British Army HR – A Critical Overview: Invest
Companies have moved from a ‘burn and churn’ approach to talent, to one where the cost of the recruiting new employees makes the investment in and retention of talent who already match the companies’ culture more cost-effective. A significant number of companies are changing their culture to one which invests in their employee experiences in terms of their satisfaction and enjoyment which then drives productivity. There are four trends of note:
Firstly, ‘Learning and Development’ (L&D) is recognised by 84% of companies as important or very important in terms of investing in up-skilling its human capital. However, PA Consulting have questioned whether the investment of almost £43bn by UK companies in conventional ‘stand and deliver’ courses or developing e-learning modules is effective. L&D is being fundamentally overhauled thanks to the advances in technology and the demand signals from employees, whose mobile technology permits access to online courses ‘on demand’. Deloitte found that 83% of companies are tailoring bespoke L&D packages for their employees, facilitated by Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) and ‘webinars’ that are offered by not only higher education institutions, but also by professional organisations.
Secondly, employees believe that the ‘learning curve is the earning curve’. The Army should more widely publicise that it is the largest employer provider of apprentices in the UK, with about 95% of new soldiers taking part and over 5,000 completing their apprenticeship training each year. Emerging policy under the banner of ‘Maximising Talent’ will support apprenticeships offering qualifications up to Masters degree level for SNCOs and Warrant Officers. While the technical Corps and Career Fields have long recognised the value of professional qualifications to both soldiers and officers, the Executive Committee of the Army Board (ECAB) acknowledged the historic view that time spent in education was not been seen as career enhancing. To counter this perception, they have directed that professional development, training and education must be valued and not seen as a gap in service. While traditional sources of higher education remain in demand, such as the In-Service Degrees offered by the Defence Academy, or External Professional Placement Programme (Academic), alternative more modular L&D developed with organisations offering civilian professional qualifications, such as the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) may prove to be more appealing to today’s soldiers. The Army Skills Offer is innovative and an example of ‘best practice’ that many civilian companies would wish to emulate – it will offer free civilian accreditation for predominantly mandatory military training and service for both Regular and Reserve personnel..
Thirdly, it is widely accepted that ‘millennials’ are less likely to stay loyal to one company for their whole career, than ‘baby boomers’. Having invested in an employee and being satisfied that they fit the company’s culture, employers are holding ‘stay interviews’ with prospective leavers to identify how they may be retained and offering what I-deals (idiosyncratic deals), which are bespoke to an individual employee. If retention is not possible, companies are investing in alumni networks to encourage ‘boomerang employees’ who can return to the company with an outsider’s perspective and new skills, which supplement their insider’s knowledge of company process and culture. The Army has had such an alumni network for some time – the Regular Reserve – could its focus change from purely a mobilisation function to one of identifying boomerang employees? This could be assisted by one of the projects being developed by the Chief of Defence Personnel in the Armed Forces People Programme (AFPP), which seeks to offer a more agile employment model – the Flexible Engagement System (FES) that that would enable seamless movement to and from Regular service, to the Regular Reserve, or Army Reserve.
Finally, like many of our national institutions, is the Army is moving from a vocational profession to one that is more transactional? Selfless commitment remains a key motivator of many in joining the Service and supports the concept of Service as a vocation, but I wonder whether financial remuneration is becoming a more important motivator? Financial and non-financial remuneration which are designed to compensate for the challenges of Service life have been gradually eroded over the years, with changes to the Armed Forces Pension Scheme causing the most disquiet. The deterioration of the overall package may fuel a perception that the offer is less and that employees are less valued, which may in turn drive more transactional behaviour at best, or cause voluntary outflow at worst. This is further compounded by an improving economy and the perception that individual needs could be better met in civilian organisations. The Armed Forces Pay Review Body (AFPRB), have noted that while salaries have remained comparable to the civilian sector over the past ten years, in terms of ‘total cash’ (pay and allowances), officers’ remuneration was ‘below the median by some margin’ and that soldiers’ remuneration remained at the civilian median. This is a key area for future debate…
 Deloitte 2016, p61.
 PA Consulting, ‘Learning is not working: time for fresh thinking on corporate education’, accessed 12 Mar 17.
 Deloitte 2017, p30.
 ‘The Army Skills Offer’, 2016DIN07-019, released Feb 16.
 The AFPP includes the Flexible Engagement System (FES), New Joiner Offer (NJO) and Future Accommodation Model (FAM) and Enterprise Approach Project.
 Since 2010, Officer satisfaction with basic pay has dropped by 24 percentage points to 47%. Satisfaction has also decreased among the Other Ranks and this has resulted in overall satisfaction with pay decreasing by 17 percentage points to 35% (AFCAS Main Report 2016, p12).
 Satisfaction across the Services with pension benefits has dropped 26 percentage points since 2010 (ibid, p13).
 Armed Forces’ Pay Review Body Forty-Fifth Report 2016, para 2.30.