The National Guard is getting the first taste of a 21st century talent management system that the Army chief of staff says will revolutionize how the service staffs jobs, assigns soldiers and keeps track of records.
The Integrated Personnel and Pay System-Army, or IPPS-A, is designed to manage talent by matching the service’s requirements to soldiers’ skills, knowledge and, yes, even their personal preferences, according to Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville.
“We have a tremendously talented force, but right now, we don’t take full advantage because our system doesn’t allow us to manage it effectively,” McConville said at the National Guard Association annual conference in Denver, Colorado.
IPPS-A can currently be found in Army National Guard units from nine states, including Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia. The entire Guard component will begin using the system over the next year before it heads to Reserve and active-duty units.
“Right now, we manage our soldiers by two variables: rank and MOS,” McConville said. “You’re a captain of infantry or a sergeant of engineers. And our system doesn’t comprehensively manage the other talents in our force. We’re missing opportunities to match talented people with real Army requirements."
Talented soldiers are “masked sometimes by a person’s rank and MOS,” McConville added. For instance, a logistician who has a graduate education in computer science could be key to new Army cyber units that are critically undermanned, but the service “can’t see that unless we go to a new system,” he said.
The new system will be rolled out Army-wide over the next couple years, and will also put the entire force — Reserve, National Guard and active duty — on one pay and records tracker.
“The fact that we don’t have all our components on one system is not fair to you all," McConville said. "When you go on active duty, we mess up your records, we mess up your pay and we’ve got to fix that.”
The Army also created a new web-based talent management portal for active duty officers called the Assignment Interactive Module version 2. The initiative effectively creates a job board for units to advertise positions requiring certain skills and match them to qualified officers.
On the enlisted side, the service has tried to overhaul its senior non-commissioned officer promotion system by doing away with sequence numbers, which take into account how long an NCO has been serving and ranks them versus their peers. Now, the service will instead promote based purely on talent.
The service is instead instituting a multipurpose selection board that will rank staff sergeants through sergeants major within their military occupational specialties. The new list, like the current Order of Merit rundowns, will be based on their mandated milestones and further informed by NCO Evaluation Reports.
And in an era of increasing focus on cyber skills, the Army is looking at how it will compete against the civilian job market for tech-oriented professionals.
“We’re looking at how we attract soldiers with critical skills, even to the point of giving them direct commissions up to O-6," McConville said. “So we’re looking at a lot on the talent management side of the house, because again, the Army is people and we got to take care of our people.”