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Performance, preference, postings, and the dark arts of military career management

By Cia Kouparitsas 
Published: November 5, 2022
READ TIME: 4 minutes
WithYouWithMe has recently partnered with an Armed Forces agency to develop a pilot program to digitally transform the way career management, performance and posting systems are handled. To develop a high-quality user experience, WithYouWithMe techies consulted Military Veteran staff, including CEO Tom Moore, to assess requirements for a data driven system which maps skills, preferences, policy, and performance to achieve accurate and equitable career management outcomes.

Tom Moore shares his experience and how it has shaped WYWM’s latest pilot and how a digital transformation of Military Career Management will result in a transparent system thus increasing employee trust, retention, and referral.

WYWM: In your experience as an Acting Adjutant and Platoon Commander and your observations as a Tech CEO; What do you believe the core issue is with the current performance management model utilised by the Army and how it is applied to postings and member preferences?

Tom Moore (TM):  In my experiences – both as a serving member and a technology partner helping Defence agencies address the problem – there are three key issues:

  • The performance system is not linked to unit metrics.
  • The performance system is not linked to the posting cycle.
  • The performance system is subjective on how someone does their duty.

Currently the performance system has various holes. Performance Appraisal Reports (PARs) are misaligned to the posting cycle, posting orders are struck before PARs for the current year are due. The subjective nature of a PAR means different postings or assessing officers can alter results vastly; this can be detrimental when going to Personnel Advisory Committee (PAC) which determines your future promotion prospects. Depending on the Unit, Platoon Commander Notebook (PCN) reporting has differing metrics for achieving goals and success leading to subjective data on a PAR when submitted to Career Management Agencies (CMA). Ranking members against peers within a Unit with various trades and roles leads to highly inconsistent results leading to personnel dissatisfaction, distrust, and disillusionment in the organisations ability to fairly manage career progression.

Why is there so much distrust in the current performance and posting system?

TM: I have had to ask myself “is there even a system?” You only need to look at the blackout period for PE166/'Applications to Repost' imposed by CMAs when posting orders are struck to see that there is a flawed system in place.

When a system is not transparent, it causes distrust and dissatisfaction leading to high rates of attrition. Retention of LCPL-CAPT ranks is critical to the Army. This group of emerging leaders is most affected by the seeming haphazard correlation between performance, preference, and postings.

Currently there are several platforms used by Career Managers, Supervisors, Servicemen and Women. In the Australian Army alone for example, there is: Career Management Tool, DefenceOne, Soldier Career Planning Tool, Platoon Commanders Notebook, Performance Appraisal Review, Soldiers Gazette, ‘Are you being Posted’ site and Mercury. The lack of interoperability and transparency between these platforms have added confusion to an already stressed posting cycle along with an unaligned performance system.

To retain and recruit as many valuable personnel as possible, the Army needs to ensure their personnel are satisfied with their management enough to recommend the ADF (Australian Defence Force) as an employer of choice. Currently satisfaction is low, an unprecedented percentage of the ARA (Australian Regular Army) has submitted or is considering discharge soon.

What do you see as barriers to satisfaction in the Army?

TM: The Army is sitting on an amazing goldmine. It has the largest talent mobility team in the country, passionate people are attracted to joining up and they want to excel. Does the Army understand why a substantial portion of their gold (their personnel) often drops off within 6 years of joining? Most senior officers do not see the system/s as being flawed, because they are just that...senior officers. The current system has worked for them to achieve their comfortable rank so it must not be broken, right?

As I said earlier, the Army is bleeding CAPTs and below, recruiting relies heavily on word-of-mouth referral. When there is a huge decay of junior ranks, emerging officers, and leaders the likelihood that they would tell their friends or family to join is low. This does not bode well for the recruiting targets, which are currently down by 42%.

How would you boost satisfaction?

TM: To boost satisfaction, it is imperative that the maximum number of personnel are treated as an asset, be shown that excellence is valued and measured fairly through granting of preferences, prioritised by performance whilst satisfying the ‘service need’ of the posting. To achieve this a transparent, non-subjective system must be implemented through a digital transformation.

How could a digital transformation of the posting and performance system benefit the Army?

TM: CMA infamously reiterate the prioritisation of ‘Service Needs’ above all else. Using employment categories (ECNs)/skills mapping and automatic matching of preferences could enable CMA to get the most accurate balance of service needs with members preference. The prioritisation of preferences could be refined further with an individual's performance metadata.

When the average posting is 3 years, it means 1/3 of the ARA workforce is posted yearly during December/January causing a waterfall effect. A digital transformation would result in an agile talent mobility model, allowing prioritisation of positions and allocation of soldiers based on when and where they are needed.

With an automated system in place, we would no longer see a critical position stay vacant because “Corporal A was terminated in March and the Enoggera Based Unit must wait 10 months until January the following year for a replacement to post in. Particularly when there’s Lance Corporal B who is performing well, is fully qualified and has asked for Enoggera as their first preference.”

Use of policy, objective data, skills mapping and creating tangible metrics would increase the agility, transparency and efficiency of postings whilst removing guess work or relying on the notes of already stressed Career Advisors.

Find out more about WithYouWithMe’s Career Management Pilot or learn more about our Veteran Employment Program.

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