The UK Armed Forces
- Recruitment and evaluation;
- Learning and development;
- Equality and diversity; and
Qualityof training and leadership is paramount in any organisation. In the British Army, RAF and Royal Navy, it can be a matter of life or death.
When your staff sign a contract agreeing to give their life for the greater good, it imbues a duty of care and an awesome sense of loyalty into the employer-employee relationship.
But the Forces are not without their more prosaic problems: in 2007, it was reported that up to half the Army’s annual intake (6-8000) had literacy and numeracy skills at or below levels expected of 11-year-olds.
Judges praised the HR functions’ ability to create systems and programmes that turn recruits into highly skilled and professional members of a disciplined team despite such difficulties.
King’s College’s David Guest says there has been a constant focus on training and development in the UK military, particularly since the 1950s, that has enabled it to get new recruits up to speed at the double: “They were always pioneers and brought in the best experts on leadership training. Others learned a lot from what went on there.”
The Armed Forces create leadership networks that are crucial in complex conditions, and share their findings with civilians. But it is their recent efforts in tackling diversity that has been most remarkable.
As recently as 2000, there was a bar on being openly homosexual in the military. “We got to the point where the policy was incompatible with military service and there was a lack of logic and evidence to support it,” Colonel Mark Abraham, head of diversity at the British Army, explained in 2010.
“We knew a lof gay and lesbian people were serving quite successfully, and it was clear that sexual orientation wasn’t an indication of how good a soldier or officer you could be.”
Having rescinded the ban, military leaders have been proactive in supporting gay personel and tackling bullying and have embarked on award-winning recruitment campaigns to promote gender diversity in the ranks.
It’s the sort of rapid attitudinal shift most organisations would kill for (although it does help being able to compel people to comply!).
Source: People Management. The 20 Best Organisations for HR…Ever! People Management. Centenary Special Issue. June 2013. pp.26-39.