Knowing the capabilities of your workforce is key in managing employee talent—it allows you to see their strengths, as well as areas for improvement, and provides a framework to see what training will be needed in the future. But how do you find out what capabilities your workforce possesses? Through a competency assessment, of course!
The Army Director for Acquisition Career Management (DACM) Office conducted a workforce competency assessment in two parts between 2017 and 2019. The 2017 fiscal year (FY) Acquisition Workforce Career Development Assessment—Part 1—surveyed the entire Army Acquisition Workforce to determine which training would increase the its leadership and technical competencies. The results of Part 1 of the assessment told the DACM Office that, for each of the acquisition career fields, how important skill was to the employee’s position, the amount of time an employee spent developing a skill, and the employee’s understanding of that skill. The DACM Office was then able to compare that information for each career field to the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Acquisition Workforce Qualification Initiative, a tool that’s used to identify specific gaps in job experience, allow for identification of on-the-job developmental opportunities and capture demonstrated acquisition experience.
Part 2, the FY 2019 Army Acquisition Workforce Competency Assessment – Supervisor Feedback, captured data on workforce competencies as assessed by acquisition employees’ supervisors. The FY19 assessment marked the first time that common AAW technical competencies had been identified and rated.
“[In] March of 2019, we started down the path of drafting and conducting a competency assessment for both leadership and functional competencies to validate the competency assessment we did in FY17,” said Jason Pitts, chief of the Acquisition Workforce Proponency Branch. The FY19 assessment surveyed both acquisition and non-acquisition supervisors—about 12,000 people—and asked questions similar to the FY17 assessment on leadership, functional competencies and competencies common among all 14 career fields, he said. Of the 12,000 people surveyed for the FY19 assessment, roughly 3,000, or 24.8 percent of them, responded.
The FY19 assessment’s objectives were to identify the strengths and training needs of the AAW, inform and improve human capital planning initiatives to develop the workforce, and gather information for decision-makers and stakeholders in planning for professional development. The report on the assessment’s results will be shared with supervisors and senior acquisition leaders across the community.
Jerry Baird, an analyst with the Acquisition Workforce Proponency Branch, explained that, before the FY19 assessment was launched, the DACM Office conducted focus groups with various stakeholders from the FY17 assessment. The focus groups helped determine the six universal competencies common among the career fields, which are:
- Critical thinking: The ability to analyze situations and make sound decisions that are most effective.
- Writing and communication: The ability to translate concepts into comprehensive guidance that is actionable and easy to understand.
- Decision-making: The ability to make critical and rapid decisions and to respond in a methodical and effective way when quick action is required.
- Planning and analysis – integration: The ability to understand how product support management activities lead, integrate and impact and trade among other functional activities required for that particular product.
- Risk management: The ability to create and implement risk management plans and apply risk management throughout the total life cycle of a program.
- Acquisition strategy and planning analysis: The ability to collect technical inputs, including cost, schedule and financial information; to identify program problems; and to propose mitigation plans.
“Every competency was rated in two ways: First, how important did they think it was on a scale of one to five? Second, how proficient did they think the people they supervise, specifically their acquisition workforce members, were in that competency?” Baird said. “So, each competency had two lenses: importance and proficiency.” A gap was deemed to exist “if something was important, but the proficiency was lower than the importance rating,” Baird said.
Both competency assessments are aligned with the DACM Office’s Human Capital Strategic Plan and the Army’s People Strategy to improve workforce development and further the Army’s goal of talent management. “While talent management is about the entire human resource life cycle—acquire, develop, employ and retain—we feel this effort can help organizational leaders identify leadership- and acquisition-specific developmental focus areas,” Pitts said.
The DACM Office hopes to provide supervisors and senior acquisition leaders better insight into their organizations with the FY19 Supervisor Competency Assessment report. “All we tried to do was arm them with a few leadership and functional competency gaps that are quantified with data,” Pitts said. “This allows them to create strategic IDPs [individual development plans], for example, to target their gaps.”
The assessment also enables the DACM Office, which manages the Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Account (formerly the Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund), to prioritize the 1,300 submissions received every fiscal year, he said. It provided quantifiable data to validate both the decisions of senior acquisition leaders across the community and the DACM Office’s priorities, before committing resources to specific submissions.
“If there’s a gap, and it’s important, divisions or commands need to make sure their training opportunities are geared at filling those gaps,” Pitts said.
For more information, go to https://asc.army.mil/web/hcsp/.
JACQUELINE M. HAMES is an editor with Army AL&T magazine. She holds a B.A. in creative writing from Christopher Newport University. She has more than 12 years of experience writing and editing news and feature articles for publication.
This article is published in the Spring 2020 issue of Army AL&T magazine.
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