Professional Readings

Reading #159

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  • Wednesday, February 21, 2018

From Talent Management To Talent Optimization

  • By: William A. Schiemann, Ph.D. |
  • Published: April 2014
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Acting Director MG Robert “Bo” Dyess’ Comments:

“We will do what it takes to build an agile, adaptive Army of the future. We need to listen and learn— first from the Army itself, from other services, from our interagency partners, but also from the private sector, and even from our critics. Developing a lethal, professional and technically competent force requires an openness to new ideas and new ways of doing things in an increasingly complex world. We will change and adapt.”

- GEN Mark A. Milley, “39th CSA, Initial Message to the Army”


The U.S. Army Talent Management Strategy (ATMS) defines “talent” as the unique intersection of knowledge, skills, and behaviors in every person and that talent represents far more than the training, education, and experiences provided by the Army. Talent includes the fullness of each person's life experience, to include investments they've made in themselves, personal and familial relationships (networks), ethnographic and demographic background, preferences, hobbies, travel, personality, learning style, education, and a myriad number of other factors better suit them to some development or employment opportunities than others (1). The ATMS offers that all people possess talents which can be identified and cultivated, and they can dramatically and continuously extend their talent advantage if properly developed and employed on the right teams.

With respect to talent management, the National Defense Strategy (NDS) recognizes that recruiting, developing, and retaining a high-quality military and civilian workforce is an essential component for building a more lethal force and to warfighting success. The NDS emphasizes the creativity and talent of the American warfighter is our greatest enduring strength and that cultivating a lethal, agile force requires more than just new technologies and posture changes. It depends on the ability of our warfighters and the Department workforce to integrate new capabilities, adapt warfighting approaches, and change business practices to achieve mission success.

In this week’s professional reading, “From talent management to talent optimization,” Dr. William Schiemann offers ideas of how a large organization might optimize human capital investments by thinking about how the organization manages the entire talent lifecycle, from talent attraction to recycling of talent in the future. He states that talent optimization means the organization has balanced talent acquisition, development, performance and retention strategies, processes and policies so that it maximizes the outcomes of those talent investments. He argues that leaders and managers can do this by maximizing three critical drivers of overall performance - alignment, capabilities, and engagement (ACE) - and by having the right measures in place to understand, focus, develop, and leverage human capital resources. Schiemann defines alignment as the degree to which everyone in the organization is rowing together in the same direction. Strong alignment is indicated by behaviors that are congruent with goals, customers and the brand. He argues horizontal alignment, where units working synchronously together across structural boundaries, are also quite important. He defines capabilities with the customer in mind. Capabilities is the extent to which competencies (e.g., knowledge, skills), information, and resources are sufficient to meet internal or external customer expectations. Finally, he argues that engagement is comprised of three employee factors: satisfaction, commitment, and advocacy (employee willingness and motivation to go beyond the minimal requirements of the duty description). He provides several examples of how the ACE framework can be used to evaluate and understand the effectiveness of talent processes to include talent acquisition, acculturation, performance management, retention, talent recovery, and leadership.

Dr. Schiemann concludes by offering several key recommendations. First, define talent broadly. Talent is the collective knowledge, skills, abilities, experiences, values, habits and behaviors of all labor that is brought to bear on achieving the organization’s mission. Thinking about talent broadly will allow managers to determine if they are making the right talent investments and reaping the associated rewards.

Second, think talent optimization rather than talent management. Think about the full talent lifecycle that needs to be managed. He recommends one leader or team that is responsible for overseeing the entire talent lifecycle. By doing so, he concludes, it is less likely that managers will sub-optimize talent by maximizing each talent stage or process. Functional silos that manage different aspects of the talent lifecycle can kill overall effectiveness. Make sure that these leaders have the authority to break through silos that create incongruity across the talent lifecycle.

Third, he recommends using a global talent-optimization framework, such as ACE, that can serve as a surrogate for talent optimization, and help to pinpoint where talent investments should be made (e.g., targeted managerial skills or training) and processes, structure or policies changed. Whatever framework is used, it should provide a bridge between important organizational outcomes such as turnover, customer loyalty and financial performance and investments in human capital (e.g., performance management, hiring approaches, leader development).

Fourth, pick your metrics carefully. Eschew lots of tactical metrics that only serve to confuse decisions. Use more strategic measures to prioritize where talent investments should be accelerated or reduced.

Finally, he emphasizes looking through an ACE lens enables leaders to see many of the potential disconnects or areas of misalignment in talent processes that span the talent lifecycle, resulting in sub-optimized talent and organizational outcomes. This requires leaders and managers to periodically conduct an audit of the talent lifecycle, looking for interconnection gaps and inconsistencies with an organization’s talent brand and strategy.

Dr. Schiemann’s article offers ideas important to help the Army reach its overall strategic personnel objectives of enhancing readiness, sustaining a workforce of trusted professionals, and ensuring we have diverse and integrated teams across the enterprise - active, reserve and civilian. Talent Management mitigates one of the greatest risks posed by an uncertain operating environment - mismatch in people and requirements (either not enough or too many) and losing talented people to the wider American labor market. By better understanding the talent of our workforce and the talent needed by unit requirements, the Army can more effectively acquire, develop, employ, and retain the right talent at the right time.

The Army is already looking for ways to improve. The Army’s Talent Management provides a deliberate and coordinated process to align systematic planning for the right number and type of people to meet the current and future Army talent demands. The talent demands are met through integrated implementation to ensure the majority of people are optimally employed. Advances in cognitive, behavioral, and learning sciences will improve critical thinking, increase cognitive and physical performance, foster intuition and social empathy, improve health and stamina, facilitate talent management, enhance leader training, and strengthen unit cohesion. Human performance technologies will help the Army develop adaptive leaders, resilient Soldiers, and cohesive teams that thrive in uncertain, dangerous, and chaotic environments. New pre-accessions tools hold promise for matching a recruit’s aptitude to specific military occupations and building effective teams with appropriate combinations of abilities. Blended live, virtual, constructive, and gaming training environments replicate complex operating environments and improve leader and team competence and confidence. Cognitive and physical training techniques could reduce time required for mastery of Soldier and leader skills, abilities, and attributes. And advancements in decision sciences will allow faster, better-informed decisions in an increasingly complex environment.


  1. U.S. Army Talent Management Strategy, 20 Sept 16
  2. Army Operating Concept, TRADOC Pam 525-3-1, 30 October 2014

As you read the article, consider the impacts on the following Army Warfighting Challenges:
#1 Develop Situational Understanding:

How to develop and sustain a high degree of situational understanding while operating in complex environments against determined, adaptive enemy organizations.

#2/3 Shape the Security Environment:

How does the Army influence the security environment and engage key actors and local/regional forces in order to consolidate gains and achieve sustainable security outcomes in support of Geographic Combatant Commands and Joint requirements.

#4 Adapt the Institutional Army and Innovate:

How to improve the rate of innovation to drive capability development and deliver DOTMLPF-P solutions to the warfighter at a pace that meets operational demand within the existing constraints of the acquisition and budgeting processes.

#8 Enhance Realistic Training:

How to train Soldiers, leaders and units to ensure they are prepared to accomplish the mission across the range of military operations while operating in complex environments against determined, adaptive enemy organizations.

#10 Develop Agile and Adaptive Leaders:

How to develop agile, adaptive, and innovative leaders who thrive in conditions of uncertainty and chaos and are capable of visualizing, describing, directing, and leading and assessing operations in complex environments and against adaptive enemies.

#14 Ensure Interoperability and Operate in Joint, Inter-organizational, Multinational Environment:

How to integrate joint, inter-organizational, and multi-national partner capabilities and campaigns to ensure unity of effort and accomplish missions across the range of military operations.

#19 Exercise Mission Command:

How to understand, visualize, describe, and direct operations consistent with the philosophy of mission command to seize the initiative over the enemy and accomplish the mission across the range of military operations.

#20 Develop Capable Formations:

How to design Army formations capable of rapidly deploying and conducting operations for ample duration and in sufficient scale to accomplish the mission.

Continuous feedback, collaboration, and teamwork are keys to the success of the Campaign of Learning and driving innovation in the Army. Please use the Army Warfighting Challenges as the framework to contribute your ideas and recommendations with respect to this topic to improve our ability to innovate as we develop the current and future force.

The Army Warfighting Challenges (AWFC) framework may be accessed here:

For previous weekly readings go to: ARCIC Professional Readings

  1. Army Operating Concept, TRADOC Pam 525-3-1, 30 October 2014
  2. Multi-Domain Battle

All the best,