In the previous article, The ‘So What’ Behind KSBs – Part 1, we discussed the importance of KSB-Ps for officers and units in the Army Talent Alignment Process (ATAP). Central to this article was the concept of market participation and interaction, which allows officers and units to use KSB-Ps to better understand each other in order to make more informed preferencing decisions that reflect the capabilities of the officer and needs of the unit. The use of KSB-Ps within ATAP creates a data-rich environment that extends beyond the market to feed post-market analysis. KSB-P analysis is critical to the Army’s ability to execute workforce planning and identify talent gaps across the formation. This article highlights the importance of KSB-Ps as they pertain to talent gap analysis, as well as examines the concept of workforce planning and its impact on how the Army acquires, develops, employs, and retains talent.
What is workforce planning?
According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), “workforce planning is the process an organization uses to analyze its workforce and determine the steps it must take to prepare for future staffing needs” (shrm.org, n.d.). In the civilian sector, elite businesses have started using data-based approaches to create workforce planning models which address issues such as talent gaps, career pathing, and succession planning. This data-driven approach has led businesses to become more efficient and more successful than their counterparts. Furthermore, as talent management becomes the driving force behind the success of many business models, companies like Google and Amazon not only develop top-tier talent but also recruit and draw top-tier talent from other companies and organizations.
Workforce Planning in the Army.
Like civilian companies, the Army must constantly analyze force structure and create manning guidance to ensure Army units and personnel are prioritized in order to meet current and future mission requirements. However, until recently, the Army has used an Industrial Age model when managing its personnel. In the former, Industrial Age model of personnel management, Soldiers were treated as interchangeable parts. As long as a Soldier met the minimum requirements (e.g. Rank, Branch, or MOS), the requirement was considered filled if a Soldier was in position. While this passes as workforce planning, this form of execution is rudimentary at best.
Army senior leaders have started to realize that our Soldiers and people are our greatest asset over our adversaries. With this realization has come the impetus to modernize the personnel management system with the goal of positioning our people into opportunities and assignments which best match their preferences and strengths to Army requirements. To do this, the Army has begun an effort to capture data on our Soldiers in the form of their KSB-Ps. This is a fundamental shift from an Industrial Age approach to a modern data-based approach. While rank, branch, and MOS still play an important role in meeting certain branch-specific requirements, KSB-Ps, experience, and education are starting to blur the lines of generalist positions (e.g. O1A & O2A) as well as positions that require expertise in areas of increasing demand such as technology (e.g. Cloud Computing).
As the Army moves toward a 21st Century workforce planning model, it has instituted ATAP to ensure we match the right person, to the right job, at the right time (overtime). To date over 27,000 officers have moved through ATAP; however, this would not have been possible without a data platform to support the process. Assignment Interactive Module Two (AIM2) has been the primary system to run the ATAP, and this system is the Army’s first vehicle to capture integrated data on our Soldiers. As discussed in the previous article, AIM2 allows officers to profess KSB-Ps through various experience and attribute-based lists as well as a text résumé. AIM2 also allows units to specify the requirements of their positions using KSB-Ps. Using this data, the Army can compare and analyze the data on our units’ needs (demand-side requirements) and our officers’ talents (supply-side worker characteristics). In the near future, this data will allow the Army to determine where our talent gaps are or potentially will be.
How are officer KSB-Ps important to workforce planning?
As previously stated, KSB-Ps are critical to unit and officer interaction within an ATAP market and assist both the officer and unit in talent match preferencing. From the officer viewpoint, KSB-Ps are a means to highlight knowledge, skills, behaviors, and experiences, which cannot be captured by looking at someone’s assignment experience and military schooling on page one of their Officer Record Brief (ORB). This unique insight into the personal experiences of our Officer Corps allows the Army to target specific skills necessary to fill new units and new mission sets across the Army (e.g. Army Enterprise Cloud Management Office (ECMO) and the COVID-19 Task Force).
To expand on these examples, we have officers, warrant officers, non-commissioned officers (NCO), and enlisted Soldiers who have degrees, self-study knowledge or civilian work experience in highly specialized areas which can contribute greatly to the formation of these new organizations and mission sets. Often these Soldiers are assigned to our basic branches (e.g. IN, AR, FA, etc.) as there is no direct path to these specialized organizations. The Army is moving toward targeted onboarding programs such as direct commission to attract qualified Soldiers and civilians into these specialty-type units as we currently do not have enough data established on our own populations to identify this talent within our own formation. Officer KSB-P self-profession is critical to rectifying this knowledge gap making it easier for the Army to identify the supply of talents and skills currently available. This capability enables rapid identification and employment of our personnel to meet the Army’s emerging requirements.
Vignette: In 2020, a 1st Lieutenant at Fort Hood professed his skills and expertise in cloud computing. This officer was identified by Enterprise Cloud Management Office (ECMO) as a potential hire to work on the Army’s cloud computing program. Upon completion of his battery time, the officer was assigned to ECMO to support the mission of this program.
How are Unit requested KSB-Ps important to workforce planning?
Unit requested KSB-Ps are equally as important, if not more important, as the officer professed KSB-Ps. While officer KSB-Ps tell us what our supply of talent consists of within the Army, unit requested KSB-Ps tell us what the demand signal is for officer talents. Unit demand is critical in telling the Army where our talent gaps exist within our formation, and this is usually correlated to the specific type of mission set assigned to the hiring unit.
For example, as some of the mission sets for the Army have shifted from direct action to advise and assist, the required skill set for our Soldiers has shifted. As a force, we still need to maintain readiness and proficiency in large-scale combat operations (LSCO), but we also need a population skilled at advising and mentoring foreign nation forces. Currently, the Army has multiple options to meet this requirement:
1) Security Force Advisory Brigades (SFAB)
2) Special Forces Teams
3) Traditional Brigade Combat Teams (BCT) assigned Advise and Assist Missions
4) Battalion Task Forces assigned Advise and Assist Missions
If we were to look at this through the lens of an ATAP market, a BCT assigned an advise and assist mission should have a different KSB-P profile than a unit training for a direct-action mission set. In the examples below, the Company Commander in the direct-action mission set has a very specific set of KSB-Ps; however, the Company Commander with the advise and assist mission set has additional KSB-Ps, specifically related to the new mission set. If the advise and assist desired KSB-Ps did not exist in the current talent pool, a decision would have to be made by the Army to determine how to grow those capabilities. This would result in a talent gap analysis.
Talent Gap Analysis – Closing the Gap.
As the ATAP market matures and market data becomes more available, unit KSB-P demand signals and officer supply KSB-Ps should tell us where our talent gaps exist. But, for this to work properly, units must embrace the idea behind requesting specific KSB-Ps for their unit positions. Conversely, officers must embrace professing their KSB-Ps so the Army can accurately assess and gauge the talent pool. Once these two basic requirements are met, talent gap analysis may begin.
So, what does talent gap analysis look like? If you look at figure 5 below, this shows how a basic talent gap analysis may occur. On the left-hand side of the figure, you will see that both officers and units have the ability to input KSB-Ps into AIM2. When the ATAP market runs, officers and units share this data with each other and can preference each other based on this data. Post-ATAP, the Army can query data from the market to conduct analysis and identify potential talent gaps.
Looking at the analysis bubble in the middle of the figure, we can determine in this market, cultural fluency was one of our talent gaps in this specific officer population. We can take this data, and conduct further analysis to help us research and answer the questions to the right:
· How big is the talent gap?
· How important is the skill to the units?
· How does the Army rectify this talent gap?
The far right of the figure identifies some potential conclusions. For example, the Army may need to incorporate cultural fluency training into professional military education (PME) venues, or the Army may need to encourage officers to develop this skill through their individual self-development plans. Analysts could also look across the force to determine if the officer population exists outside of the market. The Army could then target those officers with incentives to retain this specific skill. The Army may realize the gap is so large it will need to look at direct hiring personnel to fill the talent gap. Whatever the outcome of the talent gap analysis, it would not have been possible without unit and officer KSB-P information, which is really the “so what” of this article.
The Army is gaining traction on its workforce planning strategy and is well on its way to a 21st Century Talent Management System. Make no mistake, KSB-Ps are foundational to Army Talent Management. They are what the Army will use to acquire, develop, employ and retain the best Soldiers in the very near future. Promotions and selections may soon be tied to KSB-Ps, and officers will stop chasing assignments and instead seek the positions and experiences, which enhance their KSB-P profile. As AIM2 comes to the end of its lifecycle and the Integrated Personnel and Pay System-Army (IPPS-A) comes online, personnel, training, and assessment data will be linked into one system. Officers will be able to validate their self-professed KSB-Ps by linking them to assessments and completed training. Units will be able to search for and filter officers based on specific KSB-P criteria unique to their mission set. KSB-P data is the future of talent management, and the sooner officers and units embrace this cultural shift, the sooner the Army will be able to better manage its talent.
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