Appraisal (5)1.0     Introduction

The Armed Forces of the United Kingdom utilise a joint appraisal report process for both officers and other ranks across the Service branches. This joint process utilises attributes, performance and potential to assess Service personnel within their current roles, determine individual aspirations and viability as future leaders.

Just like organisations across the public, private and third sectors of British industry, the UK military is no different in its utilisation of management information systems (MIS, or computer-based databases) to facilitate the appraisal process. Prior to 2005, each branch of the UK military maintained its own, separate database and personnel administration and pay policies.

Post 2005 and the Ministry of Defence (MOD) introduced a Human Resources (HR) management system, known as the Joint Personnel Administration (JPA) system, to track all Service personnel’s administrative details. The JPA system, usually known simply as JPA, underpins the Joint Appraisal Process, usually known as JPA Appraisal. JPA Appraisal was first implemented in 2008 and incorporates senior officers, junior and mid-level officers and other ranks appraisal reporting.

It is important to ensure that appraisal reports are written competently and on time, and it could be argued that appraisal writing is one of the most important management and leadership functions. This is because appraisal reports are essential in providing the evidence that promotion selection boards need to separate the best candidates for promotion, so it is important to get them right (competition for promotion will always be fierce).

Finally, the foundation of the appraisal system is the development of the individual as a commissioned officer or non-commissioned officer in the Services. And, readers should not underestimate the amount of background work linked to the JPA Appraisal process Army Personnel Data Management Organisation (2010) nor some of the issues surrounding implementation and subsequent use Business Lead, Data Quality (2011-06-21) and Officer Career Development (2013-02-22).

This article is divided into twelve sections for easier reading with Section One providing the introduction progressing to Section Two which provides an outline of the JPA Appraisal process. Section Three provides an overview of the JPA and Section Four looks at the Career Management Organisations. Section Five provides an outline of the joint appraisal process before moving onto Section Six which looks at the three types of appraisal report. Section Seven outlines the role of reporting officers and then Section Eight moves onto the Mid Period Appraisal Report. Section Nine looks at Formal Career Reviews after which Section Ten will look at appraisal report changes applicable to the Reserves. The penultimate section, Section Eleven, provides some internal and external issues relating to appraisal reports before finally moving onto Section Twelve which directs the reader to a number of useful links and documents relating to the appraisal process.

Appraisal (7)2.0     JPA Appraisal Process

The JPA Appraisal process is associated with the three separate, but interlinked, functions of career management, manpower planning and accounting, and personnel administration; and contains a number of elements:

  • Joint Personnel Administration system (Section 3.0);
  • Career Management Organisation (Section 4.0);
  • Joint Appraisal Report (Section 5.0);
  • Senior Officers Appraisal Report (Section 6.1);
  • Officers’ Joint Appraisal Report (Section 6.2);
  • Servicepersons’ Joint Appraisal Report (Section 6.3);
  • Reporting Officers (Section 7.0);
  • Mid Period Appraisal Review (Section 8.0);
  • Formal Career Review (Section 9.0);

Simplistically, and from an individual’s perspective, the JPA Appraisals process is a Service person’s chance to say if they want promotion, more responsibility, a commission transfer or extension of Service. As a result of this and a greater emphasis on Service integration, from 2006 appraisal reporting changed to incorporate:

  • The increased movement of individuals;
  • Assessment of ‘Potential’;
  • Additional personal attributes;
  • Mid-period appraisal reviews;
  • Recommendations for future assignments and training, and
  • The use of the Insert Slip Report (to cover loans/detachments of 2-6 months).

In order to realise the above, Service personnel should ensure that they input their employee preferences and personal objectives on JPA. Simply put, Service personnel should take ownership of their own reports!

Appraisal (3)2.1     Employee Preferences and Personal Objectives

The completion of employee preferences and personal objectives on JPA is not mandated (with the exception of ‘Change of Commission’ for officers). However, it should be recognised that, along with position role and responsibilities, the presence of this data is highly relevant to completion of the appraisal report and furthermore, provides promotion selection boards with a rounded picture of the individual and their responsibilities and career aspirations.

2.2     Purpose of Appraisal

Appraisal is one of the most important leadership functions; the proper selection of the most suitable officers and other ranks on merit to fill the range of assignments across the Services depends largely on the quality and accuracy of appraisal reports. An active interchange of views on a frequent basis between the Subject of the report and their Reporting Officers (RO) and Line Managers is essential for individual development, efficient use of valuable manpower resources and good management practice.Appraisal (8)

2.3     Appraisal Report Functions

The appraisal report has two distinct functions:

  1. It informs the individual, formally and honestly, how well they have done and identifies their potential. From this, the RO can advise the Subject how to improve performance and enhance potential.
  2. When considered with all their previous reports, it is used for career management at the relevant career management organisation, including:
    1. Selection processes for promotion;
    2. Command;
    3. Change of commission/extended career;
    4. Future assignments; and
    5. Training.

Appraisal (9)3.0     The Joint Personnel Administration System

In 2004, for the MOD signed a deal with the outsourcing provider EDS Defence Ltd for the next-generation Human Resources (HR) management system; known as the Joint Personnel Administration (JPA) System or simply JPA. The aim of this HR update programme was threefold (Vorster, 2007):

  1. To modernise and harmonise the MODs multiple personnel and pay policies; the single-Service stand-alone systems for personnel and pay administration were considered inflexible and costly to maintain;
  2. Improve the level of service; and
  3. Create financial savings.

The MOD understood that managing information is vital in not only combat roles but also non-combat roles. JPA, introduced during 2006-2007, combined three bespoke systems which had, at least in the Army’s case, been operating (with significant modifications over time) since the 1960s. It transformed Service personnel administration by providing a single, authoritative online source for all military personnel information, and pulling together the separate Services’ terms and conditions of service (TACOS).

It is a HR management system that is used to track all Service personnel’s administrative details through the provision of a self-service infrastructure and secure online access to HR functions, including posting details, expenses and pay statements. It is designed for self-management of various administrative tasks, rather than a dependence on HR staff (in theory).

It was envisaged that JPA would save the then Armed Forces Personnel Administration Agency (AFPAA) (Section 3.3) up to £100m a year and the Royal Navy took the lead in developing a harmonised and simplified allowances scheme, and management information system (MIS) processes.

JPA was rolled out to RAF personnel in March 2006, Naval Service personnel in November 2006 and British Army personnel in March 2007; with universal rollout by July 2007.

3.1     The Role of Unit Human Resources Administration Staff

Unit Human Resources Administration Staff (Unit HR Admin staff) are responsible for all aspects of personnel administration within their Unit. In some cases Unit HR Admin staff will also have a parenting responsibility for the administration function of individuals serving in lodger units posts under their remit.

3.2     Customer Interface

Individual Service personnel are able to access JPA as a customer, to view their own pay, and also action certain occurrences affecting their own pay, allowances and personal details. Full details for accessing information and processing are contained in the online Business Process Guides (BPGs: details the actions required by Unit administrators to ensure that pay and charges policy is properly delivered by JPA).

3.3     Service Personnel and Veteran’s Agency

On 01 April 2007, the Service Personnel and Veteran’s Agency (SPVA) was formed via a merger between the Armed Forces Personnel Administration Agency and the Veterans Agency. The aim of this merger was to improve personnel, pensions, welfare and support services to members of the Armed Forces, veterans and their respective dependents.

4.0     Career Management Organisations

Dedicated teams within the single-Service Career Management Organisations are responsible for managing both officers and other ranks’ promotion dossiers, ensuring that eligible individuals are presented to the relevant promotion selection boards throughout the reporting year. It is a formidable task for the relatively small teams that rely on individuals, reporting officers and Units to ensure that the appraisal process is managed efficiently, ensuring that all individuals are given the very best chance to be afforded the opportunity to be considered for selection.

It should be noted that the Career Management Organisations have different titles across the Services. For example, career management in the British Army is provided by the Army Personnel Centre which has seven Career Management Divisions, led by the Deputy Military Secretary, managing both Regular and Reserve officers and soldiers:

  1. Career Management Operations.
  2. Senior Officers (Major General’s, Lieutenant General’s and General’s).
  3. Combat (Royal Armoured Corps and Infantry).
  4. Information (Intelligence Corps, Royal Corps of Signals and Adjutant General’s Corps).
  5. Combat Support (Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers, Army Air Corps and Royal Army Physical Training Corps).
  6. Combat Service Support (Royal Logistics Corps and Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers).
  7. Army Medical Services.

The Naval Service (Royal Navy and Royal Marines) and the RAF both have career management organisations which are structured in a similar manner.

ca. 2000 --- Keeping Score for the Team --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis4.1     Promotion Selection Boards

To ensure that the right people are selected for promotion to meet the manning requirement of each Service, promotion selection boards are convened at various times throughout each year to identify those individuals that merit such promotion.

To aid this the various Career Management Organisations promulgate a viable programme for the various boards required across the wide spectrum of ranks and professions and identifies appropriate board members and observers, ensuring that all personnel identified for this duty have the right level of experience, authority and standing.

Promotion selection boards are conducted in strict accordance with current rules and regulations ensuring that all board members are conversant and constantly mindful with the provision for equality and diversity and that all eligible candidates are considered in line with these requirements.

To aid promotion selection boards, every individual Service person, will receive an annual appraisal report. Once an individual has completed enough time in a rank (which varies according to rank and profession) and provided their performance has been of a sufficient standard, their appraisal report will be read by the appropriate promotion selection board, in competition with their peers, and they may be promoted to the next rank.

At certain ranks and for certain professions, promotion is time-based, but the vast majority of promotions are realised through a competitive process based on merit. If an individual is promoted, they will normally receive the base Increment Level (IL) for the next rank.

4.2     Promotion Criteria

A high quality report will be inconsequential if the relevant competencies required to meet promotion eligibility are not recorded on JPA. It is therefore imperative that, in parallel with appraisal report production, the reporting officer ensures that all pre-promotion criteria are present on JPA.

5.0    Joint Appraisal Report

Promotion is dependent on performance that is assessed on an annual cycle and the UK military prides itself on giving mid-year and annual appraisals to all service personnel to achieve this. In 1998 it was decided that there should be harmonisation of the personnel reporting systems across the three Services. A joint appraisal process for commissioned officers was introduced first and has since been further developed and a joint appraisal initiated for non-commissioned personnel.

However, the reporting system is generic and assesses the personal skills and qualities of the individual and is used for all trades and professions within the UK military. Only a small part of the annual appraisal describes the professional attributes of the individual and in general, the focus for assessment is on generic military skills such as leadership, management and communication.

Appraisal (11)The Servicepersons Joint Appraisal Report is also sometimes known as the Servicemen’s/Servicewomen’s Joint Appraisal Report or the Services’ Joint Appraisal Report.

There are two major changes from the old system of appraisal reporting that individuals should be aware of (both discussed below):

  • The Grading System; and
  • Potential and Performance

5.1     Grading System

The old O-E grading has been replaced with a common grading system, with ‘B’ performing to standard expected in all respects, being the default. This is considered the Overall Performance Grade of the Service person as outlined in Table 1.

Table 1: Grading system (new and old)
JPA Appraisal Grade New Description Old Grade Old Description
N/A Not applicable.
IK Insufficient Knowledge. E Unsatisfactory
D Performing below standard expected in some/all respects. D Up To The Minimum
C Performing to standard expected in some respects. C Well Up To
B- Performing to standard expected in most respects.
B Performing to standard expected in all respects. B Above
B+ Performing above standard expected in most respects.
A- Performing above standard expected in all respects.
A Performing to highest standard in all respects. A Well Above
O Outstanding

5.2     Promotion Recommendations

Appraisal (6)JSP 757 states that the guiding principle on recommendations of potential for promotion is that each year, every officer and other rank should receive an indication of potential for promotion by 1 rank, and by 2 ranks where applicable, to assist them in making career decisions. In compiling reports, ROs should note that this is regardless of whether the subject is qualified for promotion and report narratives must be based on displayed potential to hold a higher rank regardless of eligibility (Table 2).

Table 2: Promotion recommendations (new and old)
JPA Appraisal Grade Old Grade Old Description
N/A (Not Applicable)
IK (Insufficient Knowledge) 5 Is Unsatisfactory In His Present Rank
No 4 Should NOT Be Promoted
Developing 3 Has Potential For Promotion But Not Yet
Yes 2 Is Recommended For Promotion Now
High 1 Should Be Considered For Early Promotion

It is important that promotion recommendations are realistic, otherwise if the Service gets this wrong it runs the risk of promoting the wrong people and will suffer from ‘Peter’s Principle’: Service personnel will be promoted to their level of incompetence.Optimism

5.3     Performance and Potential

The appraisal report provides for separate assessments of performance and potential founded on a culture of regular consultation and the gathering of empirical evidence.

  • The assessment of performance principally provides feedback to the Subject to promote development, enhance professional skills, highlight personal qualities and also forms the basis for the assessment of potential. Points to consider include:
    • Expanding on particular strengths and weaknesses (ensuring that weaknesses have been highlighted in an MPAR).
    • Must comment on leadership and professional effectiveness against SMART objectives.
    • Report is two times stronger with specific examples.
    • ROs must not make any comments that run contrary to the Services’ Equal Opportunities, Code of Social Conduct, Administrative and Disciplinary policies and directions.
  • The assessment of potential is critical for the selection of future leaders, as well as ensuring the Services gains the best from its officers and other ranks and that all personnel, regardless of rank, are given every opportunity to have a satisfying and rewarding career.

It is important for the Subject to be involved throughout the appraisal process to ensure that their aspirations are considered and that they are made aware of strengths and weaknesses. This will give the subject the opportunity to develop strengths, reduce weaknesses and should ensure that nothing in the final report comes as a surprise.

Both the First and Second Reporting Officers (Section 7.0) have the opportunity to write a performance narrative and potential narrative. If a Third Reporting Officer is required, they can also write a narrative.

5.4     Finalisation of Appraisal Reports

Completed appraisal reports must be approved and/or finalised by personnel so authorised to enable the report to be released on JPA to the Subject and the appropriate ‘tagged’ Career Manager. The reporting chain for all types of report is therefore to include an approver in the relevant OJAR Cell for officers’ reports and the appropriate Unit ‘Finaliser’ for other ranks’ SJAR. Holders of these roles must be appointed by Commanding Officers/Heads of Establishment who are to ensure the appropriate Code of Governance has been completed as stipulated by JSP 757.

6.0     Types of Appraisal Report

6.1     Senior Officers Appraisal Report (SOAR)

Senior Officers are defined as those officers of OF-7 (Major Generals, Rear Admirals and Air-Vice Marshals) and above.

Senior officers’ appraisal reporting is conducted in line with the Performance Management and Pay System (PMPS) as defined in JSP 757 Part IV. PMPS is based on the outcome of the annual performance appraisal for the year ending in February.

6.2     Officers’ Joint Appraisal Report (OJAR)

The OJAR applies to all officers from OF-1 to OF-6.

The MOD uses a number of competency frameworks related to leadership for annual appraisal, including the OJAR. The OJAR was introduced in March 2001 and covers ten performance attributes explored during annual appraisals for officers across the Services. Within the OJAR grades and written narratives are provided against these attributes Appraisal (2)which include:

  1. Leadership;
  2. Professional effectiveness;
  3. Effective intelligence;
  4. Judgement;
  5. Management;
  6. Initiative;
  7. Reliability;
  8. Powers of communication;
  9. Subordinate development; and
  10. Courage and values.

Further narrative may also be offered regarding an officer’s potential, including developmental advice where appropriate. The major difference between the OJAR and SJAR is that the OJAR caters for an officer’s potential for staff officer roles.

6.3     Servicepersons’ Joint Appraisal Report (SJAR)

In 2008 as part of the JPA Appraisal process, all non-commissioned personnel across the Services started using the SJAR which, for the first time, standardised the format and content of reports and there were a number of important enhancements. The SJAR introduced many of the OJARs benefits to non-commissioned personnel, such as a separate potential narrative.

The traditional other ranks narrative concentrated on past performance and sometimes narratives lacked the assessment of an individual’s potential that is so essential to promotion boards in assessing the rate at which an individual might advance in the future. The narrative and evidence of potential continue to be the most important aspect of appraisals for boards and the SJAR focuses reporting officers’ attention on this.

Under JPA Appraisal it is every Service persons responsibility to ensure their SJAR has been initiated by the Unit HR Admin Staff and that they continue to monitor and update their SJAR as necessary throughout the reporting period.

Personnel prior to the initiation of their SJAR should ensure they have completed the following checks:

  • Personal details have been updated;
  • Posting Preference Performa is complete including career aspirations;
  • Competencies up to date;
  • Personal objectives have been recorded; and
  • Discuss and agree their Job Description and ensure it is linked to their SJAR.

The document MOD2020 NSAR (2008-02-12) provides an insight into the appraisal report.

The common reporting dates and latest dates to be finalised on JPA by rank and Service can be found here Common Reporting Dates.

Appraisal (4)7.0     Reporting Officers

Reporting Officers (ROs) are an important aspect of the appraisal report and an individual may have up to three ROs contribute to the appraisal process.

  • First Reporting Officer (1RO): typically the individual’s line manager (a person the individual will have daily contact with).
  • Second Reporting Officer (2RO): typically the line manager’s immediate superior (a person the individual may variable contact with, e.g. weekly, monthly etc.
  • Third Reporting Officer (3RO): typically required to make an entry for exceptionally good/bad performance or to provide an alternative view.

As a general rule, the most suitable ROs are deemed to be those with the most regular contact with the Subject’s work and therefore best able to give an accurate and realistic view of performance and potential, substantiated by component evidence of achievement against agreed responsibilities, tasks and objectives.

All ROs comment on performance (which should be good – normal) and potential, this is where the RO can really make a difference. The RO should write in a legible, well structured and succinct manner, with an eye for brevity without dilution of the value/meaning of the message. The RO should be making an assessment of potential in relation to the definition of merit. In essence, can the Service person being appraised:

  • Think on a broad level above their peers;
  • Demonstrate the capacity to take on a higher workload;
  • Manage staff;
  • Develop relationships;
  • Articulate complex proposals at all levels; and
  • Do they show that they can (or are) capable of working at the next level or higher.

7.1     Alignment of Reports

Alignment is a valuable component within the appraisal of an individual. Although this practice remains optional for other ranks, Commanding Officers (COs) are nonetheless required, by means of consultation, to level out inconsistencies in reporting standards and identify their best candidates with the most potential for promotion in comparison with their peers. The process is of considerable assistance to promotion selection boards.

7.2     Amendment of Reports

ROs may have cause to alter their opinion of an officer or other rank after a report has been made. Such changes of opinion should not be notified until the next routine report is due, unless:

  1. The circumstances are such as to merit a special report; or
  2. The RO, or the officer being reported upon, is superseded before the next report is due, in which case an amending report should be forwarded.

Bullshit7.3     Substance over Style

During appraisals all Service persons are quantitatively marked in a number of areas, these numbers (style) are a guide, the words (substance) are far more important.

Over-assessment (i.e. inflation of an individual’s Overall Performance Grade) can be fairly obvious to promotion boards and undermines confidence in the accuracy of the rest of the appraisal report. It is vital that ROs concentrate on the quality and comprehensiveness of their narrative rather than trying to second guess a promotion board.

7.4     Could, Should, Must Rule

Read the following statement and consider if you think it is a top, middle or bottom third report?

‘Captain Holmes sits just inside the top-third of Captains in my Brigade. She could compete for a routine Grade 2 staff post, and should then be kept in the running for a deployable sub-unit.’

To the uninitiated, this could be considered a good report that many would be happy with. However, many appraisal reports are written in a positive (generally over-inflated) manner, which may not be a problem if everyone understands that is the case; but that, invariably, is the problem!

In reality this is just a mid-third report: words such as could instead of should or must, and being kept in the running for a deployable sub-unit, but it is not actually recommending them for one.

It is worth bearing in mind, that despite the drive towards honest reporting, it is extremely rare for anyone to be graded in the bottom third. As such if an individual is placed in the lower middle third, a promotion selection board will probably assume that the individual is a bottom third officer/other rank. Now consider a revised version of the above statement.

‘Captain Holmes is firmly in the top third of Captains in my Brigade. She should compete strongly for a demanding Grade 2 staff post, and has the ability to command an operational sub-unit.’

Again, many individuals would probably be pretty pleased with this and it states that you are in the top third, but…we have the use of should and not must and demanding as opposed to most demanding appointments.  It is good, but only bottom of the top third, so actually, with over-grading the middle third. Ok third time lucky. Consider this third iteration of the statement.

‘Captain Holmes is one of the top five Captains in my Brigade.  She must undertake one of the most demanding initial Grade 2 staff posts and will command an operational sub-unit.’

This is a clear top third report with the individual concerned ranked in the top five of what appears to be a large group of Captains; although it would be helpful if it gave the number of Captains. Look at the use of the words must and most demanding; the key words an individual needs to look for in their reports are: Could, Should, Must and Will (as these really tell the individual where they sit). Individuals should also look for key words in appointment recommendations such as Routine, Demanding or Most Demanding or even a WTE or MSTAR recommendation.

The benefit of writing in this manner (i.e. short, pithy and unambiguous phrases) is that individuals understand what they are reading, and if ROs choose to write in this manner, the board will definitely understand their intent. ROs have a moral duty to ensure that the subject’s understanding is equally clear:

  • Could command a front-line operational logistic squadron; versus
  • Will command a front-line operational logistic squadron.

I will finish this section with:

  • “Sgt Jones has had a very varied year.”
    • Did many different things: Olympics, Operational Tour, or Recruiting? or
    • Performance has been up and down?
  • “CSM Alright has a lot more to offer”
    • Could cope easily with any job as a WO1? or
    • Lazy bugger?

Appraisal (1)8.0     Mid Period Appraisal Review (MPAR)

A MPAR is a mandatory requirement and a fundamental part of the overall appraisal process. It is the method by which the Service informs its personnel how they are performing to date and what they must do to enhance their potential.

The MPAR should ideally be conducted mid-year (certainly between the 1/3 and 2/3 points, i.e. 4 and 8 months in a 12 month cycle). As such, all Service personnel are given a MPAR which looks at strengths and weaknesses and provides an opportunity to address any shortcomings before the appraisal report is completed later in the year.

All Service personnel should be aware of their ‘as at date’; this is not when an individual requires it, but when the reporting period finishes. If unsure, Service personnel should speak to their chain of command and find out when their MPAR needs to be at the relevant Career Management Organisation. Theoretically at least, JPA should stop individuals from receiving a late appraisal report. However, individuals should obtain a copy of their MPAR and the date it was given. If an appraisal report is late and delayed in being forwarded to the promotion selection board at the Career Management Organisation, individuals concerned may have a case for Career Fouling.

Points to note about the MPAR include:

  • The RO must have had sufficient time to make an adequate assessment;
  • The Subject must have sufficient time to make improvements that are highlighted in the MPAR;
  • If the subject falls short of the expected standards after the MPAR, any number of additional MPARs can be conducted;
  • The 1RO should always discuss MPAR with 2RO before delivery, in order to ensure balance;
  • It is best to avoid mentioning a specific grading at the MPAR stage, as it limits room for manoeuvre later on;
  • The RO should give a written MPAR to the subject, and retain one for themselves for 12 months after the actual appraisal report is delivered; and
  • The date of the MPAR must be recorded on appraisal report.

An example of a MPAR can be found here: Example MPAR.

8.1     MPAR Implementation

Below is an example of MPAR reporting periods and ‘as at dates’ from an Army other ranks perspective.

  • Warrant Officer Class 1 and 2 (WO1/WO2): Reporting Period 01 July 2007 to 30 June 2008 SJAR as at 30 June 2008 SJAR in by 31 August 2008.
  • Staff Sergeant: Reporting Period 01 October 2007 to 30 September 2008 SJAR as at 30 September 2008 SJAR in by 30 November 2008.
  • Sergeant: Reporting Period 01 December 2007 to 30 November 2008 SJAR as at 30 November 2008 SJAR in by 31 January 2009.
  • Corporal: Reporting Period 1 February 2008 to 31 January 2009 SJAR as at 31 January 2009 SJAR in by 31 March 2009.
  • Lance Corporal: Reporting Period 01 April 2008 to 31 March 2009 SJAR as at 31 March 09 SJAR in by 31 May 2009.
  • Private: Reporting Period 01 June 08 to 31 May 2009 SJAR as at 31 May 2009 SJAR in by 31 July 2009.

9.0     Formal Career Review

Appraisal (10)At certain key stages in an officer’s and other rank’s career a formal career review will take place in order to assist individuals in taking important career decisions, such as which employment group to focus on or to identify the likely rate of progression up the ranks.

These reviews provide an opportunity for free and open discussion between the career manager and the individual. The advice given is recorded for the benefit of both, which will also inform future posting preferences submitted by the individual.

Individuals can also request, through the chain of command, a formal career review with their Unit career manager. For example, in the British Army this would be the RCMO (Regimental Career Management Officer).

10.0   Army Reserves

The British Army has improved the appraisal process to make it more achievable for Reservists of all ranks and roles (ARQ, 2014).

One of the most important responsibilities of any commander is the development of subordinates but a significant amount of time and process is involved in producing an appraisal report. This creates a particular problem for Army Reserve due to the restricted time and resources available to complete the task.

The changes reduce the Reporting Officer (RO) workload and include:

  • The removal of the necessity for 2ROs to complete the performance narrative on appraisal reports;
  • The empowerment of Senior Non-Commissioned Officers (SNCOs) and Warrant Officers (WOs) to act as the 1RO for Privates and Corporals;
  • The removal of the routine requirement to complete the assignment preferences section in the appraisal report which does not generally apply to Reservists as they cannot currently be reassigned unless they apply to move to another unit.;
  • The requirement to complete the aspirations section is now discretionary as the career of a Reservist depends on the individual’s circumstances, rank, specialisation, geographical location, and mobility.

All of the above will hopefully reduce the amount of workload and processes involved in completing an Army Reservist’s appraisal, whilst continuing to develop subordinates and junior officers. For further details reference 2014DIN01-085 Implementation of Changes to Army Appraisal Reporting for Reserves.

11.0   Appraisal Issues

A number of issues have been noted with regards to the appraisal process, some of which are easier to solve than others. For this article these issues have been divided into internal and external.

11.1   Internal: Organisational Issues

Appraisal is one of the most important leadership functions; the proper selection of the most suitable officers and other ranks on merit to fill the range of assignments across each Service depends largely on the quality and accuracy of appraisal reports. Therefore, an active interchange of views on a frequent basis between the subject of the report and their reporting officers and line managers is essential for individual development, efficient use of valuable manpower and resources and good management practice.

This requires a proactive approach from all concerned in the process, with the individual understanding, accepting and taking responsibility for their own appraisal report.

This includes ensuring that all of their personal and professional details, competencies, roles and responsibilities, personal objectives, career preferences and aspirations are up to date and correct on JPA as well as tracking the progress of their appraisal report to ensure that it is finalised by promulgated deadlines.

With these statements and factors in mind, it should be noted that although the appraisal process is continually improving, there are still a number of disturbing issues across the Services that can have a severe impact on individuals who may be disadvantaged in the promotion process (which can be an error on the part of the individual, their chain of command or both). Examples of these include:

  • Mid-Period Appraisal Review not conducted/recorded;
  • Competencies not recorded on JPA, particularly waivers where appropriate;
  • Incorrect/out of date roles and responsibi1ities/objectives/preferences/aspirations;
  • Appraisal report narratives and recommendations not justified;
  • Spelling and grammar incorrect;
  • Well-worn clichés or inappropriate remarks; and/or
  • Late finalisation of appraisal reports, i.e. not received by promulgation deadline.

Focus by all interacting personnel in the appraisal process can guard against such issues and therefore ensure the selection process is complemented by a high standard of available candidates.

Of course, up-to-date information only provides the basis for an eligible candidate; the most important factor will always be potential and associated merit for the next higher rank. Merit needs to be understood by both individuals and reporting officers and can be defined as having the suitability, capacity and sufficient experience to be employed in at least the next higher rank.

Promotion is not always awarded for current and previous good performance. Factors such as consistency of success especially in the face of particular challenges, leadership and management acumen, accomplishment with people, ability’ to think on a level above peer group, potential flair for command and future employability in both specialist and broader assignments all constitute merit.

11.2   External: Criticisms of the Appraisal Process

Sergio Catignani writing in the Journal of Strategic Studies provides a coherent criticism of the appraisal process from an Army officer’s perspective and (2012, p.528) states:

“The challenges in appointing quality personnel to staff jobs involving influence or intelligence/information exploitation that is not solely enemy-centric have been compounded by the fact that the most important material incentive within the Army, that is, promotion, is mainly focused on tangible operational results. ‘Officers’ Joint Appraisal Reports’ (OJARs), which assess an officer’s performance on a yearly basis, still focus on combat-specific capabilities and achievements, thus, overlooking an officer’s capability to conduct effective influence operations, such as shuras (i.e., consultations with local communities and/or community leaders) or to coordinate complex CIMIC (Civil-Military Cooperation) tasks such as development projects in conjunction with civilian stakeholders.”

11.3   External: Service Complaints

The appraisal process requires ROs to formulate and express their opinions about their subordinates. To achieve this, an officer or other rank can expect to be counselled on their performance during the year and to receive an MPAR. However, if an officer or other rank believes they have been unjustly reported on or there is an error of fact in their report they should, in the first instance, speak with their RO or chain of command.

If this proves fruitless, the officer or other rank concerned is entitled to submit a service complaint. Grounds for complaint may exist if there is evidence that the opinions of the RO were influenced by improper motives or by the application of incorrect procedures or wrong principles. Evidence of failure to counsel an individual or where it is believed that there has been insufficient knowledge for an RO to formulate a balanced opinion may also constitute grounds for complaint.

Further guidance can be found here: Service Complaints, Process Guide (2013-02-18), pages B-1 to B-3].

11.4   External: Employment Tribunals

The following document Employment Tribunal, Williams vs MOD (2013-03-22) demonstrates what can happen when the appraisal process breaks down.

12.0   Summary

In summary, assessment of potential is critical for the selection of future leaders, as well as ensuring the Services gain the best from their people and that all personnel, regardless of rank, are given every opportunity to have a satisfying and rewarding career.

It is important to ensure that that report writing is joined up: the narrative must support the OPG; the narrative must support the promotion recommendation; and ROs input must be coordinated.

  • Objectives: make the organisation better.
  • MPARs: make the individual better.
  • Appraisal Reports: make the Services better.

It is important to ensure that appraisal reports are written competently and on time, and it could be argued that appraisal writing is one of the most important management and leadership functions. This is because appraisal reports are essential in providing the evidence that promotion selection boards need to separate the best candidates for promotion, so it is important to get them right (competition for promotion will always be fierce).

Finally, the foundation of the appraisal system is the development of the individual as a commissioned officer or non-commissioned officer in the Services.

12.1   Useful Links

12.2   Useful Documents

  • BR3 Naval Personnel Management.
  • Territorial Army Regulations 1978, Amendment 37: Part 6 – Appraisal Reports, Documentation, Correspondence and Office Supplies.
  • Queen’s Regulations for the RAF, Chapter 15: Discipline, Section 1:
    • Paragraph 1019: Appraisals on Officers; and
    • Paragraph 2025: Assessments of Performance and Potential.
  • JSP 101 Defence Writing Guide
  • JSP 754 Tri-Service Regulations for Pay and Charges, Section 5: Performance Standards for Pay Purposes.
  • JSP 757 Tri-Service Guidance for Appraisal Reporting
  • AP 7000: Through-Life Generic Professional Military Development (Air) – Training and Manning Policy.

12.3   References

ARQ (Army Reserve Quarterly) (2014) Appraisals Reappraised. Army Reserve Quarterly. Summer 2014, pp.14-15.

Catingnani, S. (2012) ‘Getting COIN’ at the Tactical Level in Afghanistan: Reassessing Counter-insurgency Adaptation in the British Army. The Journal of Strategic Studies. 35(4), pp.513-529. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 10 August, 2014].

HP (Hewlett Packard) (2011) Joint Personnel Administration: Modernising Pay, Pension and Personnel Administration: Fact Sheet. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 10 August, 2014].

MOD Defence Contracts Bulletin (2005) Special Feature: Joint Personnel Administration Utilises COTS Technology to the Full. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 10 August, 2014].

Vorster, G. (2007) MoD to Save £100,000 a year after July Roll-out of HR Software from EDS to Army. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 10 August, 2014].


5 thoughts on “OJAR & SJAR: Officers’ & Servicepersons’ Joint Appraisal Reports

    1. Hi Solomon,

      Not enough space here to discuss the strengths/weaknesses of the OJAR/SJAR system, but a number of them can be discerned from the above article. However, I will compile one and upload it as a separate webpage in the near future.

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