Deliberate talent management

  • Published
  • By Command Chief Master Sgt. Rob Safley

The Chief of Air Force Reserve and Commander, Air Force Reserve Command Lt Gen Richard W. Scobee's second strategic priority is developing resilient leaders. The new AFRC Command Chief Master Sgt. Timothy White Jr. has established a line of effort (LOE) of deliberate talent management to align with the commander’s intent. The crux is hiring ‘the right person, for the right position, at the right time’.  Talent management is a useful term as it describes an organization’s commitment to attract, develop, and retain the best and brightest.

As we continue to advance the strategic priorities and embrace the LOEs, our commitment needs to embrace grooming our future leaders. We need to look ahead and prime our best-of-the-best for these key leadership positions. A lot is expected of our enlisted cadre, and their development should culminate in earning a key position in an organization.

We need to start cultivating our superstars at the technical sergeant level. As AFH 36-2618 notes, “Technical sergeants are an Organizations’ experts…they provide sound supervision, training, and develop all assigned personnel.” Each AFSC does a Functional Development Board every-other-year, and have been including technical sergeants in the vector process. It’s important for our techs (and above) to take a few minutes each year to update their R-EDP (Reserve Enlisted Development Plan) to communicate their future desires, so we can help get them to their next level. Not all of our professionals have aspirations to climb to the top, and that’s okay. We need their expertise and tactical leadership, but still need to continue their development and prepare them for future challenges. We also have professionals that want to get to their pinnacle, and have some professionals that do not see their own potential. Both of these groups need timely vectors for development, mentoring/grooming, and leadership experience to grow into our leaders of tomorrow.

Playing catch up with senior master sergeants is the “old way” of doing business and it has proven ineffective. We cannot wait to start developing our senior leaders when they are already in a position; it’s the equivalent of starting phase on an aircraft when it’s ready to taxi. In one of my leadership classes, I talk about the Peter Principle: a concept in management that infers people in a hierarchy tend to promote to their level of incompetence. In other words, they were doing well as technical sergeant and earned a promotion to master sergeant; performed well as a master sergeant and were promoted to senior master sergeant, where they were overcome by the demands of the position, and ultimately fail because they were not adequately prepared. We can do better.

As current senior leaders, we need to develop plans that provide our warriors with the opportunities and direction to bolster their skillset and advance their career. Here are 3 ways we can improve our talent management paradigm:

Recognize potential vs readiness: we place a lot of value on current potential, and may miss the readiness piece. Potential shows they have the budding skills to be a good leader, while readiness show they are equipped NOW. ‘Ready’ also needs to encompass desire, leadership tool box, and proper experience. Sometimes it’s better to let our members mature at their current rank/position to ensure they are primed for the next step. One of my favorite meals is a low country boil.  You could toss everything in the pot at once and produce an edible meal; however the skilled cook knows you need to bring the liquid to a boil, season to taste, then add the ingredients at specified intervals:  potatoes, sausage, corn, crab legs, and then shrimp. Everything is cooked properly/evenly, the ingredients develop the right taste, and the end result is a meal worthy of the time and effort expended, and no disappointment.     

Offer the right mix of training and development: Professional Military Education (PME) is a must, and mandatory for promotion. Getting it at the right time is key. Waiting until you want to apply for a position is not the right time. Get your Airmen to knock these requirements out early; it will yield huge benefits as they advance. Our Education and Training office has increased the number of  NCO Leadership Course (NCOLC) and Senior NCO Leadership Course (SNCOLC) offerings each year. In fact, we have both coming up soon (NCOLC: 15 – 19 July) (SNCOLC: 17-19 July). Both of these are excellent next-level courses that bridge the different levels of PME. SEJPME I (E-6/7) & II (E-7/8/9) (Senior Enlisted Joint PME) is also an informative course to help our members understand the joint environment. The Enlisted Development Education Board (EDEB) allows members to compete for sister service, joint, and NATO courses. Having the afore mentioned classes completed is beneficial to earning a course slot, as is submitting an R-EDP. Locally, we can ensure our warriors are aware of their unit mission, how they fit into the larger organization, and how they support the enterprise competencies.  Finally, don’t miss an opportunity to let your junior members lead. Our Aircrew Flight Equipment team has a rotational schedule that allows junior members to develop work schedules and be responsible for its completion. It’s a simple way to get people engaged, provide job enrichment, and provide junior members the experience and confidence as they advance.         

Make development a priority: in the age of ‘do more with less’ and shoehorning as much as we can into our UTA /AT, it’s hard to find time for the development we all know needs to be accomplished. We should look at creating more white space for the AFSC and development training and make it a priority. Becoming an expert does not happen overnight, and development/training is sometimes hard to do concurrently with the mission. We also miss training opportunities by getting through one tasking to get on to the next thing. A career is not about a destination, but rather a journey full of adventures and experiences. Who are you bringing with you on the journey? Helping our future leaders develop their skills, understand the ‘why’ or ‘what’ we do, and help them achieve self-actualization is the highest mark of a leader. Deliberate talent management takes time, encompasses our Wing’s #2 priority, and is an investment we need to make now.    

We can benefit by increasing efforts to advance the right professionals, establish clear strategies for talent management, and ensuring we are carving out the necessary time to make it happen. Who are the next leaders in the organization, and what do we need to do to give them the tools to be successful? I once heard a superintendent say, “If you aren’t training your replacement, you’re wrong!”  Let’s get after it!

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