Effective feedback will fix the inflated EPR system

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Glenn Zimmerman
  • 92nd Force Support Squadron superintendent
At a recent Airman Leadership School panel I was told by an individual that the enlisted performance report system was broken; that there was no distinction between individual ratee's because the majority of Airmen received a firewall 5 rating. I agree the system tends to be inflated, but think that a simple solution exists to solve the problem, "feedback," lots of honest to-the-point feedback will solve this inflation issue.

I feel there is a lack of constructive feedback being given today; that supervisors fail to address specific benchmarks, guidelines or goals in all six areas of the Enlisted Performance Report that they will utilize to measure their Airmen. For example, have you sat down and let your Airman know "exactly" what your expectations are of him or her. I mean a detailed specific descriptive roadmap that tells your Airman what 'you' need them to do or when you feel that your Airman is not "clearly exceeding" in any of the categories on the EPR. Plainly and simply, are you actively engaging and giving them the tools and guidance to get better; to be a reliable and dependable Airman?

In too many cases, the answer to my questions above is "no." Supervisors fail to give solid constructive feedback; they fail to be explicit in the details of what their Airmen should be doing and what the expectations are of them. This lack of feedback creates and perpetuates an inflated EPR system. How? Because markdowns need to be justified and if it's discovered that a proposed evaluation that contains mark downs is not based on the type of documented and constructive feedback I mentioned above, the result is usually an inflated rating.

During my last two visits to the ALS during mentoring sessions, I was alarmed to find out that less than 10 percent of the Airmen present felt that they had received good constructive feedback from their supervisors. Only a few said their supervisors had articulated a clear understanding of expectations from their rating chain and understood what it took to be successful in the Air Force. One Airman actually said that in four years he had never received a single feedback; he said that he had survived in the Air Force just by being lucky and not getting into trouble; his success was only because he had learned to rely on his peers.

Airmen deserve open and honest discussion with their supervisor that gives them a clear understanding of expectations; they also deserve constructive guidance when they clearly do not meet that supervisor's level of performance and behavior with both on and off-duty requirements. Don't make your Airmen have to be "lucky" to survive in the Air Force; they deserve better...they need to be given the tools to know how to be a successful Airman...to know what it takes to "clearly exceed" in today's Air Force.

Remember, not everyone deserves or should get a firewall 5 EPR; a lack of feedback will continue to perpetuate inflated EPR's for Airmen that do not deserve them; and continuously blur the line of distinction between a mediocre or good Airman. Feedback is a supervisor's foundation for giving a truly honest interpretation of what an Airman really deserves.