In an era of corporate transparency and the ability of the media to focus with laser precision on any trending story, two recurring and inter-linked themes troubling CEOs are their organisation’s culture and the leadership. Deloitte found that 86% of respondents rated culture as very important/important, with 89% believing that they need to strengthen, re-engineer, and improve organisational leadership as an important priority. Positive culture is seen as a source of a competitive advantage, but as the military is well aware, it is hard to establish and all too easy to lose. In terms of investment in leadership and culture, the military’s basic training for both officers and soldiers, reinforced by annual Values and Standards training is seen as an exemplary model. Importantly, the Army invests early command opportunities for both its officers and soldiers – most civilian companies are unable to match this early challenge. Accepting that the Army is generally leading the way, are there any areas where the Army could leverage civilian experience?
Firstly, civilian companies are moving from a leadership model that directs activity to one which mentors and coaches. At Regimental Duty, both soldiers and officers have clear role models/mentors and a leadership that is focused on the unit’s succession plan, whereas on the staff (especially due to gapping at Captain and Major) there has been less mentoring. Defence groups its staff into six Career Fields (CF – Operations, Operations Support, Capability & Acquisition, Defence Engagement, Personnel and Management of Defence). The move to these new CFs and their controlling bodies, the Career Field Steering Groups (CFSG) provides an opportunity to nest posts by sub-CF and to allocate mentors/coaches to nurture the talent within the CF and ensure a viable succession plan. This mentor/coach style of leadership chimes with the desire of millennials to feel invested in and will undoubtedly encourage retention.
Secondly, driven by the millennials’ desire to have a wide variety of experiences, there is an acceptance that the workforce will be transient and be project focused for up to 6 months. In their survey of Millennials, Deloitte found in 2016 that by the end of 2020, two thirds of respondents will have changed jobs and only 16% of Millennials see themselves with their current employers a decade from now. The one thing that the Army does offer is variety of job, with postings and new employers on nearly a 2 yearly basis – are these challenges of a ‘portfolio’ military career something which can attract more millennials? This so-called ‘gig-economy’ is expanding significantly, Deloitte found that more than one in three US workers are freelancers – a figure expected to grow to 40 percent by 2020. How radically could the Army change its employment offer? While there are limited options to significantly change Regimental Duty, could staff officer employment change? The Flexible Engagement System (FES) being drafted by the Ministry of Defence could support such a radical move, but it would come at significant risk, be very resource intensive and be a significant leadership challenge to implement using the current HR systems.
Finally, in terms of leadership of the Human Resources function, Anthony Hilton wrote an interesting article in the Evening Standard last week suggesting that ‘Top bosses need to treat HR with respect’ . He asserts that despite most CEOs considering that their people are their most important asset, that they show a level of indifference towards the HR function and those who lead it. He suggests that today’s HR people should become specialists in their field – not just in terms of managing the annual appraisal or reward allocation, but also experts in organisational design, as well as learning and development. As the Army has already found in the acquisition sphere for example, we cannot rely on generalist officers who do not have the Knowledge, Skill and Experience required to lead and manage that specialist Career Field. Perhaps the time has come for HR to be treated similarly?
This series of articles has ‘horizon scanned’ global HR trends and has challenged the view that the British Army’s manpower systems are dated and that changes in personnel policy are driven by a desire to reduce the personnel budget and adopt ‘leaner civilian’ practices, rather than a desire to invest in human capital. You can read our conclusion here.
- Deloitte 2016, p 41.
- The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2016, Winning over the next generation of leaders, https://www2.deloitte.com/global/en/pages/about-deloitte/articles/millennialsurvey.html#report, accessed 22 Jan 17.
- Anthony Hilton: ‘Top bosses need to treat HR with respect’, http://www.standard.co.uk/business/anthony-hilton-top-bosses-need-to-treat-hr-with-respect-a3444646.html, accessed 22 Jan 17.