• Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, USA (Ret.), senior strategic advisor at Deloitte Consulting, stresses that diversity is important for the Army to pursue when recruiting younger soldiers as well as with leadership. “Soldiers want the leadership to be attuned to this,” he says. “They want the leadership to look like them, whether it's gender, ethnicity, you name it. They want a diverse workforce.” Credit: Shutterstock/travelview
     Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, USA (Ret.), senior strategic advisor at Deloitte Consulting, stresses that diversity is important for the Army to pursue when recruiting younger soldiers as well as with leadership. “Soldiers want the leadership to be attuned to this,” he says. “They want the leadership to look like them, whether it's gender, ethnicity, you name it. They want a diverse workforce.” Credit: Shutterstock/travelview

U.S. Army Faces a Myriad of Workforce Challenges

May 19, 2021
By Kimberly Underwood
E-mail About the Author

Recruiting and retaining warfighters for the multidomain battlefield requires laser focus, reconfiguring and more advanced systems, consultants say.


The pandemic propelled an immediate shift to remote working, with the U.S. Army quickly adding to its digital infrastructure to support its personnel, with a 400 percent increase in remote network capabilities, reports Deloitte Consulting. Going forward, the service must now negotiate how to lead a workforce that in many cases wants to stay remote. The Army faces other challenges in recruiting and retaining soldiers and civilians, especially going into the era of multidomain operations, or MDO, the consultants say.

Executives from Deloitte Consulting, including Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, USA (Ret.), senior strategic advisor; Greg Campion, human capital manager; John Forsythe, managing director; and moderator Steve Green, client relationship executive, spoke today at AFCEA’s TechNet August Virtual Event Series, held May 18-19.

Deloitte annually produces its Human Capital Trends report, in which the latest iteration includes survey responses from 10,000 people around the globe. “It's now the largest study of human capital trends ever conducted on the planet,” Forsythe shared. Three key trend areas emerged this year—workforce preference, so-called “super teams,” and reskilling—topics brought to the forefront naturally from the labor force’s experience of working through the pandemic.

In regard to workforce preference, the clear choice of where to work is remote, or out-of-the-office locations. “If we've learned anything from the pandemic, it is where, when and how people feel their most productive,” Forsythe stated. “It is going to be unique to them, and the work that they do, their home life, the commute. What we have learned is that the typical 730 to 1630 in the office work-life is not going to be something that returns, given what people have learned in the past year.”

Notably, Deloitte’s report found that 77 percent of employees feel more productive working remotely. “That is a big change from what we've seen in the past,” Forsythe said. Going forward in a hybrid office/remote work environment, it will be “working together when it matters,” he said.

As such, organizations—including the Army—will need to look at work loads and processes to see how working apart can continue and identify when working together makes a difference. “Where we work together when it matters, we work separately when it can be done,” he stated.

In addition, the company conducted a survey with one of the Army’s Program Executive Offices (PEOs). About 2,100 people responded, of about 3,000 total employees in the PEO. More than two-thirds of that workforce indicated that they would prefer—whenever the return to work happens—to be in the office only 25 percent of the time or less.

“How Army managers manage in that environment, while keeping in mind employee preference, is going to be one of the biggest changes we'll see across not only the Army workforce but across the entire federal workforce,” Forsythe said. “We call this the adaptive workplace environment.”

When the Army constructed its Modernization Strategy, it also built a people strategy in parallel—with the goal of having a multidomain operations-capable force by 2035, Campion pointed out. But the Department of Army is challenged in executing its strategy, and in acquiring developing, employing and retaining a diverse and cohesive group of soldiers and civilians, not only to meet current needs but also future MDO demands. Moreover, the people strategy to a certain extent is pushing the boundaries of Army culture, he said.

In addition, the service needs to build a modern talent management system. “We've got to have a data rich system for managing our people, and that system is a prerequisite to understanding what talents we have,” Campion said. “That system should allow us to see what talents we need.”

Another challenge the Army faces regarding personnel is the need to adapt learning, development and reskilling efforts for soldiers and civilians so that the service is able to be a lot quicker in responding to personnel needs, “and in how we adapt to those new and emerging needs,” he stated.

The more widespread use of artificial intelligence (AI) by the military presents additional challenges for the Army. “The introduction of AI and robotics is fundamentally altering our understanding of the work our soldiers and civilians will do,” Campion noted. “And then that puts upward pressure and increased demand on our leaders to understand [that environment].”

Meanwhile, Gen. Bostick, who previously served as the Army G-1 and commander of the Army Recruiting Command, suggested that the service focus on its talent pipeline, making sure that it can bring in personnel that will advance the Army’s emerging capabilities. “For me, my experience is to focus on the pipeline, and that entire pipeline, from those that you recruit, those that you train and develop, then retain that talent, and then [focus on] those in the senior levels of the organization,” the general said. “I think it's very important to look at this at a very granular level. What are the type of folks that are going to be contributing with these unique skills, whether it's IT, AI, data, analytics and much more, or even the Common Core skill sets that we have in combat and in logistics.”

As far as bringing in young soldiers, Gen. Bostick advised the service to bolster its recruitment efforts, as less than three out of 10 high schoolers are qualified to serve in the Army. “[With that], you have really narrowed down the shot group from where you can recruit, and then you have to look at the kind of talent that is going to make a difference in multidomain operations.

There is a real fight for talent and the Army being focused on this is absolutely the right thing to do,” he continued.

Moreover, that recruitment must come from diverse populations, the general emphasized.  “What is important to those that we recruit is that they want to see a diverse workforce,” Gen. Bostick stated. “Diversity equity inclusion is important. It starts at the top. They want their leadership to be attuned to this. They want the leadership to look like them, whether it's gender, ethnicity, you name it. They want a diverse workforce, but it starts at what is at the top, because if what is at the top is diverse, then at least they know that the leaders believe in it.”

Enjoyed this article? SUBSCRIBE NOW to keep the content flowing.


Departments: 

Share Your Thoughts: