Improving “customer” service for those who serve is a critical conversation in defence organizations. To those who defend their nation, service delivery is more than a transaction. It’s part of a social contract centered on providing personal and professional support to those who choose a life of service in uniform.
Our recent report on public service experience is very relevant to this conversation. It uncovers what people around the world want from public service experiences. They expect three fundamentals: simplicity, humanity, and security. While the report mostly refers to civilian services, these fundamentals are hugely relevant for defence leaders as they think about the experiences that military personnel have as they navigate their careers, and their families navigate the unique aspects of life in the military.
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People, families and communities
Providing services to military personnel is essential to the institution of the armed forces. It’s not optional. And it’s not just about compliance. There’s a direct line from providing for the well-being of people who serve to the well-being of defence institutions themselves. It’s also about ensuring the readiness and resilience of people to endure the demands of military operations.
We’d argue that the military lifestyle is the most unique aspect of the service dynamic. No other profession is like it. Troops have to be ready to deploy at a moment’s notice. They make tremendous personal sacrifices—missing precious moments with family, being away from home in stressful situations for months at a time.
It’s not just the military member who makes sacrifices. Families and communities do too. The typical military family moves every two to three years whilst living with the constant, real possibility that their family member may be injured or worse when called upon to deploy into operations. Spouses may have to change jobs when the family relocates, and children have to adjust to new schools and new friends. Time and time again. This is why the service orientation has to go beyond the individual to the entire family across multiple dimensions.
It’s also why the concepts of simplicity, humanity and security are so relevant. Service experiences touch so many aspects of a life in the military. The more in-tune they are with this life, the better. The simpler experiences are, the more that personnel can focus on the mission. And when service members are miles away from their families, they need (and deserve) the peace of mind of knowing that a security breach isn’t going to cause chaos in their absence.
Continuous professional development and career advancement is another part of the military lifestyle that’s relevant to simple, human and secure service experiences. The military promotes from within. From private to senior non-commissioned, from Officer Cadet to General, everyone has worked their way up to the rank they hold today. In fact, helping service people fulfill their potential is part of the social contract. Training for working toward the next promotion that’s hard to access or complete given the nature of military life jeopardizes this contract.
Serving the serviceperson and the citizen
And don’t forget, service members are citizens too. They need services because they are enlisted, and they need civilian services just like the rest of us do. Service members pay taxes. Their children attend public universities. Their families receive social services.
Defence also mixes public service and uniformed personnel and whilst commendable efforts have been made to better integrate this service experience breaking down the silos is an ongoing challenge.
Models of military service experiences
In recent years, we’ve seen innovative programs designed to transform military service delivery.
Take the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy. The organization created My Navy, an easy-to-use app designed to help sailors manage their own careers—from training needs to administrative requirements. Using an agile development process, the Royal Navy worked with partners to put sailors’ data in their own hands.
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The app is being used by 95% of 35,000 senior service members.
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Now it’s easy for sailors to take control of their path to moving up in the ranks, and it’s become an excellent retention tool for the Royal Navy.
And thanks to the PostingConnect platform, service members in the Australian Defence Force and their families are having simpler and less stressful posting experiences. Available to service people scheduled for a new posting that requires a move, PostingConnect guides the entire family through the process, makes it easier to complete posting tasks digitally in one place through any device and connects them with everything they need for a smooth move.
Getting back to the fundamentals
Service member-first experiences like these are usually the exception across the global military experience. This is why we encourage you to explore our survey to ground yourself in fresh approaches that apply in the defence environment:
- Simplicity. Making it easier for military personnel and their families to get the help they need whether at home or away during deployment. Remember that time spent on red tape and complex processes is time away from the mission.
- Humanity. Strike the right balance between digital and human interactions, serving with empathy for the rigors of the military lifestyle. Remember that younger service members who bring critical skills such as cybersecurity, digital and artificial intelligence, want employers to offer digital services and understand them as people. Delivering on these expectations may also help attract recruits.
- Security. Strengthen security practices to grow confidence in government as a service provider and employer for the people who have pledged to protect national security and the way of life in their country. Service members are in the business of defence, and we can’t let them down here.
Being ready and being well
Every good experience has a ripple effect on service members’ satisfaction, performance, retention—and all-round well-being. Don’t our military members deserve a strong commitment to making all service interactions positive? We certainly think so.
Contact Matt or Marni to discuss more about the unique experience requirements in defence organizations.