WEST POINT, N.Y. -- West Point is currently taking part in a pilot program aimed at improving hiring times within the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center.

The pilot program, which was directed by former Secretary of the Army Mark Esper, encompasses all entities at West Point including the U.S. Military Academy, West Point Garrison and Keller Army Community Hospital.

The pilot started April 1 and will officially run through Sept. 30. Under the pilot, control of West Point's CPAC office has been moved from the Civilian Human Resources Agency to being directly under the control of Superintendent Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams, who delegated it to the academy's G-1.

"The Army will make a determination, looking at the results of the pilot, on if they believe putting all CPACs under senior commanders at the installation where they reside is a better methodology than the current methodology where they all report up to a higher human resources agency," Bryan DeCoster, human capital plans specialist in West Point G-1, said. "Even if they decide to keep CPACs under the CHRA, though, what's important to us here at West Point is that we sustain the best practices that we discovered during the pilot test."

Throughout the pilot, the CPAC office is looking at ways to shorten the hiring time for civilian openings at West Point. Last year, the average time to fill a civilian opening was 147 days, DeCoster said. The Army's goal is to bring the time period down to 80 days. The average time so far this year to fill a position is 135 days.

Changes being made during the pilot include using standardized position descriptions for like positions, shortening the amount of time jobs are open and giving hiring managers a set timeline to make a selection once they are provided a list of candidates.

"To this point, we really haven't established a set timeline for managers that they have to make a decision within a certain amount of time," DeCoster said. "One of the initiatives we're taking is when a referral is sent to the manager, saying you have 10 working days to make your selection and get back to CPAC."

The pilot program is also looking at opening more positions as direct hires or as designated recent graduate positions.

Along with speeding up the hiring process itself, the pilot is looking at ways to improve retention rates. DeCoster said the goal is for West Point to have 90-95 percent of civilian positions filled at any given time. So far this year, it has increased from 87 percent pre-pilot to 89 percent currently.

"It's great to hire talented employees, but you also want to retain them. We're looking at how quickly the employees leave and if there are trends we can identify those to work toward better retention of employees," DeCoster said.

To accomplish that goal, they will be conducting surveys with managers and employees as well as conducting exit interviews with departing employees.

"Once we have the employee on board, how is the employee working out? Did they feel engaged? Did they feel like they're important and contributing to the academy's mission?" he said.

The pilot will officially end Sept. 30, unless it is extended, but the West Point CPAC will remain under the control of G-1 until the Army makes a final decision based on the results. Then it will either stay in place or return to being under the control of CHRA.

"We don't want to lose ground on improving the time to hire, while also retaining the same quality of employee," DeCoster said. "All of the things that we're doing, we're trying to ensure that we implement them in a way that they can be sustained beyond the end of the pilot."