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Mar12WedFlexibility in officer moves, succession planning and a voice for local leadership are critical to our future. March 12, 2014 by Commissioner Brian Peddle
This June, Salvationists will notice something different in our territory: fewer officers will change appointments. We have an excellent personnel services team that helps manage officer appointments across the territory. Many would be shocked to realize how consuming that process is and the energy it takes for our territorial and divisional teams to bring about a successful personnel change. This year, however, we've asked all officers if they'd be willing to stay in their appointments for another year so that, wherever possible, we minimize the impact of the move.
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What's So Special About June?
It is a significant change. Rather than moving nearly 25 percent of our officers as we have in past years, our goal is to reduce the percentage. The reason is not just the massive expense—though that is a factor. What we really need is time to examine the issues that are affecting officers—not all of them positive—and begin to manage the appointment changes differently and more intentionally.
Over the past number of years, the Army in Canada and Bermuda has emphasized a sequential appointment system whereby officers go to their appointments for five years, consult with administration and then stay for intervals of two years as appropriate. But the ideal does not always fit the reality. Last year, for example, roughly 60 percent of the moves were not sequential in that we needed to move people earlier than anticipated.
We admit that this is not sustainable for the future. We admit that a different consultation is required. We admit that the annual June change doesn't always make sense. We're asking ourselves, “Does it have to happen every year? Could it be a minimal move one year and a substantial move the next? Are there instances where we don't need to wait until June? How does the timing of the moves serve the mission?”
Of course, the June moves fit the school year, and we must be sensitive to officers with families, but there is nothing from International Headquarters that mandates it must be done a certain way. The bottom line is that we have to be more fluid in how we approach officer moves. Officers have been invited to speak into this dialogue and the signals we are getting from them are overwhelmingly positive.
Balancing Officer and Lay Staff
My biggest preoccupation these days is ensuring solid leadership and the sustainability of the Army. It's no secret that the number of officers in the field is gradually shrinking due to retirements, attrition and an inadequate number of recruits to fill the needs. Many employees and lay personnel are now taking on roles that have traditionally been held by officers. This is changing the makeup of the Movement.
I don't want to dodge the issue, but shrinking officer numbers is not the whole story. I am equally concerned about what we are doing with the leaders we have now—both officer and lay—and how we are targeting capacities in the people we are recruiting. As territorial commander, I long for a healthy mix of officers and lay personnel.
Our organization will always have officers at the leadership level. There is a difference between the covenant relationship of an officer to the Army and a contracted position of an employee. The Army needs people who are set apart—the ordained, ecclesiastical order—who are available to the territory to serve wherever and in whatever circumstances required. We are a spiritual Movement and need to be guided by people who, first and foremost, put that marker down.
But we also need employees who have vocational inclinations to share ministry with us. We must carve out space for lay personnel who want their work to intertwine with a sense of God's calling. If you look at the profiles of territorial and divisional headquarters, you'll find any number of lay leaders and hired staff where, 10 years ago, it would have been impossible. The instances are growing where lay personnel not only have management responsibilities, but spiritual remits—where they are responsible for the spiritual mission of a ministry unit and the spiritual well-being of those under their influence.
I'll also admit that there are cases where we need to supplement our staff with accredited expertise that doesn't necessarily require a spiritual commitment, but that ensures we can run our operations efficiently. My hope, however, is that no one works for The Salvation Army who does not understand our mission and goals. To this end, Booth University College is helping us create an online orientation course for our employees—a kind of Salvation Army 101. I wouldn't want to give away the spiritual leadership of The Salvation Army, but we need to broaden our scope to include others who can bring much-needed expertise.
Get on the Bus
Jim Collins, management guru and author of Good to Great, talks about getting the “right people on the bus” in your organization. But it's also a challenge to get people “in the right seats.” I've been hesitant to delineate too clearly in every situation what an officer position is and what a lay position is. It's easier when we talk about corps officers or divisional youth secretaries and their roles in modelling officer recruitment for young people. But it gets blurry after that. For example, I wouldn't want to see a day when there were no officers involved in public relations. Nor would I want to shut out skilled employees from the financial side of what we do. When we work as a team, we have a distinct advantage—provided we get the right people with the right skills in the right places.
Recently I visited a community where I was impressed by a corps officer who was running an excellent community-based ministry. When I went up the street, I met an Army employee from community and family services who took me on a tour of the soup kitchen and introduced me to dozens of people with whom he has built relationships. At the end of the day, the officer I met in the morning and the employee I met in the afternoon were both working toward the same outcomes. The people in that community weren't checking the colour of the epaulets; they just saw The Salvation Army.
One of my laments is that the Army does not currently have an internal promotion policy for employees. We need a process whereby employees can look at the breadth of the territory's ministries, from St. John's, N.L., to Vancouver to Bermuda, and say, “Is there something that I could be doing with the Army in a different area?” Is there a way to queue up people for promotion? How can we better collaborate with employees on their professional development? Have we got the right resources for that to happen? Can we come alongside them and say, “Where do you want to be in five years?”
To achieve this, we need to cultivate a greater culture of trust among all our staff. We can do that by trying to understand potential obstacles. We have to open up lines of dialogue where the trust may be on shaky ground. We need to take the private discussions into a more open forum where we can explore what trips us up. What do we not understand about the organization that causes us to second guess? Where does the friction occur? How can administration listen to the concerns of officer and lay personnel?
Giving Local Officers a Voice
Beyond our employees and officers, we also need to better connect with our local officers—our lay volunteers who hold significant positions of responsibility in corps. We need mechanisms to reach out to our people in the pews. In the past, our territorial symposiums have given lay leaders a voice. But it's a missing piece in our system right now. Our local officers have a vested interest in the Army and need opportunities to speak beyond their local circle.
There is a move afoot to bring local leaders together at the Territorial Congress in June. Out of that, we hope to create a permanent forum whereby senior leadership can hear from people on the front lines on a regular basis. We've also talked about “town hall”-style meetings that can be broadcast on the Internet to allow people from all parts of the territory to respond.
If we want to guarantee sustainable leadership, then we have to train, recruit and develop officers, employees and local officers in such a way that our mission priorities are matched with our human resources strategy. That includes leveraging the expertise we already have in place. We've identified Booth University College as one key resource that has the wherewithal to respond to various gaps in our leadership needs. To this end, the college has launched a School of Continuing Studies for the territory that has the capacity to train the workforce, both ordained and lay.
Another innovation is PEAC (Performance Excellence and Coaching), a new review system for officers and employees that is at the pilot stage across the territory. PEAC is more than just an assessment tool, it's a culture shift toward developing our workforce. It fits naturally into the coaching environment that the territory has been promoting. It sets up open dialogue where succession planning and appropriate training become the norms. It also helps us to be more outcome-based and more accurately measure our efforts. The result will be a stronger workforce on all fronts.
We trust that God is in control, but that does not absolve us from making difficult decisions in how we structure and develop our leadership. We have to figure out how to optimize our workforce with recruitment strategies, appropriate consultation, capacity development and succession planning in a way that gives us a sustainable strategy for the future. Organizationally we have a reciprocal relationship with the Almighty. If we keep our spiritual temperature where it needs to be, if we keep our Army engaged in prayer, if we keep our mission focus on target, then I believe God will continue to bless the Army.
Commissioner Brian Peddle is the territorial commander of the Canada and Bermuda Territory.