By David Lincourt, Solution Expert, Global Defense & Security Industry Business Unit, SAP
As we watched coronavirus sweep across the world, one industry has been particularly challenged in keeping morale high: Defense.
Defense organizations are relied upon to be able to help at a moment’s notice, and this was especially true at the height of the pandemic in many countries. Fulfilling military and civilian duties requires strong communication to understand changing needs within the defense workforce.
The Evolving Defense Workforce
At the height of the crisis, the defense industry, like all civilians, was dealing with the stress of the potential health risk for themselves and their family members and a fluctuating economy—on top of their existing and brand new responsibilities due to crisis relief in a time of shelter in place.
The impact on duties for defense personnel has varied. Some employees still need to go into the office or base, because their work with the military or civilians is essential. Others who typically work in offices have had to work from home. And yet others have had their official duties put on pause, but still are required to be ready in case they are called on to help with emergency relief efforts or are deployed to provide assistance, as requested by local authorities.
Having these three groups spread out across offices, bases and homes puts an even larger focus on how personnel communicate their needs and issues up to leaders. And leadership’s ability to understand and correct dips in morale is central to the effective deployment of military personnel when society needs them most.
Defense is an industry in which communication is key to keeping the organization well-oiled and ready for anything. Although chain of command is well-established in these organizations, COVID-19 has eliminated the typical face to face conversations that typically keep everyone aligned.
Strong defense leaders understand that getting the pulse of their personnel and changing their strategies as needs evolve requires consistent feedback. Defense leaders have started to use innovative methods to gauge morale and the needs of their teams.
The Role of Morale in Uncertain Times
COVID-19 has intensified the considerations that defense organizations need to take into account. Staff must stay healthy and fit, ready to aid local government response to the pandemic and handle ongoing defense commitments (domestically and internationally) that are crucial for everyday safety.
This large workload requires militaries to be agile and reprioritize at a moment’s notice. These varying priorities are taxing on resources as well as morale. However, in such uncertain times, morale is exactly what the military needs to ensure troops have optimal levels of mental and physical fortitude to balance and accomplish competing priorities.
Defense personnel need to always be ready for a new challenge, whether that’s because relief efforts are needed for civilians or because a threat to national security has emerged. But many branches are operating with less staff, so this has led to increased focus to assure all personnel understand their new duties (such as distributing personal protection equipment for civilian and military use) and can carry them out safely.
Defense Must Be Able to Spring to Action
The road to a new sense of normal will be a long one and defense organizations are currently spearheading the communication principles that could be helpful across other industries.
At the point when defense personnel can return to their offices and bases, ongoing communication will be necessary. Offices will have to put physical distancing guidelines or staggered scheduling in place in order to keep their staff safe.
Continuing the conversation to understand the impact this has on staff and their ability to effectively carry out their duties helps inform the future of defense workplaces. It also keeps a finger on the pulse of staff to surface morale issues faster and implement fixes before they impact missions.
Why is this communication so key?
Well, at the core of any defense organization is people. People who need to understand changing priorities, especially in a time in which situations change rapidly. Being able to spring to action is a skill that defense personnel excel at in normal circumstances, but due to the pandemic, an even higher degree of flexibility is required.
Communicating all of this clearly keeps morale high in the defense sector, making it possible to ensure safety and health among civilians.
The Role of Tech in Modern Defense
Consistent communication at scale enables business continuity for the defense workforce. With the COVID-19 situation and guidelines changing rapidly, the importance of speed cannot be underestimated.
Workplace surveys provide qualitative and quantitative data needed to keep staff engaged. This communication is two-way: defense leaders need to be able to communicate new orders, but they also must be able to get feedback from their personnel quickly and then act on it.
Defense leaders that are already surveying their staff are ahead of the curve and will be able to adjust accordingly as circumstances evolve—effectively keeping morale as high as possible.
Nations rely on a strong military and military units rely on strong morale to be able to meet any and all needs of the country they serve.
As we get ready to open offices and restart projects that have been put on hold, consistent communication enables defense leadership to understand what their staff needs to keep morale high in the transition to a new normal.
Learn how to close the gap in experience management for defense organizations here.