Army’s new personnel strategy will be reliant on data to make change

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The Army’s new method for selecting soldiers for jobs will be heavily reliant on data to figure out where those soldiers will fit best and how their career paths will go forward.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville announced the “People Strategy” this week, which aims to pull the Army’s personnel system out of the industrial age and into the 21st century.

To do that, Maj. Gen. JP McGee, director of the Army talent management task force, said the service needs to move from a “data poor” environment to a “data rich” environment when it comes to its soldiers.

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“We are gathering the relevant data to make the right decisions both as an individual, and as an institution,” McGee told reporters Wednesday in Washington. “I think we struggle with that. We need to start embracing this idea that we’ve got to start bringing in better data to make better decisions about our people. The idea of people analytics isn’t something that happens on the outside, but is something that happens within us to figure out how we can best manage this critical asset.”

The goal is to place soldiers in jobs they want to work in, fill units with soldiers who are the best fit for their purpose, and to put soldiers on the better career paths for the jobs they want. Along with that, the Army wants to promote its most savvy soldiers faster and ensure the super-talented rise to their potential.

The Army is using its Assignment Interactive Module 2.0 to begin gathering information to do that. The software allows soldiers to put their job preferences, resume, hobbies past performance and other attributes all in one marketplace to better pair soldiers and units.

The current permanent change of station rotation is the first to take advantage of that information.

Army Human Resources Command leader Maj. Gen. Joseph Calloway said of the 14,000 soldiers who will move next, 6,000 and counting entered their preferences into the module.

There are now 152,000 individual preferences in the system to give the Army a better idea of where to place soldiers.

“The goal was to make sure we have the best information,” Calloway said during a panel at the Association of the United States Army’s annual conference in Washington. “From Oct. 1 to Oct. 11 we did that. On Oct. 11, we made sure officers had the ability to preference. That is now working. Today we should have the unit side up and operating. It’s very complicated code, we’re going to continue to work it, we will have glitches, but this is the first iteration and we will improve over time.”

McGee reminded soldiers and units to preference deep.

“That’s how this whole process will actually work,” he said. “If you choose to go shallow, then you are going to have no data on which to make an assignment decision, whether you’re a unit or an individual. It’s not about your top five, it’s about your top 100 about where you would want to go and you will have much more satisfaction throughout this process.”

All of the data being used now will eventually be funneled into the Integrated Personnel and Pay System-Army (IPPS-A), the service’s one-stop-shop human resources system that will take over for the whole force in 2021.

McGee also said the new system will have an overall effect on the force.

Because the strategy is so transparent it will increase diversity, he said.

“With this new system we are going to have a much more robust way of identifying when commanders are choosing people who look a certain way or are from a certain unit,” McGee said. “We are going to be able to see whether Army commanders are meeting guidelines and following the letter of the law. That’s going to be an interesting discussion as we start seeing the choices that are made by commanders. At the core of what have done is decentralize to trust brigade level commanders to exercise this responsibility effectively, and if they don’t, they’ll be notified and held accountable. That will be a very uncomfortable conversation.”

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