ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Army leaders issued a call-to-arms Feb. 24 for stakeholders to build on talent management initiatives to enable more improvements to how the force recruits, retains, and forges ahead into the information age.
"We're building talent management initiatives on aggressive timelines," said Maj. Gen. Joseph P. McGee, the Army Talent Management Task Force director, as he opened a talent management planning conference in Arlington, Virginia, lasting all week.
Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James C. McConville wants to execute initiatives, "scale them rapidly, and apply them to the rest of the Army," McGee told the group.
Over the last year, the Army established the Talent Management Task Force to tailor how the Army acquires, maintains, develops, manages, and employs talent around the force.
Since then, the task force has aligned their priorities with the top general's most pressing concern: people first.
Shortly after the outset of the talent management push, leaders made an initial pitch to stakeholders for help. Their input went on to fuel multiple new initiatives. Now, nearly a year later, leaders are reaching out to stakeholders again to ask, "How do we expand on these initiatives?"
"At this time last year, [the task force] was roughly 14 people," McGee said. Today, the task force has scaled up to 84 personnel.
The forum, according to McGee, is a way to determine a path forward for the next few years, and shape the Army into a premiere organization for human development and performance.
To do this, McGee tasked the crowd -- made up of civilian partners and unit leaders from across the Army -- to spend the weeklong talent management forum joining together and developing concrete plans to expand on the strides the Army has already taken to manage its people.
This work will be the most pivotal step the Army has taken since its transition from the draft to an all-volunteer force in 1972, E. Casey Wardynski, assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs, said to the group. "The work you're going to do will sustain [the Army] for years to come."
By the end of the forum, Army leaders plan to have selected ideas on McConville's desk for implementation within two months, McGee said, adding that "data and facts move quicker than opinions."
WINNING THE WAR FOR TALENT
Every year, roughly 5,000 new officers commission into the Army, McGee said, and it is an Army leader's responsibility to "find out what their talents, unique skills, behaviors, and preferences are and use them to chart their development."
To achieve this, the Army has offered several commissioning choices for young officers to make the most of their talents.
Last year, direct commissioning was extended to qualified cyber warriors in an effort to fill one of the Army's most emerging fields. Before this, the program was reserved mostly for qualified professionals in the medical, legal, and religious fields.
"Without this program, we strip ourselves of some of the most talented people in our country who are willing to serve as officers within our Army, and make us better," McGee said.
Last fall, 1,089 cadets from the class of 2020 at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point picked assignments to one of 17 Army branches. Of them, more than 80% were placed in their preferred career --- an 11% increase from 2018.
Army officials hope similar programs will kick off soon in Reserve Officers' Training Corps programs at colleges across the country.
Officers, in every Army branch, are also now allowed to sit out of a promotion cycle to have more career flexibility, McGee said.
Although passing on a promotion may be few and far between, McGee admitted, "the idea is if you are in a job you enjoy, you should have a say and the Army shouldn't force you to do something."
On the other hand, rapid promotions were approved by Congress in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, he said, with up to 770 authorizations.
"If you're a lieutenant colonel, and you think you're qualified for a job that's available for a rapid promotion to colonel, then you can compete for the job," McGee said.
Once selected, officers assume the rank and pay until they leave the position.
Of those, 225 were listed in the Army Talent Alignment Process, and 118 became available in the last assignment cycle.
However, one of biggest changes to talent management came from the first ATAP marketplace, McGee said.
Earlier this year, more than 6,500 officers were assigned their first job of choice during a match process, McGee said. In all, more than 14,500 officers participated and of those, 95% were assigned one of their preferences and 98% of units placed preferences into one of their vacancies.
The foundation of ATAP was born on the idea of trust, Wardynski said. "Before, units trusted the Army to know best about what they need, and when they need it."
"We were advised to go more slowly, or do 2,000-3,000 officers so we can learn and access," McGee admitted, regarding the ATAP marketplace. "But the fact of the matter is [McConville] knew if we waited, we would not get a marginal gain in terms of how we operate."
In other words, if Army leaders waited to study how a small group adapted to their move, they would "end up dealing with the same issues," he said.
The Army isn't modernizing how it does business to "feel good about itself," McGee said. "It's so we can win future wars."
The war for securing the best talent helps the Army set the conditions to win a war against adversaries the United States has never faced, he said.