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Proposed changes for the new NCOER system

Recently I was made aware the Army is considering changes to the NCOER system. The new system is scheduled for implementation by June 2012. I understand the following changes are being considered:

  • Senior Raters must address the specific position held by the rated Soldier
  • A signature block will be added for CSM/SGM review to indicate the CSM/SGM has reviewed the report
  • A referred report concept will be added for SFC and above. Provides the Soldier the opportunity to submit comments along with a derogatory report.
  • Removal of counseling dates; invigorate actual counseling within other areas of the NCOER system
  • Redesign place of value block and incorporate bullets by individual values
  • Remove 3 future assignments and have rater address future assignment positions in Responsibilities and Values section
  • Consider creating a Senior Rater profile, similar to the OER system

It is my understanding that these changes are being made in an effort to reduce scoring inflation within the current system. While I applaud the review of evaluation process and believe there is room for improvement in the evaluation process I have some specific concerns:

Rating inflation is caused by raters

First when it comes to the issue of inflated ratings I am not sure I understand the reason for change. When we changed from the older Enlisted Evaluation Report (EER) to the new Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Report (NCOER) system in the late 80’s one of the primary reasons was to combat inflated ratings.  Now some twenty odd years later we are considering changing a reporting system to combat inflated ratings. I would argue that changing the system only stops or inhibits inflation for a period of time until leaders learn the ropes of the new system. I believe the true way to combat inflation is to enforce the standards of the reporting system. This means leaders at all levels need to understand the system and enforce it accordingly. If a rating chain inflates a report the reviewer should address the inflated ratings and hold the rating chain accountable for failing to enforce standards. Changing a form does not combat inflated ratings. Enforcing the standards reduces inflated ratings. The NCO corps should take notice of the Officer Evaluation Report (OER) with regard to reducing inflated rating. Inflated ratings are controlled by the rating chain not by the reporting system.

Counseling dates keep leaders honest

Second I am concerned about the proposal to remove counseling dates from the NCOER form. The counseling dates are a safeguard to ensure leaders inform subordinates of substandard performance. Far too often subordinates receive derogatory comments on their NCOER and never receive the required counseling. Let’s not make it easier for leaders to make derogatory comments about subordinates. Leaders are responsible for mentoring their subordinates. If they are not capable of addressing the issue in writing and proving the subordinate the appropriate counsel to improve they should not be in a position of leadership. I am for any effort that improves leader accountability to ensure counseling is conducted. I suggest any effort that reduces leader accountability and responsibility is an admission that Senior leaders are not holding subordinate leaders accountable with regard to their duty and responsibility to counsel subordinates.  Let’s not lower the standard but enforce the standard. Experience tells me Soldiers tend to do those things that are inspected. If counseling is a command priority Soldier will execute it. Counseling done properly helps grow the future leaders of this great Nation.

Leaders find many reasons not to counsel subordinates. Usually the response is “I didn’t have time… I verbally counseled the Soldier. That should be sufficient.” Leaders who use these excuses would find it unfair if their rater used the same excuses on them and then provided a less than favorable evaluation about them. The standard is to inform the subordinate of inappropriate or substandard conduct so that they can improve. Any movement that reduces the responsibility of the rating chain to counsel less or lightens the burden of leader responsibility with regard to counseling or mentoring is inappropriate and a disservice to the rated Soldier. I will be interested to see how the new rating system will invigorate actual counseling. I hope I am proven wrong and that a better counseling system is put in place. The proof will be in the pudding as they say.

It’s not all doom and gloom

On a positive note I applaud the referred report concept, CSM/SGM review box, and the possible implementation of a senior rater profile. I believe these changes will do much to enhance the overall validity of the report. With regard to a senior rater profile I do have some concerns as the NCO corps has not traditionally used this process. It will be very important to ensure the NCO corps is properly educated with regard to the intricacies of the profile process.

In summary, inflation is controlled by leaders who enforce the standard. It is not controlled by changing a rating form. Counseling is a duty and responsibility of a leader. While counseling can be time consuming, it ensures the Soldier knows exactly where they stand with you and documents your actions. Treat your Soldiers how you want to be treated!

posted on 03/26/2011 under Articles
Mark is a Retired Command Sergeant Major with 26 years of military leadership experience. He held 3 military occupational specialties (Field Artillery, Nuclear Weapons Tech, and Ammunition Ordnance). Mark is one of the leading military authors in the fields of leadership, counseling, and training..

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