When it comes to talent management, retired Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick has witnessed it in every facet of the Army during his years of distinguished service.
As the 53rd Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bostick was the ideal guest for the most recent leader professional development webinar hosted by U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.
The LPD series, which started in September, gives the Army opportunities to learn about pertinent professional development topics. Centered on open discussions, viewers are encouraged to ask questions for the participants to answer during the webinar. The latest virtual discussion focused on how talent management relates to military and civilian careers, mentorship, and diversity and inclusion.
Lt. Gen. Ted Martin, Deputy Commanding General and Chief of Staff of TRADOC was the host for the event and welcomed Bostick to share his thoughts on talent management with the audience.
From the role of Soldier to civilian, Bostick has always focused on keeping people at the forefront of every mission. Ensuring each individual is taken care of and believes they are part of his team is his top priority. Likewise, talent management has to be a whole-person, team effort.
Bostick is an accomplished senior executive with more than 30 years of experience in both public and private sectors. In addition to his service as a combat veteran, where he was second-in-command of the 1st Calvary Division, he also taught future generations of leaders as an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the United States Military Academy, where he graduated in 1978 and was commissioned as a combat engineer. Bostick also served as the director of Human Resources and completed a term as a White House Fellow, serving as a special assistant to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Most recently, he has worked in industry as the chief operating officer and president of Intrexon Bioengineering.
“Talent management cannot just be the leaders,” Bostick stated. “It has to be within the depths of the organization, ensuring all people believe it is important.”
During the virtual discussion, Martin reiterated the top priority of the Army; its people. Recently, Army senior leaders announced this focus shift during this year’s annual Association of the United States Army Meeting and Exposition and Bostick acknowledged he is thrilled about the Army’s focus on the people.
“I couldn’t think of a better priority for the Army to put its weight behind - to truly make a difference,” Bostick stated.
The topic of talent management and the importance of integrating it into the Army continued throughout the webinar. He explained the critical need of having a holistic approach to what the Army requires, as well as the importance of having inclusion at the center of this initiative.
The shift to a people-focused initiative allows the Army to take a holistic approach to determining and then defining ways to achieve its needs. Inclusion is at the center of the new focus, Bostick explained, and can be achieved through integrating talent management in a more intentional way.
“If the culture understands the importance of talent management and the value of diversity then you have a chance of winning this fight,” Bostick said.
This mindset isn’t only applied to the professional development for Soldiers, but for Army civilians alike. Bostick stated he has always been adamant about listening to the needs of all his people and getting them the assistance they deserve.
“A lot of my time was spent working with the civilian decision makers,” he said. “They have the same challenge of building a pipeline of leaders that are well qualified when they reach senior levels. You have to understand your people, what’s in your pipeline and then you have to start building your leaders early.”
With this mindset of developing leaders from the ground up, Bostick and his team would send out aspirational surveys to civilian staff, in the hopes of learning the goals of his team.
“We wanted to know what they aspire to be,” Bostick said. “We asked them various questions, for example; if they wanted a mentor, what their aspirations were, and if they would be willing to move. Some responses really surprised me – I learned that around fifty percent wanted a mentor and sixty percent were willing to move.”
The discussion on talent management for civilians didn’t stop there. Following the webinar, Bostick sat down with a group of TRADOC civilians for a lunch conversation. This informative discussion was a chance to have real exchanges about various topics and opportunities for Department of the Army employees from the apprentice to supervisory level.
One of the lunch attendees, Haleigh Adkins, a local Pathways apprentice, thought the open discussion was a great way to soak up as much knowledge about the Army as possible.
“Through talking with him, I was able to learn how passionate he is about our Army and really see the impact the Army continues to have on his life,” she said. “It is evident how much he truly cares about all people that he works with.”
Despite being at the beginning of her career in public service, Adkins believes the conversation will be remembered.
“Although I am young, I am confident these lessons will follow me throughout my career,” she said. “One thing he said was when talking to someone you don’t know what they are going through so choose to be kind. This advice stuck with me and I know it will help me in my future endeavors.”
In the final moments of the lunch discussion, Bostick was asked if he could name the Army Value that was most critical to his career. Although he holds all of the Army Values near to his heart, selfless service is the one he best correlates to his profession.
“Selfless service is a two-edged sword,” Bostick explained. “You sacrifice whether you are military or civilian, it is selfless service that defines who people are.”
If you would like to watch the talent management LPD webinar in its entirety, check it out on TRADOC’s Vimeo page at, https://vimeo.com/471142722. The next session will air on Nov. 17, 2020 and will be focused on Army history.