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Thursday, March 21, 2019

What if the Army combined its current talent management approach, the Integrated Personnel and Pay System-Army, with temperament theory and the NFL draft? It sounds crazy, but it’s worth discussing.

We can use the current system along with innovative ideas to combat negative perceptions regarding assignment selection and talent management. We could identify a more feasible solution for identifying talent best suited to fill vacancies throughout the Army.

In addition to the Integrated Personnel and Pay System-Army, known as IPPS-A, we could leverage evaluation reports and the promotion process for officers and NCOs. Evaluation reports, along with academic evaluation reports, already provide leaders with the ability to identify a soldier’s strengths and position the soldier where they believe he or she will best serve. However, all too often, this input is not considered when the assignment selection process takes place. Instead, the first available and qualified soldier (based on MOS or skill identifier) is placed in a vacant slot or location.

To make matters worse, a critical vacancy will receive the first person with little to no input from the gaining command. We’re not saying all assignment decisions are made this way. Positions such as inspector general, recruiter and drill sergeant, to name a few, require records screening to ensure individuals are ethically fit for such a position. However, this screening is a topical review of records and does not necessarily ensure the soldier is the right fit for the job.

Considering input from evaluations, coupled with additional elements already in promotion board processes, could feed into IPPS-A to identify temperament rankings using what the system is supposed to track regarding talent management: knowledge, behaviors and skills. These three elements could be used to develop a temperament equation, where knowledge times skills times behaviors equals temperament.

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A drill sergeant greets a recruit for initial entry training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. Chris and Chris
(Credit: U.S. Army)

Understanding Yourself

In 2006, Linda V. Berens published a handbook called Understanding Yourself and Others: An Introduction to the 4 Temperaments. Berens pointed out that “people come in all varieties. We frequently say, he’s the kind of person who ... or you know her type ... ” Berens posited, “An understanding of your natural temperament pattern can give you the firm foundation to consciously change your behaviors without changing your core. It will give you the energy and confidence to expand beyond your natural self.”

Berens evolved temperament theory and developed four temperaments: catalyst, stabilizer, theorist and improviser. Before examining each, let’s discuss what Berens called the essential elements of temperament. She called them temperament targets.

Imagine the targets as the rings of a tree trunk. Start at the center (core) then work outward to the next ring (values), then to the next ring (talents), ending with behaviors. This outer region (behaviors) represents our interaction with our environment. Essentially, these are the targets.

Four Temperaments

Here are the four temperaments defined by Berens and how to identify which one you have:

1. Catalyst—You are skilled in diplomacy. You engage with others in a way that promotes their identity without losing your own identity.

Values: Empathetic relationships, self-actualization and an idealized world.

Talents: Diplomacy, mentor and champion.

Behaviors: Future-oriented, relationship-centered and idealistic.

2. Stabilizer—You are skilled in logistics. You prevent groups and institutions from falling apart.

Values: Roles, rules and regulations, as well as hierarchical structure and usefulness.

Talents: Rule-maker/enforcer, protector, supervisor or inspector.

Behaviors: Past-oriented, authority-centered and cautious.

3. Theorist—You are skilled in strategy. You understand and develop theories. This temperament provides the basis for mastery and competence.

Values: Scientific inquiry, concepts and ideas, and logical consistency.

Talents: Analysis, strategy and design or theorist.

Behaviors: Infinite time orientation, reasoning, forming hypotheses and objectives.

4. Improviser—You are skilled in tactics. You act in a way to get a result using whatever is at hand—the ultimate expression of the freedom to respond to the needs of the moment.

Values: Excitement and stimulation, action and immediate adventure, and variety.

Talents: Producer, adapter and crisis manager.

Behaviors: Present-oriented, fast reacting and risk-taker, cynical.

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U.S. soldiers participate in live-fire training in Poland as part of Battle Group Poland.
(Credit: U.S. Army/Sgt. Arturo Guzman)

Proactively Search

In a September article, How the Army Could Improve Field Grade Command: Follow the NFL, Army strategist Lt. Col. Dan Sukman proposed methods to improve command selection through what he termed “Command Combines.” The basis of this idea stems from what Sukman believes are two weaknesses in the command selection board process. While this idea has great potential for command selection, it does not address identifying talent within the ranks for numerous positions for officers, warrant officers, NCOs or enlisted soldiers at large. To implement such an undertaking for the wide array of assignments would not only be fiscally unattainable, but would also create significant delays in filling vacancies Armywide.

In keeping with Sukman’s idea of “Command Combines,” the Army could proactively search for suitable soldiers to fill projected vacancies. This would enable a human resources section to view soldiers’ categorical rankings across the Army along with projected available dates. In addition, this would allow commands to contact candidates and conduct an interview process, then rank (and draft) their selections.

This ranking can be provided to the U.S. Army Human Resources Command and the commands can be slotted in a draft-style rotation like the NFL draft. However, unlike the NFL, where the worst team selects first, this draft would be based on the priority of the unit/command.

To keep the list for commands manageable, soldiers with only two years at their current duty assignment would be coded as unavailable. This method would only be implemented for routine assignments, coding all soldiers available for special assignment selections (like the supplemental draft in the NFL).

As commands can better determine the suitability of potential candidates to fill vacancies, the productivity and unit cohesion of the command would likely increase. Ensuring that a soldier understands expectations and is in a position that fits their temperament would reduce uncertainty and ambiguity between the command and the soldier. This would reduce the awkward acclimation period soldiers and families face. Soldiers would experience greater job satisfaction as they would be able to communicate their experiences and goals with a command during the interview process. This communication, along with the screening of knowledge times skills times behaviors from IPPS-A, would allow the soldier and command to determine if the soldier is the right fit.

What Position Do You Play?

We have combined four football positions with Berens’ four temperaments. A soldier’s temperament would be obtained through the IPPS-A equation: knowledge times skills times behaviors.

1. Quarterback: Catalyst

Seeks leadership roles, promotion and glory. The quarterback is someone who desires promotion to general or command sergeant major. They are gifted at leadership and mentorship and can help others realize their potential.

2. Offensive line: Stabilizer

Subject-matter expert and master of their craft. The offensive line is an expert in their field and does the actual work. They are the reason the pile can move forward.

3. Special team: Theorist

Specialized skill set and strategist. The special team prefers the strategic and analytical approach. They are also those with specialized skills and they must be masters of those skills, such as those found in medical and cyber occupations.

4. Running back: Improviser

Maverick and innovator, does not primarily seek promotion. The running back is someone who enjoys “stirring things up” to improve something. Or as Berens said, “They tend to be gifted at employing the available means to accomplish an end.” These types of people are gifted at tactics and at reading situations.

The Army is a large organization with a heavy task of managing the talent in its formations. The current reactive system may not be filling assignments with the best possible soldiers, nor does it factor in temperament. Implementing a system that identifies the strengths soldiers possess in certain skills and temperaments, and implementing a draft policy among commands, will improve the productivity of soldiers within their respective commands. Allowing commands to proactively plan for personnel rotations will decrease turbulence during changeovers.

French novelist and playwright Honore de Balzac said, “Temperament is the thermometer of character.” By factoring in temperament, we can essentially use it to fit the right person in the right position.