report, each senior rater’s profile will limit assessments of ‘Most Qualified’ to less than 50 percent. The supporting comments from the senior rater must send a clear message through enumeration, performance and potential. When properly articulated, this will assist the selection boards in selecting our top athletes to serve in positions of increased responsibilities,” said Smith.
A supplementary reviewer will be used in two situations, he added. The first is when there are no uniformed Army advisors or rating officials within the rating chain and second is when the senior rater or someone outside the rating chain directs a relief for cause.
Doctrinally, the new NCOER is expected to benefit the Army by better identifying talent within the Army, moving that talent to the best location and billet, and providing the Army with a better means of identifying which Soldiers should be put in key assignments. The new NCOER will also identify top-notch performers and provide them with educational and professional development opportunities. The NCOER will also be a useful tool in moving Soldiers around in the Army as they change assignments, McDermid said.
One of the key advantages of the new NCOER, is that it will “ensure depth and experience are met before an individual is promoted,” Smith said. “Once a leader is selected for the next grade, that person will be developed and mentored to assume that next highest grade.”
Smith said that “in the past, rating officials were not held accountable.” The new evaluation and assessment tools will ensure rating officials assess more accurately.
Successful training and IT efforts in the coming months alone will not ensure that the NCOER is a success, Smith cautioned. Leaders have to buy in and take ownership of it.
“I recommend the top leader in each formation serve as the master trainer during this critical time,” Smith said. “We’ve got to get this right. Folks’ careers are on the line as we write these new evaluation reports. If we do this right, it will lay the foundation for success in the future.”