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The Challenge of Change

 June 9, 2015

 Amelia Cohen-Levy
 NGA Human Development Directorate

We’re all familiar with the saying, “Change is the only constant in life.” This couldn’t be truer than what is currently happening in our geospatial intelligence profession. In an April speech at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Director Robert Cardillo talked about these changes, something he calls a “seismic shift,” and emphasized that developing the workforce and our approach to cultivating talent is one way NGA can address the changes happening in our industry.

Cardillo told the audience of government and industry professionals, “People are our real power — our discriminate value proposition in an indiscriminate world. To leverage the power of our people, we must transform outdated government processes, embrace diversity, adopt new workforce strategies, and encourage them to master the new methods and tradecraft. And we need a better flow-through of talent and experience.”

Ellen Ardrey, the director of the Human Development directorate, couldn’t agree more.

“NGA faces many challenges. What I see as our greatest challenge isn’t each individual issue, rather, it’s the sum of its parts — the challenge of change. Facing that change head-on requires our dedicated, unflinching commitment to the mission,” Ardrey said. “For HD, that mission begins with people, so we are concentrating our efforts to evolve a more agile workforce.”

As our customers’ requirements change and the agency’s needs evolve, new work roles emerge, often requiring skillsets that are underrepresented in the current workforce. That’s where the HD Strategy Office comes in.

Part tacticians, part policymakers, part prognosticators, they conduct the workforce and talent analysis that creates understanding of how the workforce’s contributions align to mission requirements. This analysis allows HD to figure out where the gaps are between the role, the workforce and the work that needs to be done.

To find the right people externally, NGA is not relying on traditional recruiting methods or sources and has reimagined its strategy. Looking for innovative approaches to multimedia visualization? Try the Savannah College of Art and Design. How about aeronautical intelligence analysts? Visit the International Women in Aviation Conference.

“We have had to question everything we know about recruiting based on NGA’s strategy,” said Alex Berger, director of the Human Development Talent Management Office. “In order to recruit a diverse workforce that is capable of driving us to the future, we have had to start operating more like a Fortune 500 company than a federal government agency.”

Recruiting is only one piece of the puzzle. The development of the skills and talents of the current NGA workforce is just as important. This is why the Strategic Workforce Planning Team is building comprehensive competency assessments.

“Employees are going to have a voice,” said Jason Franz, the career services program manager. “For the first time, really, they’ll be able to go in and document what they want to do with their careers.”

The goal is to empower employees to look at themselves and their careers in a new way, perhaps even inspire them to take on a role or training opportunity that they might not have considered before.

While many of these changes at NGA seem daunting, Cardillo has a different perspective, as he stated in the closing of his speech in Colorado, “Yes, the pace of change is accelerating — but it is also exhilarating. Within every momentous change, we will find equally momentous opportunity.”