Up to the Challenge: DASA to innovate approach to people in defence

The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) is to hold a Market Interest day today (7 February 2018) to help shape the upcoming Defence People Challenge.

In September 2016 the Defence Secretary launched the Defence Innovation Initiative, which acknowledged the need for a new approach to innovation in order to maintain the UK’s military advantage and recognised that the private sector drives the rapid pace of technological, social and cultural change.

One of the priorities for innovation in defence is how to recruit, train, retain and motivate the right number of people and make the most efficient and effective use of its workforce, providing the skills required to adapt to a rapidly changing environment.

In response to this, DASA has launched The Defence People Challenge in an effort to seek innovative ideas from industry and academia and present them to users across both the defence and security services.

The Market Interest Day represents a first for DASA as the event provides a platform to share its internal thinking around the challenge areas with the wider external community of industry and academia to help refine and hone the themes ready for the launch event on the 27th March.

The Challenge represents a different proposition for DASA as it shifts its attention from innovative technology to people.

Mark Darvill, an Innovation Partner at DASA, explains: “Most of the challenges that we get involved in are very focused in technology areas. This one is aimed at the people space. So whilst it will still attract some HR technology, it’s all about looking at the challenges defence faces in the people space.”

The Challenge will see up to £6 million of funding committed from the Defence Innovation Fund – the £800m fund set up after the Defence Innovation Initiative – and is sponsored by the Chief of Defence People (CDP).

Mark says the CDP are the driving force behind the challenge and set the strategy for developing a case for motivated military civilian workforce: “Their aim really is to look strategically at how we recruit, retain and motivate our workforce.

“CDP has a great desire to bring in some fresh thinking. When you look outside in the enterprise community, the way that companies recruit, interact and motivate their staff has obviously changed quite a lot and changed at quite some pace. New technology-based solutions allow their employees to connect with the company and the teams they work in and CDP wants to bring some of that thinking into defence.

“Defence is obviously a very different environment to work in but some of that thinking having looked at it in some depth now, we think can be brought in to great advantage.”

The four main challenge areas are recruitment; motivation, retention; and skills.

The push for innovation within the defence industry means that the Challenge will look for solutions to help recruit the right mix of capable and motivated people.

Mark explains: “As time moves on, some of the other areas that we get involved with such as artificial intelligence or autonomous vehicles actually require different talents, different types of people to be recruited within the defence forces alongside the normal people they need to reach out to.

“So it’s all about how do you actually reach out to people who may not have left school yet? How do you reach out to them given that they have a very different view and outlook on life and different social environment as well?”

The second aspect to the Challenge is motivating people and will look to increase people’s engagement in preparing them to actively lead and contribute to defence’s goals.

The third area is retention with solutions sought to help retain skills and experience of people longer within the forces.

The fourth challenge area sees DASA looking for solutions that will help secure access to knowledge, skills, experience and other attributes that are needed to meet the increasing demands of the defence workforce.

“It’s all about looking at things like reducing costs of developing new skills; how do we develop them – do we send to classrooms or can we do it in online environment and really looking at how we can reduce the time and resources required to develop high level skill areas,” says Mark.

The fact the Challenge represents the biggest investment in innovation in people in defence since the 1960s is a reflection of the importance placed on modernising people management in the defence industry.

The two-phased competition will be run over two years with the launch event to be held on Tuesday 27 March 2018 in London.

image © CrownCopyright 2018

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