Navy Evaluation “Season” is upon us.  Between March and July evaluations will be performed on all Sailors in the Pay grades E5 and below.  In addition, mid-term counseling will be due for Chiefs in March and First Class Petty Officers in May.  We should not view these as separate events, but instead as one program.  The time for preparation is now.

                Preparation starts with identifying the goal.  In this case, Navy annual performance reviews will accomplish two things.  They will influence a Sailors likelihood of promotion to the next rank, and they will also influence their future performance.  The latter of these goals will be addressed in a future blog post.

                We will start with influence on promotion, because no matter how much work, or how many rewrites an evaluation goes through in order to capture just the right verbiage in the comments block, the only thing on the Sailors mind when he or she is brought in to be presented their evaluation is the summary group breakout.  

                As the reporting senior is reviewing the demographic data and then proceeding down the front page of the evaluation, the members mind is likely thinking…..enough already, flip the darn thing over so I can see what I got!  Once this happens, no matter how much you may want to discuss Leadership Traits in Block 38, or Career Recommendations in Block 40- their eyes have already looked down to the bottom of the page and their mind is racing….either they are happy they “Got an EP” or they are mad that they did not.

              So, let’s look at what this coveted Early Promote recommendation means.  For purposes of this blog post we will view it as it relates to an E5 evaluation.

              Mathematically the performance mark average comprises 47.5 % of the E6 Final multiple.  In comparison, it makes up 42% for E4 and E5 Candidates, but a full 50% of the E7 Final Multiple.  Conversely, the raw test score for E6 candidates is 33%, vice 37% for E4 and E5 candidates, and a whopping 50% for E7 candidates.  

              Determining a Performance Mark Average for an E6 candidate requires all evaluations submitted in that pay grade in the past three years.  This is the same requirement as for E7 candidates, so we can see also that the Navy is trying to identify Sailors with sustained superior performance.  One big difference between the E6 candidate and the E7 candidate, however, is that, under normal advancement process, the actual reporting senior comments are not taken into consideration for advancement to E6, as they are in the Chief’s board process.

              So it is not a stretch to say that the Navy places more value on the summary group recommendations on our Second Class Petty Officers than any other rank.  This should give us, as leaders, some pause, as we consider how we categorize our Sailors each March.          

             Sailor “A” with two consecutive EP’s can be given a time in rate waiver and allowed to take the E6 exam one year early.  When this happens the Sailor will compete with the maximum allowable points for Performance Mark Average.  (4.0 X 80)-204=116.  Since this person would have 2 years Time in rate (2+9.5=11.5) and no PNA points this Sailor enters into the equation with a raw score of 127.5.  The only factors still to be included in their final multiple is Awards points and Raw Test Score.

            Sailor “B” has been a Second Class for four years. Assuming Performance Mark Average of 3.87 (last three evaluations were MP/MP/EP) this would earn 105.6 points, 10.4 points less than Sailor “A” in that category.  But factor in 9 PNA points based on the previous two exams (2.0 + 2.5 = 4.5 multiplied by two equals 9) and 13.5 points for Time in Grade and now Sailor “B” is going into the exam at 128.1 points, before Awards and Raw score  or a difference of 0.6 points.

           The question then is: Is a two year Second Class with two EP’s equal to a 4 year Second Class with two MP’s and one EP, and a history of above average performance?  Do they both have the same potential for success as a First Class Petty Officer? In some cases, the answer will definitely be yes.  But we as leaders owe it to ourselves to be absolutely sure.

           While it may be counterintuitive to think so, the real problem lies in small summary groups, not in large summary groups.  We may think smaller groups are easy, because the smaller the group, the less the likelihood of hurting people’s feelings. Larger groups, however, tend to mean some good Sailors are put into categories we don’t feel they deserve, because of forced distribution.  This factor will be even more difficult this year with the Navy forcing some Second Classes into the dreaded “Promotable” category. 

            In reality small summary groups are really only good if our goal is to make as many people feel good about themselves as possible.  If our goal is to find ways to promote the Sailors most likely to succeed at the next pay grade, then larger groups are better.   As mentioned earlier in this post the Navy seeks to reward sustained superior performance, but this should not be defined as simply being the best person in the shop.  In the Navy Evaluation system the trait average reflects how well you do your current job, but the promotion summary group reflects a Sailors potential to perform at the next level.

         I have used the following basic definitions in describing each category for a number of years:

PROMOTABLE– “There is no legal reason that this Sailor is ineligible for promotion.  If he or she were to be selected for advancement,   I don’t have to like it, but there is nothing I can do about it.”

MUST PROMOTE– “Should this Sailor be advanced, there is reasonable certainty that he or she could accomplish the mission with little to no dip in the performance of the shop or organization”

EARLY PROMOTE– “This Sailor is already performing at the level of the next pay grade ( note that “already performing at” is not the same as having “the potential to perform at”).  This Sailor is currently being placed in billets or in charge of tasks that are typically above his or her current pay grade.”

            There may be times when a Sailor is placed down a category due to forced distribution and in that case it should certainly be annotated in the comments section.  But looking at the evaluation from the perspective of ensuring the Navy has a stock of successful Sailors at the next pay grade, it is better to have EP Sailors marked as MP Sailors than the other way around.

            Transporting ourselves forward in time mentally is another method of evaluating future performance.  When determining which mark to give the Sailor think, “how would I feel if this person showed up at my command to fill the only First Class billet we had”.  If the thought of that happening doesn’t make you nervous, perhaps this Sailor is a Must Promote.  Now how would you react if this Sailor told you he or she just received orders to a remote command where the job will require working independent of a Chief Petty Officer.  If you are still comfortable with that mental picture, then perhaps this Sailor is an Early Promote.

            Raising our mental standards for performance evaluations is difficult; there is no doubt about it.  But we must get past rewarding individuals for simply being the best among equals.  We must be able to adequately describe the skills and abilities needed for individuals to succeed at the next level, and these qualities may not always be the qualities we expect at the current level. We must guard against the “Peter Principle” which states an employee will continue to be promoted until he or she proves they can no longer handle the job, and they will then be left in the position they cannot perform in.

            For the most part, Second Class Petty Officers are the most senior Sailors still working in their rate on a daily basis.  First Class Petty Officers are the first line of supervision and management of larger groups and tasks.  We should do everything we can to ensure we promote those who are ready to succeed immediately at the challenges on the other side of this promotion.  The Navy asks us as leaders to help in this process by using the evaluation system correctly, taking the big picture view, not just focusing on our shop.    What’s best for the Sailor personally may not always be what’s best for the Navy organizationally and determining the difference can certainly be a difficult decision, but it’s the type of decisions the Navy expects us, as Chiefs, to make.