Our work as Army acquisition professionals involves everything from helicopters to radios, tanks to software, body armor to missiles, and so much more. But at the end of the day, it really is all about talent management: finding a way to put the right person in the right job at the right time. There are a number of tools that have long been available for what we call the three R's: recruiting, retention and relocation. We also have some relatively new tools, such as expedited hiring and direct-hire authority.

The new year provides a fresh opportunity to look at the tools we have for managing talent, particularly in recruiting and retaining it. It starts with having honest and frank conversations with people, reviewing their performance against their objectives from the past year. It's also about discussing their objectives leading into the coming year. And across the board, it's about finding ways to reward those who've succeeded as well as motivating the entire team, even those who have fallen short of expectations.

When it comes to competing for talent, we have to be creative in finding ways to not make more barriers than we already face. If the choice of employers is the government versus a big defense company, the odds are that industry can afford to pay somebody more than we can. And the odds are that industry can execute hiring, relocation and other things faster than we can. So we have to make sure that we don't put up unnecessary obstacles beyond existing regulations and policies.

We need to accentuate what we offer people that others can't: the value of being a public servant and of working for the Department of Defense; the type of work we do; the fact that people who come into this business get an opportunity early on to assume more authority and responsibility than they would in private industry. And that a lot of what we do is truly unique work that they can't do elsewhere. So use the authorities and the incentives that are in place. And don't get in your own way.

The Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund (DAWDF) provides some incentives we can offer our workforce. (See Figure 1.) A tremendous part of that is the Student Loan Repayment Program. Over 90 percent of those who've been in the program remain in the workforce beyond their required three-year commitment. That's a remarkable success rate that we can all be proud of and point to when telling our story about why everyone should strive to join our team.

But recruitment and retention are not always about money. Quite often, people aren't looking for some great monetary reward. At the end of the day, one of our best tools for motivating that talent and garnering great performance from the workforce is really just a little bit of recognition.

It doesn't cost you anything more than time to give recognition. And it doesn't cost you more than time and effort to nominate people for awards given throughout the year: the Army Acquisition Executive's Excellence in Leadership Awards; the Secretary of the Army Excellence in Contracting Awards; and the David Packard Excellence in Acquisition Award from the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. Recognizing people by taking the time to nominate them for an award is probably the strongest message you can send. You've recognized their hard work, you've seen their successes, and you want to share those successes with our broader acquisition community.

Here's a challenge to supervisors, second-level supervisors, managers and leaders of organizations inside Army acquisition: Find ways to take care of your people. Use the tools that are there for particular classifications and job series, career fields and categories, most of which are available to almost every organization and member of the workforce. Nominate people for the awards mentioned above, among many others out there. Nominate them for training and development programs under Senior Enterprise Talent Management, Enterprise Talent Management and Emerging Enterprise Leaders. If you do that, your people will be a step ahead of some of their peers when it comes time to compete for the next promotion.

Be creative and encourage creativity, when and where it makes sense, by offering incentives such as telework, alternate work schedules, compressed work schedules and flexible leave. Use programs like the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority and Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay.

Another way to retain your best talent? Give back with coaching and mentoring. Take the time to personally engage your people so they understand that not only are they a valuable part of the team and well appreciated, but they're also getting regular interaction with somebody who can show them what the future might hold and prepare them to continue on to a long and successful career.

Figure 1
The FY17 Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund plan includes $4.4 million for retaining and recognizing excellence in the acquisition workforce.
Student Loan Repayment Program
o $4 million annually
o Over 400 acquisition professionals participate annually
o Repays up to $10,000 of federally insured student loans
o Requires a continued service agreement to remain in the Army acquisition workforce for three years
Acquisition awards
o $30,000 annually
o Recognizes Army group and individual award winner at the DOD acquisition awards ceremony
o Supports setup of ASA(ALT) acquisition awards ceremony
Permanent change of station (PCS) payments
o May be used to support the execution of service wide talent management and development programs such as centralized selection of key leadership positions and senior-level education programs
Outreach events and job fairs
o Supports outreach events to attract the best and brightest at universities and colleges
o Outreach efforts to attract minorities to acquisition (League of Latin American Citizens, Blacks in Government, Hispanic Engineering National Achievement Corporation, Latinos in Engineering and Science)

Source: Army DACM Office

This article will be published in the January -- March 2018 Army AL&T magazine.