AFRL continues to transform human capital management > ONE AFRL / TWO SERVICES > Article Display


In fall 2021, the Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, released its Human Capital Strategy 2021-2030 along with an action plan to achieve the strategy’s goals, embrace the future of work, meet workforce expectations and position the workforce to accomplish the mission. of the Lab. Over the past seven months, a team led by AFRL’s Chief Human Capital Strategist, Julia Parakkat, has made progress in implementing the action plan and transforming the human capital function into an advantage strategic.

“It’s about bringing creativity, innovation and idea generation by taking care of our most valuable asset, our people,” Parakkat said. “It is less about initiating and piloting new initiatives from headquarters, but more about enabling and equipping the AFRL mission directorates and units with the tools, information, authorities, flexibilities and analyzes of data needed to make informed talent decisions that support our current and future workforce. ”

The strategy is designed to empower the AFRL workforce whose mission is to lead, discover, develop and deliver science, technology and innovation to Airmen and Guardians.

“AFRL has a talented, motivated, and passionate workforce in areas of critical importance to the Department of the Air Force and the Department of Defense, including hypersonics, microelectronics, biotechnology, autonomous capabilities and artificial intelligence to name a few,” Parakkat said. “However, the AFRL is not immune to the challenges of the talent environment which has been significantly shaped by the coronavirus pandemic, the rapid pace of digital changes in the nature of work and increased competition for technical skills.”

Recent human capital actions have focused on providing new tools, understanding workforce needs, obtaining new staff authorizations, supporting AFRL’s digital transformation, strengthening awareness-raising efforts and promoting open dialogue.

“AFRL is committed to supporting and enabling all of our staff to contribute their best,” said AFRL Executive Director Timothy Sakulich, who is the Executive Human Capital Champion. “It’s critical to our mission that we have an environment where talent can converge on the toughest scientific and technical problems, innovate, and deliver solutions to Guardians and Airmen.”

New tools

The AFRL partners with the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center to advance the analysis, reporting, and accessibility of human capital data. The two organizations are defining and prioritizing user requirements for a revamped personnel data platform. Later this year, the AFRL will be rolling out an AFLCMC-designed tool that supports decision-making and enables informed talent planning discussions. The goal is to enable HR professionals to track metrics and continuously improve processes such as accelerated staff actions and time-to-hire.

AFRL is also creating a global internship portal to streamline the application process.

AFRL’s Corporate Internship Coordinator, Dr. Oscar Martinez, said a one-stop shop for all internship activities will make it easier for students to access opportunities, helping AFRL stay competitive with other programs. .

The design phase is complete and AFRL’s goal is to launch the portal online by the end of the summer, just in time for the summer 2023 cycle.

“Connecting new members of the workforce to the AFRL mission is important, and we can begin this acculturation process early with our intern pipeline through this portal,” Parakkat said.

New authorities

The AFRL is also pursuing a new authority to offer furlough as a recruiting incentive. When used, this would provide new employees with an initial leave balance to use in their first year.

“We are committed to continuously identifying mechanisms to improve our ability to recruit and retain top talent,” Parakkat said. “This new recruiting incentive would allow the AFRL to compete with the industry where initial leaves are often part of the recruiting program.”

The idea for this incentive came from an internal focus group.

“AFRL’s personnel leadership is taking valuable feedback from these focus groups and developing new training initiatives and revamping current practices to better meet the needs of our workforce,” Parakkat said. “We are committed to constantly seeking best practices and new ideas while seeking innovative ways of doing business.”

Digital transformation

Another first priority outlined in the strategy is to support the workforce through AFRL’s digital transformation. To meet these multidimensional demands, AFRL’s Human Capital team has assembled a Tiger Team of diverse experts to support change management, cultural barriers, talent acquisition and the development of necessary skills. to digital transformation.

Parakkat explained the need to build and develop technical depth, continuous learning and appreciation within the workforce in areas such as modeling, simulation and analytics, cybersecurity, infrastructure information technologies and collaborative digital tools.

“We worked hand-in-hand with AFRL’s digital transformation team to understand and assess the priority human capital needs in this area,” she said.

Outreach and Engagement Efforts

Another area of ​​commitment, led by Elyse Lohrbach, director of the Air Force K-12 Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Department, or STEM, is to create a more unified and strategic STEM outreach efforts across the U.S. Air Force. and the US Space Force. Lohrbach, who works closely with 55 base coordinators or leaders at 39 active bases, provides resources and guidance for STEM awareness, engagement and exposure campaigns. She came to AFRL from the non-profit world with deep expertise in education and outreach to the K-12 community.

“I see my work as uniting all of these efforts under one umbrella where we have a 30,000 foot view of what he’s trying to accomplish with K-12 outreach,” Lohrbach said. “That way we get everyone on board and we can be more consistent with our approach.”

Prior to Lohrbach’s leadership, site managers created programs with limited resources and guidance from a corporate-level facilitator.

“What we have now is a solid framework that complements what the local base can do in terms of engaging with the community, but also keeps tabs on national goals for the entire K-12 program,” said Parakkat.

“We are acutely aware that to create the future workforce of AFRL, we must start right here in the present by providing students with quality STEM education experiences,” Lohrbach said. “We are planting seeds for the future.”

In addition to building STEM awareness, the strategy enabled internal dialogues on critical workforce issues. Earlier this year, AFRL created a new position and hired Dr. Marcus J. Smith as the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Officer, or DEIA. In this position, Smith serves as an advisor to AFRL’s senior leadership.

In 2021, AFRL established a DEIA Board to provide a sounding board on DEIA business transactions, from developing a strategic plan to rolling out various initiatives, which aims to ensure that all individuals have equal access to opportunities and can maximize the potential of their skills, talents and know-how. With representatives from across the company, the board is the eyes and ears of the organization.

“Not only are they amplifiers of the voice of the AFRL DEIA, but they can see what is happening at ground level and report on it so that we can make the necessary changes to goals, objectives and initiatives,” said Smith.

Smith, who was previously Diversity and Inclusion Manager for AFRL’s Aerospace Systems Branch, is excited about his role in providing a holistic, enterprise approach to DEIA.

“Integrating DEIA into the human capital strategy was a really good first start, but it’s a living strategy, so we have to constantly reassess and develop that to make sure we’re building something that’s sustainable for years to come. “, added Smith. .

Flexible plans

While the framework for executing the strategy is in place, Parakkat said, as AFRL’s mission priorities change, the approach to human capital must also evolve. Accordingly, the AFRL plans to publish an annual action plan each fiscal year.

“It is important that we continue to engage and discuss at all levels,” Parakkat said. “AFRL’s human capital strategy is deliberately designed to be a living strategy to integrate and respond flexibly to the dynamic environment.”

AFRL has launched an internal human capital virtual community of practice channel, open to the entire workforce. The goal is to share best practices and ideas related to the workforce.

Further information on AFRL’s human capital strategy will be shared through AFRL’s internal communication channels, including the teams. To see the strategy, click here.


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