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Towards a U.S. Army Officer Corps Strategy for Success: Employing Talent

Authored by Colonel Casey Wardynski, Colonel David S. Lyle, Lieutenant Colonel (Ret) Michael J. Colarusso. | May 2010

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In the Information Age, jobs are becoming more complex, requiring employees who are agile, inventive, and empathetic. Work is increasingly characterized by high levels of task interdependence, skill specificity, and uncertainty. In addition, today’s enormously competitive labor market gives educated professionals the option of seeking new employment whenever a company fails to give them sufficient voice in their work. In short, the industrial era, during which "bosses" unilaterally made employment decisions, is over.

Today, the most successful enterprises unleash the talents of their workers by collaborating with them rather than dictating to them. In this more equitable environment, prospective employees and employers seek information about each other. Ideally, they will enter into mutually beneficial relationships characterized by high productivity and the initiative, innovation, and tenure born of true job satisfaction.

Unfortunately, the Army’s current officer employment paradigm is not talent driven. Instead, it is industrial (almost feudal) in nature, running counter to best practices. The Army unduly prioritizes "fairness" when making assignments, has a narrowly defined pathway to senior leadership ranks, cannot see the talent it possesses, and suffers from severe principal-agent problems.

The Army must move beyond these industrial era employment practices and adopt information age talent management. However, creating better talent matches requires a significant change in its feudal employment culture. Sound theories, inovative technologies, and controlled market mechanisms can help the Army match individual officer talents with specific work requirements.

A carefully controlled talent market driven by a state-of-the-art information technology system can help create employment practices equal to our times. It will allow commanders to seek the talent they need, screen job candidates, and interact with both officers and Human Resources Command (HRC) personnel to achieve good matches. In turn, officers will better know what talents are in demand. This can positively shape their developmental decisions, future assignment aspirations, and professional networks.

Most importantly, the Army will benefit on several levels. First, it will finally be able to "see" the talent it possesses and the talent that is actually in demand. As talent gaps are revealed, it will be empowered to allocate officer developmental resources far more efficiently and rapidly. Second, the Army’s Officer Corps will work in increasingly networked fashion, building technology-enabled, problem solving relationships. Finally, optimal talent matches will improve talent development, enhance productivity, reduce risk and ensure the Officer Corps has the depth and breadth of talent it needs, both now and in the future.