The Foreign Service Journal, September 2012

S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 2 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 17 N ow that another Employee Evaluation Review season has mercifully come to a close, it seems clearer than ever that our personnel evaluation system is broken. It wastes a staggering amount of time each year, effectively shutting down offices, embassies and con- sulates for weeks as Foreign Service officers scurry to get their reviews just right — only to produce inflated, sub- jective and non-quantitative evalua- tions that are of dubious value to promotion panels. The entire process derails so much of our work, and results in such a poor product, that it would surely shame our institution if its excesses were truly known by the general public. We need to take immediate action to change the system from the ground up. Ninety Years… The amount of time spent just to craft EERs, not even including the time the promotion panels spend re- viewing them or our Bureau of Human Resources professionals spend cajoling supervisors into submitting them in a timely fashion, is simply mind-boggling. Each EER consists of an overview of the position duties (called the Work Requirements Statement), three pri- mary evaluation sections (a statement of the employee’s accomplishments by either the employee himself or his or her supervisor; a rating of the em- ployee’s potential for higher grades by the supervisor; and a review, generally done by the supervisor’s supervisor) and a final, optional (except for un- tenured officers, for whom it is manda- tory) personal statement from the employee. Each section is painstakingly draft- ed with the knowledge that EER nar- ratives are the primary tool promotion panels use to rank-order candidates. A misplaced comma or misused word can, we are told, rile a promotion panel to the extent that it passes over the em- ployee for promotion. Mindful of this, employees, raters and reviewers all obsess over the por- tions they draft, spending hour upon hour writing, reviewing, circulating to colleagues for their input, rewriting and re-reviewing to ensure that the EER presents them in their best light. They then must wrestle with the EER online computer system, ePer- formance, to ensure that each of their sections is approved by all parties and fits into the space allotted. Finally, an at-post review panel of three other employees is convened, which again reviews the EER for typos or inad- missible comments. If we use an extremely conservative estimate of the time required for each step in the process (one hour for the WRS, three hours per primary evalua- tion section, one hour for the employ- ee statement, one hour for ePerfor- mance wrangling, one hour of col- league consultation, and two hours for the at-post review panel), we come to a total of 15 hours spent on each EER. Take those 15 hours and multiply them by the 12,000 members of the Foreign Service who are rated each year, and we come up with a shocking figure: 180,000 hours. That is the equivalent of 22,500 workdays, 61 cal- endar years or 90 working years. Ninety years of work just to complete our own reviews! …And for What? What’s worse is that we end up with subpar products that rely too heavily on a supervisor’s writing ability (or that of the employee, who all too often is asked to write his or her own evalua- tion), are almost uniformly inflated, and fail to offer a quantitative rating. All those flaws make them horribly blunt tools for promotion panels to use in ranking employees. Overhauling the EER Process B Y T YLER S PARKS S PEAKING O UT Reinventing the Employee Evaluation Report would improve morale and enhance efficiency at State.