As logisticians and sustainers, we enable the best-equipped and sustained fighting force in the world, providing warfighters with what they need to fight and win, anytime, anywhere. But the Army is not tanks, weapons, or other equipment; rather, it is people, and they are our most valuable resource and top priority. It is our people who provide us with an enduring advantage to remain the world’s most ready, lethal, and capable land combat force.
Army Civilians form the institutional backbone of the Army and are an integral part of the Army enterprise providing leadership, stability, and continuity during war and peace. The materiel, installation, and sustainment enterprise employs a third of Army Civilians, with nearly 96,000 working for Army Materiel Command (AMC) alone. How we manage, grow, and care for our people throughout their careers directly affects and enables our ability to support warfighters and accomplish the Army mission now and in the future.
We are in a war for talent and want the best and brightest to work for our Army. To build and sustain a high-caliber civilian workforce, the Army must hone its talent management practices and processes and ensure the readiness of Army Civilians to support a multi-domain capable force during competition, crisis, and conflict. Talent management integrates all people practices, generating a positive effect on organizational outcomes and leveraging each individual’s knowledge, skills, behaviors, and preferences (KSB-Ps) for the mutual benefit of both the Army and the individual.
The Army People Strategy and the civilian implementation plan outline the talent management life cycle through four key phases: acquire, develop, employ, and retain. While there are ongoing initiatives and programs in all four phases, AMC is leading the way in developing the civilian workforce through the Ready Army Civilian (RAC) initiative. RAC will posture our civilian workforce to support the future force by providing civilians with the training, education, and professional development opportunities needed throughout their careers to achieve maximum readiness.
The purpose of RAC is to develop civilians who actively choose to use their skills and experience to improve Army readiness, with the desired outcome being a trained and ready workforce committed to the Army mission. A RAC is a high-caliber employee that is resilient, educated, innovative, and trained to address vastly complex situations. A RAC possesses the job-related skills and experiences to manage, lead, and adapt in a multifaceted, readiness-based atmosphere. The RAC initiative equips employees with the tools they need to excel in the workplace, including education, experience, and leadership opportunities.
How the Army effectively uses its civilians, each of whom possess unique KSB-Ps, is critical to achieving maximum readiness. The Army has several means by which to measure the readiness of Soldiers, teams and units, but until recently, has not measured the readiness of the civilian workforce. To do this, we must collect, analyze, and harness data that enables human resource managers and supervisors to identify and make real-time decisions to manage their internal talent. This data drives a dynamic and accurate long-term workforce planning system which reduces talent gaps and increases overall Army readiness.
AMC is currently implementing across the enterprise a RAC tool created to enable supervisors and employees to gauge overall civilian readiness. For our professional workforce, the development tool considers tangible—or hard skills—such as degrees, certifications, and other completed technical training; and required physical and travel demands in support of the mission. Intangible—or soft skills—measured that are not required for the job but accentuate an employee’s ability to meet organizational goals, including time management, critical thinking, communication, and listening skills. We are currently planning the next phase of RAC to expand to our industrial artisans and wage grade employees by fiscal year 2023.
RAC drives a valuable, outcome-based conversation between employees and supervisors, with an increased focus on career goals, training, organizational needs, and readiness. Using the RAC tool, employees assess the readiness level of their own tangible and intangible skills based on the requirements for their position, and supervisors evaluate each of their employees for the same. Employees and supervisors then come to a consensus evaluation, identify any potential gaps, and determine which skills, education, training, or developmental opportunities employees need to increase their readiness level for their current position and posture them to advance in the future.
Our ready and resilient workforce across the materiel, installation, and sustainment enterprise includes highly skilled and uniquely qualified professionals, from industrial artisans to senior logisticians and business analysts, guided by proficient leaders, with knowledge, capabilities, and expertise. The data and feedback collected through the RAC initiative allows AMC to look holistically at everything from individual position descriptions to organizational structures to ensure we are best aligned and match the right people with the right skills required for every position. From the enterprise to organizational levels and down to the individual employee, the Army must continue to leverage data and improve processes that help ensure we are properly aligned and effectively utilizing civilian talent to maximize readiness. The bottom line is more effective talent management, aligning skills to the mission, and identifying training requirements and opportunities to enhance individual, unit, and Army readiness.
Similarly, the Army is modernizing and streamlining how civilians are organized and managed at the enterprise level. As part of the civilian implementation plan, the Army is consolidating 32 civilian career programs into 11 career fields. This move will provide for more developmental opportunities and better cross-training, allowing talented civilians to more easily move into, between, and out of civilian employment opportunities best suited to their skills and interests. Career field functional chiefs and functional community advisors will provide the enterprise-level planning, management, and guidance to Army Civilians within each functional community, allowing civilians to better understand their career progression path, objectives, and timelines, and for supervisors and workforce managers to conduct succession planning and ensure there is an upward pathway for highly skilled and talented employees.
At AMC, we are leveraging new outreach initiatives to academic institutions, including historically black colleges and universities, and technical schools, to seek out and build the pipeline for new talent. For example, Aviation and Missile Command’s Corpus Christi Army Depot uses the Pathways Program to build the entry-level electroplater workforce with DEL MAR College, and Tank-automotive and Armaments Command’s Anniston Army Depot has cooperative agreements with the Gadsden State Community College and Central Alabama Community College. This includes the establishment of a three-phased program: high school, technical college, and career progression where participants are recruited from local high schools. These students are afforded the opportunity to earn a high school diploma and an Advanced Career and Technical Education endorsement with college credit towards a Career Technical Certificate. These programs offer amazing opportunities for recent graduates to gain invaluable training, experience, and insight into the Army and set them on a path for a successful and rewarding career. I started my civil service career as an intern in the AMC Materiel Maintenance Management Intern Program, and now more than 35 years later, I am still proud to serve as an Army Civilian supporting our Soldiers, civilians, and families worldwide.
Going forward, we must continue to be deliberate and think creatively about how, where, and who to engage with to more quickly identify, hire, and onboard qualified and talented individuals ready to serve as Army Civilians in support of our Soldiers and nation. Hiring managers need to maximize the use of several programs and authorities already in place to quickly bring in the best talent from the outside, including direct hire authorities for scientific, technical, or other specialty jobs, military spouse preference, and other non-competitive hiring actions.
I know we cannot achieve our mission without our people—dedicated and talented military, civilians, and contractors. They make a difference by exercising their abilities, skills, and knowledge to create innovative solutions. In view of the challenges ahead, we must focus on our people and empower our workforce by ensuring they have the right skills, training, education, and developmental opportunities needed in a modern, 21st-century environment.
The time is now to hone our processes and people to achieve the transformational change needed within our workforce to best support the future force and enable the Army priorities of People, Readiness and Modernization. AMC is proud to lead the way in this important effort to enhance the skills, training, education, and professional development opportunities for all Army Civilians and increase the overall readiness of the Army.
Lisha Adams currently serves as the executive deputy to the commanding general of AMC. She has earned her Bachelor of Arts in economics from Birmingham-Southern College and received her Master of Business Administration from the Florida Institute of Technology.
This article was published in the Winter 2022 issue of Army Sustainment.