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How would organisations adapt to conscription?

Although the idea of conscription has made an unwelcome return to the public psyche, HR managers now ought to be considering how they would respond if the unthinkable were to happen.

General Sir Patrick Sanders’ sobering warning that a pre-war generation needs readying for a potential war, with NATO saying this could happen in the next 20 years, will have no doubt have raised many eyebrows while also rolling eyes, but whatever one’s viewpoint is, the warning should be taken seriously by businesses wanting to safeguard their long-term future.

After all, if we were to rewind five years, how many people would have believed claims of a worldwide pandemic shutting the whole country down?

If the Covid pandemic can happen, then the idea of conscription – although taken off the table by Downing Street earlier this week – could be a possibility in the future.

Regardless of what might happen in the future, the concept of conscription provides a necessary reminder to businesses to take a step back from their day-to-day operations and think about how they futureproof their workforce.

The concept of conscription is a useful scenario to use, as unlike with the Covid pandemic, workforces would not be working from home or furloughed, they would disappear from the workplace for an unknown period of time.

This is where the power of data comes in.

Those companies with a firm handle on trends within their workforce – broken down by age, gender and skillsets – are much better equipped to be able to understand how their business might be impacted by a conscription scenario.

If for example, conscription happened and the government wanted to prioritise adults aged between 20 to 35, then that same business would be able to understand very quickly which areas of the business would be impacted the most.

It’s important to state that just because a business has a healthy database of data on their staff, it’s crucial that consideration is given to sourcing extra data where possible – and in consultation with legal experts.

It might be prudent for HR managers with large workforces to engage with staff around their willingness to join the British Army in a voluntary capacity in the event of a future war. This may seem like a “nice-to-have” exercise for some, but having this would enable businesses to analyse the data to understand the volume and type of skillsets that might depart, which would help to inform a resourcing contingency plan.

There are GDPR considerations to review before doing this, so I would advise any HR managers to seek proper legal advice first before taking this approach.

If a business’s resource cannot meet customer demand during a potential conflict, then the external talent pool to recruit from is likely to be the same, so it’s crucial that as many staff as possible are able to – or are open to – being multi-skilled in order to perform various tasks left behind by their departed colleagues. On the flip side, a business may be needed to manufacture different items to help with the war effort, but without the right skillsets, can’t happen.

This is why it is crucial that workforce managers put steps in place now to identify skill shortfalls so they can quickly and easily manage upskilling and training that would help to pivot to a business’s needs if their workforce was ever diminished.

At the heart of all of this is having the right workforce management software that we offer at Crown Workforce Management – such as scheduling tools that can re-deploy multi-skilled workforces, supporting the roll out of training and support, and crucially, having the flexibility to add new data fields that can be analysed.

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