An EPE works with Soldiers.
An EPE works with Soldiers. (Photo Credit: (Photo courtesy of Ashley Herrell)) VIEW ORIGINAL

Part One of this series introduced the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research’s Embedded Performance Expert Quality Improvement Evaluation of the embedment of Performance Experts within units at the brigade and battalion levels. Based on interviews with EPEs and unit leaders, the WRAIR evaluation team identified best practices for embedding PEs. Part Two described the methods for promoting a successful start to the embedment. This third and final article will highlight what successful EPEs do to sustain performance over time. These interviews revealed the benefits of careful observation, advertising, regular meetings with senior leadership, continued interactions with Soldiers, and being ready to deliver on the spot training.

During ongoing interactions in meetings and at trainings, successful EPEs observe and take notes. They are prepared to speak up during meetings and provide consolidated feedback to senior leaders in both verbal and written forms. EPEs set up recurring meetings with the “top 5” one to two times a month to discuss trends, engagements, plans, and feedback. When providing feedback related to engagements with the unit, EPEs’ success came when they connected that feedback directly to the commander’s priorities to reinforce the EPEs’ relevance. Additionally, EPEs can provide suggestions for how they can integrate into large training exercises or other events. These suggestions often include a plan for the future, while also sharing positive results (e.g., STX lanes, live-fire exercises) using historical data or group comparisons.

Successful EPEs determine who the advocates are, as EPEs often need one person per platoon with whom they work directly and who will help spread the word about their capabilities. These EPEs can also market themselves by displaying visuals (e.g., physical advertisements) on the walls or bulletin boards with permission. In addition, they use social media (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) to share the work they are doing in the unit. These EPEs provide support in various ways, including academic performance training or mastery sessions for weight loss or smoking cessation. EPEs also create materials (e.g., flashcards, laminated resources) to help Soldiers overcome reoccurring stressors or assist with academics.

Hip pocket training can happen anywhere, so successful EPEs are always ready to jump in and talk to Soldiers. They are prepared to go to the range and the field with the unit. These EPEs have an agreed-upon purpose (e.g., observation, provide feedback during AARs) with unit leaders for going to the range or field, which helps prevent “taking a walk in the woods.” As the EPEs learn more about what the unit does, they can contribute more during AARs. Successful EPEs are curious about what the Soldiers are doing, and they are actively engaged in coaching Soldiers to reduce stress during qualifying events and walking lanes with leaders to increase their confidence.

Ongoing interactions with Soldiers reinforce the ideas and behaviors that the EPE established at the start of embedment. These interactions strengthen rapport and provide opportunities to reinforce psychological concepts and skills. It also includes approaching Soldiers and demonstrating care by chatting with them to learn about their professional goals. In formal settings, such as at a training, EPEs continue to introduce themselves, explain what they do, and share the purpose of the training they are providing, especially as new Soldiers join the unit. During the debrief or AAR, EPEs re-explain the “why” of the training or coaching and connect it to the Soldiers’ personal lives. In other settings, such as at PT or on the range, successful EPEs continue to engage with Soldiers during downtime, as appropriate. If at any point a Soldier shares a clinical issue with an EPE, the EPE can help that Soldier get to a Chaplain or behavioral health specialist. These EPEs then follow-up with the Soldier and support them within the EPEs’ professional lane.

Continuing to build and maintain professional rapport with leaders and Soldiers, while providing timely and relevant communication is critical for the success of the EPEs. Additionally, being embedded in the battalion or brigade headquarters enables them to be more intentional with these relationships, thus allowing them to engage more easily with their units. Successful EPEs are able to employ a variety of methods with leaders and Soldiers and therefore contribute to the accomplishment of the unit’s mission.

Editor's note: Material has been reviewed by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. There is no objection to its presentation and/or publication. The opinions or assertions contained herein are the private views of the authors, and are not to be construed as official, or as reflecting true views of the Department of the Army or the Department of Defense.