DISA to pursue new talent management strategy emphasizing recruiting and education

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) plans changes to its talent management practices that include a more aggressive recruiting approach with help from outside consultants and time away from work for education. The roadmap will focus on finding the workers needed for specific jobs and a marketing campaign to bring more attention to the agency by building the brand and making it more recognizable to civilians outside of the Defense Department.

DISA released the Workforce 2025 strategy June 1. It outlines four lines of effort across the DISA workforce: expanding the knowledge base, connecting to the mission, gaining an edge and recruiting the best.

“This is solely focused on the people aspect, the right education, the right training. Is the person in the right position, versus just an assignment cycle that has an individual going to a position with no forethought,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. Robert Skinner, director of DISA.

Speaking at the AFCEA Rocky Mountain Cyberspace Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in February, Skinner said DISA was actively hiring, but the emphasis would be on fitting the right person to the right job. Recruiting features prominently in the new plan, and Skinner said while he won’t use the word headhunter, the agency plans to invest in talent recruitment and use third party sources to bring in new staff.

“We are going to have an individual whose sole focus is finding the right talent, whether it’s in high schools, whether it’s in colleges or internships or whether it’s other organizations — we are giving them a new opportunity,” Skinner said.

The workforce plan also calls for changes in the way talent is developed and retained over a longer term. Employees and service members will rotate in and out of positions more frequently and spend more time on professional development. As part of a career progression, DISA staff will have opportunities to complete higher education degrees or certification courses.

“From an education and training standpoint — what are some of the courses that they can go to? The more you develop that individual, the better they’re going to be. As they continue to go, you’ll get more out of them either at your organization or a different organization in the future,” Skinner said.

All employees will get dedicated downtime to pursue education, and a structured agency placement process will then help move personnel into positions that use new skills. A modernized learning management system will track talent investment.

Educational requirements will evolve as personnel move through the system, with more emphasis on leadership as employees move into higher pay grades. At that point, the emphasis moves to broader expertise and knowledge of the agency.

“As they get a higher rank, then we can start looking at different ways of continuing to expand their knowledge as we build capacity. Because you can’t just be stove-piped into one particular area. The complex environment that we have and that we are going to be continuing driving towards is going to require people who can do more than just that particular thing that they were initially trained on,” Skinner said.

The part of the initiative that involves “connecting to the mission” revolves around communication tools. Information on DISA’s website relating to that line of effort includes accessing the DoD chief information officer library and integrating it with DISA information. The agency also plans visits and job rotations to DISA field sites and mission-relevant locations to keep staff more in touch with different parts of the organization.

“Gaining the edge” will feature modernization efforts like upgrading physical workspaces including home offices and creating a lab environment for experimenting and learning.

“We must improve our hybrid work environment to ensure personnel work in the best environment to support DISA, whether from the office, from home or a combination of both,” Skinner said.

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