USASMA prepares for ‘New Beginnings’ performance, appraisal program

Jesse McKinney, chief of staff of U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, leads a New Beginnings training class in the academy’s Learning Resources Center conference room here March 16. USASMA recently began conducting two-day training sessions on the Department of Defense’s Defense Performance Management and Appraisal Program. Photo by David Crozier,  USASMA Command Communications.

Jesse McKinney, chief of staff of U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, leads a New Beginnings training class in the academy’s Learning Resources Center conference room here March 16. USASMA recently began conducting two-day training sessions on the Department of Defense’s Defense Performance Management and Appraisal Program. Photo by David Crozier, USASMA Command Communications.

By David Crozier, USASMA Command Communications:

(El Paso, Texas, April 20, 2017) The U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy recently began training its Department of Defense civilians and supervisors on New Beginnings, the DOD’s Defense Performance Management and Appraisal Program, to ensure they all are ready for the “culture change” and launch DOD-wide later this year.

“The crux of the changes created by New Beginnings involves getting the current force familiar and comfortable with the ‘new culture’ of performance and evaluation that DPMAP will usher in,” said Jesse McKinney, chief of staff of USASMA. “The purpose of the New Beginnings two-day training session is to provide an overview of DPMAP. The instruction is mandatory for all current (Department of the Army) civilians, as well as all supervisors of those civilians.”

The training session, McKinney said, uses group, participative instruction covering seven lessons: performance management overview, engaged employees, planning performance, continuous feedback, monitoring performance, evaluating performance and recognizing and rewarding performance. The groups discuss the merits and culture change of DPMAP, performance management, the role of supervisors and employees, collaborative communication, conduct roleplay exercises on appraisals and counseling, learn how to create a performance plan and much more.

“The primary change that DPMAP will bring about compared to the current Total Army Performance Evaluation System is the introduction of a three-tiered evaluation system designed to reward fully successful performance while simultaneously reducing the ‘over-inflation’ of the current system,” McKinney said. “In the current system, more than 90 percent of all rated employees are rated at a level of ‘excellence,’ or top block, which detracts from an agency’s ability to reward the truly outstanding employees in a manner that stands apart from the fully successful.”

National union leaders have expressed their support of the new system and have been involved since the launch of DPMAP development in 2010, McKinney said. Collective bargaining agreements are being updated locally to meet the intent of the culture change, which will ensure union employees’ concerns are addressed at each geographic location where DOD civilians work.

“I see new beginnings fostering more frequent communication between supervisor and employee. The system places emphasis on not only the supervisors’ responsibility, but also the employee to engage the supervisor to check for clarity on performance expectations,” said Patricia Mulligan-Renaud, instructional systems specialist at USASMA. “The challenge will always be personality and human behavior for this system to be successful. Not all supervisors are capable of leading their people and not all employees are proactive, so those challenges will remain. It’s the hope New Beginnings can minimize the impact of those challenges and meet mission goals, as well as taxpayers’ expectations.”

Mike Hayes, vice chair, department of command leadership for the Sergeants Major Course, said instructors presented the training well.

“It was not just an overview of a new program. Instead, it focused on my responsibilities in the rating process and how I could help make the program work effectively,” Hayes said. “I like how the program is designed to tie employee performance elements into the mission of the organization and the Army. I believe the most significant element of the new program is how it emphasizes that leaders facilitate success in their employees by giving intent and not instructions.”

Mulligan-Renaud agreed.

“The New Beginnings training was well orchestrated and facilitated. Some similarities to the (former) National Security Personnel System, include using SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely – objectives that truly reflect the criteria needed to be successful, the use of narratives to describe work accomplished, and the time stamp capability of ensuring meetings occur when they are supposed to,” Mulligan-Renaud said. “Using Defense Civilian Personnel Data System online will help to foster more transparency on performance for both the employee and supervisor.”

The academy has conducted several sessions thus far, two for supervisory personnel and two for nonsupervisory, and will conduct several more to complete the training for the workforce, McKinney said. As the instructors for this two-day course have to be DA-trained and certified (Train the Trainer – T3) and USASMA currently has two certified trainers, some satellite units here have asked to be included in USASMA’s sessions due to not having T3 certified trainers at their organizations.

New Beginnings is a collaborative labor-management effort involving the DOD and a broad array of DOD employees and national-level union representatives. Its mandate is to implement significant improvements to DOD human resource practices and policies, including implementation of  the new program. New Beginnings encompasses reforms impacting performance management, hiring flexibilities, training and development and workforce incentives.


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