FORT KNOX, Ky. — Former and current U.S. Army Human Resources Command senior leaders gathered at Fort Knox Sept. 13 and 14 to explore the command’s way forward during the HRC 2030 Solarium hosted at the Lt. Gen. Timothy J. Maude Complex.
Discussion topics of the two-day conference included HRC’s mission, increased assignment predictability for Soldiers, retention initiatives, as well as the future of data analytics and talent management to ensure readiness.
“These are important subjects as the Army faces accessions challenges and builds toward the Army of 2040,” said Lt. Col. JD Swinney, HRC Commander’s Initiatives Group. “Events like this and the collaboration they promise can help develop the ideas that will improve the Army for the next generation.”
Following office calls Sept. 13, retired Maj. Gen. Joseph R. Calloway, former HRC commanding general; Brig. Gen. Hope C. Rampy, director, Military Personnel Management Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-1; retired Brig. Gen. James T. Iacocca, former Adjutant General of the U.S. Army; and retired Sgt. Maj. Wardell Jefferson, former senior enlisted adviser to the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-1; were joined by HRC senior leaders and Soldiers from the Soldier Support Institute assigned to 369th Adjutant General Battalion, Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for a discussion about HRC’s push to improve processes to better serve troops in the field.
Calloway offered the young AG Soldiers a bit of background of how far Army human resources has come. During his first 35 years in the Army, he said, many of Army human resources management processes remained unchanged.
“Over the course of the last four years those processes started to change pretty dramatically,” Calloway said. “How you select commanders, how you select [command sergeants major], how you promote people, how you assign people, the markets — none of those existed when I took command in 2019. You are coming into the Army at a time when there is huge change and these great folks here at HRC are taking on a herculean and complex problem to try to figure out all of this when at the same time they are building out IPPS-A.”
Some 50 Soldiers attended the Sept. 14 forum in-person. The event also provided an opportunity for troops stationed around the world to virtually comment and pose questions via Microsoft Teams live. The exchange provided perspective and insights that will be used to develop improvements to HRC initiatives and business practices.
The former senior leaders reconvened for the panel discussion that also included Maj. Gen. Thomas R. Drew, HRC commanding general; Command Sgt. Maj. Robert H. Atkinson, HRC senior enlisted leader; Brig. Gen. Gregory S. Johnson, the Adjutant General of the Army; and retired Lt. Gen. Thomas C. Seamands, former Deputy Chief of Staff, G-1.
Drew opened the discussion by challenging those in attendance and listening online to provide feedback, saying “if there is something going on that you think is wrong, it is your duty to let us know. The intent of this is to see where we are and where we need to go.”
Soldiers First is not just a mantra, he said, the more than 3,800 HRC employees believe it and use it as the framework to execute the HRC mission on behalf of the Army.
Because HRC does not have a feedback mechanism built into its system, events like the Solarium provide an opportunity to get input from those the command serves, Atkinson said.
“We want to make sure we are providing outstanding service and providing it transparently to the field,” he said.
The Department of the Army Career Engagement Survey has shown a majority of service members want more predictability in their careers to better align their professional Army and personal goals, Drew said.
That need could be soon met with a career mapping tool that is in the development phase lead by HRC’s Innovation Cell, the Army’s Talent Management Task Force and industry partners. Eventually, the tool will match unique Soldier talents to Army requirements.
Col. Kristin C. Saling, director of innovation, presented the prototype to the panel with a demonstration provided by an industry partner.
“We believe this tool will fundamentally change the way Soldiers plan their careers and the way leaders develop and select talent,” Saling said.
Sgt. Maj. Phelicia M. Redd, Talent Management Task Force, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-1, briefed the panel about Army initiatives including the First Sergeant Talent Alignment and Assessment, which will be rolled out Army-wide in October.
“The intent is for no sergeant first class or master sergeant to go into a first sergeant position if they have not conducted this assessment,” Redd said. “This is for job placement, only. We are looking at [knowledge, skills and behaviors] to determine who is the right fit for the right position.”
Following Redd, Johnson talked about HRC’s data and social media analytics. After becoming TAG, he said he noticed that although HRC has human resources data for every Soldier available, the command was not collating that data to use in an efficient manner for the Army.
By collating this data, HRC can for instance drill down to the battalion level for information like how long it takes for a particular unit to process actions or how many Soldiers took leave in a given year, Johnson said.
“The so what long term is really doing insights on the data, because we are going to find a lot of other things as we get it collated,” he said.
HRC is also heading toward sentiment analysis of social media to determine what people are saying about the Army. Soldiers are talking openly about their experiences and what frustrates them, Johnson said.
“We aren’t really scanning this at scale for the Army,” he said. “So, our team is leaned into this.”
These cutting-edge initiatives are important for HRC to remain connected to the population the command serves, Drew said.
“I can’t wait to be told by the Army to be modern,” he said. “We have got to do it now.”
Rampy closed out the conversation with a discussion about retention and accessions.
“We have talked about a lot of cool things and what we are going to do with people, but how do we get people to join the Army and how do we retain them?” she said.
In the current environment the active Army is at a strength it has not been at since World War II — though, the Army’s operational tempo has not slowed, Rampy said.
“This did not just start yesterday,” she said. “You could have probably seen that pendulum swing in 2016-2017 and it is going to take just as much time to hopefully swing it the other way.”
The Army must retain and recruit with precision to build the multi-domain task force for the Army of 2030, which will require Soldiers with military occupational specialties that are typically understrength Rampy said.
“We cannot retain our way out of our end strength problem,” she said. “We as an Army have a recruiting problem. We have low unemployment, and we have a lot of things going on and we need everybody’s help. But when it comes to retention, we have historically high retention rates.”
To meet that goal, the Army is engaging with people and working a myriad of ways to keep Soldiers in the service, Rampy said.
“If I ask you your Army story about why you joined and why you stayed it is probably two different things,” she said. “If you are trying to retain someone it requires understanding, what makes them feel valued, what makes them feel purposeful, what are their goals and what motivates them.”
On the accessions side, the Future Soldier Prep Course has proven extremely successful in preparing recruits who may not meet the required fitness or academic skills to join the Army with a 90% success rate, Rampy said.
The HRC 2030 Solarium concluded with final remarks from HRC’s commanding general.
“These conversations are very helpful as we disseminate what the future looks like,” Drew said.