Psychologist’s study impacts on Government's Army White Paper

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Army Consultation Image

The Government recently revealed planned large scale changes to the structure of the British Armed Forces and the role of part time reservists within them, with key involvement from Oxford Brookes.

A White Paper entitled “Reserves in the Future Force 2020: Valuable and Valued”, was published in July.

As part of the work leading to the publication of the White Paper, Professor Vince Connelly of the Department of Psychology, Social Work and Public Health led a study on the workplace cultures of the full and part time members of the Army. 

This was conducted to understand why there was often friction between them and how that friction may be a barrier to workplace integration in the future.

Vince, along with members of the Army’s Directorate of Personnel Capability, interviewed many full and part time soldiers for the project and surveyed in depth the published literature on the subject. Vince wrote a final report based on this work that was accepted by the Ministry of Defence in January 2013.

The results of this report were neatly summarised in the very first section of the recently published White Paper: “If we are to achieve a truly integrated Whole Force, a change in culture is also needed within Defence, particularly in the Army. Regular personnel have sometimes tended to associate professionalism with exclusive, full-time commitment and dedication to one cause, which has made it difficult for them properly to recognise reservists, for whom commitment is necessarily part-time - however capable they show themselves to be.

“The challenge for regulars is to recognise and value the contribution of their reservist colleagues. Reservists on the other hand need to feel valued by their regular counterparts and have a clear sense of their role. The scale of this challenge should not be underestimated. Overcoming it will require a sustained campaign of communication and supporting action within each Service. This White Paper sets the conditions for these changes to gather pace.” (para. 1.13)

The difference in workplace culture between full time and part time professionals in Defence is not new but Vince’s report provided an innovative way of looking at this issue that begins to allow both part time and full time personnel to understand why certain barriers to workplace integration arise.

Understanding workplace culture is a key determinant of the success of future organisational change. The impact of Vince’s report should therefore help ensure that the vision of the White Paper, with a part time reserve force that is “Valuable and Valued”, actually does come to fruition.

The results of the study will also be discussed at the Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society in Chicago in October 2013. Vince has also presented the results of the study to a number of high ranking officials in the Ministry of Defence throughout 2013.

The report cited is "Connelly, V. (2013). Cultural differences between the regular army and the TA as barriers to integration. Unpublished paper for Army 2020 Team. London, MoD". The White Paper is "Ministry of Defence (2013). Reserves in the Future Force 2020: Valuable and Valued. Presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Defence by Command of Her Majesty" HMSO, London.