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Reforming State’s Performance Management System

After engaging in an

18-month review with the

Department of State’s

Bureau of Human Resources,

the American Foreign Service

Association has agreed

to several reforms to the

employee appraisal and

selection board systems.

The new approach to

performance management is

intended to enhance pro-

fessional development and

Foreign Service effectiveness

and streamline the appraisal

and promotion processes.

Three major changes will

go into effect in the 2015-

2016 evaluation cycle:

• Introduction of a new

Employee Evaluation Report

form (DS-5055), which is

shorter and designed to focus

more on results and demon-

strated examples of collabo-

ration and less on tasks and

individual precepts.

• Adoption of revamped

selection board review pro-

cedures for Foreign Service

officers, who will now be

evaluated once in a compre-

hensive, full-spectrum review,

rather than twice by separate

selection boards (i.e., class-

wide and functional). The pro-

cedures for Foreign Service

specialists are unchanged.

• Revision and better

advertising of clear criteria

for selecting officers in the

Senior Foreign Service to

receive performance pay.

The EER’s increased focus

on outcomes came out of an

extensive HR effort to collect

input frommore than 100

promotion panels and 23

information-gathering ses-

sions. HR found that concrete

examples demonstrating an

employee’s effectiveness

across the six competencies

are far more persuasive than

shallow vignettes highlighting

only one competency when

evaluating the employee’s

promotion potential.

According to HR officials,

the department spends an

estimated 82 staff years on

the EER drafting, review and

promotion panel process

each year. The new system

will dramatically reduce the

time spent writing EERs and

navigating the ePerformance

platform (yes, even this

clunky medium will become

easier in 2015-2016). The

department believes that all

FS employees will learn of

promotion decisions a full

four to six weeks faster.

Contributing to the

shortened processing time

is the elimination of the

two-panel review system

for FSOs, which will have a

knock-on effect for all promo-

tion boards, both officer and

specialist. While the number

of promotions for FSOs will

continue to be determined by

skill code and grade, based

on the needs of the Service,

the panel will comprise

officers from every cone and

will evaluate FSOs on their

classwide and functional


The goal is to eliminate

skill-code silos and ensure

the Foreign Service is, in fact,

motivating its officers to con-

tinually challenge themselves

and grow professionally

across a broad spectrum of


AFSA believes the changes

will streamline the perfor-

mance evaluation process

and result in a more effective

Foreign Service. The asso-

ciation will, however, closely

monitor its rollout over the

course of the next year.


—Maria C. Livingston,

Associate Editor



The American Foreign Service Association is closely monitoring developments on the recent data breaches at the

Office of Personnel Management and updating our website with the latest information at

On Aug. 9, AFSA President Ambassador Barbara Stephenson sent a letter (see

to OPM Acting

Director Beth Cobert regarding the reported breach. In the letter, Stephenson stressed the unique vulnerability of the

Foreign Service, and again requested a briefing with OPM to discuss concerns specific to our members.

AFSA will remain engaged with this issue as long as is necessary. We encourage our members to keep checking

AFSA’s website, as well the OPM site, for additional information.