July 5, 2022

How the Department of Defense Is Using AI to Unearth Talent in the Military Reserves

Just like so many other organizations, the U.S. Department of Defense struggles to match internal talent with critical project needs and roles. There are nearly 1.2 million military reservists with specific skills sets, yet that talent often goes undiscovered and underutilized by the Department simply because talent managers lack visibility into those skills.

Recognizing this, the DOD turned to AI to solve the problem.

Sarah Pearson, AI/ML commercial engagement for the Defense Innovation Unit, told Eightfold at our recent talent summit that through Eightfold’s AI-powered talent intelligence platform, the Department is endeavoring to marry the skills part-time reservists are developing in their private-sector roles with short-term, strategic project needs in the DOD.

That’s the genesis of GigEagle.

GigEagle: The Solution to the DOD’s Talent Discovery Challenge

GigEagle is the DOD’s new human capital management platform developed with the intent to use the data-driven capabilities of AI to locate undiscovered talent within the military reserves. This approach to talent management is key for the Department because it isn’t facing a people problem — the people are there. It’s confronting a talent discovery problem. It simply doesn’t know what its people can do.

As Pearson explains, performance reviews that can be used to ascertain people’s skills are conducted throughout an employee’s tenure. But instead of pulling and analyzing the data from those reviews to pinpoint a person’s skills and potential, managers often file them away and never look at them until someone requests their files. In neglecting that data, the DOD is failing to capitalize on the talent assets of its employees.

GigEagle is meant to address this issue. It is the solution that will enable talent managers in the DOD to find and recruit the talent it needs from the military reserves to staff projects and solve problems. As Laura Renner, U.S. Space Force – Chief of Human Capital Initiatives, asserts, “GigEagle has the potential to solve bringing talent to a problem.”

And in doing so, it will help the DOD close the skills gaps that are hindering it from effectively staffing projects.

“What is so revolutionary about GigEagle is that for the first time the DOD will have the ability to identify and then engage members of the reserve across the entire Department in real time and then apply that talent to the Department’s hardest problems,” says Colonel Michael McGinley, U.S. Air Force – GigEagle Project Lead.

Here are the key capabilities of the AI-powered platform that will bring the DOD into the future in human capital management.

portrait view of soldier looking at laptop screen; DOD, AI, military reserves concept

Gaining a Better Understanding of the Skills Available in the DOD

When organizations have a need to hire someone with specific skills, the first place they tend to look is outside the organization. But with the unprecedented and ongoing labor shortage confronting companies, HR teams are better served by expanding the scope of their talent management strategies “to the whole organization to learn what skills might already be available in the workforce,” writes Teresa Zuech, public relations manager at Gartner.

“External recruitment is often seen as a one-way ticket out of the skills gap, but whilst hiring new recruits can provide a fresh set of perspectives and skills, existing employees can also possess and provide the same required abilities if the opportunity is presented to them,” explains Cyril Le Mat, director of data science at HR software provider Cornerstone OnDemand.

Recognizing the opportunity before them to capitalize on the skills of nearly 1.5 million people in one of their internal talent pools, the human capital management team at the DOD is pivoting its core strategies to prioritize capitalizing on the skills and competencies of its current workforces. But identifying those skills is a big challenge, which is why the Department is relying on AI.

According to a collaborative pilot study initiated by the Consumer Industries of the World Economic Forum, when people self-report their skills, they tend to identify about 11, whereas AI identifies 34 on average, by analyzing data from multiple sources such as employee profiles, resumes, assessments, and referrals. The insights from such data provide “new internal recruitment opportunities” by showing HR not only what those skills are but also where else those skills might be useful in the company, notes le Mat.

Armed with that information, the Department can find the right people in its current talent pool to quickly fill project roles.

Matching Reservists’ Talent to Open Projects

Once the hiring teams at the DOD have a better understanding of the skills of the military reservists, they can then match those skills to open projects. This is known as skills-based hiring, which is revolutionizing talent acquisition because it requires HR teams to focus less on credentials and more on skills that indicate future success. This aligns perfectly with what the DOD wants to accomplish.

AI facilitates this shift from a hiring-for-fit strategy to a hiring-for-potential strategy by using “machine learning to match candidates with available positions based on their skills and potential,” writes Louis Columbus, principal at Dassault Systèmes.

Skills-based matching is “an approach that assesses candidates based on their holistic skill set (including adjacent skills across industries), rather than just industry experience or certain educational credentials,” write Emily Field, et al. in a McKinsey & Company report. Artificial intelligence is more efficient at this task than humans because it can be taught to assess not only skills listed on a resume or an employee profile but also those unrecognized or unidentified skills that may indicate potential for success in a role.

This increases the odds of the DOD choosing the right person to hire for the right job.

It’s a win-win for both sides, researchers Joseph Fuller, Christina Langer, and Matt Sigelman write at Harvard Business Review. “Previously overlooked workers will be able to pursue attractive career pathways even without a four-year degree, and companies will be better able to fill jobs that need filling.”

Army Soldier education; DOD, AI, military reserves concept

Empowering Military Reservists to Navigate Their Careers

Employees themselves often don’t know how their skills align with job opportunities, causing them to miss out on roles or projects at which they would excel or leave the company for greener pastures.

AI-powered talent intelligence tools give employees the power to better understand their own capabilities and, therefore, navigate their careers. With technology, they have the ability to see how their skills match open opportunities in an organization and chase those opportunities that meet their own career aspirations.

Showing employees a range of possibilities within an organization is “a way to break the silos and say, ‘look, you have more opportunities than you thought there were before,’” says Eraldine Pillon, global organizational development head at biopharmaceutical company Sanofi’s R&D.

This can be critical to motivating reservists to stay with the DOD which, in turn, broadens its talent pool from which it can search out particular skills for specific projects. The career mapping capabilities of AI makes them feel like they don’t need to leave the DOD to meet their career aspirations, explains Eightfold President Kamal Ahluwalia.

AI Powers the Future of Talent Management in the DOD

With GigEagle, the DOD is taking its human capital management into the future.

The Department has identified an opportunity to unearth skilled talent from its pool of military reservists to meet the ongoing staffing needs for special projects. AI-powered technology will enable the DOD to find reservists with the skills it needs, match those skills to the right projects, and show reservists how those roles align with their career aspirations.

This will enable the Department to close skills gaps and staff projects more quickly and effectively, which is no small feat in today’s economy.

Images by: evgeniyshkolenko/©123RF.com, iakovenko/©123RF.com, andreypopov/©123RF.com