Cover: Implementing Technology-Enabled Human Resources Capabilities in the U.S. Air Force

Implementing Technology-Enabled Human Resources Capabilities in the U.S. Air Force

Insight from the Private Sector and Military Services

Published Dec 21, 2022

by Douglas Yeung, Elicia M. John, Jeannette Gaudry Haynie, James Ryseff, Bonnie L. Triezenberg, Nelson Lim

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Research Questions

  1. Why is technology-enabled talent management important?
  2. What is the best way to transition to this new system?
  3. What are essential elements of the transition?

The U.S. Air Force (USAF) is working to replace its traditional human resources system with a digital talent management system that is driven by data, personnel needs, and business needs. To accomplish this complex transformation, the USAF would benefit from a set of best practices derived from similar organizations that have already made this switch. This report is one in a set aimed at helping the USAF understand the elements necessary for success. It focuses on implementation of a management system that better aligns the skills of job candidates with job requirements. To identify information that would assist the USAF in implementing this technology, the authors reviewed select literature and USAF documents and interviewed subject-matter experts in the USAF, other U.S. military services, and the private sector.

Rather than a narrow focus just on technology requirements, the research suggests that implementation of technology-enabled talent management should more broadly consider organizational processes and requirements relating to leadership, business strategy, and change management. Support from top leadership is essential, which can be gained by using success stories as examples. Justifications of technology investment should be based on mission needs that benefit the entire organization. Finally, it is critical to ensure alignment across the organization about the need for digital transformation and how it is to be implemented, such as by developing a change management strategy.

Key Findings

  • Implementing technology-enabled talent management could help the U.S. Air Force (USAF) replace its traditional human resources system with one that is driven by data, personnel needs, and business needs.
  • To accomplish this complex transformation, the USAF would benefit from a set of best practices derived from similar organizations that have already made this switch.
  • Top leaders' support is essential, and success stories enable buy-in.
  • Project Objective Memorandum and funding justification should be based on business needs and mission readiness.
  • A change management strategy is imperative for short- and long-term success.

Research conducted by

The research reported here was commissioned by the U.S. Air Force and conducted within the Workforce, Development, and Health Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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