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New initiatives continue to drive civilian talent acquisition changes across command

  • Published
  • By Marisa Alia-Novobilski
  • Air Force Materiel Command

The Air Force Materiel Command continues to bolster civilian accessions by capitalizing on new, flexible recruitment policies and processes to attract and attain diverse talent across the enterprise. 

The command’s time-to-hire is at an all-time low, down 54% since dedicated reform efforts began in 2018, averaging 59.9 days to fill a position from recruitment-to-onboarding in Fiscal Year 2023. This is down from an average of 129 days five years ago. In-person and virtual hiring events, along with other recruiting efforts, have yielded approximately 8,400 external gains in FY23, the largest workforce growth in three years.

Continued evaluation of current policies and cross-component partnerships are enabling ongoing processes improvements to drive down timelines and find talent needed to execute AFMC’s mission.

“While we have made remarkable progress in driving down the time it takes to hire, we are not stopping here,” said Kathy Watern, AFMC Manpower, Personnel and Services director. “Our personnel teams continue to identify constraints in the hiring processes, while leveraging flexible initiatives to bring new talent onboard faster.”

Communication is an important aspect of the hiring process. Filling a civilian position consists of multiple steps, beginning with identifying the talent requirement and ending with employee onboarding.

“We all play some part in the hiring process, whether you are a requirement’s owner, a supervisor, or a wingman to a new employee,” Watern said. “Our goal is to ensure organizations have a better understanding of the hiring process so they can help influence it.”

Several initiatives are aiding organizations in finding and hiring top talent. In June 2023, AFMC received relief from the requirement to wait 180 days before hiring recently retired military members into certain direct-hire positions. This change removes the barrier to hire experienced veterans for hard-to-fill positions and enables faster onboarding.

In May 2023, AFMC began piloting a 28-day recruitment and hiring model for use at hiring events, enabling on-the-spot job offers to qualified candidates and expediting those hiring actions. The outcome of this pilot will help shape a permanent framework capitalizing on strategic planning and concurrent hiring steps to further optimize the employment process.

Additionally, AFMC expanded its Centralized Selection and Hiring Process pilot launched in August 2021 to enable faster hiring for developmental positions, ensuring a steady pipeline of talent. This initiative continues to show positive results, filling direct-hire positions at an average of 57 days versus the 61-day average for other external and direct-hire authority fills. The success from the initial pilot, which focused on two functional areas, has expanded AFMC-wide to cover most developmental positions.

AFMC has also recently provided flexibilities in making firm job offers to college students in their final semester of study, securing entry-level talent to build the civilian pipeline for future mission needs.

The ultimate goal is to cultivate new methods and best practices to better build and maintain talent pipelines.

“We want to establish a holistic approach to recruitment by fine-tuning our processes and procedures so we can continue to not only be timelier, but more diverse in our hiring efforts,” said Nicole Estes, AFMC Civilian Personnel technical advisor. “While we’ve made a lot of improvements over the past few years, we still have work to do. We are gleaning lessons learned from our ongoing initiatives, and we will pivot based on what our data tells us.”

AFMC talent initiatives align with the larger Department of Defense-wide strategy to shape an appropriately-skilled and ready future force through improved civilian force recruitment and retention. This strategy seeks to maximize use of direct-hire authorities for eligible and hard-to-fill positions, reduce time-to-hire timelines department-wide, leverage better candidate assessments during recruiting cycles and improve overall process satisfaction.

As the largest civilian employer of any Air Force Major Command, AFMC is taking a proactive effort to address internal talent management issues to improve processes and identify best practices with potential for impact and change enterprise-wide. Internal efforts also align with the AFMC Strategic Plan’s Line of Effort 2, “Strengthen our Team,” which specifically cites improving end-to-end talent management as one of its objectives.

“AFMC leads the Air Force in talent management timeliness and process innovation, but we recognize that we have more work to do in order to achieve our workforce goals,” Watern said. “We continue to work closely with our functionals across the command. AFMC has a world-class civilian force, and we need to do all we can to ensure we continue to build and grow our talent pool for the future.”