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McConville: National Guard paving way in talent management

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DENVER -- In his first trip as the Army's chief of staff, Gen. James McConville touted the work of National Guard Soldiers, adding the Army plans to take advantage of the skillsets many citizen Soldiers possess.

Earlier this year, Pennsylvania National Guard Soldiers first implemented the new Integrated Personnel and Pay System-Army that will consolidate three separate systems currently run by each Army component.

IPPS-A allows leaders to better manage talent and assign jobs that match Army requirements to Soldier knowledge, skills and behaviors. It even logs a Soldier's preferences, such as if he or she has a desire to stay in one location longer.

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The Army has also rolled out a web-based, talent management portal known as Assignment Interactive Module version 2, or AIM 2.0, that active-duty officers have started using to self-identify their own knowledge, skills, behaviors and preferences. Simultaneously, commands list open positions requiring certain skills. Through the process, officers and commands have a greater chance to find a match.

"We have very linear, rigid career tracks," McConville said Saturday while at the annual conference for the National Guard Association of the United States. "I don't see that as the future."

Both IPPS-A and AIM 2.0 are tools the Army is using as it implements the Army Talent Alignment Process. ATAP is a decentralized, regulated, market-style hiring system that aligns officers with jobs based on preferences.

"I don't think the young men and women that are coming into the Army want to be managed as interchangeable parts," he said. "They want to be managed individually for their talents."

McConville said the feedback from Guard Soldiers on the initial version of IPPS-A has been overwhelmingly positive and future system updates will improve its performance.

"Once we get the whole system up and running, the real gains will be made from there," he said. "I think it's going to fundamentally change the way we do business."

IPPS-A can now be found in Guard units in nine states, he said, with the entire Guard fielding the system over the next year before it heads to Reserve and active-duty units.

"I think it's the best source of talent to do that," McConville said of why the National Guard was chosen to receive the system first. "When you take a look at our reserve forces… it's amazing at the amount of talent that we have."

McConville said he realized this when he led efforts in building up Afghanistan in 2008-2009.

He asked Soldiers in Guard and Reserve units under his command to write their civilian professions on a spreadsheet. Once they did, he found a wealth of talent outside their military roles.

One sergeant, he discovered, was a design engineer and a major held a senior position with the Texas Department of Transportation. Those skills were needed to fill critical requirements in his area of operations.

"I got a chance to use them and they made an incredible contribution," he said.

Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said the unique civilian skillsets his troops possess should be considered in future talent management plans.

"We need to leverage that," he said at the conference. "We need to make sure that as the force grows, we continue to make sure that men and women don't have to choose between a career as a Guardsman and a career as a civilian."

McConville said input will be elicited from National Guard leaders all the way down to the state level if and when the Army decides to reshape its ranks. The diverse talent available in the Guard will be a consideration in that discussion.

"Let's put an organization there that can take advantage of the talent that is in that area," he said. "We want to have that discussion."

McConville also envisions Guard units to be among those to receive modernized equipment, such as the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft that will eventually replace UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.

"We can see the Guard using that for some key type of missions both home and away," he said. "It's not going to be an industrial-aged fielding process. Let's find out which organizations can actually put the people in them that have the talent."

As the new chief of staff, McConville said that his philosophy is primarily about taking care of people, which is why talent management is so important to him.

In the coming months, he plans to publish a "people strategy" that will benefit not only Soldiers, but also Army civilians and family members. In it, there are five quality of life initiatives: housing, childcare, healthcare, spouse employment, and streamlining permanent-change-of-station moves.

"If you get the people right, everything else falls [in place]," he said, adding the Army is not walking away from readiness, modernization and acquisition reform, which will also remain as priorities.

"In fact, I think we're going to do it better because we're going to have the right people in the right job, doing the right thing," he said.

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