Two organisations on either side of the Atlantic are about to undergo major change in the near future and both are endeavouring to maximise the human potential, literally, within their ranks. An Garda Siochána (‘Guardians of the peace’; the Irish Police force) and the US Army coincidently are mapping out a new system for managing their most important asset; their people. 

In the US, an Army Talent Alignment Process (ATAP) will be used to match an Officers knowledge, skills, behaviours and preferences to a particular role or task. This will revamp a system that has remained largely unchanged since 1947. It will be used along with ‘talent assessment,’ ‘flexible career paths’ and a modernised promotion and selection methodology. The aim is that the right officer will be given the appropriate assignment at the right time.

This will see the Army change from a standardised career model to an information led approach where the unique talents of the individual are at first recognised and then given their full potential.  

In the Irish Republic, the Civic Guard was formed at the foundation of the state in 1921 replacing the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC). It was renamed An Garda Siochána in 1923. At a time when the ‘gun’ was very much part of the Irish scene, following revolution, the new force began life as the unarmed community based police service that we are familiar with today.

Echoing the US Army initiative a chapter on the Garda website is headlined ‘Our people-Our greatest resource’ and contains the promise to ‘ Implement our People Strategy to ensure the right people are in the right roles, working at the right places at the right times.’ Declaring itself a Human rights foundation the force intends to keep track of its progress through ‘public attitude surveys’ that will measure its key performance indicators (KPIs).

The practical changes will involve ‘devolved power’ to 19 divisions, reduced from 28. These areas of command will act as almost autonomous Police forces of a size and population base capable of supporting specialised units. Like so many other organisations the force is moving away from the hierarchical model and indeed Commissioner Drew Harris envisages the ‘flattening’ and streamlining of Senior Management structures. This may mean less officers at Superintendent and Chief Superintendent rank but far more Sergeants and Inspectors so the argument regarding promotional opportunities will depend on one’s perspective. Two Superintendents in each division will be responsible for community engagement reflecting the promise to protect the most vulnerable in society while one each of the same rank will take charge of ‘performance assurance’ and the policing of crime. They will be joined by a civilian official with responsibility for among other things, human resources, expenditure and procurement.

These changes have come about following years of research and should be of interest to business and not-for-profits who wish to improve outcomes for their greatest resource; their people.     Gerald O’Connor August 2019