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The importance of HR practices that support National Service and Total Defence
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The importance of HR practices that support National Service and Total Defence

As the gatekeepers of the workforce, employers play an important role in the nation’s safety and security when they implement policies to support ‘Operationally Ready National Servicemen’.

This article is brought to you by Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) Singapore.

“A rite of passage. A duty with great responsibility. The backbone of the nation’s security, defence and sovereignty. A bonding experience across social backgrounds and generations.”

Most of us can relate to the picture painted above, having personally experienced National Service (NS) for Singapore, or having a loved one in our family fulfil their NS duties.

National Service started out as an immediate priority back in 1967 after Singapore became independent, established with a view to build up the nation’s defence – not only to supplement the local forces for internal security but also to defend against external threats. Over the years, the concept of NS has continued to maintain importance, given the various conflicts ongoing around the world.

Against this backdrop, employers play an important role in the nation’s safety and security when they support NS, such as when they implement policies that enable ‘Operationally Ready National Servicemen’ (NSmen) to train and perform their operational duties with peace of mind.

The good news is that a recent study by Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) on public attitudes towards NS found that more than nine in 10 (95%) employed NSmen felt that their employers were supportive of their NS commitments. Further, in focus group discussions, participants who were HR workers or worked on HR-related matters pertaining to NS call-up matters expressed strong support of employees’ NS commitments, though some expressed concerns about the resource costs to their respective companies.

Broadly speaking, the sentiment towards NS among Singapore’s employers has been positive, and this support is critical.

As security threats become more subtle and insidious, it is important for the nation to continue rallying behind and supporting national servicemen.

Case study: Culture, leadership and HR interventions that support NS and Total Defence

One progressive employer that has consistently been an NS advocate is GATES PCM Integrated Services (GPIS). In the business of protecting buildings and institutions, GPIS has gone one step further – to protect its people by giving them a safe space to fulfil their NS duties, and in turn, GPIS benefits from their NS experience.

The company treats its ground officers with the same level of dedication and respect that it gives its clients, caring for each individual officer’s safety, wellbeing, happiness, training and career progression, in order to produce a conducive workplace with well-trained, loyal, committed and vibrant security officers at every level.

In doing so, it has found an important calling in supporting NSmen. As a security agency, the employer branding is focused on communicating that the company is considered a part of the defence team for Singapore. Thus, the training that NSmen receive during ICT is a direct advantage to the security requirements of its clients and to the company overall.

Dexter Allan, CEO and Director, GATES PCM Integrated Services (pictured above in lead image), tells us about the pro-NS policies and strategies that have been implemented at GPIS. “For candidates who apply for a job in our company, we encourage them to share about their NS experience during the interview. In most cases, these candidates have no experience in the private security industry, so we base (our decision) to hire them on their NS experience. In fact, a candidate with NS experience is most likely to get the job even without relevant experience,” Allan explains.

To take it one step further, GPIS values the NS experience of its employees who have completed full-time NS such that they are offered a higher starting salary and provided a higher annual leave entitlement.

Allan adds: “We also do not encourage any of our employees to defer their NS call-ups; instead, we encourage them by giving them certain benefits like flexible work arrangements to prepare for their IPPT/ICT etc. and we compensate them with a day-off if they are called up on their off days or rest days.”

Evidently, the culture, leadership, and HR models at GPIS not only support, but benefit from the experiences of NSmen in doing a better job for the business. Allan attests to this, saying, “Personnel who have completed their full-time NS as well as those who are being actively being called up for NS duties have shown a much higher degree of focus and dedication on the job. Their sense of responsibility and their adaptability to the security requirements are notably commendable.”

In fact, he adds with pride, that such individuals often stand out as role models and potential leaders in respective areas where they have been deployed. Even clients have commended the performance of these officers.

Further, Allan says NSmen bring a lot of skills back to the company, including a deep sense of responsibility, focus on achieving targets, and a high degree of discipline. He elaborates: “NSmen have displayed an excellent sense of discipline when it comes to punctuality and this has set the standard for the company, which has become contagious – in the good sense!”

Taking action: The NS Mark Accreditation and the Total Defence Awards for employers

NS and Total Defence (TD) form the cornerstone of Singapore’s continued stability and prosperity. And, the support from businesses, employers and the wider community towards these endeavours is recognised through NS Mark.

Launched in 2016, NS Mark is a national-level accreditation scheme to acknowledge the commendable efforts of businesses and organisations that have implemented policies and HR practices that support NS and TD. In order to be accredited, businesses will need to commit and make a declaration towards upholding their duty as employers of NSmen, as well as readily committing civil assets and services in support of TD in times of national crises or emergencies.

Employers’ efforts towards these commitments are then reviewed by the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF), and the NS Mark accreditation will be awarded when the prevailing criteria have been met. The benefits of getting NS Mark accredited are numerous – enhanced employer branding, improved public perception, and the most important one being, a sense of fulfilling one’s duty towards the nation.

To keep the virtuous cycle going, the Total Defence Awards (TDA) further recognise supportive employers and civil resource owners for their contributions towards NS and TD. In fact, the TDA is the highest national accolade that acknowledges exemplary individuals, small and medium enterprises, large companies and organisations for their outstanding support towards strengthening the defence of the nation.

At the 2023 edition of the TDA, Singapore’s Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen emphasised his appreciation for TD advocates and their contributions towards TD and NS. He said: "We appreciate your contributions greatly. We recognise and thank the NS Advocate Awardees, individuals, organisations, SMEs and large companies for your exemplary support towards Total Defence and NS.

“If we can keep this message of TD strong for another generation, then Singapore's future will be that much more secure for the future, come what may."

In a constantly evolving security landscape, the fighting spirit and commitment of every Singaporean will make the greatest difference in the defence of the nation. We urge each one of us to play our part in making this possible.

This year’s edition of the Total Defence Awards took place on 20 November 2023. Click here to find out about the recognition framework for NS advocates.

Lead photo caption: Dexter Allan, CEO and Director, GPIS receiving the TDA 2023 (NS Advocate for SME) award from Singapore’s Senior Minister of State for Defence and Manpower, Zaqy Mohamad – provided by MINDEF.

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