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Life in the Military: Nationwide study of the Irish Defence Forces

Dr Juliet Mac Mahon and Dr Sarah Mac Curtain were recently commissioned by the Irish Defence Forces to conduct an extensive workplace climate survey. The remit was to investigate members’ levels of satisfaction with their employment in the Defence Forces, along with other factors such as commitment, leadership and perceptions of fairness and work life balance.

Dr Juliet MacMahon, co-researcher on the study said: “The study was effectively a HR analytics exercise by the Irish Defence Forces, the purpose of which was to give members a voice and to gather important data regarding satisfaction with HR polices and other important facets of working life. This in turn will help to inform future policies”.


Photo (L to R) Dr Juliet MacMahon, Kemmy Business School, University of Limerick, Brigadier General Peter O’Halloran, Assistant Chief of Staff, Irish Defence Forces,   Dr Sarah MacCurtain, Kemmy Business School, University of Limerick

The study explores the attitudes of Defence Forces personnel to their working lives across a wide range of areas and the findings are a mixture of the positive and the negative. “While there are high levels of satisfaction in areas such as leadership tasks and duties, and work-life balance, perceptions on issues such as organisation justice were more negative” explained Dr Sarah MacCurtain, co-researcher on the study.

Overall, the study reveals that satisfaction with military life has fallen in comparison with a previous survey carried out in 2008. Many of the over 1,000 respondents from all ranks said they still enjoy their work and are proud of what they do, with over 60% indicating that they felt they were doing something worthwhile for their country. However, issues such as pay and commuting emerged as significant problems, with 27% considering leaving because of the commuting issue.

The survey was carried out among 11per cent of the workforce and is representative of rank, gender, and location. “The report includes a number of recommendations, such as managers increasing their daily engagement with members, more mentoring and coaching for leaders, and a review of opportunities for promotions” commented co-researcher Claire Harnett.

The Defence Forces Climate Survey 2016 report has been officially published by the Defence Forces.