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Chief: Getting personal on EPRs will help airmen

Feb. 26, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
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Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody said supervisors can direct airmen facing personal difficulties to appropriate resources. (Scott Ash / Air Force)
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Discussions about personal finances and relationships with supervisors — one of the steps coming to the new Enlisted Evaluation System — raise privacy concerns for some airmen.

“If an Airman’s finances are in order, that is all the Air Force needs to know. Any other information is none of the Supervisor’s business,” Gary Swanson wrote on the Air Force website.

But such conversations need to take place — for the good of the airman and the Air Force, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody said at a Feb. 22 briefing at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla.

If an airman is facing difficulties, the Air Force has resources to help, Cody said. If personal problems are ignored, they can end up hurting performance at work.

“You need to talk to somebody about that,” Cody said. It’s unreasonable “to think we would not have that conversation.”

The Air Force also has to know about personal problems because they can not only hurt job performance but also derail security clearances, he said.

“This is not about supervisors making a value judgment” about an airman’s finances or relationships, he said.

Supervisors could ask airmen about such personal topics for a new, more comprehensive feedback form, which will be the first piece of a major overhaul of the Enlisted Evaluation System.

In preparing that form, or Airman Comprehensive Assessment, supervisors will ask airmen about some personal matters that could affect their Air Force careers. This and changes to the Enlisted Performance Report are expected before the end of the year.

That supervisors are asking such questions is not new. “We’ve always done it,” Cody said, because knowing their airmen is a central responsibility of supervisors.

The feedback form will be introduced several months before changes to the EPR, Cody said. Once it’s had “time to settle in,” the new EPR will be phased in, beginning with senior enlisted members.

Cody reiterated the importance of improving the evaluation system because, under the current system, most airmen get performance scores of 5 out of 5. With such inflated scores, “we have to take this on,” he said.

In a Jan. 9 “CHIEFchat” with airmen worldwide, Cody said Chief of Staff Mark Welsh directed senior enlisted leaders to “make recommendations to transform the enlisted evaluation into something that, first and foremost, values performance.”

Rating airmen as threes, fours and fives will be a thing of the past under the new system, he said.

“Most people are used to being told they are the best, even though they know they really aren’t the best,” Cody said. “We’re going to have to do a good job of working through that emotional response and reaction to it and realizing this is for the good of all.”

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