WASHINGTON — Air Force Manpower, Personnel and Services completed the first Workforce Summit at the General Jacob E. Smart Conference Center on Joint Base Andrews, Aug. 29-30, 2017.
The two-day event brought Air Force subject matter experts together with Air Force senior leaders to examine, discuss and propose solutions to talent management challenges facing the Air Force.
“We view talent as a collective set of knowledge, skills, abilities, experiences and potential that our Airmen bring to the Air Force,” explained the deputy chief of staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso. “Air Force talent management is an integrated set of personnel processes designed to meet mission objectives by optimizing Airmen’s talent.”
Participants focused on human resources programs and policy challenges pertaining to information technology, civilian hiring, officer performance management and Air Force manpower requirements, among other topics. The groups worked to establish problem statements with buy-in from Air Force wide stakeholders and present options for solutions with a commitment to execution.
“This Workforce Summit has been a tremendous opportunity to focus on gaps in the talent management lifecycle, and make decisions for reform with input from senior Air Force leadership,” said Gen. Stephen Wilson, the Air Force vice chief of staff. “We need a sense of urgency to build believers and innovators, remove barriers, create momentum and move forward.”
Civilian talent acquisition
The Air Force civilian workforce is a vital part of the Total Force supporting the National Defense Strategy, explained Grosso. Civilians maximize the Air Force’s air, space and cyber capabilities to meet current and future demands.
“Moving forward, how do we effectively recruit an agile, diverse and competent workforce to improve readiness and grow capabilities?” asked the acting director of Civilian Force Management Ms. Melanie McGuire. “The Air Force must continue to compete to be an employer of choice.”
The hiring freeze backlog, legislative changes and budget unpredictability add to an increasingly difficult civilian employment process. The current civilian personnel system is built for the Industrial Age – not for the Air Force’s 21st Century and future needs, which makes recruiting and retaining a viable civilian workforce challenging, explained the group.
“Readiness requires a robust civilian workforce; the Air Force’s ability to hire quality talent in a timely manner must be agile to continue hiring a competent workforce and requires innovative changes and solutions,” explained McGuire.
Another breakout group explored options to better coordinate and synchronize resource allocation and programming with manpower requirements, and force management planning at each phase in the strategy, planning, programming, budgetary and execution cycle.
While the overall aggregate retention levels are the best seen in 15 years, the need for agile tools and practices to align manning needs with mission requirements becomes even more important to manage the force, explained Grosso.
“We need to be able to look at the unconstrained size of the Air Force,” said the director of Manpower, Organization and Resources Col. Troy Dunn. “It’s imperative we improve our manpower requirements process and how we do manpower assessments.”
Evaluation – officer performance management
In 2015, the Air Force focused on revamping the enlisted evaluation system. In 2017, the officer performance management breakout session centered on how the Air Force evaluates officers and determines the potential for promotion to the next higher grade.
“This discussion is a significant opportunity for top Air Force leadership and stakeholders to deliberately focus on what we value in officer performance,” said Col. Fred Thaden, the director of Air Force Talent Management Innovation Cell.
Officer performance management consists of feedback, performance evaluation, developmental planning and promotion processes.
“Since 1988, there have been no major changes to the Officer Evaluation System, but there have been significant changes to our force composition, mission, requirements, and what attributes we need to value in an officer,” said TMIC team lead Maj. Mike Lupher. “Although the system hasn’t changed, problems with agility, efficiency, consistency and transparency have been documented by research and in the field for over 20 years.”
“Right now, Airmen are unable to effectively communicate with the personnel community,” explained chief information officer and deputy director of Plans and Integration Dr. Michael Parker. “Airmen readiness and lethality are foundational tenets of our Air Force, and our success depends upon them, but Airmen are focused on personnel matters, pay problems and lack of transparency. Therefore, we need to invest in a digital transformation to improve their experiences through automation and mobile applications.”
The IT transformation presentation looked at ways to provide a cloud-based, mobile-enabled, self-service-oriented digital experience that empowers individual Airmen to have increased input visibility and management of their careers.
“Talent management information technology must transform to function in today’s digitally-connected world,” explained Parker. “We currently estimate 111-plus human resources IT systems, and 200 apps in the Air Force. Most were built over a decade ago and are not interoperable. We want data that supports decision making and predictive analysis.”
“The way forward requires a commitment from all stakeholders,” explained Grosso. “These leaders have focused their energy and expertise on our challenges.”
The summit’s effort will extend beyond the two-day gathering with additional discussion and focus groups, she said.
“We have work to do, but it is our responsibility to ensure the Air Force continues to invest in our Airmen, their families and the future of airpower,” ended Grosso.