FORT KNOX, Kentucky – U.S. Army Human Resources Command recently hosted Sgt. Maj. Wardell Jefferson, sergeant major, Headquarters Department of the Army G1, for a series of enlisted talent management working group sessions.
During his visit, Jefferson sat down with Command Sgt. Maj. Lynice Thorpe-Noel, command sergeant major, HRC, to answer questions regarding the way ahead for enlisted talent management and the Army People Strategy.
Q. Is Army Talent Management only for officers? How will enlisted personnel fit into the Army Talent Alignment Process?
A. SGM Jefferson: It’s not just for the officers. Since the officer population is much smaller, the initiative to find a better process for managing talent began with them. Now that the officer side has provided a proven template for success, Army senior leaders and G-1 have begun the process of developing a talent management system for the enlisted force that will ensure the right noncommissioned officer is always placed in the right place at the right time.
A. CSM Thorpe-Noel: As the Army continues refining initiatives for the officer population, HRC has been developing and testing a new system that will bring our enlisted force into the talent alignment process. A platform that will allow us to better manage and align enlisted talent will be through a new system called the ASK Enlisted Marketplace (ASK-EM). It’s based on the Assignment Interactive Module 2.0 (AIM) template being used for officers. The enlisted virtual marketplace will allow staff sergeants through master sergeants to prioritize their preferences for valid and available worldwide assignments. This new design significantly increases the role of Soldier preference in the assignment process and facilitates an NCO’s influence in the trajectory of his or her career. It’s projected for full deployment in January 2021.
Q. Does enlisted talent management need to be different than officer talent management?
A. SGM Jefferson: The AIM-2 marketplace allows units to see the officers’ resumes, decide which officers they have an interest in and set up interviews with those officers.
When ASK-EM is first deployed, only the enlisted Soldier will be able to go into the marketplace and view the available jobs and Knowledge, Skills and Behaviors (KSBs) required for the position. They will also be able to reach out to the unit to discuss what that job entails. This will give enlisted Soldiers a lot more opportunity than they’ve had in the past to preference job selections. In the past, when they went into ASK, Soldiers could only see up to four job openings. Now they’re going to see all the jobs available during their permanent change of station (PCS) cycle.
With ASK-EM, units will need to in-put into the system what KSBs are required for each of their positions. Since every Soldier is not qualified for every job, this will inform Soldiers as to what kind of talents and KSBs are necessary for each job before they select their preferences. It will also enable HRC to place the right Soldier in the right position at the right time.
For me, this is an exciting time. I’ve been in the Army 30 years and we’ve never gone to this level of management on the enlisted side or for officers.
Q. How is this method of talent management different than how it was implemented in the past?
A. CSM Thorpe-Noel: This is a really exciting time. We’re modernizing how we’re selecting enlisted Soldiers for assignments. We are doing more today to enhance Soldiers’ professional development. With the Army Talent Alignment Process, career managers are able to have more informed conversations with Soldiers on where they are currently, and where they need to be focused for future positions. HRC must balance the art of assisting Soldiers with achieving their aspirations and career goals with the science of ensuring Army requirements are met. When rolled out in 2021, the ASK-EM virtual marketplace will truly allow Non Commissioned Officers and career managers a system that better aligns knowledge, skills, behaviors, and preferences to maximize individual potential and provide optimal career opportunities. This process will enhance the Army’s long-term readiness and is at the heart of the Army People Strategy.
A. SGM Jefferson: We now have an Army People Strategy that places an emphasis on placing people as the priority. People build readiness and in order to build that readiness in the organization, we have to acquire the right people, develop them, employ them and retain them.
In my 30 years in the Army, I don’t think we’ve ever had that before. There is an emphasis being placed on this type of talent management from the top all the way down to the bottom. We now have junior Soldiers inquiring about what is the best course of action for their career development.
In the past, when we were selecting Soldiers to fill positions, we thought we were finding the right people to fill them, but we weren’t always getting it right. Now we’re making changes to truly improve the way we manage our talent.
Now we’re looking at the composition of the entire force and not just a group of individuals who are eligible to move at a certain time – we are looking at the KSBs of everybody. So even if a Soldier has only been on a particular assignment for one year, we may move him or her because that individual may be the right person to be placed in a specific job.
With that in mind, Soldiers preferences on where they’d like to serve are going to play a major role as well because that affects morale. If Soldiers and their families are happy with where they’re living and working, they’re going to work harder – their performance will be better.
So Soldier preference will be taken into consideration, because if you send them to a location and assignment they desire, they’re going to do what they need to do to succeed.
Q. What should mid-grade and senior NCOs be considering for 2020 with regards to talent management initiatives and programs?
A. SGM Jefferson: No. 1 is merit based promotions. In the past, board members developed an order of merit list based off of the strength of a Soldier’s packet and the body of work he or she had done throughout his or her career. An order of merit list was established and passed on to the DA Secretariat and then recalculated based on time in service, and time in grade. Under the old system, if I had more time in service than you, I would get promoted before you.
Not anymore - promotions are no longer based on a Soldier’s time in service but his or her merit. Now, if the board decides a Soldier’s file is stronger because he or she did the hard jobs and the things that individual needed to do to educate him/herself, then the Army is going to reward that Soldier for doing the things necessary to stand out among his or her peers.
That is a culture change for our force, but I think it’s good, because as I travel around and talk to Soldiers, they are asking for that. They want to know where they stand among peers. After the boards conclude and results are released, Soldiers can go into the Army Career Tracker and check their OML number, which they can share with their leadership and mentors who can then assist them with acquiring the education and skills they need to be competitive.
Regarding assessments – in the future, Soldiers will be required to take an assessment that will indicate his or her strengths – in what role that individual would be best suited to serve. Data from the Army Research Institute proves it can be determined which types of jobs Soldiers are better suited to perform. The Talent Management Task Force is researching assessments and Army senior leaders are hoping to begin running pilots on it soon.
A. CSM Thorpe-Noel: As SGM Jefferson mentioned, promoting NCOs based on merit rather than seniority means that NCOs need to strongly consider how they are performing and what they need to do in order to get ahead of their peers. Merit based promotions recognize exceptionally talented individuals who demonstrate the aptitude to perform at a higher grade earlier in their careers than in the past, so NCOs must not shy away from the more challenging positions, and they must continue to develop their core leader competencies if they want to remain competitive well into the future.
Q. Can we expect to see Sergeants Major and Command Sergeants Major attend BCAP in the future?
A. SGM Jefferson: Army senior leadership is talking about developing brigade commander assessments and how command sergeants major can be incorporated into that process. It will be similar to BCAP. There’s also the possibility that something similar will be considered for battalion CSMs as well.
Q. What advice would you give to young sergeants on how to better prepare for their futures?
A. SGM Jefferson: My advice to young Soldiers today is don’t run from the hard jobs, take every opportunity you have to improve on your craft, develop your core competencies and gain education. When offered a job opportunity that’s challenging, get outside your comfort zone and take on that job. That’s the only way you’re going to develop the skills you’re going to need to be successful in the Army. If you continue to stay in your comfort zone, one day you’re going to get placed in a job that’s going to take you out of that and you’re going to fail. But if you start early taking opportunities to develop, you will be prepared when that time comes.
I also recommend finding a mentor. There are many senior individuals in the Army who have served in positions, in which, upcoming NCOs would like to serve. Reach out to them - they have the blueprint, they know what it takes to be successful in certain roles, and younger NCOs will need someone to guide them throughout the process when they run into a situation they’ve never before encountered. If they don’t have that kind of mentorship, things will be a lot harder and they may not be as prepared as they need to be as they move throughout out their careers and assume duties of greater responsibility.
A. CSM Thorpe-Noel: The Army is a profession and we need NCOs who are committed to life-long learning and career development not only for themselves, but for their Soldiers. This allows them to maximize their talents and leverage the talents of their subordinates. Young NCOs also need to know how to be authentic leaders and they must be able to build cohesive teams that feel valued. The Army wins wars with teams/squads, not individuals.
Q. What do you hear most from Soldiers when you conduct unit and installation visits?
A. SGM Jefferson: In the past, Soldiers would express frustration with the system because they didn’t believe the Army was looking out for their best interest or that their voice wasn’t being heard.
Many of the changes being initiated are a result of that feedback. Now, when I talk to the Soldiers, they ask what types of jobs they should be looking at in order to make sure they’re competitive with or ahead of their peers, because when they see those order of merit list numbers, they realize that some of their assignments did not set them up for success because they’re lagging behind their peers. They’re asking to go to jobs that are going to set them up for success. And they want mentorship. It’s a big culture change, but a lot of them are embracing it.
A. CSM Thorpe-Noel: Most Soldiers want to know what they should be focused on next in order to develop and grow professionally. My advice is that they seek out a mentor who can advise them on the things they should be doing to set themselves up for success and for promotions.
I also strive to ensure that Soldiers and leaders are armed with the latest information on how HRC is supporting strategic talent management. This allows them to have informed conversations with others in their units on how the Army is modernizing and building readiness.
HRC continues to work with DA G1 and the Talent Management Task Force to develop innovative programs and initiatives that will improve Army readiness and empower Soldiers to make informed career decisions.
To remain abreast of the latest Army talent management programs and initiative visit HRC at www.hrc.army.mil, or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ArmyHRC/ or @ArmyHRC: https://twitter.com/armyhrc.