Hate the SRPE?

By June 27, 2017August 30th, 2018Career Development
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Here’s why you should reconsider

By Shannon Potter and Wen Lin, Army DACM Office

Let’s be honest. Supervisors have a lot of administrative requirements and likely are not looking for more to fill their overflowing plates. So it’s not surprising that the Senior Rater Potential Evaluation (SRPE) mandated in July 2015 for GS 12-15 Army Acquisition Workforce (AAW) civilians was met with mixed reviews. But here’s something you might not know: What civilians didn’t have (that the military has had for quite some time) was a tool to help identify and document individuals with future leadership potential—not performance. For the military, this is widely known as the most important part of an officer’s evaluation, carrying significant weight in boards.

The AAW is made of 95 percent civilians. It’s about time we have something in place that is more equitable with our military counterparts to help identify the potential of our future Army civilian acquisition leaders. It will take time to work through some of the growing pains of change while the SRPE tool is implemented widely across the community, so we’ve compiled a list of your most frequent questions.

Q: I already do a performance appraisal, why do I have to do another one?

A: The SRPE is not a performance evaluation tool, nor will it affect your annual performance appraisal rating. In contrast to existing personnel appraisal systems, the SRPE evaluates an AAW civilian’s potential for future performance; while the Total Army Personnel Evaluation System and the various personnel demonstration projects evaluate current performance and contributions to the mission. So what does that all mean? In short, the SRPE helps civilian acquisition professionals and their senior raters identify strengths, weaknesses and professional competencies from a leadership potential perspective. This, in turn, helps the civilian acquisition professional identify goals for growth and allows the supervisor and employee to devise a plan to get there. With an added bonus of informing the individual development plan (IDP), the SRPE can support an employee’s future performance by illustrating a clear trajectory for growth.

Q: I don’t have time for another administrative task and neither does my supervisor.

A: The administrative burden was the major reason a phased approach for SRPE implementation was adopted. This allowed supervisors to get through the growing pains with a smaller group before tackling the larger population. More importantly, however, the SRPE can facilitate conversations that are part of regular supervisor-employee interactions and help guide them to practical solutions and reinforcements. This, again, will help employees and supervisors develop and refine IDPs. As far as a time burden on those having the SRPE completed on them? There isn’t one. The individual has no direct responsibility with regard to SRPE completion—other than to be receptive to the feedback they receive from their rater and senior rater.

Q: What does a SRPE get me?

A: The SRPE is a tool to assess a civilian acquisition professional’s potential to fill a position of increased responsibility or other training/leader development opportunities. Currently the SRPE is being used by the Army DACM Office to help determine which Army Acquisition Corps members best fit centralized selection list (CSL) positions as well as to select candidates for both the Competitive Development Group/Army Acquisition Fellowship Program and the Defense Acquisition University – Senior Service College Fellowship Program. In fact, last year the CSL board selected the most civilians ever for the GS-14/LTC level.

The SRPE also helps you have an honest conversation with your supervisor about strengths and weaknesses. It can give you a starting place to make a plan for your acquisition career.

Q: Why can’t a senior rater (SR) with only two AAW employees give exceptional potential to both? This disadvantages the SR.

A: Simply put, not everyone can receive an exceptional potential (EP) evaluation. The two employees should be evaluated against each other, and the SR has to make the decision if both employees possess higher potential. Additionally, the SR does not have to give either one an EP if they are not demonstrating exceptional potential. There isn’t a distribution rule that forces the award of a certain number of EP or high potential (HP) evaluations; however, the SR cannot exceed 49 percent EP ratings within each grade profile (i.e. GS-12, GS-13, GS-14, or GS-15 equivalent). If the SR does use the EP rating for one of the two employees this year, the next year the SR cannot give another EP rating until he/she completes three more SRPEs in the same profile (2/5 = 40 percent EP). The SR should develop their own philosophy for what they consider to be EP, HP, potential (P) and marginal potential (MP). This is the time for an honest assessment of the employee’s potential. Once missing elements to achieving potential are identified, additional training, projects or assignments should be sought out for the employee. Finally, use the IDP to document and set a plan to help bridge those gaps.

Q: Should only the employees who are interested in applying for product/project director boards receive an EP rating?

A: No. It is important that employees deserving of an EP should receive it, not because of an intention to apply for a position or training opportunity that requires a SRPE. Employees should be compared and rated against one another in the same profile group and in accordance with the senior rater’s philosophy/expectations. An EP should be given to acquisition personnel who exhibit exceptional potential regardless of their future career aspirations or career goals. The SR should always use the SRPE as a tool to have an honest dialogue with an employee on their future potential. It may be a hard discussion to be had, but it is one supervisors owe to their employees and one that their employees need to hear.

We’ve learned a lot over the last 20 months since the SRPE was mandated for GS 12-15 (or equivalent) AAW civilians. There are challenges ranging from technical hiccups coupled with the thought that this is just another administrative requirement. But this is about taking care of people. Our civilians deserve a better chance at competing for leadership opportunities on par with our military counterparts. Civilian evaluations are traditionally backward looking, highlighting past accomplishments. SRPE provides an opportunity to examine potential and future potential and a path forward. So, instead of looking at the SRPE as just another administrative requirement, look at it as the AAW’s commitment to ensuring we that have the right people with the right skills at the right time to fill our future acquisition leadership positions.

To further facilitate completion of the SRPE, the Army DACM Office has released several instructional tools that can be accessed at https://apps.asc.army.mil/camp/. (Click on the CAPPMIS tab, then the SRPE tab. For additional guidance regarding the SRPE, please contact Ms. Kelly Terry at the Army DACM Office via email: kelly.l.terry2.civ@mail.mil.

This article was published in the May 2017 issue of the DACM Newsletter.

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