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The transition to remote and hybrid work that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic is here to stay. Today, more than ever, talent is demanding flexibility in their work. Many indicators suggest that these work arrangements will persist even after the pandemic fully subsides. And what this shift looks like will vary from industry to industry.
At Booz Allen, we’re well-positioned to analyze best practices and ways to overcome challenges in the defense industry. It's a sector with mission constraints—including the necessity to access engineering labs, classified spaces, and conflict zones—but the defense industry can still create conditions for more flexible remote and hybrid work environments. Our expertise in this area is part of our emphasis on “Rebuilding the Workforce in 3D” to address the “distributed, digital, and diverse” aspects of the workforce in light of recent disruption and change.
Remote work offers an opportunity for the defense industrial base to address a key problem in recent years: a dearth of talent. In January 2020, before offices across the United States were shuttered, the National Defense Industrial Association released “Vital Signs 2020: The Health and Readiness of the Defense Industrial Base.” This report gave the industry a very low score—a “D” for defense industry production related to skilled labor, goods and services, and raw materials used to develop end products and services for the Department of Defense. Requirements related to being on or near a military installation amplified these challenges.
But the experiences of the pandemic have helped the industry learn how to adapt to remote and hybrid work, and this agility can be successfully leveraged going forward. The pool of available, highly skilled talent has expanded enormously; employers can now search beyond military bases and the immediate areas and recruit workers from across the United States. This expansion can be a boon to a U.S. defense industry that is in increasingly tough competition with other sectors hunting for top STEM talent.
To make this work, leaders in the defense industry must keep three considerations top of mind:
1. They need to model the new way. Leaders should personally set the example for remote and hybrid work and ensure that they’re adapting along with other employees. This entails signaling to their workforces the importance of maintaining flexibility, engaging colleagues both in the office and through telework, and using in-person collaboration time more meaningfully.
2. They must enable collaboration between those in the office and those working virtually, creating an inclusive environment and investing meetings with purpose and a productive focus. In doing so, leaders should keep in mind increasingly important concerns around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as part of an emphasis on a diverse workforce, in addition to one that is distributed and digital. This is more difficult when team members aren’t all present in one location at all times, so extra care should be taken to be sensitive to the needs of employees working remotely who are from underrepresented groups.
3. They must keep flexibility in mind and constantly update policies based on observation and feedback. Classified spaces, laboratories, and watch-centers will always require in-person support. However, leaders should consider how the government, military, and contractors at these facilities may be afforded more flexibility—whether through flexible work arrangements or compressed days. Given the transformational moment we are in, this may also be a time to consider and review what work must be conducted at classified facilities and what may be conducted remotely.
As Booz Allen adapts to this new normal and implements best practices (for example, 82% of our colleagues have indicated that they value a flexible work schedule), we will further strengthen our ability to advise clients on solutions to the challenges posed by this pivotal moment. Learn more about how organizations are already discovering the advantages of a future-ready 3D workforce that is distributed, digital, and diverse.