30 January 2013
A report released by the Auditor General into the Defence Force’s ‘Civilianisation Project’ repeats the messages the Defence leaders have already taken on board from its own people, says the Chief of Defence Force.
The 2010 Defence White Paper identified "civilianisation" – filling the non-deploying military roles with civilians - as a way of saving money. The NZ Defence Force embarked on the civilianisation of 1400 positions, but changed its approach at the end of the first phase because of the impacts on morale and attrition. In total, some 303 military staff were discharged – 87 of whom were successful in being appointed to civilian jobs, while the 218 remaining were discharged with redundancy payments.
Today the Office of the Auditor General released a report critical of the civilianisation programme, especially the impact proceeding quickly with the project had on Defence Force personnel.
Lieutenant General (LTGEN) Rhys Jones says the New Zealand Defence Force worked closely with the Office of the Auditor General, and the findings of their report come as no surprise.
"The observations and conclusions made by the Auditor General mirror in large part what our own people had been telling us. When combined with some of the conditions of service changes being considered at the same time, many within the Defence Force felt that we had broken a social contract with them.
"This was the reason we altered the civilianisation programme, signalling that future change would be more gradual and largely through attrition rather than making people redundant. To date the Defence Force’s reforms have delivered nearly $160 million, which has been a massive undertaking. Civilianisation through attrition has continued, and we believe the financial targets we set ourselves when we started, will be met."
LTGEN Jones says it is not a question of whether the Defence Force should have begun the civilianisation because this was a part of the new defence policy to emerge from the Defence White Paper, but how the project was delivered by the Defence Force.
"We believe that the civilianisation process had a detrimental affect on our peoples’ perception of our organisational culture. This came through in higher rates of attrition, and lower morale. However, the reality of militaries throughout the world, such as the United Kingdom and the United States, is that down-sizing is a fact of life. Our Defence Force hadn’t had to deal with that for a while, so it came as a shock.
"We have set about trying to rebuild our people’s trust and confidence. The remuneration boost in 2012 was a significant part of that."
Rebuilding in key ranks and trades is ongoing, and is being achieved through recruiting strategies, as well as organisational changes seeking to lower attrition including: reducing uncertainty, providing a sense of stability, and a clear vision of the future, says LTGEN Jones.
"I am pleased to note that our latest internal staff survey results (OAtS) reveal that morale has improved for the third continuous quarter. It is yet to rebuild to levels of pre-civilianisation, we are nonetheless heading in the right direction.
"Similarly, our people’s signalled intention to leave has reduced for the third continuous quarter – and is near pre-civilianisation levels; and reported levels of ‘staff engagement’ are also up," he says.
For further information please contact the Defence Communications Group on 021 487 980