Story by Kari Hawkins on 09/13/2019(Editor's Note: This is the last in a four-part series on the Army civilian workforce.)
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- When employers talk about providing opportunities for workforce professional growth, the response from their employees is often: "Show me the commitment."
Investing in its workforce is exactly what the Army has done.
Professional growth and career development are high on the priority list for Army civilians, with a host of training opportunities coordinated through the Army's Career Programs and including the Civilian Education System, and the Enterprise Talent Management and Senior Enterprise Talent Management training programs.
In a 2017 Army Directive, then acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer said, "The development of an adaptive professional civilian workforce is essential to the success of our Army in this complex and dynamic global security environment. Our Army demands that civilian employees commit to a lifetime of professional and personal growth. I hold each Army civilian accountable for mapping and navigating a progressive program of self-development. Commanders, supervisors and managers share responsibility for enabling Army civilian employees to reach their full potential."
Expanding and enhancing civilian professional and leadership development programs is required to meet the Army's long-term performance needs in the most productive and efficient way, Speer went on to say in the directive.
Doing so, he said, " will ensure that we are ready and capable to work in a variety of environments and side-by-side with our uniformed servicemembers to achieve strategic advantage in a complex world."
As the Army's largest civilian employer, Army Materiel Command is spearheading efforts to ensure all civilians have the development and training opportunities to support readiness requirements.
"We need 100 percent of our employees doing 100 percent of the work. Our civilian workforce is vital to ensuring we succeed in our readiness mission," said AMC Commander Gen. Gus Perna. "A civilian workforce that is trained and experienced, competent and committed to the mission of materiel readiness, and understands the vision of synchronizing capabilities and resources to ensure materiel readiness will provide the full ability to meet all materiel needs related to equipping Soldiers for the fight."
Many of the training and development opportunities provided to civilians are considered functional or technical, but additional training through CES and the talent management programs emphasize leadership training. The opportunities are associated with one of the 32 Career Programs, which ensure the Army's 330,000 civilians are properly equipped to fulfill the requirements of more than 540 career fields.
Of those Career Programs, the most recently established is CP 71, the Army Cyberspace Effects Career Program for personnel who conduct the Army's cyberspace capabilities. CP 71 is still in its development stage, defining and setting the standards for a future civilian workforce of 440 employees who will transfer to CP 71 based on their mission, said program director Andricka Thomas.
"CP 71 civilians work alongside Cyber Soldiers, where they enable and execute cyberspace operations when engaging adversaries. Their expertise is deep, highly-specialized and requires constant training to stay ahead of the threat," Thomas said.
Like other career programs, CP 71 will develop, empower and advocate on behalf of employees, and will provide a central hub of workforce coordination that trains, educates and develops a globally distributed team of professionals, she said.
"We're focused on developing the training, securing funding and creating professional development opportunities, career enhancement models, and career paths for the workforce," Thomas said. "The Soldier and civilian communities executing this mission area have been absolutely critical to how far we've come. Since the establishment of the Cyber Branch, Soldiers have done a great deal of work articulating these missions, so that's been an incredible asset to our civilian efforts."
Professional development opportunities are also key to the Ready Army Civilian program being developed by Army Materiel Command, under the direction of AMC Executive Deputy to the Commanding General Lisha Adams.
"From Ready Army Civilian, our goal is civilians who are always prepared to accomplish the mission and who have a better understanding of how they impact the mission," Adams said. "We want to ensure our civilians have the training they need to build both their hard skills and soft skills.
It can be truly difficult for an employee to see the progress and difference they are making. But, when we link performance to Ready Army Civilian tenants, they will have a better perspective."
Being adaptable, accountable, competent, mentally ready, disciplined, committed to Army values, technologically proficient and resourceful are all valued aspects of Ready Army Civilian, Adams said. Civilians who embrace life-long learning and change, are committed to their profession, have a positive attitude and are willing to work hard in support of Soldiers will ensure mission success for AMC and the Army, she said.
An AMC employee-led group is developing a Ready Army Civilian assessment tool that defines employee skills needed for a high level of performance and then pinpoints development opportunities required to improve those skills.
"Our vision is to actively choose to manage the capabilities for employee readiness," said RAC team member Nate Parks. "We want to encourage passionate and productive employees by being able to assess those traits with a model of how a RAC operates. The number one outcome is readiness. The model is to assess and determine how to generate readiness."
The components of the assessment tool include both hard skills gained from education, training, job-related skills and experience and soft skills character and attributes such as time management, listening skills, teamwork and conflict resolution, said RAC team member Sandra Gaston.
"Hard skills are the skills derived from your position description and that you need to do your job," Gaston said. "Soft skills are those personal attributes that enable you to interact with others and get along. They are hard to measure, evaluate and develop. It is important for an employee to have a balance between hard and soft skills that will help them be successful in the workplace and throughout their career."
With the Chief of Staff of the Army's focus on people, the Army's investment in talented, skilled and qualified civilians is driven by both a need to ensure a professional workforce for now and the future, and a need to provide continual support for a strategically adaptable and expeditionary Soldier force. Because of their commitment to selfless service in support of Soldiers, the Army Civilian Service continues to be one of the largest, busiest and most successful elements within the Department of Defense.
"It is our people who will deliver on our readiness, modernization and reform efforts," wrote Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville in his initial message to the Army team after his confirmation in May. "Army leaders have a sacred obligation to build cohesive teams that are highly trained and disciplined Cohesive teams drive tactical to strategic readiness and enable dynamic force employment."