Open Season for New MSI Award Program

State VP Voice


As all American taxpayers know, April 15 is rapidly approaching. In addition to being an important date for the IRS, it is also an important date for Foreign Service employees—it’s the first date on which you may submit nominations under the new Meritorious Service Increase award program. (Nominations will be accepted until June 15.)

The most important thing for you to know, understand and embrace is that anyone can nominate a colleague—you do not have to be the nominee’s supervisor. The nomination form is streamlined and easy to complete, taking much less time than a full evaluation form.

Unlike an evaluation, the MSI nomination focuses only on recent performance and/or service. There is no need to demonstrate ability to perform at a higher level than the current grade, and there is no need to tie the nomination to the employee’s work requirements.

Unlike other award nominations, MSI nominations do not have to go through the Post Awards Committee before being sent to Washington, D.C. Instead, they will be submitted directly to the relevant bureau’s MSI Awards Committee.

The lengthy “open season” for MSI nominations was designed to make it easy and convenient for people to draft and submit nominations. Some people prefer to think about and draft award nominations during evaluation season so that they can copy and paste relevant language; others prefer to do it later, once they’ve had a chance to recover from all the evaluation drafting.

Whatever your preference, the new nomination season makes it easy to participate and help recognize and reward exceptional performance and/or service.

I’ve heard a few colleagues grumbling about what they perceive as the added burden of “having” to nominate colleagues for MSIs. If you’re in that camp, I encourage you to try to reframe your thinking; look at it more as something you “get” to do.

The most important thing for you to know, understand and embrace is that anyone can nominate a colleague—you do not have to be the nominee’s supervisor.

I’m not saying that to sound cheesy, but because I genuinely believe it. Annual evaluations are something you “have” to do, and (although extremely important) they can be unpleasant. You’re required to write one for every single individual you supervise; you’re required to list an area which needs development; and, in the case of suboptimal performance, you’re required to document how and why the employee underperformed. You’re required to do all of this year after year, even when the employee in question is not eligible for promotion.

In contrast, awards nominations (whether for MSIs, Superior Honor Awards, departmentwide awards, AFSA awards or other awards) practically write themselves. If you have an employee or a colleague who has gone above and beyond and whose performance or service has been truly exceptional, it can actually be fun and rewarding to help recognize and reward that person by writing an awards nomination.

You don’t have to worry about making sure you cover a specific checklist of areas, you don’t have to say anything negative, and you don’t even have to spend that much time writing—you simply describe why that employee’s performance and/or service was so exceptional and why they should be rewarded.

A few well-written paragraphs that describe the true impact of both substantive accomplishments and meaningful service are all you need.

If you need a refresher on the details of the new program, check out 16 STATE 129334 (dated December 5, 2016) as well as the Human Resources/Performance Evaluation website. If you’re new to drafting awards nominations or feel like you’re not a strong writer, fear not!—HR/PE has resources to help you understand what a strong, well-written nomination looks like.

Reach out to colleagues known for their drafting skills, and ask them to review your nomination before you submit it. Even better, reach out to a friend or colleague known for making sure his or her employees receive appropriate awards, and ask that individual to help you craft a strong nomination.

If you can tell the story of why an employee should be rewarded, then someone out there can help you put that story into a compelling written version without having to spend a great deal of time on it.

So go forth and nominate—the success of the new MSI program depends on it!

Angie Bryan is the Department of State vice president of the American Foreign Service Association.