Defence follows private sector lead

by 01 May 2007

By Craig Donaldson

One of our front page stories looks at the restructure of the Australian Defence Force’s HR function. The story notes that Defence is poised to launch a massive HR transformation that will split its strategic HR and service delivery functions and align HR more closely with Defence’s strategic priorities and decision making.

This is no small thing for the public sector, and Defence is the biggest ticket item in the Federal Government’s budget. Defence Minister Brendan Nelson has long seen the writing on the wall about the ageing workforce, generational change and skills shortages. Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel have been leaving in droves, while ADF recruiting teams have been missing their recruitment targets for some time.

Similarly, the US Army recognised the same issues that are currently affecting the Australian Defence Force, and took action more than half a dozen years ago. It ditched its old approach to recruitment completely, and came up with an entirely new approach that would appeal to a younger generation. The ‘Army of One’ campaign worked well and bolstered the US Army’s reserve numbers significantly.

Workforce related issues affect all organisations – public, private or otherwise, and private sector companies have taken the lead with impressive results in some areas, but there is no ‘silver bullet’solution to these issues.

What is required is a step back on the part of an organisation’s leadership and a longer-term view to business. Many companies and their C-level executives still take a short-term approach to doing business, and are happy making hay while the sun shines.

But an increasing number are recognising that if their businesses are to become more sustainable, they have to address issues such as workforce planning, talent management and getting (or sometimes beating) their HR function into shape. US and European companies are taking the lead on this, and Australian HR professionals would do well to emulate these first movers.