Attracting and Retaining Human Talent

When assessing the needs of highly qualified people, several issues require attention. Studies suggest that the most important factor in attracting and retaining talented technical professionals is challenging work in the field of their chosen endeavor. In the long term, several unknowns directly related to the emerging field of network science impact the kinds of work incentives that can be offered. These unknowns include:

  1. Whether network science as a field of study will connect sufficiently with industry objectives so that increasing job opportunities and work challenges arise that attract the best young minds;

  2. Whether network sciences will evolve so that new skills and abilities emerge that support more learning opportunities and thus career longevity;

  3. Whether network science as a field of work will evolve in a stable pattern (as opposed to fits and starts that lead to career instability); and

  4. Whether new professions, occupations, credentials, and job specialties will emerge in the field of network science that fit well within the federal governmental system.

The answers to these unknowns will determine whether the Army is in a position to support long-term careers in network science and thus get the technical and military-related results needed from an NSTEC. If network science develops in a manner that successfully addresses the unknowns listed above, then the Army will be well positioned to deal with more traditional key issues such as developing management so that good management is the norm and is supportive of a positive work atmosphere; offering continuously available attractive job benefits; using innovative organizational structures; and managing to encourage a team orientation to research work so that strong career relationships emerge.

In the near term, the incentives needed to compete for qualified people may be within the Army’s reach. They include competitive salaries and benefits; policies supportive of rewards and recognition; attractive work/life balance in jobs; family-friendly policies; opportunities for educational advancement; attractive on-site amenities; and flexibility in work culture (flexible dress and environment). For exceptionally qualified people, other incentives come into play and may be more difficult for the Army (or any federal lab) to offer due to legal constraints. These incentives include competitive salaries and housing assistance in high-cost areas of the country; first-class relocation assistance; and support for child education. Finally, incentives that promote diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, national origin, and culture, including assistance with immigration issues, may be important to members of the workforce now and likely even more so in the future.

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