LTC Danielle Holt and COL Susan Davis – “Interrupting Bias in Army Talent Management”


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Released 4 April 2022. This article addresses the impact of diversity, equity, and inclusion on talent management. It explains how systemic bias impairs the US Army’s ability to harness cognitive diversity. It stresses the value of cognitive diversity among teams and senior leadership and how cumulative bias impacts the entire career cycle of an individual. It concludes by offering practical suggestions to reduce bias in the assignment, promotion, and selection processes. Click here to read the article. Episode Transcript: Stephanie Crider (Host) (Prerecorded Decisive Point intro) Welcome to Decisive Point, a US Army War College Press production featuring distinguished authors and contributors who get to the heart of the matter in national security affairs. (Guest 1 Danielle Holt) (Guest 2 Susan Davis) (Host) Decisive Point welcomes Lieutenant Colonel Danielle Holt, US Army, and Colonel Susan Davis, US Army, authors of “Interrupting Bias in Army Talent Management,” featured in Parameters’ Spring 2022 issue. Holt is a general surgeon assigned as deputy chief, Department of Surgery at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Uniformed Services University. She’s a graduate of the US Army War College and holds a doctor of medicine degree from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Davis is a physical therapist assigned to the People First Task Force. She’s a graduate of the US Army War College and holds a doctor of physical therapy degree from Baylor University. I’m happy you’re here, Sue and Danielle, welcome. Let’s talk about your article. In it, you say, “Army Talent Management must include development of a more innovative and inclusive culture to meet future threats.” There were some significant changes to the system in 2020, let's start there. What changed? (Davis) Hi, this is Sue, and thanks for having us. Absolutely, I'd say 2019 and 2020 were huge changes in the Army, in the talent management arena, and it was very exciting. The Army is trying to keep up with contemporary practices and modernize the system, if you will, and they had been working for several years on many initiatives. And there were some big ones that were rolled out in 2019 and 2020. Specifically, the ones that we talk about a little bit—and that are probably the most well-known as well—is, first, the Army talent alignment process—which really simply is a new way of determining where officers go for their next assignment. It essentially is a electronic platform that generates a market-style hiring system. Much like the civilian side, resumes are exchanged, interviews may occur, and you can exchange information, etcetera. And then, officers that are slated to move and units that may have an open position indicate their preferences, and they run an algorithm, and this then determines where an officer goes next. That was a very big change in the legacy system. It was more just a conversation with a career manager or—if you're in the (Army Medical Department or) AMEDD—a consultant. And so, this was a big change. And so, we talk about it a little bit. And the other one was the Command Assessment Program. And this was a new initiative to do a very thorough assessment of the candidates who are potentially going to be commanders at the O-5 and O-6 level. And instead of just reviewing their written record and evaluations and where they had been, they brought them in for four or five days of a battery of assessments and interviews and gathered much more information and data on them. So, we talk about these specifically, one, because they're very impactful—they represented really big changes—but also because, like all personnel management processes, whether in the military or civilian, they can be vulnerable to unconscious bias creeping in if it's not mitigated. So, since that was the topic of our paper, unconscious bias, we did take a closer look at those two. (Host)

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