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Military methods in the workplace

Chad Storlie

In a few weeks, retailers, restaurants and other businesses across the country will begin to interview, hire and train workers for the busy autumn and winter seasons.

There is nothing new about these hiring trends. What is new is that we can translate and apply military methods to train, integrate and improve workers’ effectiveness. More effective, confident, and engaged workers create a better customer experience; translating and applying selected military skills to business make that customer experience better.

The military methods to be employed are not the techniques of the ferocious, barking drill sergeant played so masterfully by R Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket.

Instead, they seek to improve employee engagement, discover new ways to do old tasks, place a focus on safety, and ensure that we fulfill the goals and desires of the business owners. US military special operations teams such as the Green Berets, the Army Rangers and the Navy Seals have been using techniques like these for years to improve their operations. A shop or restaurant crowded with demanding customers is a challenging environment – you need employees at their best to deliver the best to customers.

Technique No1

Connect the team to the ultimate mission. In every organisation, it is easy for the junior members to lose sight of what the company is trying to achieve. In some cases, there can be over 10 levels of leadership between the chief executive and the most junior employee. A great frontline business leader works hard every day to constantly and consistently connect the team’s activities, performance and successes to the company’s mission and strategy. Everyone works harder and better when they know how their actions contribute to the company’s goals. Be sure to identify the “why” behind even the most mundane tasks and activities – it helps everyone work harder.

Technique No2

Employ the after-action review. The purpose of the after-action review is to discover how to maintain what has been done well and how to improve less successful outcomes. In the US Army, the AAR is used after training and operational activities at every level. In addition, all leaders are trained how to conduct an AAR. In the AAR, the unit allows every member to participate, regardless of rank. The team discusses what happened; what went well; what did not go well; and the plan to fix what did not go well. The AAR is a universal, all-encompassing team improvement process.

Technique No3

Ensure training and rehearsals make a successful mission. Effective training and challenging rehearsals help deliver a truly meaningful customer experience. In the military, soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen are rigorously trained so that they know how to do their jobs, but also so that they can fulfil the critical responsibilities of their comrades. More importantly, military formations of large groups of different specialities rehearse day and night so vital functions of resupply, vehicle repair and casualty evacuation can be accomplished flawlessly while ensuring the primary mission is accomplished. The business lesson is that training and rehearsals that show how business can do things more safely, more cost effectively and with high levels of customer satisfaction will make the customer interaction succeed.