The Army’s readiness relies upon its people and their collective capability to drive mission success. Effectively developing and leveraging the unique and far-ranging knowledge, skills, and behaviors (KSBs) of Soldiers and civilians is the modus operandi of Army Human Resources Command (HRC). From strategic talent management to targeted modernization of its enterprise data capabilities, HRC’s military, civilian, and contractor workforce span across more than 40 operational elements and is tasked with Soldier recruitment, development, distribution, and retention under the guidance of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, G-1.
After assuming the role of HRC’s 26th commanding general in July of 2021, Maj. Gen. Thomas Drew has worked in tandem with Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony McAdoo to drive forward the slate of Total Army programs and services that enable the command’s mission as nested within the Army People Strategy. Army Sustainment sat down with Drew and McAdoo to learn more about HRC’s key initiatives undertaken in 2021 and those slated for 2022, which will posture the Army’s people to meet the joint force’s needs in the evolving state of future warfare.
HRC’s key initiatives run the personnel gamut, from configuring the Integrated Personnel and Pay System-Army (IPPS-A) to expanding its command assessment programs. How does HRC approach foundational efforts which enable progress in this area?
Drew: I was the former director of the Army Talent Management Task Force, so we’ve integrated the Army People Strategy into everything that we do here at HRC—this guides progress on our initiatives which are rooted in the information we have access to. We’ve made huge progress modeling and projecting the Army’s needs based on our ability to acquire, develop, distribute, and maintain talent across the globe stemming from our information management efforts, such as with the future deployment of IPPS-A. This means that we have much greater visibility into the unique KSBs of our Soldiers—this allows us to be more agile in how we pair them to jobs they prefer. Soldier preference is now far more dynamic than it used to be, meaning we can leverage short-, medium-, and long-term preferences that best reflect where a Soldier is in their career. These integrated systems and their supporting framework ensure that the Army can interact with its Soldiers to ensure a job pairing that is in the best interest of both. We can accommodate personal, professional, and family goals within the same system, which is a huge step from where we were 5, 10, and, certainly, 20 years ago.
CSM McAdoo: As mentioned, 2021 really has been a year of great strides. Perhaps the most exciting progress we’ve made deals with our flexibility. We’re driving toward system convergence because historically we had to look through disparate data sources to make personnel decisions in the past. For example, with the Assignment Satisfaction Key – Enlisted Module marketplace, we’ve used that integration to increase our ability to communicate back and forth with Soldiers on assignment possibilities and have them provide their preferences. This communication allows Soldiers to make informed decisions with various courses of action to best care for themselves and their families. We were also able to travel to different stations and posts this year to garner direct feedback and ensure we are moving in the right direction. We received valuable comments and concerns from Soldiers to help us better shape processes and decisions. Resoundingly so, we want to continue these efforts, which support our focus on responsiveness and transparency as more capabilities are fielded.
Career and talent management is a complex, continual process as outlined by the Army People Strategy’s four lines of effort—acquire, develop, employ, and retain—which will support the ability to build cohesive mission-ready teams. Which of these tends to be the most challenging to execute?
Drew: We aim to focus on smaller pilots to most effectively assess follow-on impacts and respect that complexity as it’s folded into policy across all of our talent management initiatives. The biggest challenge across those four lines is the change itself because, simply put, change is difficult and lengthy. Additionally, the way we approach the entire problem set of human and talent management must evolve to meet the needs of our personnel as they begin their Army journey. Across the Army and military services in general, there’s a huge focus on ensuring that we’re operating in the Information Age instead of the Industrial Age—meaning we are using our expanse of enterprise data to be more proactive in making a career decision. From an Industrial Age perspective, there existed a structural barrier to managing talent—nothing was dynamic. For example, instead of seeking out great officers or NCOs there was a tendency to pigeonhole based on a relatively narrow set of KSBs. While certain experience is important, there also needs to be room for new learning and growth that we feel is best postured for the Information Age.
McAdoo: We’re focused on making those changes necessary to help us forecast and be more proactive in that managerial sense. We’re dealing with policy, not law, so that flexibility is something we want to be intentionally aware of as we adapt and educate our workforce here at HRC and beyond moving forward.
What key measures or metrics of success does HRC leverage to ensure that talent is effectively managed?
Drew: At the foundation of all our initiatives is our data and the environment it resides in that allows us to see every Soldier in their current and future form as clearly as possible. Right now, when we talk about progress in this space, that tends to be the crux of the matter. An accessible, data-rich environment will help us focus on the individual, which will be the major differentiator when saying things like “develop the future force.” Right now, the people we have here ensure we’re able to do this effectively, so the capability exists in its current form. However, we’ve done the internal legwork to show that expanding our reach using our data will only strengthen that capability. We want to see the whole Soldier and their family all within one unified system—this will allow us to forecast for the whole family and get ahead of any issues or challenges that may arise when thinking about any piece of talent management, namely the moving process. As an example, I can see how many children you have with our present ability, but I cannot see their age or school district. If I have that information, I have a more robust look into what your best month available to move may be to make that process more predictable, reliable, and agreeable for you and your family. When we’re looking at a staff sergeant, sergeant first class, captain, or whoever is preparing to move for a career development opportunity, we want to make sure that the time of move and location of reassignment is as closely or exactly aligned with that service member’s preferences across the board. Is your kid one year away from their high school graduation while you’re at the culmination of a career development tour? We want to know that so, in this instance, we can work to extend that to give your family a host of options to improve stability without throwing a big speed hump in your career development.
McAdoo: To the general’s point, world-class talent management must involve the whole family, and that’s a measure of success. Involving the entire family boils down to a Soldier having options to do what is best for themselves and those they love. If we do this effectively, then retention as a metric of success is naturally controlled. We aim to remove any negative administrative distractors a Soldier may face so they can focus on performing their job at the highest level. We have a great handle on how our efforts impact the holistic view of Soldiers and unit readiness. Still, we also want to make sure we consider the retention aspect on the back end. As mentioned, providing flexibility through options—things like family stability considerations in concert with the Exceptional Family Member Program assignment process—will give Soldiers greater control and foresight over their trajectory and what’s best for them at a given stage in life. If Soldiers continue to serve because they believe that and see the benefits from the Army actively taking care of them and their families, then that’s a huge success.
Industry collaboration has proven itself as a modernization force multiplier for the Army, such as our efforts to implement Advanced Manufacturing. How does HRC approach these partnerships?
Drew: For several years now, we’ve had robust working relationships with those members of the industry who we feel are leading the way in data management and analytics. Companies like Google, Amazon, and IBM, to name a few. We’re invested in these relationships because they help us determine the art of the possible to turn our analytical capabilities from reactive to, at the very least, predictive and, in the ideal state, prescriptive.
Last year’s Talent Management edition of Army Sustainment provided detailed insight into the genesis of the Battalion Commander Assessment Program (BCAP). What does the way forward look like in spearheading similar programs, like the Sergeant Major Assessment Program (SMAP), for the NCO corps?
McAdoo: All these programs are derived and governed through an extremely deliberate process, so we know we’re identifying and managing high-level talent across both officer and NCO cohorts. With SMAP, we’re taking lessons learned from BCAP to make sure that, on the NCO side, we are identifying the best leader for the right job based on a holistic, all-encompassing process. We’ve learned from this process that these assessments go beyond just being a learning tool for NCOs to identify areas to improve, as they also show us what aspects we need to continually assess—such as communication skills. This process enables talent to be assessed at current levels while also enabling avenues for growth.
How has talent management evolved and adapted since you both began your Army careers?
Drew: It’s changed dramatically. I joined the Army in 1982, and I’ve been on active duty ever since. I would say the biggest thing that has changed is transparency and opportunity. Decades ago, as an individual Soldier, it was difficult to discern and advocate for the various opportunities that were available as you charted your career path. In a sense, what you did and were going to do was dictated to you in no uncertain terms. There was information asymmetry between the system or systems and the Soldier, so the sergeant major and I have made breaking those silos down a key initiative. If you want to acquire, develop, and retain exceedingly talented people, you must build that trust through transparency. Soldiers must be able to operate with the belief that their Army is going to be transparent and advocate on their behalf throughout their career.
McAdoo: Even as a career-long HR professional, I never knew where I was going until I got the assignment notification from HRC. In the past, the system was set up to be purposefully rigid, but we are now focused on providing added flexibility by soliciting and considering critical input from both sides of the coin. That symmetry is foundational to our mantra of putting Soldiers First.
Lt. Col. Altwan Whitfield is currently serving as the deputy director of the Army G-4’s Logistics Initiatives Group. Previously, she was the commander of the 841st Transportation Battalion at Surface Deployment and Distribution Command. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Special Education from Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and a master’s degree in Public Administration with a concentration in Education from Troy University in Montgomery, Alabama.
Mike Crozier is a strategic analyst in the Army G-4’s Logistics Initiatives Group. He holds bachelor’s and ’master’s degrees from Georgetown University.
This article was published in the Winter 2022 issue of Army Sustainment.