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HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

AN INDIAN ARMED FORCES PERSPECTIVE

CURRENT HRM ISSUES IN THE DEFENCE FORCES

Introduction

1. Business organizations the world over are increasingly recognizing the potential
of their human resources. Strategic human resource management emerged out of the
parent discipline of human resource management with the aim of optimising
organisation objectives. It emphasises the strategic importance of formulating HR
objectives, strategies, and policies with a view to developing the skills and abilities for
the achievement of competitive advantage.

2. The rich organisational culture of the Indian Defence Forces has evolved from
the generative process of life and organisational learning over a long period. The
Defence Services are the fountainhead of proven leadership and management tenets,
all refined continuously by seamless, institutionalised individual, collective and
organisational learning. The Defence services have the tradition of their officers
constantly `learning to lead' and `leading to learn' with practically no margin for error,
thus ensuring that the learning objectives keep getting integrated into the organisational
culture.

3. Since time immemorial, Defence is believed to be purely a command-and-control


structure. Times have changed though and we have modern armies with state-of-the-art
weaponry. The hi-tech war waged by the US in the liberation of Kuwait from the
clutches of Iraq, which was brought live to the drawing rooms of millions, amply
demonstrated the learning involved in transforming an ordinary citizen into a tech-savvy,
discerning professional and retaining him at that cutting edge performance. Steeped in
hierarchical organizational structures, synonymous with commands, orders, discipline,
do-or-die situations and the much-maligned court-martials, how could a command-and-
control organization like an army, ever qualify to be a learning organization? It is often

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said that, `army is not a job, it is a way of life' and that `soldiers keep learning to live and
fight another day'. What is the quantum of learning required to make it a way of life? Is
the generative process of life and organizational learning peculiar to business
organizations alone? Is it not the army, which is a fountainhead of proven leadership
and management tenets that transformed ordinary, semi-literate persons into efficient
soldiers who reach the ultimate point of self-actualization that does not deter them from
making even the supreme sacrifice for their country?

4. Today, the very nature of Human Resource Management has changed. There
are new trends and new issues too in Human Resource Management and this need to
be looked at to arrive at the best HR doctrines in one of the biggest Human Resource
factories in the world – the Defence Forces.

Challenges in Modern Human Resource Management

5. It is a battle where we realize that the balance comes from a lot of sharing of
common chore, of sharing responsibilities and of sharing understanding most of all.
The time demands implementing rigid flexibility. Some challenges and issues as being
faced by the HR Managers in the Defence Forces today are:

(a) Large Workforce Managing a workforce ranging into a few millions is


not easy from any standards.

(b) Changed Expectations Employees demand empowerment and expect


equality with the mangement. Previous notions about managerial authority are
giving way to employee influence & involvement along with mechanisms for
upward communication and due process. There is need to redraw the profile of
the worker and discover new methods of training, hiring, remunerating and
motivating employees.

(c) Balancing Work-life Balancing work & life assumes relevance when
both husband and wife are employed. Travails of a working housewife are more
than a working husband, thus balancing it is becoming a major challenge for HR
manager.

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(d) Managing Diversity This issue has been of paramount importance


since the very inception of the Armed forces. The Services employ men and
women from different social, educational and economic backgrounds, speaking
different languages, following different cultures and traditions, celebrating
different festivals and sporting different beliefs. Managing this kind of diversity is
one of the biggest challenge in Human Resource Management in the Defence
Forces.

(e) Communication Focusing on establishing effective communication


throughout the organization and to ensure that uniformed men have the skills and
avenues to share information and coordinate activities effectively.

6. Job satisfaction Job Satisfaction describes how content an individual is with


his or her job. The happier people are within their job, the more satisfied they are said to
be. Job satisfaction is not the same as motivation, although it is clearly linked. Job
design aims to enhance job satisfaction and performance; methods include job rotation,
job enlargement and job enrichment. Other influences on satisfaction include the
management style and culture, employee involvement, empowerment and autonomous
work groups. Job satisfaction is a very important attribute which is frequently measured
by organisations. Factors that are decisive, to a great extent, in ensuring high Job
satisfaction and thus better Human Resource Management in the Services are:

a) The work itself—responsibility, interest, and growth.


b) Quality of supervision—technical help and social support.
c) Relationships with co-workers—social harmony and respect.
d) Promotion opportunities—chances for further advancement.
e) Pay—adequacy of pay and perceived equity vis-à-vis others.

7. Seven social learning processes and strategies were identified that relate to
better and more efficient Human Resource Management. These are:

a) Conditions of Service
b) Recognition & Reward
c) Organizational Loyalty to Workers
d) Workplace Design

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e) Job Significance
f) Performance Management
g) Loyalty to the Organisation

Image of the Armed Forces

8. The image of the Armed Forces has a lot to do with the Human Resource
Management practices. Misemployment erodes the morale, efficiency, integrity, loyalty,
sense of duty, honour code, discipline and finally fighting capability of the involved
Human factor. Uninterrupted misuse of Forces crumbles the edifice; corruption and
greed germinate, gnawing at the vitals of the only organisation that permits society to
pursue their faith and occupation in safety. Commentators in India write and speak
about degeneration of values in our Armed Forces without solutions. Some write without
substantiation, others because of personal grouse, and few regrettably, with
cussedness and venom.

9. What indicates a Poor Image? Is it that young men do not join? Civilians have
little regard for ‗faujis‘? Politicians & bureaucrats disrespect officers? Industry does not
willingly employ retired servicemen? Latest weapons are denied? Basic amenities are
lacking? Lowered selection standards? Views differ based on one‘s mind-set. Many
proclaim that the image was better, ―in their time‖. To begin with, how come, sons of
those who denigrate the fauj, are in Kansas, Kanpur, Kent or Kolkata, instead of Kargil?
What prevents sons of officers from joining their father‘s service? Studies say that 10%
officers send their sons back into the Services, because the ‗fathers‘ believe, civilian
options are safer, more lucrative, free, permit speedy upward mobility and so on. They
besmirch present cadres as corrupt, cowardly, sycophants, and not of the ‗same stuff‘,
so cannot permit their beloved male heirs, to mix with such insufferable personalities.
One would imagine that these ―fathers‘‖ would abhor interacting with today‘s officers.
But the ‗fathers‘ attend every military function and accept food and drink from the very
people they consider intellectually and morally corrupt. These ‗fathers‘ integrity stands
exposed. When faujis write belittling stories about the Armed Forces, the media gives
unwarranted publicity, and the writer basks in a false glory of having done it right.

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10. Last Choice Where are the Good Guys? One lament is that boys join the Forces
when unable to get in elsewhere. Indeed many who come to the fauj after rejection by
the IAS, IFS, Infosys, L&T, Mahindras, Microsoft and so on, yet there are many who
choose the fauj as the first choice. What is the incongruity? Must every one volunteer
first for the Forces and then drift to engineering, business, accountancy, medicine, civil
services, because the Selection Board rejected them? From the 50s to 70s, higher
education and corporate options were few. Today, they flourish with enhanced financial
capabilities in India and abroad. How can we complain that young men are choosing the
Forces as a last choice? When the options were 10, many selected the ‗fauj‘. With
options proliferating the ‗fauj‘ becomes one of the hundred. Does this mean that lucre
has defeated patriotism? Does it mean that today‘s youngsters are disloyal? Does it
mean that the image of the Forces is falling? It is a question of arithmetic, more the
avenues, greater the dispersion. The irony is that bureaucrats, business managers,
policemen, scientists, all complain that quality youngsters are not joining. Then where
are the ―good guys‖? Are there no good guys?

Motivation

11. "This world rests on the arms of heroes like a son on those of his sire. He,
therefore, that is a hero deserves respect under every circumstance. There is nothing
higher in the three worlds than heroism. The hero protects and cherishes all, and things
depend upon the hero." This is what Indian Armed Forces is all about. Supreme
Heroism and Unconditional Love for India define our Armed Forces. Our soldiers are
meant to be gallant, fierce and ever-ready to sacrifice their lives to protect our Mother
India. The question that arises is, don‘t they ever fail? Don‘t our soldiers ever get tired?
What about their anger, frustrations and desires? The important thing to remember here
is that soldiers might be martyrs but are still Human Beings who have emotions. A
soldier gives the country a ray of hope, but what should be done when a soldier looses
hope?

12. ―The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear
the deepest wounds and scars of war.‖ Hence there arises a need to motivate them.
Motivation is the biggest challenge in Human Resource Management of the multi
linguistics, multi faith, multi conviction, multi colored, multi economical and multi cultural
Human force.

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13. Gallantry Gallantry has always commanded respect and recognition. In


primitive societies the leadership of the clan or tribe fell upon the bravest. The origin of
the state saw the brave elevated to kingship. Indra, the most distinguished of the brave
among the Indo-Aryans, became the King and the Commander. Medals, Decorations
and Honours for the acts of gallantry are a sure way of motivating men to be valiant and
heroic, to perform their duties in the most testing of the situations.

14. Today‘s knowledge-based youth seeks not just superior salaries, but the freedom
to retain mobility in the career market. Its marriage dynamic demands an environment
for husband–wife working opportunities. Defence as an institution does not treat the
women officers at par with their male counterparts. Notwithstanding the validity of the
reasons for this differential treatment, it enhances the unattractiveness of a military
career for working couples. Constant relocation for the officers also ensures that the
spouses cannot afford to pursue successful civil careers, while balancing it with a
healthy family life. It also seeks a corporate culture which values people and does not
treat them as disposable inventory or cannon fodder. The challenge of the military is not
of marketing with high pay scales, nor in selling adventure and excitement like tourism
ads. The challenge lies in restructuring, to attract young officers to fill the 11,000
vacancies. This is best done by expanding the infrastructure to train officers for short
service, and paying a truly rewarding retirement package after five years of service. This
must include not only a monetary but an additional educational package, in the form of
assured entry into management, medical or technical colleges for a second career. The
highest entry standards should be retained for permanent service officers who will hold
higher ranks.

15. The shortage of officers in the Indian Armed Forces has been there for over three
decades. To blame it on the poor compensation vis-a-vis the corporate world, is only
obfuscating the real issues– internal problems besetting the Army that make it
unattractive. There are larger social factors at play with the opening of the economy.
The private sector, with its humongous compensation packages, is facing a similar
talent crunch as well. The government needs to look at social remedies — of education
and training — to redress these anomalies. It cannot be achieved by throwing a few
more crumbs at the soldiers.

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16. Motivation of our men warrants taking care of their:

(a) Physiological needs

(b) Social needs

(c) Spiritual needs

To meet these needs certain steps can be taken, like:

(a) Awards, Felicitations, Recognition and Fame should be given to the deserving

(b) Efficient training should be provided

(c) Good quality tools and weapons should be used

(d) Proper care and protection for families should be provided

(e) Facilities like housing and medical needs should be taken care of

(f) Regular stress breaks should be given to our soldiers

(g) Renowned speakers should be invited to give motivational speeches

(h) Entertainment of our men

(j) Programmes should be held to increase team spirit

(k) Everyone should have a proper incentive and goal to work towards

17. More and more youngsters should be encouraged to join the Indian Armed
Forces to fill up the threatening vacancies. They should be explained the feeling of
patriotism and how important the security of the country is. Increasing job satisfaction is
one way to make a career in the forces an attractive option. However, as the shortage
of officers is in the junior ranks, other steps are required to attract youngsters to fill this
gap. To begin with, short- service commissions should be made more attractive. Among
possible measures is to sponsor seats in top colleges — for MBA, engineering, media
studies, perhaps even medical colleges — and offer them to former service members.
This could be viewed as a reward to those who serve. Another approach could be to tie

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up with private sector enterprises, and find ethical ways to encourage those who do, to
accommodate suitable former military personnel.

18. Officer disgruntlement and indirectly shortage also feeds off the stifling
organisational culture of the military whose ethos, to a large extent, curbs initiative and
discourages self-criticism. The Indian Armed Forces‘ institutional culture is traditionally
risk averse, top-down and discourages initiative in junior ranks. This ‗passing the buck‘
culture is harmful to the development of junior officers and has completely destroyed
any independent, leadership roles for PBORs. This problem is compounded by the
manner in which self-critical analysis is sacrificed for the sake of career advancement.
Changing this organisational DNA is undoubtedly a long drawn out process but it
requires urgent attention from the current generation of senior officers, if they wish to
attract idealistic and enterprising youth.

19. Public Private Partnerships While the soldier expects hardships in


operational areas, in peace stations he rarely lives the life advertised in slick media
campaigns. The quality and availability of accommodation for both officers and men in
army cantonment towns are abysmal, with sub-standard construction, poor furniture and
other faults. Similarly, the quality of rations, electricity and water supply and elements of
‗modernity‘, like Internet accessibility, are either sub-par or non-existent. Senior officers,
with a few exceptions, are rarely affected, as they live walled-off in their palatial
bungalows with their numerous sahayaks. Compounding the problem is the near
monopoly that the Military Engineering Services has on this sector, which, as
economists will point out, usually leads to inefficiency and a lack of responsiveness to
the customer. One solution, then, suggests exploring public-private partnerships to
deliver the ‗goods‘ to military personnel.

20. Hierarchy and Pyramid Understandably, the hierarchical and pyramid


structure of promotions within the military lends itself to having the largest number of
superceded officers amongst all UPSC commissioned officers, with a corresponding
loss of motivation and morale. But the problem is further compounded by an archaic
system of career planning, placement and human resources development within the
services, especially the army. Instead of encouraging officers to follow their interests,
thus enriching human capital and creating opportunities, the services follow a rigid and
old-fashioned approach to career planning resulting in disgruntled officers who, in turn,
discourage others from joining. To reduce officer attrition and increase job satisfaction

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the services need to think up of imaginative solutions. It should create parallel job
streams for personnel to shift towards cyber, nano and space technologies (the frontiers
of future warfare), develop a cadre of trained area specialists to take advantage of the
country‘s growing global aspirations, enhance intellectual capital by encouraging
historical research (if the records are ever de-classified), strategic and doctrinal studies
and other academic fields. Measures like these can also encourage officers to make a
smooth transition to a second career.

21. The above mentioned issues, if answered satisfactorily, would go a long way to
ensure higher work satisfaction and greater pride for the men in uniform and would also
do a great deal in attracting the gen-Y to the profession of arms. If unanswered, the
same issues would slowly but surely stifle the Human factor of the armed forces and
leave a lot of us regretting and contemplating as to ‗what could have been?‘

―I am a soldier. I fight where I am told to and I win when I fight‖

This should be the chant on every Indian Soldier‘s mind.

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