Army, international partners discuss talent management

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WASHINGTON — Leaders from the Army Talent Management Task Force recently met with international partners to discuss lessons learned from each country’s talent management and personnel reform efforts.

“There is a war for talent out there. It is happening within industry, and it has happened within the military,” said Maj. Gen. Joseph P. McGee, director of the task force and the event’s host.

During the Forum of International Army Talent Management on Oct. 17, representatives from the U.S., U.K., Germany, Canada, France, Australia and Finland focused on three key subject areas: mentorship, data, and artificial intelligence and strategic potential.

While participants shared ideas, best practices and lessons learned from their respective countries, the event also provided the Army with an opportunity to strengthen its relationship allies and partners operating in similar disciplines, officials said.

“What is interesting is that it seems like we’re tackling the same challenges and have the same sort of issues,” McGee said. “This is a great opportunity for us to get together and talk about these key issues.”


With the implementation Army Talent Alignment Process, the force is working to change its culture by reviewing how it acquires, retains, develops, and employs its talent, McGee said.

For years, the Army has relied on Officer Evaluation Reports, or OERs, senior rater comments, time in grade and service to influence critical leadership, promotion and assignment decisions, he added.

“When we review an officer candidate for promotion, we spend about [60] seconds … looking at the block check on their OER and the first and last sentence from their senior rater comments,” said McGee, pointing out some key issues with the current evaluation system.

“We have become comfortable with a system that says, ‘The only thing that matters is what your boss’ boss thinks about you,” he added.

With a new talent-management based approach, the Army is working to create a data-rich environment to enhance readiness and maximize potential.

The Army is working several key initiatives to acquire a complete view of the officer corps: a merit-based promotion system, the Graduate Records Examination during captains career courses, the Army Talent Alignment Process enabled by a database called the Assignment Interactive Module 2.0, and the Battalion Commander Assessment Program, officials said.

By implementing an assessment-based approach to manage personnel, the Army can make an informed decision through its collected data to build optimal teams around a commander, McGee said.

At the same time, each country is finding better ways to manage “late bloomers” within their force. Canada, for example, does not have an “up-or-out” system to manage its personnel, said Canadian Col. Patrick Robichaud.

“You could have an individual in the officer corps that can serve up to 35 years of service or more and be limited to [a lower officer rank],” either by choice or competency, he said.

“Sometimes people are focused on doing one thing [throughout their career],” Robichaud added. “If you have blocked them out because that individual chose not to take the fast track, then you’re losing that talent. So we keep [window of opportunity] open up to colonel for the individuals that manifest themselves later in life.”

In the long run, each country must consider the overarching purpose behind evaluating potential and talent, said Brigadier Christopher Bell, the close equivalent to the Army Talent Management Task Force called Programme CASTLE.

“The common theme … has been to set them up this vertical career progression to find our strategic leader. That is fine, but it is not enough anymore,” Bell said.

“We have to start using [our talent management process] to identify talent for those that might progress horizontally, as well as vertically,” he added. “Who has the attitude and the skills to become the best long-term cyber operator and not just be my [next] general?”

In the end, it is impossible to predict the Army’s future needs, McGee said. Picking leaders with the right skill sets and behaviors, along with proper succession planning for strategic-level positions, will help prepare the Army’s way ahead.

In terms of leadership development, the Army does a decent job grooming people to be commanders at the brigade level and below, McGee said.

However, under the current model for strategic-leader succession, Soldiers stay on a tactical-leadership track until there are no other positions to progress. At that point, the Army will then move the Soldier into a more strategic-level position, at times without the skills necessary to need to be successful, he added.

Through ATAP, the Army looks to prepare Soldiers for positions vital to the Army institution, he said.

“Let us at least start by identifying [Soldiers] that possess [key] talents early,” and start developing them, McGee said. “Let us put our markers on four or five [key traits] that we know are going to be right. I think [the Army will be] substantially better than where we are right now,” he added.

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