Morale: Eliminating the Unexpected


November16, 2006: The U.S. Navy has created a special web site that makes sailors lives more predictable, and that has been very popular. That, in turn, keeps more sailors in the navy. Since World War II, the navy has basically been an all-volunteer force. It was the army that took nearly all the conscripts. The navy maintained its all-volunteer force by paying attention to morale. One of the less popular aspects of naval life was unexpected orders that assigned you to another ship or base. The navy has been trying, for over a decade, to eliminate surprises like this. Five years ago, about 4-5 sailors, per thousand, got unexpected assignment each year. That was bad for the morale, and word quickly got around about who got the unexpected orders, and that reminded everyone that they could be next. This sort of thing was often mentioned by sailors, who didn't re-enlist, as a reason for not doing so.

With computerized personnel management, the navy was able to offer sailors a web site where they could select their next assignment, five months ahead of time. Technically, you still have sailors getting unexpected assignments, as about one percent of the sailors receiving new jobs each month, did not bother to go choose them. But these are not really surprises, just sailors who did not go online and choose their next assignment. They just waited for the system to generate one. Some people like surprises. But most do not, and sailors no longer complain of getting unexpected orders.




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