British Army HR – A Critical Overview: Simplify
A recurrent trend within civilian practice, which the Army can relate to, is change and the need to simplify. Last year Deloitte found that 92% of companies surveyed believed that a functional redesign is very important or important.
Companies are simplifying and flattening their organisations to mission orientated and cross-functional teams, which exploit technology to fuse global information. The battle-grouping of teams of functional experts and more military terms such as OPCON and ADMINCON are creeping into civilian practice. The militarisation of civilian management is also continued in what executives are reading with General McChrystal becoming the latest military author to join the likes of Sun Tzu as obligatory C-suite reading material. A key driver for organisational change is not only the fact that software can now conduct significantly more complicated analysis, but also that technology permits transfer of that information to any one of 7 billion mobile devices worldwide, which account for 40% of all internet traffic. Deloitte suggested in 2015 that of over one billion emails exchanged every day, as few as one in seven emails are actually critical; and that it took over a quarter of the workday to sift the wheat from the chaff, issues which have prompted the CEO of Google developing Nine Rules for Email, which aim to minimise nugatory emails. The ‘always on’ culture facilitated by mobile technology needs clear rules by which the technology facilitates both productivity and well-being within the workplace. Living within this interconnected ‘internet of things’, the resulting ‘overwhelmed employee’ remains a concern with a significant number of companies, such as General Electric who have accepted that they need to do “less better” rather than “more with less” – now there is a lesson that the military definitely needs to learn!
The area of performance management is one such area that has been the focus of simplification. Deloitte in 2015 found that just 10% of respondents believed that it is good use of time and 89% stating that they will change their processes. The likes of Adobe, Expedia, Motorola and Microsoft are but a few of the companies who have allegedly moved away from a lengthy annual appraisal, with an extreme being the CEO of kayak.com who is reported to just use 5 words over a brew in a coffee shop! However, the myth that the ‘appraisal is dead’ is false – what has changed is that their processes have been simplified and spread throughout the year instead of a resource intensive burst once a year.
Within the British Army’s Human Resource Management, it is all too easy to maintain the status quo and not challenge whether our processes can be improved and simplified. While a ‘Continuous Improvement’ or kaizen approach has been adopted in the Army Personnel Centre for our processes, we must accept that there is always room for improvement. Additionally, we should not be afraid to go back to a blank sheet of paper, identify the purposes of an activity and confirm that our procedures are fulfilling the requirements. Last year’s Armed Forces Continuous Attitude Survey (AFCAS), noted that only 45% of all Service People were satisfied with the fairness of the appraisal system. Could the appraisal process be used more for personal development, rather than just its current administrative use for promotion and posting? Technology and ‘big data analytics’ could facilitate the incorporation of psychometrics and tools such as 360 degree reporting in a more interactive and personally developing report.
What is also clear is that no one solution will fit all organisations and careful analysis of each organisation and its strategies is required to provide a bespoke solution for the employee as much as the employer. The Chartered Institute for Professional Development’s Research Report ‘Could do better? Assessing what works in performance management’, published just before Christmas, provides an excellent and comprehensive overview of the topics of performance appraisal and goal setting. It seeks to cut through the hearsay on trends in performance management and instead make grounded decisions on what will most likely be effective in improving performance. The best practice identified in the report provides much food for thought for every HR professional.
- Deloitte 2016, p21.
- Ibid, p 102.
- Deloitte 2015, p 89.
- Ibid, p 53.