Let's Talk Business: Army Talent Management

July 18, 2019

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Identify, develop, retain—the Army is experiencing adverse trends in each of these talent management pillars. It recently missed its recruiting goal for the first time in 13 years, falling short by 6,500 Soldiers; leaders are receiving historically low ratings for their ability to “develop others” and 50 percent of officers are leaving the service after only seven years. Recognizing the severity of these issues, Secretary of the Army Mark Esper is making Army talent management his top priority for 2019. Senior leaders are pushing for change—and the immediate approach to address this change must incorporate business principles. The Army must leverage business principles in marketing, data analysis and incentive alignment to develop a holistic approach to talent management.

Secretary Esper and General James McConville, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, have jumpstarted this effort by creating the Talent Management Task Force (TMTF), a general officer-level organization focused on overhauling the current system. The Army is also launching the Integrated Personnel and Pay System–Army (IPPS-A), a data-driven approach to personnel management. IPPS-A unlocks vast potential for the Army to individualize talent management. Successful businesses use data to understand and quantify employee potential to drive talent management; IPPS-A provides this same capability. Secretary Esper emphasized the refocusing to talent management as a step that “we will look back on as a pivotal moment for our Army” in his keynote address at the Association of the United States Army’s 2018 Annual Meeting. Following his lead, senior leaders are shifting the Army culture from personnel management to talent management using a data-driven approach. 

Managing talent means identifying individuals’ potential to contribute and then tailoring development and incentives accordingly. By this definition, individual skills and attributes are only considered talents if they positively contribute to the needs of the Army. The Army has an obligation, then, to manage the development and incentives of the talented individuals if it hopes to retain them. From this perspective, talent management accounts both for the needs of the Army and for the needs of individuals in optimizing talent identification, development and retention.

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