Annex E – Morale 

Definitions

Morale:
The amount of confidence, enthusiasm, determination, etc. that a person or group has at a particular time.Footnote 79
Employee Morale:
Description of the emotions, attitude, satisfaction, and overall outlook of employees during their time in a workplace environment. Part of effective productivity is thought to be directly related to the morale of the employees. Employees that are happy and positive at work are said to have positive or high employee morale. Companies that maintain employees who are dissatisfied and negative about their work environment are said to have negative or low employee morale.Footnote 80
Cohesion:
The degree to which group members feel a sense of attachment and loyalty to their group. Peer cohesion, or mutual loyalty among peers, is sometimes distinguished from hierarchical cohesion, mutual loyalty between superiors and subordinates.Footnote 81
Unit climate:
In a unit, members’ perceptions of their work environment. Major climate dimensions include: role stress and clarity, job challenge and autonomy, supportive and facilitative leader behaviour, and work-group co-operation and friendliness.Footnote 82
Resiliency:
Process of coping with or overcoming adversity and stress. Footnote 83

Areas of Assessment

  1. As directed in the VCDS mandate letter, the Special Staff Assistance Visit (SSAV) Team was tasked to assess the climate, training environment, culture and program construct at RMC in the area of Morale. In order to be more concise, the questions have been re-ordered as follows:
    1. What is the state of morale within the Military Wing, the Cadet Wing, the Academic Wing, and the Support Staff?
    2. What are the factors leading to this state of morale?
    3. Does the morale of any of these groups affect the morale of any of the other groups? and
    4. If so, how and to what extent?
  2. How to measure morale: Given a definition of morale as the amount of confidence, enthusiasm, and determination that a person or group has at a particular time; how can this be accurately measured? When given the task to assess the state of morale at RMC, the SSAV Team reviewed numerous organization and business models to see if anything could be gleaned from them as to how to proceed in order to answer the mandate questions. Although RMC is a unique military and academic institution, there were some parallels that could be drawn from the business context, where the top six waysFootnote 84 to measure morale are as follows:
    1. Observation: Leaders can measure the morale of subordinates by observing their actions and behaviour. Usually they try to measure morale by checking the extent to which the organization is getting results in respect of productivity. This cannot be the only method to assess morale, because many organizations can have high morale and low productivity and vice versa;
    2. Attitude of Morale Survey: It should be noted that the very act of asking people about their morale is in itself a morale builder. At RMC, there have been many surveys conducted concerning morale, including the Athletic Department Staff survey, the RMC 4th Year Exit Survey 2015, the 2015 CMRSJ/RMC 1st year Critique and most recently, the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) Staff & Faculty Unit Morale Profile (Workplace Well-Being Version)Footnote 85 which was conducted from October to November 2016, although it did not include the Naval and Officer Cadets (N/OCdts). All of these surveys have been thoroughly reviewed by the SSAV Team and have helped the Team to produce an overall appreciation;
    3. Morale Indicator: Morale indicators are the factors which tend to show the opinions of employees towards the organization and its management. These factors include absenteeism, labour turnover, fluctuations in production, quality records, excessive waste and scrap, training records, accident rate and number of grievances. These factors are a sound indicator of any major variation in morale, but they are not as precise as validated morale surveys;
    4. Relation between Morale and Productivity: Generally, there is some positive correlation between morale and productivity. However, many studies have proven that the relationship between morale and productivity is not so direct because morale is only one of the factors influencing productivity. Productivity in the RMC context is geared more toward N/OCdts’s success in the Four Pillars and RMC’s success in producing quality officers for the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF);
    5. Building High Morale: Morale is a mental phenomenon (often based on personal values, beliefs, self-reflections, inner strength and resilience). That is why it is very difficult to create high morale. It is like going ahead without knowing the end of the journey. Morale is not a tangible thing, so it is difficult to measure the degree of morale. Morale building is a continuous process which cannot be stopped even for a moment. Morale building may be done either on an individual or group basis. Morale building on a group basis is usually considered better. Group morale can be affected by understanding the group dynamics and usually impacts on individual morale. In order to attain high morale, the following measures may be employed:  two-way communication, incentive system, welfare measures, social activities, training and participation; and
    6. Relationship of Morale and Job Satisfaction: Job satisfaction is closely related to morale and has often been called a key cause of morale. High morale can only be present if there is high job satisfaction. Those who are dissatisfied with their job have low morale. Those who are satisfied with their job tend to be fully engaged in achieving the objectives of the group. This holds true in the context of RMC, whether a N/OCdt, a member of the academic, military, or support staffs.

Analysis

  1. With some of the above measures of morale in mind, the SSAV Team was able to interview, observe, and review e-mails and a plethora of documents, surveys and rules in order to attempt to ascertain the state of morale at RMC. It was through careful analysis of all this data and daily coordination meetings for full team discussions that the SSAV Team was able to make general assessments of the morale at RMC.
  2. Observations: Morale is influenced by many factors including time; and the SSAV Team acknowledges that over the period the interviews were conducted, the N/OCdts were between mid-term and end-semester exams, a period that can be very stressful. The SSAV Team visit also followed the relatively recent deaths of N/OCdts which affected the entire RMC community. The N/OCdts lost colleagues and friends, the Academic Wing lost students, and the Training Wing lost military members. Many commented on the negative public commentary about RMC, particularly the negative media coverage, and expressed how disheartened this made them feel. Nevertheless, a large number of RMC personnel spoke very positively of their RMC experiences and were content in their role or function. This reflected individuals’ pre-disposition, resilience level, self-discipline and range of healthy relationships. The level of cohesion and support they experience in their immediate organisation is an important factor. Many individuals consider RMC a unique national institution with an awesome responsibility and role in generating high quality officers for the CAF. On the other end of the spectrum, the SSAV Team also heard from many who struggled with their level of morale for a number of reasons, which are articulated in the following paragraphs. These will be broken down by group; N/OCdts, Training Wing, Academic Wing, and Support Staff.

Analysis – State of Morale and Factors Leading to the State of Morale at RMC

  1. N/OCdts (Cadet Wing): The SSAV Team interviewed 209 N/OCdts who represented a very diverse group of young men and women. Coming from many different backgrounds all across Canada, the N/OCdts represent a wide range of life and work experiences. Many come from military families and have a sense of military life. Others have none. Some are away from home for the very first time in their lives while others have prior work experience or even some prior military service. Some are already fit and bilingual while others are new to physical fitness and learning a second official language.
    1. Observations: There are many positive and negative stressors that can influence the state of morale for the N/OCdts. Those that were identified during interviews are summarized at Annex D. These observations taken into consideration with the many surveys, gave the SSAV Team a wide-ranging and varied response from the N/OCdts when asked about their state of morale. Some view the stressors in front of them as positive challenges and achievements, while others are clearly struggling;
    2. Factors Leading to N/OCdts’ State of Morale: The morale of the N/OCdts depends upon numerous external factors that mix with each individual’s pre-disposition, personal strengths and weaknesses, resilience level and personal discipline. As such, the morale level is bound to vary from one Squadron to another or from one N/Ocdt to another. There were a number of specific factors cited by N/OCdts that serve as key contributors to their state of morale (either positively or negatively). The top eight were:
      1. Leadership/Staff Selection: N/OCdts interact first with their Squadron Commander and Squadron Non-Commissioned Member. Their leadership proficiencies and engagement with the N/OCdts can have a profound effect on their morale. Positive reinforcement and engaged mentorship influence morale positively, while negative reinforcement or lack of engagement and mentorship provide the opposite effect;
      2. Leadership Level Progression Model (LLPM): N/OCdts who struggle with achievement of their Leadership Levels exhibit lower morale, while the morale of those who are achieving their levels is higher. The wearing of the Leadership Level insignia on their uniforms also serves as a constant reminder of their success or failure in the Four Pillars;
      3. Professional Military Training (PMT): PMT is predominantly seen by the N/OCdts as a time-waster and morale-buster. Many of those interviewed indicated that it does not have relevance or training merit, and is neither well-designed nor well-implemented. It is often repetitive and with its current scheduling format it does not allow for much beyond PowerPoint briefings;
      4. Four Pillars/AFAN Qualification: The AFAN Designation is perceived as not having any value within the CAF beyond personal pride. The conflict between the competing demands of the various pillars (time and focus) often erodes many N/OCdts’ morale;
      5. Time Management: Time related complaints ranged from, lack of time, lack of coordination leading to conflicting schedules and last minute stress associated with having to sacrifice one important thing for another, overloaded work schedule, unprotected study time and lack of effective time management skills;
      6. Dress Standards: The standard of “walking out dress” while off-duty for First and Second Years, in particular, is a real factor in N/OCdt morale. Many N/OCdts would rather stay on campus than face ridicule or become the targets for harassment. The use of dress as a punishment (4’s and G’s) is also a morale buster in that it directly associates a uniform with punishment;
      7. Cadet Wing Instructions (CADWINS): The rules in the CADWINS are too numerous and prescriptive according to many N/OCdts. There are so many in fact, that the CCoA does not enforce them all, nor – despite the sanctions matrix - does it assign sanctions or punishment for breaking those rules in a unified or standardized way; and
      8. Cynicism: Some N/OCdts commented that “failure appeared to be the only thing that gets attention at RMC”. Many also commented on the lack of recognition for achievement or progression towards success. With negativity and a feeling of not being engaged by the leadership, many Third and Four Year N/OCdts self-identified as becoming cynical and using cynicism as a coping mechanism for their daily frustrations. They did not see their future as CAF leaders as a positive one.
    3. Overall Assessment of N/OCdts’ State of Morale: All of the factors listed above; if addressed effectively, can improve the N/OCdts’ morale. If they are not carefully addressed, they will remain as negative factors and lead to lower morale levels. Despite this pressure-filled environment, the SSAV Team assesses that the morale of the N/OCdts is generally fair to good. Many are thriving but conversely some are clearly struggling to various degrees with military and academic requirements. The vast majority of N/OCdts find themselves somewhere in between and fluctuating between the two. There are some who see the stress and stressors as a positive challenge to overcome. Others see them as obstacles and quickly get bogged down because their own coping mechanisms or leadership engagement are insufficient.
  2. Training Wing:
    1. Observations: Many of the staff arrived at RMC without a sound understanding of what RMC is about, or the necessary experience and skills for their position. It is a steep learning curve for those who have not experienced RMC before. Many members of Training Wing feel the constant pressure for RMC to succeed and the weight of having their actions examined at the first sign of trouble to see what else they could have done. The SSAV Team heard that the Training Wing has been challenged with growing numbers of mental health issues, learning to work with the uniqueness and particularities of the Generations “Y” and ‘Z”, significant administrative bureaucracy (N/OCdts files, various administrative processes, Performance Review Boards (PRBs), leave passes, On-the-Job-Experience (OJE) planning, other staff work) and the challenges of effectively enforcing CADWINS and applying administrative or disciplinary measures, all the while being expected to supervise and mentor the Cadet Chain of Authority (CCoA);
    2. Factors Leading to Training Wing’s State of Morale: The following are the SSAV Team’s assessment of the main factors affecting the state of morale in the Training Wing:
      1. Training Wing under fire: The recent Boards of Inquiry and various reviews have resulted in a significant level of anxiety within the Training Wing and headquarters of RMC because many feel the CAF and the public are looking for someone to blame;
      2. Selection for Training Wing: Uneven strength in leadership: The SSAV Team heard that the level of military experience, maturity, and leadership capabilities within the Training Wing varied significantly from one Squadron and Division to the other. In some cases it impeded the establishment of positive relationships with the N/OCdts that would be conducive to coaching and mentoring them. This is explored in more detail in Annex G of the report;
      3. Applying rules (CADWINS), discipline and administrative action: The SSAV Team heard from many stakeholders that the CADWINS are very specific, prescriptive and complex, making it difficult to apply all the rules from both the CCoA or Training Wing staff’s perspective. It came to the Team’s attention many times that N/OCdts go around the rules instead of following them. For example, the dress code for First Year N/OCdts requires them to wear Order of Dress Number 4, but many N/OCdts do not follow that rule and their peers and superiors within the CCoA will not enforce the rule either because they do not believe in its legitimacy;
      4. Administrative requirements: Several Training Wing staff told the SSAV Team that they had spent a significant amount of time administering a small percentage of N/OCdts who experienced difficulties. This was particularly evident with Squadron Commanders, many of whom reported having little time to mentor or coach the N/OCdts as a result;
      5. Chain of command support: The SSAV Team heard from many members of the Training Wing who expressed concerns over their degree of empowerment. Several voiced frustration that some of their recommendations regarding enforcement of rules and administrative action were not supported. Members of Training Wing related stories of situations whereby Training Wing staff recommended that a N/OCdt be removed from the ROTP-RMC programme or released from the CAF but have not been supported by those with the authority to make the decision. Sometimes direction is provided to instead ensure that the N/OCdts in question succeed. Some Training Wing staff felt that they were restricted from exercising their judgement as leaders. They expressed frustration with the level of effort to go through the PRB process and diligently record concerns, but with no action being taken; and
      6. Lack of effective communication and distrust: The SSAV Team heard comments from all stakeholders of poor communications between Wings leading to conflicts over the management of the N/OCdts’ time, and frustration on the part of the Training Wing staff. The preferred means of communication between the N/OCdts appeared to be largely by e-mail or text messages versus direct face-to-face communication. This SSAV Team heard that this situation can lead to coordination issues that would otherwise be resolved through direct face-to-face interaction.
    3. Overall Assessment of Training Wing’s State of Morale: The SSAV Team assesses the morale of the Training Wing as fair, with some Squadron Commanders and Non-Commissioned Members showing higher morale than others. The perceived low level of Training Wing autonomy in exercising leadership, the lack of clarity in their roles, and the high demands, responsibility and accountability all contribute to their burden and serve to reduce their morale.
  3. Academic Wing: The SSAV Team encountered a very significant number of the Academic Wing (professors, Deans, Heads of Department) who are passionate about what they do, believe in RMC, and strive for excellence in education. The academic staff connect well with the N/OCdts, have a professional relationship with their students, and provide them with outstanding support and all the necessary accommodation and flexibility. They appear to be highly engaged and involved with the wellbeing of the N/OCdts. A number of points brought forward by the Academic Wing were directly related to N/OCdts and their academic challenges, including those N/OCdts who may experience learning disabilities and the Academic Wing’s strong effort to accommodate them. They also expressed concerns about the N/OCdts’ mental health, the way they are treated, and their overall level of stress which was often linked to their busy schedule and quality of life issues overall.
    1. Observations: Although the Academic Wing’s focus is clearly on RMC’s academic programme, many academic staff shared their concerns for the N/OCdts (time pressure, well-being and stressors). They are invested and highly committed to RMC and the success of the N/OCdts. Other concerns raised by members of the Academic Wing related to resource and administrative constraints: the state of the library, and the concrete impact of the Strategic Review (SR) and the Deficit Reduction Action Plan (DRAP) on RMC. Academic staff mentioned multiple times the increased complexity of event requests, sometimes leading to missed academic and research opportunities. Some felt these measures put in question the integrity of RMC as an academic institution, and curtailed academic freedom;
    2. Factors Leading to the Academic Wing’s State of Morale: The following are the SSAV Team assessments of the factors affecting the state of morale in the Academic Wing:
      1. RMC academic credibility and reputation: RMC’s reputation of having top quality academic programmes continues to attract high quality academic staff and helps to foster a sense of pride in belonging to such a unique institution;
      2. Resource and administrative constraints: The SSAV Team assesses that the long term resource constraints over the past decade have truly had a negative effect and have contributed to neglect of the infrastructure and constraints on the execution of the RMC programme overall. A functional modern library is absolutely essential to RMC;
      3. Tension: military vs academia: The tension and strain between the academic and military pillars (and Wings) has lowered morale amongst all of the groups including the N/OCdts and Support Staff; and
      4. Relationship between the Academic Wing and the N/OCdts: One of the most positive morale factors is founded upon the great relationship between the academic staff and the N/OCdts. Having this outlet and another opportunity for teachable and mentoring moments at RMC can have a positive effect on the morale of both groups.
    3. Overall Assessment of Academic Wing’s State of Morale: The SSAV Team assesses that the morale of the Academic Wing is fair to good. The level of commitment of the Academic Wing towards the success of the N/OCdts is commendable. Their morale is greatly influenced by the daily struggle between the military and academic objectives seemingly at odds at RMC. If this dynamic tension can be balanced with more effectiveness and efficiency it could go a long way toward improving the morale of both Wings, as well as the N/OCdts.
  4. Support Staff :
    1. Observations: The SSAV Team was highly encouraged by the overwhelming concern for the N/OCdts and RMC by the support staff. It is clear that many of them are trusted by the N/OCdts to share their thoughts and feelings in confidence. Because the Support Staff are not part of the chain of command, many N/OCdts feel free to open up to them about their daily trials and tribulations. It was through these interviews and interactions that the SSAV Team was able to confirm and challenge our assessment of the morale at RMC;
    2. Factors Leading to Support Staff’s State of Morale:
      1. The relatively recent deaths at RMC have affected many members of the Support Staff. Many worry about the state of mental health and wellbeing of the N/OCdts, and this has a direct correlation with the morale of the Support Staff; and
      2. The SSAV Team noted that, according to the Unit Morale Profile, the Athletic Department has the lowest morale across the sub-groupings at RMC. One of the critical factors affecting the morale of the PSP Staff is the 10% overall wage reduction that they received which reduced their hours and negatively impacted the programming. Many PSP Staff have a second job in order to have a sufficient income. These conditions aren’t optimal for either the PSP Staff or the N/OCdts. The SSAV Team noticed that many of the Support Staff appear to be tired and some appear to be overwhelmed; and
    3. Overall Assessment of Support Staff’s State of Morale: The SSAV Team assesses that the morale of the Support Staff’s is generally low. Many are experiencing psychological distress, and cumulative fatigue, and are at high risk of burn-out and exhaustion mostly because of the demands that are put on them on a daily basis and also because of the lack of sufficient resources. Many also feel the there is a general lack of communication and support from their managers and supervisors.
  5. In answer to the final two questions from the VCDS mandate letter :
    1. Does the morale of any of these groups affect the morale of any of the other groups? Clearly in such a small and tight-knit community like RMC, the morale of any one group will greatly and quickly affect the others. Each group has a part to play in the development of officers at RMC, and they must continue to work together to ensure the best possible outcome for the young leaders’ development. The dynamic tension between military and academic imperatives must remain a positive give and take; and
    2. And if so, how and to what extent? As mentioned above, the community is small and close-quartered. The N/OCdts live where they work. If the morale of the Training or Academic Wings or the Support Staff fluctuates upwards or downwards, it will ripple to the N/OCdts quite quickly and to a great extent.
  6. Conclusion. The analysis of comments from the RMC Staff and Faculty Unit Morale ProfileFootnote 86 provided a helpful summary of morale of RMC. According to the Profile, there have been some positive changes at RMC. There is a higher degree of awareness of mental health issues and of the need to seek help when needed. As well, communications and awareness of the implications of Harmful and Inappropriate Sexual Behaviour have improved and should help to reduce incidents of sexual misconduct (indicating positive changes in the form of resources to promote mental health and prevent sexual misconduct).
  7. Conversely, the Profile highlighted six issues or concerns at the college: bureaucracy, leadership, academia versus military, infrastructure and maintenance, impact of interpersonal relations on moral and mental health. All of these comments held true in the SSAV Team’s overall assessment of morale at RMC.
  8. Overall, the SSAV Team assesses the morale at RMC as fair to good. Of note, it is particularly low amongst those N/OCdts who struggle with the Four Pillars and within the Support Staff. Morale is fair within the Training Wing while it is relatively good within the Academic Wing. Nevertheless many N/OCdts speak highly of their overall experience at RMC. Indeed, the SSAV Team have seen a significant number of N/OCdts who are highly functional students and who enjoy their overall college experience.
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