Air Force pushing authority, resources to squadron commanders in talent management overhaul

Now that the Air Force has received a full budget two years in a row, it’s able to stop focusing on what it can afford, and start focusing on what it needs. Part of that involves overhauling its talent management system in its officer corps to reinforce its values and add incentives. Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein said that would involve a balance between science and art.

“Science is the machine of personnel management. It’s the Air Force personnel center, it’s the boards, it’s the it’s the OPRs, the PRFs, it’s the assignment system that we have in place, and you actually have to have a machine to be able to do what we need to do in an organization as large as we are,” Golfein said on Sept. 17 at the Air Force’s Air, Space, Cyber Conference. “But you also have to have art and art is commanders and their civilian equivalents identifying the talent in their organization. And being able to influence the development of that officer against what we value as an institution.”

So how does the Air Force develop the talent it needs for the future?

It focuses on four values, Golfein said:

  • How well do you accomplish your mission?
  • How well do you lead other airmen?
  • How well do you manage your resources?
  • How well have you individually improved your unit?

Those four competencies are the center of the Air Force’s talent management, and Goldfein said they rest on a foundation of impeccable character.

“It’s absolutely appropriate for the American people to expect you and I to be men and women of impeccable character,” Goldfein said. “We, along with our Navy teammates, are responsible for the most destructive weaponry on the planet. It’s appropriate for them to hold us to higher standards and for leaders and developing leaders, of all the things that we do as Airmen, working on this journey of impeccable character is perhaps the most important thing we ever do.”

Up until recently, Goldfein said, the Air Force was organized to perpetuate, not to innovate. So he’s been pushing authority down to squadron commanders, trusting in them to effectively pursue their missions and take care of their people.

But trust and authority aren’t the only things Goldfein is pushing down to the squadron level. He recognizes that squadron commanders will also need the resources to pursue their initiatives.

“So we’re pushing money directly,” he said. “We pushed $70 million directly into the accounts of squadron commanders and wing commanders and gave them room to run to spend those resources on the innovative ideas that we know our young airman are coming up with every single day. So hopefully what’s resonating when we hit this nerve is that we’re putting our money where our mouth is. We talk about trust and confidence. It’s more than just names and labels. We’re actually taking action.”

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