Evaluations tell the Soldier story
February 19, 2013
FORT MEADE, Md. -- Each year, thousands of Soldiers submit promotion packets or applications for various opportunities, and many of those decisions are made while reviewing the non-commissioned officer evaluation report.
For a few brief moments a board member scans the NCOER to survey a period of time in a Soldier's career to make a decision that could affect the individual's military career.
"Remember who sees an evaluation report," said Master Sgt. Daniel Baxter, the personnel operations NCOIC at the 200th MPCOM.
As board members meet behind closed doors across the country, they come to the table with different experiences, skill sets and ideals.
REMEMBER WHO SEES AN EVALUATION REPORT
Baxter said his number one tip is ensuring the reviewer of an evaluation understands the duties and responsibilities of a particular Soldier.
"Avoid writing job descriptions or accomplishments as if the document will be only seen internally or by people that understand the job," he said.
He said a medic sitting on a promotion board might not know military police or public affairs specialist duties or the schools each would attend.
BE SPECIFIC AND CLEAR
Aside from the boards, NCOERs are a tool for both the leadership and Soldier.
"It is the responsibility of the rating chain to communicate level of responsibility, authority and actions necessary to complete the job," Baxter said.
Baxter said it is important to clarify what a Soldier is supposed to do and provides better direction for management of training and day-to-day activities.
"It also protects the Soldier with that same information while helping project them more honestly and confidently to the board," he said.
One of the historical NCOERs issues Baxter has seen are job descriptions written entirely too simple. As an example, he said "Mechanic with MP Battalion," does not encompass the entire job description of a mechanic in a military police battalion.
"What can anyone derive from that job description," he asked.
Routine maintenance, scheduling repair part ordering, monthly reports and the amount of equipment and dollar amount are all important elements of a duty description for a mechanic, according to Baxter.
AREAS OF SPECIAL EMPHASIS AND APPOINTED DUTIES
"Areas of special emphasis are not an area to 'continue' the job description," he said. "Placing something like 'Engine repairs and maintenance'" is already covered in the job description."
Baxter said it is important to remember that if the Soldier is doing things that are contained within the job, but aren't specifically identified as being above and beyond normal duties, those should be included in the areas of special interest.
As an example, he said "Division Maintenance SOP" could be an area of special emphasis as it pertains to mechanical work, but is not part of the standard duties.
"Don't put APFT, weight control, or other items that are implied parts of being a Soldier," he said.
Additionally, appointed duties are items that are directed in the form of appointment memorandums.
OSHA compliance manager, facility security manager and APFT instructor are few examples Baxter pointed out as potential additional duties a Soldier could list in this part of the NCOER.
"The OSHA compliance manager would go here since it is a specific document that can be referenced and might not otherwise be part of the job other than by default since safety is first and a proactive Soldier ensuring OSHA placards are up, safety material sheets are secured in the proper location," he said. "The OSHA manager takes more responsibility and integrates more functions than the standard duty description of a mechanic."
USE MEASURABLE INFORMATION AND AVOID PERSONALLY DETERMINED WORD DEFINITIONS
Another common error Baxter mentioned is when raters and senior raters use comments that sound nice, but really mean nothing at all.
"Strove to be the best," and "Conducted excellent training to staff," are common bullets he has seen throughout his career as a personnel sergeant.
"What exactly do those mean," he asked.
He said evaluations must be more specific and the information needs to be used to convey the Soldier's performance to boards or human resource staff that could possibly review the evaluation report.
He said, "provided training to 3 junior NCOs to attend Audie Murphy Board with 2 selections" or "earned Division NCO of the Quarter outperforming 4 NCOs senior in grade" are good examples of specific measurable information.
"Who defines stellar," he asked.
He said for mid-level and senior NCOs, excellence bullets must be justified with quality management and communication skills.
If a Soldier works at a division level with oversight of brigades, Baxter said this increases the scope of required communications and planning. "Measureable and defined is the key," he said. "The back page portions of the NCOER are your opportunity to prove what a Soldier does, not just come up with flowery language. Flowery language quickly wilts under the heated scrutiny of boards."
Follow regulation guidance and standards and "minor references" that can generally get missed.
"An evaluation report is for things that happened in the past," he said.
He said leaders should start bullets with past tense action words such as: demonstrated, completed, supervised, executed, showed and conducted.
"Use variety too," he added. "Variety used by the rater implies that he or she is capable in terms of thoughtful and strong communication."
Avoid using space that should be allocated for more description of their accomplishments.
"Soldier did an excellent job."
Baxter said boards know that a Soldier is being evaluated and said raters should use the space for something more engaging and descriptive.
"I strongly encourage avoiding use of gender on any evaluation reports," he said. "Despite the time and energy that the Army has dedicated towards equal opportunity and gender balance, you cannot guarantee that these biases don't exist."
PROFILES AND APFT
One of the biggest reminders from Baxter is that comments pertaining to profiles are for temporary profiles only.
"Don't mention profiles that have expired unless the Soldier is still in recovery period and cannot take the APFT in the rating period," he said. "If there is a permanent profile, this does NOT get used here."
Temporary profiles should only receive the comment, "profile does/does not hinder ability to perform duties" Rater should put "does" or "does not" as appropriate.
He warned raters of using comments like, "overcame three years of profiles to pass APFT."
SENIOR RATER COMMENTS (NCOERS)
At a minimum, Baxter said senior raters should cover four areas: Performance, potential, promotion, and NCOES.
"Again, use measureable comments in performance," he said.
One of the most overused comment is, "potential is unlimited" and should be replaced with something more specific and descriptive like," potential to serve at higher ranks and levels is seen through planning and communications skills," he said.
Another tip he said was NCOES should always be mentioned and specific to the Soldier.
"Don't leave the board to imagine things - even if they seem basic or common knowledge to the people in the rating chain or unit," he said.
BE SURE TO CHECK IWRS FOR PAST AND CURRENT EVALUATIONS STATUS
A key item for returned evaluations from HRC is the fact that beginning date of current evaluation reports overlap with end date of the previous evaluation.
"A simple administrative item like this can hold up key input for items like boards; especially when administrative staff, rating official, or Soldier are not monitoring IWRS for the status and completion of submitted evaluations," he said.
"Do it, do it and do it," he said.
Baxter said having written counseling done quarterly is the basis for spending much less time trying to remember what happened over the last year.
"If tasks, accomplishments and areas of improvement are documented, all the rater has to do is sit back, review the accomplishments or areas that need or needed improvement and capture those in the evaluation."
Baxter said the goal of the Army, and any good business, is to put the best and brightest at the front in order to continue moving forward and improving.
"Perhaps one of the biggest parts of an evaluation is honesty," he said. "If you don't have documentation or a good way of bolstering the excellence block, don't use it."
He said there may be a point where you have to actually tell a Soldier that they really aren't performing at their best potential.
"It is the responsibility of the rating chain to accurately tell Army leadership what resources it has and what quality they are," he said. "Do you really want the NCO that you have to counsel to turn in his daily patrol logs to be responsible for more people and what they do? What makes them qualified if the NCO Corps is supposed to be the Backbone of the Army?"