Indian Army -an unattractive career for the youth?
This was a HRM case analysis assignment and I got 15/15 marks :-p
Indian Army -an unattractive career for the youth?
There is no shortage of patriotism in our country but why is it that there’s such a shortage of officers in the armed forces? The Indian army has launched a massive awareness drive to get young people in the armed forces. Despite glossy advertisement campaigns like ‘Be an Army man: Be a winner for life’, the armed forces continue to face a serious shortage of officers.
1. Major and Minor problems in the case
- The Indian Army is grappling with an acute shortage of officers. Despite the recession, it has been unable to attract more talent and contain their outflow. The army’s sanctioned strength is 46,615 officers, but it has been facing a shortage of 11,238.In 2008, the army was able to take in 1,500 officers – but over 1,800 left the force. The army now faces a shortage of 11,238 officers.
- India’s army, the world’s fourth largest, is failing to attract enough youngsters with “officer-like qualities” for its 1.13-million strong Army. The authorized strength of Indian Air Force is 12,136, whereas the Indian Navy has an authorized strength of 8,797 officers. Indian Army is facing a massive exodus from its ranks, with more and more officers opting for premature retirement. The problem was aggravated when about 3,000 officers sought premature retirement in the last three years. Most of them moved to the lucrative corporate sector. Inability to retain the trained personnel is a major issue.
- Today’s knowledge-based youth seeks not just superior salaries, but the freedom to retain mobility in the career market.
- Poor service conditions and the other compensatory packages too make career in Army an unattractive one.
2. Assumptions Made
- The service conditions, promotion prospects, job satisfaction and post-retirement provisions for Indian military officers have deteriorated in relation to other forms of available and comparable employment.
- Merely raising military pay will address the issue of officer shortages
- Life in the forces enables a person to face any challenges in life boldly.
- Makes a person disciplined, law-abiding citizen.
- Army has severe promotional bottlenecks
- In contrast to the existing system in army, today’s marriage dynamic demands an environment for husband–wife working opportunities.
- Today’s youth seeks a corporate culture which values people
3.Basic causes for the problem
- Frequent transfers
- Isolation from family
- High levels of stress
- Low pay in comparison to the risk involved
- Slow promotions
- Military’s tough lifestyle
- Post-marriage, life in the forces are not comfortable.
- Family accommodation is inadequate.
- Level of corruption too high but it remains difficult to expose.
- Despite the existing harmony, there exist divisions based on religion, language and geographical locations.
- Only very few would opt for life time career in armed forces as frustration crops up due to lack of transparency in promotions.
- One can be successful only with Pleasing the Boss attitude.
- Limited choices only are available to plan children’s education and their career.
- Rough life in forward areas
A strong, professionally led military controlled by capable leaders having impeccable credentials, strength of character and integrity is vital to the national interest.
- Now, the army is hoping the financial crisis and the Sixth Pay Commission — which has increased their salaries — will help bring in many more to the armed forces that is facing a shortage of middle-rung officers in particular. Even though the salaries of armed forces have substantially increased after the 6th Pay Commission, the youngsters still find them less compared to the private sector. This consideration is put forth especially if one takes into the account of the life of a soldier which is tough and risky.
- Several steps have been undertaken by the three services to fill up the vacant posts. They include seminars, presentations, campus interactions, recruitment drives and sustained publicity efforts.
- In addition, the commitment and bravery of the armed forces is consistently projected through the electronic and print media.
- Aimed at fostering the spirit of adventure and attracting the youth towards the defence forces, Indian Army launched a paragliding, cycling and sailing expedition from Chennai .
- The approval of the Union Government to open a second Officers’ Training Academy (OTA) at Gaya in Bihar marks a major step to solve the problem of shortage of officers in the country.
Answer to specific questions
Of the four main criteria for selection to the officer cadre –– education, aptitude, medical & physical condition and moral character –for selection to the Indian Amy Officer, which criteria does the Indian Youth lack?
The army has four main criteria for selection to the officer cadre –– education, aptitude, medical & physical condition and moral character (read no criminal record). Aptitude and leadership traits are judged through proven psychological tests, where not many make the grade. A good engineer or manager does not necessarily make a good officer. Neither Indian Institutes of Management, engineering and medical colleges, nor multinational apply such filters. Majority of the applicants fails in this level of criteria-aptitude. This issue mainly arises due to lack of proper orientation being provided to youth, at lower classes.
Do you think the lack of marketing and innovative efforts are the real problems in attracting the Indian Youth to Army?
Marketing is an irrelevant metaphor to explain the military’s challenge in attracting talent, since even market-based organizations do no better. A McKinsey & Co led report, ‘War for Talent’ published in 2007, confirms the best MNCs are facing challenges in attracting and retaining top-quality talent, despite savvy marketing strategies. The fact that the Indian Army has a shortage of over 11,000 officers, which is a little under a quarter of its sanctioned strength, is a stark and irrefutable indicator that the Indian state is unable to attract the kind of talent required to ensure the HR profile that the Army needs. There is a marketing problem by way of being (un)able to convincingly persuade the qualified Indian youth to don uniform, at a time when there are many more attractive job opportunities (which is a familiar socio-economic and HR pattern with economies in transition) but the responsibility is less with the Army and more with the government of India. Marketing alone won’t solve the problem. But as any marketing professional will concede, a product can be packaged and advertised through skilful and innovative marketing only up to a point. If the product is inherently inadequate, mere marketing acumen will not suffice.
Do you think the service conditions and the other compensatory packages for army officers are relatively not comparable to officers in MNCs and Private sectors.?
Even though the salaries of armed forces have substantially increased after the 6th Pay Commission, the youngsters still find them less compared to the private sector. This consideration is put forth especially is one takes into the account of the life of a soldier which is tough and risky. Steady economic growth over the last two decades and the emergence of globally competitive IT, financial and manufacturing industries has increased the opportunity costs of joining the Armed Forces. Furthermore, productivity growth in these sectors is increasing wages: A young Indian will have to give up even more to join the Armed Forces, which offer relatively lower take-home salaries. It is tempting to believe that merely raising military pay will address the issue of officer “shortages”. To do so would be to ignore the fundamental changes to the relative abundance of capital and labor in India’s growing economy.
Coming to insurance, no insurance company in the country insures a soldier for war risk. Hence when a soldier dies on duty, insurance companies do not pay at all. The Army has Army Insurance Group Fund (AIGF) where premiums are very high as the group risk is very high. The officer pays a good part of his salary for covering this risk at high premium.
The Indian army, portrays the issues of recruitment and retention as a recent problem unique to this country, while it is a worldwide phenomenon. The shortage of officers in the Indian army has been there for over three decades. To blame it on the poor compensation in relation to 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.
Question 4 :
Suggest some innovative strategies to improve talent scouting for army
- Today, there is no freedom of mobility in the job market for an army officer. The exit policies are archaic and the officers are akin more to a bonded labour, than a government functionary. The bogey of national security has allowed the military to get away with blatantly illegal and unethical exit policies for its soldiers for a long time. The long-term damage of an exit- barrier ending up as an entry-barrier has not even been considered by the military.
- The armed forces need to view their splendidly trained officers as national assets rather than bonded labour. It needs to be understood that once a young man weighing various job options knows that he is free to leave the army whenever he wants to, he might well be attracted to getting trained and groomed as a leader in a military institution, if only in the realistic hope that it might enable him to get a better job in the market than he would get after doing simple graduation/post graduation from a university elsewhere. If he chooses to leave after training, the Army should be happy that it has created a quality national asset who will prove his worth somewhere else. That limited, insulated mentality has to be shed to internalize and accept this thought. Though some might leave immediately after training, many will choose to serve as officers for varying lengths of time
- Presently, cadets passing out from the NDA get a graduation degree. They have to undergo further training in the training institutes of respective services before they become officers, but their academic qualification remains graduation. This additional training period plus an additional year or so of distance education after commissioning should enable all officers to get a post graduate degree in some disciplines. This will not only help increase their self esteem but also equip them to get better jobs and even pursue further studies should they choose to at any time.
- The SSC acts as the support cadre to the regular cadre, which is twice its strength. A new proposal seeks to reverse the proportion. According to an internal report the shortfall of 11,000 army officers would be bridged in 20 years. The proposal is to take two short service officers for every permanently commissioned officer. This will help make up the shortfall in due course without affecting the promotion aspects caused by the pyramidal structure of the army. The army has sought to make SSC more lucrative by increasing the number of serving years from five to 10. Another proposal is to give them a two-year study leave at the end of their service to help them find a better second career option.
- Another probable reason for the Armed Forces not getting the right type of youth for their officer cadre is that youth from rural background and less developed states like UP and Bihar are not able to qualify in the selection process it being very scientific and tough. Instead of waiting for end product in these areas, the Armed Forces may identify the potential candidates when the students are in Eighth standard through the medium of National Cadet Corps and then groom them to come up to the right standards. These young minds should be taken to various remote areas where Army is deployed on adventure trips and made to see for themselves how the love for the country and adventure makes the adrenaline flow faster in the blood stream. Here, NCC can play a stellar role.
- Remove stagnation at the middle level and thus improve promotion opportunities of the officers, close to that of civil and police services; After entering the army, an entry level officer must wait up to 10 years before donning the flashes of a lieutenant-colonel. Improve opportunities for officers and men to be able to spend more time with their families; re-establish social status and warrant of precedence of the armed force officers at the centre and state levels; compensate adequately the increased level of personal risk and hardships in the field areas; bridge salary and compensation gap between the private sector and government services, to the extent possible.
- The Armed Forces will have to emulate the big IT companies and set up their own training academies—take the relatively rougher diamonds and polish them in-house. In other words, instead of trying to look for people with “officer-like qualities”, the Armed Forces will need to create them.
The contours of the problem and the need for a holistic redressal have to be acknowledged in the first instance. This is imperative and must merit the attention of the Defense Minister and his cabinet colleagues. Pro-active, creative thinking is somehow not encouraged/ possible in the rigid, hierarchical and bureaucratic structures that are found in most departments of the government, including the military. Other nations when faced with a similar predicament had appointed a dedicated Armed Forces Commission drawn from the most eminent persons outside the government to make appropriate recommendations. That time has come. There are many eminent persons in Indian civil society whose talent and expertise can be tapped for this purpose. The task ahead is to recognize the nature of the problem and improve the product sincerely–not just address the ‘marketing’ alone.
More on Indian Army : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Army
Images are NOT mine.