It’s time to elevate attention on the civilian workforce, Army leaders say

By Christine MitchellOctober 23, 2023

Left, Lt. Gen. Maria Gervais, Training and Doctrine Command deputy commanding general and chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Chris Mohan, Army Materiel Command deputy commanding general, and Dr. Agnes Schaefer, assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, participate in the Army Civilian Showcase at Association of the United States Army 2023 Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, Oct. 11, 2023. The topic of discussion for the showcase was “Innovating Today for the Future-ready Army of 2030.”
Left, Lt. Gen. Maria Gervais, Training and Doctrine Command deputy commanding general and chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Chris Mohan, Army Materiel Command deputy commanding general, and Dr. Agnes Schaefer, assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, participate in the Army Civilian Showcase at Association of the United States Army 2023 Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, Oct. 11, 2023. The topic of discussion for the showcase was “Innovating Today for the Future-ready Army of 2030.” (Photo Credit: Photo by Tristan Lorei) VIEW ORIGINAL

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. — The mission is clear: We are preparing our force to become the Army of 2030 through innovation.

Innovation is always a priority for the service, but at this year’s Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, Army leaders spoke about how they want to foster innovation specifically within the civilian workforce. The task, they say, is the Army must cultivate a culture where innovation is not only encouraged, but expected.

“Innovation is hard, but we really need to attack this on both the military and civilian side,” said Dr. Agnes Schaefer, Assistant Secretary for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, who opened the panel discussion. “It’s about embracing change and adapting to stay relevant.”

Army senior leaders from the three commands that employ the largest number of Army Civilians participated in the panel: Lt. Gen. Chris Mohan, Army Materiel Command deputy commander; Lt. Gen. Maria Gervais, Training and Doctrine Command deputy commander and chief of staff; and Karen Payne, director of human resources for the Army Corps of Engineers. They shared best practices on marketing civilian jobs, remaining competitive and retaining top talent, discussed lessons learned and overcoming challenges they face within their commands.

Speaking about how to acquire and retain a civilian workforce, Mohan said AMC represents the best of military-civilian integration.

“In all commands, we have dedicated civilians sitting next to military commanders, which represents the power of the civilian workforce in these commands,” he noted. “We need to approach the development of our civilian workforce in the same way we approach the development of our general officer corps.”

Lt. Gen. Chris Mohan, Army Materiel Command deputy commanding general, speaks during the Army Civilian Showcase at Association of the United States Army 2023 Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, Oct. 11, 2023. The topic of discussion for the Army Civilian Showcase was “Innovating Today for the Future-ready Army of 2030.”
Lt. Gen. Chris Mohan, Army Materiel Command deputy commanding general, speaks during the Army Civilian Showcase at Association of the United States Army 2023 Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, Oct. 11, 2023. The topic of discussion for the Army Civilian Showcase was “Innovating Today for the Future-ready Army of 2030.” (Photo Credit: Photo by Tristan Lorei) VIEW ORIGINAL

Mohan acknowledged that the Army’s plan to modernize does not only apply to facilities, processes and machines, but to people.

“Embedded in that strategy is an important part that talks about the people, because understanding every organization is not the same,” he said. “We have different generations in our workforce to train, for example, and we have to train everyone to keep pace with our modernized technology.”

The leaders agreed it’s vital that the Army continues equipping civilians with the capabilities and skills to adapt to emerging technologies. Part of that strategy is to increase data literacy across the force.

“Data is becoming the most important thing, ever,” Gervais said.

She advised that the workforce needs to have the right skillsets to collect, understand and manage data. These skills will further help the Army identify tools, partnerships and hiring actions needed to be in place to build the Army of 2030.

There are efforts in place to drive the innovation these leaders want to see. The Army People Analytics team is meeting for the first time in November, with plans to bring real-time recruitment, retention, training and onboarding information to commanders.

The panel leaders acknowledged that USAJobs is a challenging platform to use, noting that the platform and application requirements are being revamped to match new guidelines — such as shortening the required length of submitted resumes.

New programs and policies will also initiate progress in civilian workforce retention efforts. A new onboarding program is being launched to ensure that new hires can excel from the start. Schaefer said the Army has also developed a supervisor certification program, and they’ve identified mission-critical occupations for the next few years, which will be given priority so that the most critical roles will be staffed with the best talent.

Among the pillars of acquiring, developing and retaining talent, Mohan recognized that culture also plays a special role — making jobs a calling, not just a career.

Moving forward these leaders not only encourage but expect to see increased permeability across the total force through enhanced flexibility in talent management and career opportunities, and the improved alignment of civilian and military career fields — all with the purpose of elevating the overall quality of personnel.

Civilians are known for serving those who serve. They are an integral part of the workforce, supporting Soldiers and ensuring they’re equipped and prepared to face any challenge, according to Schaefer.

“The Army would not be the Army without you,” she said. “A healthy force is a ready force, and if we take care of our people, our people will take care of the nation.”