Parsable Blog

Today’s Army Demands Tomorrow’s Tools for Connected Work

Wolf Hindrichs

For the first time in the last 14 years, the U.S. Army missed its recruiting goal in 2018. It didn’t just fall short by a small margin; it missed it by over 8%. Last year also saw thousands of senior soldiers retire because of age, retention control points and medical separations. At a time where the United States seeks to rapidly expand the size of its military, the Army is falling woefully short.

This becomes even more problematic when examining who the military is losing from its ranks. Most of them are high performers who are attracted by employment options outside the military – talent that the military desperately needs to retain.

So what is the military doing to attract and retain a new generation of talent to fill its ranks? It can promise education benefits, provide financial incentive, and pepper commercials with musical scores designed to motivate you to service.

But the biggest factor in attracting the talent it needs is the ability to demonstrate that it is a viable career path for the modern, digital-first generation. And that starts with providing them with the tools and technology they’re used to in civilian life.

While the Army is looking to its past for inspiration in its uniforms, it must look to the future as it faces both new and old threats. Many of the military procedures performed in the field today were developed between the 1950s and 1980s – and it’s not because they work well that they have been kept around. Rather, it’s because these policies are deeply entrenched and difficult to rip and replace.

That’s not a good enough reason to keep our soldiers fighting yesterday’s war.

In recent years, the Army has lost its combat experience. Walking down a hall in the Pentagon, one is just as likely to see senior service members with slick sleeves as wartime service sleeve insignia. The middle and junior ranks – even less. The challenge then becomes how one makes junior soldiers perform like seasoned veterans; the few weeks of basic training and indoctrination won’t cut the mustard.

Thinking Digital-first, From Maintenance to Training

Walk the lines in a motor pool, and one is more likely to see soldiers on their smartphones than actually flipping through a field or technical manual. It’s time to leverage what’s already in soldiers’ hands: their mobile devices.

Imagine eliminating paper from the motor pool. There would be no more waiting in line for a broken maintenance printer to slowly print out 5988s that need to be filled out by hand only to have that data get re-inputted into a computer – maybe.

Imagine reducing variability by giving soldiers clear, concise instructions, with photos and videos as a guide so that even the most junior soldier could walk up to a HMMWV and tackle its maintenance like a champion – and to do so rapidly.

Even better, imagine when soldiers can collaborate with their maintenance techs and supervisors watch all processes in the motor pool unfold – in real time. Soldiers’ mobile devices will automatically populate with the necessary preventative maintenance checks and services – and their inputs, maintenance and parts requests uploaded automatically into the Standard Army Maintenance System box. Parts or vehicles that fail more often will be tracked, so appropriate stock can be kept on hand instead of waiting for parts that may get “lost” in delivery.

It doesn’t stop there. Imagine pushing standardized mission-essential task training down to every soldier – no more excuses about different units getting different training experiences. Sergeants time training and other best practices could easily be shared between units, saving time and delivering the best material across formations.

Connected worker technologies like Parsable could be used as a training aid for an individual or crew, and collective tasks in preparation for certification; and then it could be used to measure adherence to those tasks for the certification itself.

Enabling Our Soldiers, Not Micromanaging

Connected worker technologies can direct eyes to real-time information not currently available to NCOs and officers. It can package all that into an easily digestible and customizable dashboard, so the need to develop unreadable PowerPoint slides for command and staff meetings becomes a thing of the past, and the information is available at a second’s notice on mobile devices and computers.

This is the opportunity to drill down into the details without micromanaging, and still afford soldiers the autonomy they need to develop into competent NCOs. This is the opportunity to develop junior officers into those capable of managing a 21st century organization. This is the opportunity to give senior leaders the information they need to make important decisions quickly. This is the opportunity to ensure that today’s formations are ready for tomorrow’s missions. It’s time to seize it.