By David VergunApril 27, 2015
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 27, 2015) -- A new roadmap for Army civilian professional growth has been announced by Army Secretary John M. McHugh - and more changes are coming over the next year or so.
"Our Army demands that civilian employees commit to a lifetime of professional and personal growth," said McHugh, in a memo April 10, introducing Army Directive 2015-24.
"I hold each Army civilian accountable for mapping and navigating a progressive program of self-development," McHugh wrote. He added that commanders, supervisors and managers have a shared responsibility in that endeavor.
The changes described in the directive affect a large portion of the 298,000 Army civilians, who make up about 22 percent of the total force. Future changes will impact the remainder of the civilian workforce.
The full title of 2015-24 is "Department of the Army Senior Enterprise Talent Management Program and Enterprise Talent Management Program," or SETM and ETM respectively.
Explaining some of those changes was Gwendolyn R. DeFilippi, deputy assistant secretary of the Army - Civilian Personnel, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs.
SETM, a leader development program for GS-14s and 15s, was launched a few years ago, DeFilippi said. It originally offered civilians a chance to increase their knowledge through a residency at the Army War College, with a follow-on reassignment to broaden their experiences.
Now, that program has been expanded with a senior fellow program, where civilians can become part of a "think tank" for a year. Another program enhancement, she said, is participants can be detailed into a senior executive service-level position for up to a year to gain broader experience and see what it is like leading at that level.
There is also a SETM-TDY module, which gives selectees a six-month career-broadening assignment where they gain valuable experience in another organization before returning to their unit. SETM modules present huge incentives for leaders to further develop in their current jobs or move on to larger enterprise positions, DeFilippi said.
Those who are interested need to immediately begin the application process, which closes May 15. To apply, go to the SETM automated website. Those who are selected will begin the program in 2016.
The ETM program is new - this is its first year. It is designed for GS-12s and 13s, with most of the openings at the 13 level, she said. If GS-12s have the right level of civilian education system, or CES, and a bachelor's degree, they can apply for two of the modules while GS-13s can apply for all four modules.
Those who are accepted to the program can be assigned to a 90-day project that requires some tough problem-solving skills, she said. Accomplishing this will enhance one's resume and boost the chance to be selected for a future job.
Secondly, up to 20 participants will get the opportunity to attend a 10-month Command and General Staff College residency on Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. In the coming years, the number eligible will increase to 90, she said.
Thirdly, participants will get the chance to shadow an Senior Executive Service, or SES, or GS-15 at their installation or on a temporary-duty assignment, if necessary. When we say shadowing, we mean working alongside the executive and getting in on the nuts and bolts of decision-making techniques.
Finally, there's a 10-week structured experiential leader development module that is spread out over 10-months, which allows Army civilians to participate in an existing DOD program. Called the Executive Leadership Development Program, or ELDP, it allows civilian employees to gain a greater understanding of the DOD mission, which in turn develops a cadre of future leaders with joint and interagency perspectives and skills.
The deadline for applying for this program is also May 15 and applications can be made using the SETM Automated website.
Still in development is the Emerging Enterprise Leader initiative, or EEL, a program for GS-11s and 12s, DeFilippi said.
EEL components will include a local developmental assignment, a group project and problem-solving challenge at one's installation, connecting with a mentor and self-study opportunities, she said. The goals are to broaden participants' perspectives and build leadership competencies, but at a more localized level.
Traditionally, new civilian hires are thrust into the workforce from day one without ever getting exposed to the Army culture and way of doing things, DeFilippi said. Soldiers get all of that in their initial military training.
The Army is conducting pilots at 18 locations, where new hires are presented with a more-informative introduction into Army life, she said.
On the first day, instead of a human resources person administering the oath of office, an SES, or general officer will do that.
Then, the civilians are told what the Army profession means and their part in it, she said. They are also introduced to the organizational structure.
Of course, the entire professionalization process cannot occur in the space of just one day, so it is spread out throughout the first year, she said.
Supervisors are an important part of the acculturation plan, she said. They are responsible for sitting down with their new employees and letting them know what the expectations are performance-wise. This occurs during the first week.
Then, supervisors will provide formal feedback at the six-month point and ensure performance appraisals are completed on time, she said. The importance is getting the personnel fully engaged with their supervisor and to understand the mission.
DeFilippi said the acculturation program will likely launch Army-wide in fiscal year 2016.
She said that although it is still a pilot, many federal agencies have adopted much of the Army materials. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has already adopted the entire program and NASA has adopted parts of it for their new hires.
In 2011, all Army civilians were mapped to one of 31 career programs. The Army Career Tracker, or ACT, allows civilians to track their progress in their respective career program.
Each of those 31 career programs has a leadership chain and professional staff that includes career management support and career program managers, she said. It also provides supervisors access to career maps for their careerist to help with coaching and mentoring.
ACT is a web-based leader development tool that allows users to search through and select education and training opportunities, monitor their career development, get personalized advice from their leaders about which opportunities may be the most helpful and complete an Individual Development Plan, she said.
Fortunately, more than half of the civilian workforce uses ACT, DeFilippi said. The challenge is to get leaders on board to realize the value and benefit of using ACT to develop their careerists, she said, and to also get the other civilians that are not yet using ACT to realize how valuable it is for planning their careers.
The Army is "refocusing" the intern program by matching job opportunities to what the Army's needs are anticipated to be in the future, DeFilippi said.
For example, it is anticipated that more openings will need to be filled in the science, technology, engineering and cyber specialties so placement will be increased in those areas relative to other areas, she said, with more decision-making authority made at the Army headquarters level vice at the installation level.
CIVILIAN VOICES HEARD
DeFilippi said all of the aforementioned program changes came about with the input of Army civilians and leaders. "These programs and a few more that we are working on are the result of focus groups, questionnaires, the 2013 and 2014 FEVS [Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey] results and feedback from Army leaders and Army civilians to build a more professional foundation for the Army civilian corps. "
The Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey and other forms of feedback have shown that Army civilians want opportunities to grow developmentally throughout their careers, she said.
As the Army civilian workforce continues to draw down, those who are left will have even greater responsibilities in preparing Soldiers to fight our nation's wars, she said.
Army needs dovetail with civilians' desire to grow, so it makes perfect sense to offer those opportunities, she said.
DeFilippi said that civilians want to know that what they are doing in making a positive impact on the Army. "We want to make that happen," she said. "We want Army civilians to know their voices have been heard and workforce engagement, along with civilian hiring, career management, training, development and sustainment are a priority for all of us."