The French Army, which had a workforce of 130,000 front-line and support personnel in 2021, offers a range of career mobility opportunities to its employees every year. Managing these transfers is done through an Annual Transfer Plan. This aims to meet the Army’s human resource (HR) needs, in terms of type and number of staff deployed, while also satisfying the desires of personnel looking for geographical or functional career mobility. It’s a task that falls to the Personnel Management Unit of the army’s Human Resources Directorate.

Centralizing data to manage transfers more effectively

Historically, transfers have been managed in silos – with each manager administering their own files. As a result, data is decentralized, making it time-consuming to process requests and severely limiting the scope for a full overview of current demands and vacancies. To address this, the HR Directorate aims to implement a system that makes day-to-day transfer management easier, is more user-friendly, and offers a comprehensive view of potential transferees and their skills.

This planned transformation must be able to centralize all data and standardize access to it. In addition, the army wants to incorporate a decision-support system that can make recommendations for assignments – by matching the skills and desires of personnel in the system to its current HR needs. The new tool must also offer a dashboard of key performance indicators, such as the overall state of transfers, how many request have been met, and how many positions remain vacant. The HR Directorate’s aim is for the tool to save managers time – reducing the time they spend searching for and entering data, and freeing them to focus on higher value tasks, especially discussions with vacancy holders and transferees.

French Army, key statistics

  • 130,000 employees
  • 200 managers
  • 1 manager responsible for a pool of hundreds of employees (up to 1,500)
  • 10% of the workforce (13,000 people) in a transfer situation each year
  • Duration of an Annual Transfer Plan: 18 months

Using data exploitation to develop decision-support tools

With these diverse needs in mind, the army’s HR directorate approached Wavestone to develop a single tool capable of meeting them. We conducted an initial phase of user workshops to clearly understand the client’s needs, prioritize the work that would add maximum value, and identify the first key features to be developed.

6 sprints

An agile approach was then put in place, with tasks organized in a series of six sprints. New features identified during testing phases were added to the development plan along the way.

4 months

A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) – integrating two decision support tools – was delivered at the end of this four-month agile development process.

Generating value from data

To support its clients as they seize the opportunities that Machine Learning offers, and to drive their data transformation, Wavestone has set up the Machine Learning & Data Lab (MLDL), which brings together Data Scientists who offer a powerful combination of scientific, IT, and business skills. While the firm is not a solutions integrator and doesn’t offer large-scale development, Wavestone’s MLDL teams aim to develop solutions that enable clients to generate the maximum value from their data.

The first algorithm developed uses weighted criteria to calculate a correspondence score between a vacant position and a potential transferee. This provides the HR manager with a rapid first view of the degree of compatibility between a transferee and a vacancy. It also enables transferees to view the Top-10 vacancies that best match their profile; and vice versa for vacancy holders.

The second algorithm aims at solving a stable matching problem, by optimally matching all transferees against all vacancies. This approach enables assignments to be optimized in a way that meets the maximum number of transferee desires while best meeting the army’s operational needs.

Improving the effectiveness of Annual Transfer Plans

In the space of just four months, starting from scratch, the managers agreed on the tool’s design, tested it, and added features. The next step is to refine this first MVP before migrating it to a stable production environment that will, in time, serve all the 100 employees who need to use it. One of the benefits of full implementation will be the scope to shorten the planning cycle from its current 18 months. Reducing this to 12 months would eliminate the problem of overlapping plans, and further improve the army’s overall management of its transfers.