The new EES: a chance to change for the better

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jeffrey Urbanski
  • 317th Maintenance Squadron first sergeant
I frequently hear complaints concerning the new Enlisted Evaluation System. Those who I overhear are bemoaning some tidbit or another, resisting our beloved Air Force's newest change in the long line of its addiction to avoiding tradition like the plague. OK, I agree that there are issues (Why do we still rate one through four on the front and then one through five on the back?), but let me take a moment to open the eyes of La' Resistance and lend a little advice. 

For starters, aligning the Performance Feedback Worksheet with the Enlisted Performance Report is so obvious, it borders on brilliance. We've eliminated the vague "slider rule" arrowheads and replaced them with the squares, labeled exactly like the EPR, for a concrete determination of where we stand against our peers. Don't like your feedback? Fight for guidance. Change negative patterns of behavior. Define "above and beyond" from your rater's point of view. Resist, and your EPR will look exactly like your feedback. It's beautiful. 

Furthermore, the verbiage is much clearer on the new EPR form than it was on the old. The difference between "good," "excellent," and "the exception" is subjective at best, but there is very little wiggle room between "meets," "above average," and "clearly exceeds." Oh, there will be arguments, but a quick gut-check can easily dismiss the differences between your above-average troops and those who clearly exceed standards. 

And how about the ratee's right to read and sign their own EPR before it closes out? Is that great, or what? Gone are the days of "just sign this thing and we'll do the feedback later." 

Additionally, and most importantly, the new EPR form is an opportunity to fix the over inflation of our previous system. (Oh, yes, I'm going there ...) I have been hearing complaints about the inflated EPR system since my first formal Air Force school experience in Airman Leadership School, all the way through my last in the First Sergeant Academy. 

I'm not trying to inspire philosophical debates on the "right" or "wrong" of it, but to make a point. Who inflated it in the first place? Guess what, supervisors: we did. Don't like the inflated ratings? Fix it. People might say, "But, Shirt, I don't want to hurt my troops' promotion chances! What if I'm the only one rating honestly? ..." Integrity check, folks - as supervisors, that's your job. The new EPR form makes it easy for you; if you couldn't walk into the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force's office and say, "Sir, this Airman is 'truly among the best,'" then you've resolved your own issue with the almighty gut-check. 

Finally, I encourage all supervisors to take a moment in the next few weeks to grab your subordinates and the new PFW and conduct a quick feedback session. If the feedback isn't actually due, so what? Utilize the new form and give a detailed description of your expectations to your subordinate. Be brutally honest in your assessment. Give that mentor's perspective that all Airmen crave from someone who's "been there, done that." Re-emphasize the importance of timely and thorough feedback. 

Senior NCOs, catalyze the chain reaction by being the first to use the new PFW with your first-line supervisors. Make the PFW your subordinates' roadmap to success defined by your own expectations as well as those of the Air Force; it should read like a simple checklist to that "truly among the best" rating. 

The new EES is finally here, and I say that's a good thing. It's been almost 20 years. Are you one of La' Resistance? Adapt, overcome and improvise. Roll with it. Semper Gumby. This is just one of the many changes we've endured and just the beginning of many more. The positive impacting changes at the tactical/operational level are sometimes few and far between, so embrace this one. The new forms make it easy. 

As supervisors, we are blessed with the almighty gut-check. So use it. Poke a pin in the inflated system, and let's get back to an honest feedback system that promotes fairness, opportunity for the deserving, and "sound information to assist in identifying the best qualified enlisted personnel."