Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody says the new feedback forms will be time-consuming, but it will be 'time well spent.' (Scott M. Ash / Air Force)
The first step in a major overhaul of how enlisted airmen are evaluated is expected to be released by the end of May.
The Airman Comprehensive Assessment, a revised feedback form that will be part of the new Enlisted Performance Report system, will include a self-assessment, a detailed performance evaluation, and questions for airmen and supervisors to discuss.
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody has discussed the new feedback form several times in recent months, and said it will be thorough and spark “deep, meaningful” conversations between supervisors and airmen about their performance goals. He said supervisors owe it to their airmen to give them clear and honest feedback, and airmen must truly listen to that feedback and act to fix their weaknesses to reach their full potential.
“As the name implies, it’s comprehensive,” Cody said in his March 31 Roll Call message. “It will take time, but it will be time well spent.”
In a January video, Cody said that as part of the revised feedback form process, supervisors could ask their airmen questions about their finances, relationships and other personal matters that could affect their Air Force careers.
After that video was released, some airmen said they thought the questions would intrude on their privacy, and said their marriages and financial situations are none of the Air Force’s business. Others — such as retired Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Jim Binnicker — said the change is smart. Turmoil at home could have consequences on duty, Binnicker said, and supervisors need to know about it.
Other major changes to the EPR are likely to follow the feedback form’s release.
Cody said in January that the Air Force is considering dropping numerical performance ratings as part of the EPR overhaul. Cody acknowledged widespread criticisms that the current EPR ratings are often inflated, and said about 80 percent of enlisted airmen receive the top score of 5 — rendering the rating system effectively useless.
Airmen could instead be evaluated based on written summaries — or as Cody called them, “word pictures” — of their performance under the new EPR system.
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said during a May 13 interview with Air Force Times that during her time in the private sector at firms like SAIC, companies had similar numerical rating systems. But in the private sector, most employees received a 3, which was considered “fully successful” and should be the norm.
“If everybody gets a 5, which is equivalent to walking on water, then what does that really mean?” James said. “What you want is these ratings to mean something. If everybody gets the same rating and it happens to be the top score, then it really means nothing.”
James also said airmen need more continuous feedback with their supervisors, not just a once-a-year paper exercise.
In a May 14 e-mail, Air Force spokesman Maj. Matt Hasson said that the Air Force is now finalizing details on the revised EPR system, including the timeline for rolling it out.
“A proper feedback is the only way we can provide our airmen the direction and guidance they need to reach their fullest potential,” Hasson said.