The historic signing of the Army People Strategy in October 2019 established a new approach to managing soldiers and families and in some respects represents the culmination of years of reform. Early reforms were not synchronized across the Army and as a result, failed to achieve their potential.
Over the past two years, unique events propelled the Army forward and positioned it on an irreversible path to achieve our vision to build cohesive teams for the joint force. The Army promoted former Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel Gen. James McConville to be the Army’s 40th chief of staff. His experience proved invaluable in implementing changes in the people space.
Additionally, Maj. Gen. J.P. McGee leads the Army Talent Management Task Force with a true understanding of our challenges and the transformational aspects that talent management brings to the force. With these teammates in place, Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy and I presented an ambitious agenda to create innovative people policies, programs and processes to capitalize on the unique knowledge, skills and behaviors of our people.
This past year, the coronavirus pandemic created unexpected challenges. However, through the work of dedicated leaders at the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel Lt. Gen. Gary Brito and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, we published Military and Civilian Implementation plans for the Army People Strategy, an Army Marketing Implementation Plan, and a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Annex, which outlines the Army’s approach to an enterprisewide diversity, equity and inclusion strategic plan through 2025. While what we have accomplished is significant, more important is where we are heading for 2021.
Below, I discuss this in four big buckets: improvements to how we acquire talent; advancements in how we employ people through talent management; gains in solidifying diversity, equity and inclusion efforts; and enhancements to Army civilian policies, programs and processes.
The criticality of competing and winning the battle for talent led the Army to identify “acquiring talent” as the main effort within the Army People Strategy. Understanding that tomorrow’s youth require different approaches than when senior leaders joined the Army decades ago, we will roll out new Army branding to continue implementing the successful What’s Your Warrior campaign.
The newly created Army Enterprise Marketing Office continues its march toward full functionality. We created the Army’s newest functional area to provide expertise for the enlisted and officer accessions enterprise. Functional Area 58-Marketing and Behavioral Economics officers complete a rigorous selection process and will provide cutting-edge solutions to reach “must-win” markets.
We also have two important pilots underway: the Recruiter Incentive Pay Pilot and the Junior ROTC Cyber Pilot. These pilots will yield a tremendous amount of information about how recruiters will respond to performance pay and how best to modernize the Junior ROTC program. Gen. Paul Funk, commanding general of TRADOC, has provided visionary leadership and will guide many of these initiatives across the finish line in 2021.
A decade of work has reformed how the Army manages its talent. Early pilot programs, such as the Army Green Pages, showed it was possible to match the preferences of officers with the preferences of units, proving that a marketplace approach to employ talent is preferred over treating people as interchangeable “cogs in a wheel.”
We have already achieved important milestones: the first full use of the Army’s assignment marketplace, the first assessment program for future battalion and brigade commanders, and talent-focused matching of U.S. Military Academy and ROTC graduating cadets with their career branch. Look for the Army to consolidate these gains and keep moving forward in 2021.
Talent Based Branching aligns cadet talent and preferences with their branch’s preferences through increased information-sharing. Cadets gain increased self-awareness of their gifts and gaps, and match them with their preferences to identify branches to which they are particularly well-suited. Branches identify and advertise their talent needs and evaluate cadet suitability. Both cadets and branches submit their preferences, and a matching algorithm executes the market.
This year, for the first time, the Army will combine the academy and ROTC branching markets. We made big changes to the way we employ talent after branching as well. We began with the interactive, market-based approach to matching individuals with units, based on talent and preferences, called the Army Talent Alignment Process, and this year, the Army will develop a new recommendation engine that will suggest matches based on knowledge, skills and behavior alignment. By late 2021, we anticipate our information technology systems to contain needed knowledge, skills and behavior information.
Lastly, the Command Assessment Program revolutionized how we select battalion and brigade commanders. It is the first major reform for command selection in decades. The year 2021 will be critical as Command Assessment Program assessments will expand from officers to other populations. In addition to the Sergeants Major Assessment Program, which recently completed its initial pilot, we will also conduct a pilot assessment program for senior NCOs, called the First Sergeant Talent Alignment Assessment Program, to identify and select the best senior NCO talent. Brito will lead the charge for these initiatives in 2021.
The Army will continue to reform civilian polices, programs and processes to modernize how talent is measured and ensure the Army is an employer of choice in 2021. Under the leadership of Todd Fore, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for civilian personnel, the Army is reducing the time it takes to hire civilian employees, addressing one of the major impediments to acquiring talent.
We used the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic to develop new onboarding processes. We also used direct hire authorities to reduce time to hire in 2020 and plan to review areas where we can increase more direct hire authority in 2021. We established the Army Civilian Career Management Activity to integrate career management operations and consolidate 32 career programs into 11 career fields to increase operational efficiencies. The Army Civilian Career Management Activity continues to expand its role with career programs determining requirements for critical knowledge, skills and behaviors to achieve civilian readiness.
Soldiers and civilians deserve a workplace that is inclusive and focused upon individual talents. As part of the Army People Strategy, we created the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Annex. This important document is a five-year strategic plan that also satisfies the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act requirement for such a plan. Our proactive equity and inclusion team, led by Anselm Beach, is already making an impact by leading the implementation of the DEI Annex. Beach is deputy assistant secretary of the Army for equity and inclusion.
The Army is conducting “Your Voice Matters” listening sessions with soldiers and civilians across the force. These sessions provide participants a chance to discuss concerns and ask questions while moderators gain insight into the organizational pulse and reaffirm principles. The Army conducted multiple sessions at five locations in 2020, reaching more than 2,700 individuals. In 2021, we will expand the listening sessions to more than 20 locations while observing COVID-19 protocols.
Our partners at TRADOC are busy revamping DEI training for 2021, developing DEI training and education programs for each career stage: pre-commission, entry, midcareer and senior executive. At every level, the training progressively builds a set of knowledge and skills that will be synchronized with advancements in rank and responsibility.
Lastly, to enhance readiness, build cohesive teams with diverse talent and promulgate the DEI Annex, the Army will start the Army DEI Council in 2021.
The men and women of the Army—the soldiers, civilians, families and veterans—are the strategic center of gravity for the land force and America’s enduring advantage compared to its adversaries. In 2021, we will continue to protect and strengthen that center of gravity. We will continue to make improvements in how we acquire talent, including marketing, recruiting and onboarding efforts. We will make modern advancements in how we employ people through talent management.
Our Army civilian leadership will expand people policies, processes and authorities to make the Army an employer of choice. Lastly, we will solidify diversity, equity and inclusion gains to create a diverse, equitable and inclusive organization that stresses our Army Values.
We overcame myriad obstacles in 2020 by focusing on the Army People Strategy and its vision of cohesive teams of ready, professional, diverse and integrated Army teammates. I am eager to see the Army continue accomplishing even more successes in 2021.
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Casey Wardynski has been assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs since January 2019. Previously, he was chief financial officer of a marketing event technology firm and earlier served as a school superintendent. He served for 30 years in the Army as a special weapons officer in Germany, the U.S. and Korea; an associate professor of economics at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York; and director of the U.S. Army Office of Economic and Manpower Analysis. He is a 1980 graduate of West Point and holds a doctorate in policy analysis from the Frederick S. Pardee Rand Graduate School, California.