The pile of record briefs and resumes covered the long conference table as leaders huddled around, sorting and selecting them. Dozens of officers had reached out to the brigade, each hoping to secure the one-to-one match that would allow them to serve at their preferred location. The brigade had no time to interview every candidate. The battalion commanders and the brigade’s talent managers had the responsibility to sort the potential hires into an order of merit list that would drive the brigade’s hiring decisions.
With the hiring list complete, the brigade human resources officer started making phone calls to offer one-to-one matches. Some officers accepted immediately; others had already committed to other units; but most were noncommittal when offered an assignment.
As the days ticked by without a complete hiring slate, the brigade commander became more unsettled and decided to make hiring offers further down the order of merit list, scooping up anyone who would commit.
The brigade ultimately secured matches for its slots, but at a cost. In the rush to hire quickly, none of the leaders noticed that they had built an order of merit list of officers who “looked just like they did.” In other words, there was little diversity in commissioning source and professional experience, and zero gender and ethnic diversity.
What’s more, the brigade burned its reputation with a large cohort of applying officers who felt there was no transparency in the hiring process. Candidates never had the opportunity to personally speak with a unit leader, nor did they have any idea how competitive they were, what the brigade was looking for in hiring, nor exactly when the brigade had made its selections. Consequently, few officers decided to accept offers, with many officers sharing their mediocre unit interaction with peers and on social media.
Taking a New Approach
Unfortunately, the above narrative is similar to what happened in the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, during the most recent officer hiring cycle. The “Raider Brigade” failed to form a hiring strategy ahead of the cycle, scrambled to assess interested officers, got behind on hiring and ended up bringing in a strong but marginally diverse officer cohort. Our process lacked transparency and left too many officers wondering where they stood.
For the next hiring cycle and beyond, however, we’re taking an entirely new approach. Here’s how.
We designed the Raider Brigade talent acquisition process to formalize the brigade’s hiring effort, provide transparency to interested officers and promote diversity in our candidate pool. The brigade human resources officer and public affairs officer collaborated to develop our model for acquiring the right talent, which follows these steps:
Step 1: Through social media, organizational leaders and referrals, we will invite officers to fill out a questionnaire and provide documentation that will introduce them and show their intent to seek a position in the Raider Brigade. This process can begin well ahead of the start of the official hiring cycle, which will give us the best chance to review files and engage with interested officers. During this step, we will share unit products and key dates so officers know what to expect during the hiring process.
Step 2: Our talent managers (specially selected leaders who represent particular branches and duty positions) will review the files and develop a list of the most competitive candidates, updating the list as new officers show interest.
Step 3: The talent managers will conduct interviews with the most competitive officers, which allows them to offer perspective of what it is like to serve in the Raider Brigade as well as answer questions from the candidates.
Step 4: The talent managers will finalize an order of merit list based on the files and interviews.
Step 5: Battalion commanders will apply their individual perspective and experience to the order of merit list and make recommendations based on the strength of each candidate and their potential contribution to the brigade.
Step 6: The battalion commanders will then collaborate to finalize the order of merit list and present it to the brigade commander for approval.
Step 7: After deliberation with the battalion commanders and key NCOs and staff, the brigade commander will validate that the proposed list fulfills the brigade’s hiring needs.
Step 8: Finally, the brigade commander and talent managers will schedule phone calls to offer positions in the Raider Brigade.
In the spirit of transparency, we will notify applicants when we receive their initial documentation and when we decide about hiring them. Further, we know it can be frustrating to near the end of the hiring cycle and not know if a unit has filled its positions. Therefore, we will make early hiring decisions, then notify all applicants when we are no longer hiring. This will allow officers to move down their preference list in a timely manner. After the cycle, we will also ask for feedback so we may improve our process going forward.
Diversity Takes Work
As mentioned earlier, it is important for us to create diversity in our candidate pool. The “Army People Strategy” defines diversity as “all attributes, experiences, cultures, characteristics, and backgrounds of the total force which are reflective of the Nation we serve and enable the Army to deploy, fight, and win.”
In the Raider Brigade, we know that the strength of our team comes not only from our skills, knowledge and behaviors, but also from the diverse backgrounds, perspectives and experiences we bring with us. It is from these distinct viewpoints that we are able to create novel solutions to solve organizational challenges. We believe we will be a stronger, more effective team—and a more ready force—when we have broad representation among our leaders.
To achieve this, we must have a diverse candidate pool. The Raider Brigade talent acquisition process enables that. Similarly, we will intentionally pursue talented officers who come from varying backgrounds. As we saw in the last hiring cycle, diversity will not happen by default. It takes work.
A Stronger Team
If you are interested in serving in the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team at Fort Carson, Colorado, you can begin your application process by emailing us at [email protected] Even if you are not yet in your movement window, we’d love to hear from you.
Feel free to share our email and this article with your friends, peers and social media network so more officers discover how they can serve with us.
* * *
Col. Andrew Steadman is commander of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, which is deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, Erbil Air Base, Iraq. He previously has served as an infantry branch assignment officer at the U.S. Army Human Resources Command.
Maj. Erik Larson is the brigade human resources officer of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team.
Maj. Kristoffer Sibbaluca serves as the public affairs officer of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team.