The Foreign Service Journal, March 2024

STATE VP VOICE | BY HUI JUN TINA WONG AFSA NEWS Contact: | (202)-647-8160 Spotlight on EERs and the New Scoring Rubric The Foreign Service is abuzz with talk of our new scoring rubric for employee evaluation reports (EERs). Throughout 100 years of our modern Foreign Service, the State Department has continually refined its performance evaluation toolkit. This new scoring rubric is, by far, one of its biggest updates. For the first time, employees can see a specific breakdown of their average scores. AFSA has long supported our members in advocating for clear and transparent measures in our performance and evaluation system. The department certainly still has more to do to explain to the workforce what all these scores mean and how to leverage them to improve on the process of drafting annual evaluations (EERs), but it is an important start on this journey. I want to dive deeper into AFSA’s specific role in these efforts. As your AFSA State VP, I am charged with the responsibility to negotiate with the department on the core precepts and the procedural precepts, two very important documents guiding the Foreign Service selection and tenure boards. The core precepts affect multiple rating periods and provide the guidelines for tenure and selection boards to determine tenure and promotability among the department’s Foreign Service members. Think of the core precepts as the building blocks of your EER—these are the elements that boards will use to make assessments about your promotability. Even easier to miss but perhaps more important are the procedural precepts that AFSA negotiates annually with the department. Procedural precepts are the specific instructions to the boards. They establish the organization and responsibilities of the Foreign Service selection boards and describe the precise criteria boards use to reach their determinations. The procedural precepts can be found at the Bureau of Global Talent Management Office of Performance Evaluation’s (GTM/PE) intranet page under the “references and forms” tab. I am a strong proponent of the new core precepts: management; leadership; substantive and technical expertise; communications; and diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA). The new scoring rubric now sheds light on how employees scored, on average, in each precept. AFSA will continue to pursue additional board feedback on the meaning behind these precept scores beyond the published factsheets and FAQs. Focus your attention on the “Scoring Core Precept Narratives” section of the procedural precepts. Scoring is very specific: a score of “5” requires demonstrated mastery of the precept and leading/mentoring others in mastering this precept; “4” requires demonstrated mastery in all facets of this precept; “3” requires consistent demonstration of skilled competence in a majority of behaviors in that precept; “2” means skilled competence in some areas of that precept; and a score of “1” means there was little or no demonstrable competence in a majority of behaviors in that precept. The bottom line: Read the procedural precepts with a fine-tooth comb before you, your rater, and your reviewer start writing your EER. Better still, design your work requirement statement and counseling session around strategizing ways for you to demonstrate impact aligned with mastery in all aspects of each precept. I also want to myth bust about the DEIA precept. It is simply untrue that our EERs were devoid of any requirements for or references to elements of diversity and inclusion until the 2022-2023 rating period. Check out the 2013-2018 and 2018-2022 core precepts: Under “Team Building,” an element of leadership skills specifically cites work in an “inclusive” manner at the entry level, calls for creating “an environment that facilitates open exchanges of ideas” at the mid-level, and “embraces diversity and inclusion” at the senior level. This is just one of many examples from these past core precepts. This doesn’t mean that having written anything related to DEIA before it was a stand-alone precept directly correlates to your final score in that precept. Your EER must still demonstrate to the boards your impact and mastery of that precept. AFSA is open to your ideas about ways to educate and equip every Foreign Service member with fair and equitable opportunities to demonstrate and master every precept. We continue our work on this, including meeting with the Bureau of Global Talent Management’s Office of Performance Evaluation monthly to discuss further reforms. We are collecting feedback from the promotion boards and directly from our members and employee organizations. I also encourage you to answer the annual call to serve on the promotion boards. Email for more information on how to volunteer. Regarding ongoing reforms, AFSA supports the introduction of decimal points to the scoring of each precept. With this year’s addition of the sixth area of cross-functional competency (also known as class-wide promotions), count on us to press for clarity in its scoring. Write to me or to share your ideas. n 58 MARCH 2024 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL