Valuing Our Volunteers (Admin Process)


I wonder how they are going to put any sort of positive spin on these results, so they can do what they did with the insignia survey.

597 responses while still only a small proportion of staff, it must be one of the best responded to surveys.

I have to admit the central tendency that these sort of things tends to result in is missing which is good, however when it’s on the negative side, action needs to be taken and this from any perspective is negative.

In each “satisfied / dis-satisfied” question more than 50% are in the ‘dis-satisfied’ section.
A greater proportion of squadron staff (70%) by rank and 77% of squadron staff overall answered this, which should be interpreted as there is a strength of opinion that we have been getting it so wrong and we need to do something and do it quick and make the organisation more friendly to the people who volunteer.

If I was reporting on this the main things I’d highlight are :
83% feel that admin adversely impacts their motivation
95% feel that additional bureaucracy is a burden
57% feel the additional admin is unnecessary
53% have between 5 and 20 years’ service. This will include the age groups that will form the backbone of staff over the coming 10-20 years. Lose these and you lose the potential senior / Wing staff in the next 5-10 years. Our Wing has been leaking its senior and Wing / expected to be Wing staff quite badly in the last 3-5 years.
The “period over which this has occurred” question can be largely ignored as it can be inferred to link to the above, although if people with less than 5 years’ service feel it has happened within their time in the organisation, it doesn’t bode well for the future as they will feel increasingly burdened with the very great potential to leave.

The areas/activities where the increases have occurred would need further studies to identify where the things deemed unnecessary. This additional study can be driven by using open question answers, to drill down into specifics.

Unsurprisingly the main generators of bureaucracy are HQAC, Wings and Regions, although how the two lower levels are considered this way, would suggest they are putting their own demands on volunteers.

However the categories ; General Administration and Organising Activities are major areas of concern as a general scan of open answers seems to imply people feel they are spending a disproportionate amount of squadron time doing administrative things, or, worse feeling they have to do it at home or during the time they are in their employment. The latter is potentially driven as the people who work for the ACO seem to expect that volunteers are able to respond to / answer problems, emails etc while the ACO employees are at work. This has to be looked into and the expectations should be that contact will be at the volunteer’s convenience and if it can’t internal processes (lead times, deadlines etc) need to be looked at to make them and the organisation more volunteer friendly.
There is also a worrying aspect that 14% of respondents feel additional bureaucracy comes from volunteers? It would appear from the open answers that there are volunteers operating at Wing and or Region put their own requirements for additional information and updates, despite the fact that the activity has been cleared through the prescribed processes.
It should be that the majority of the time for all staff at the squadron should be spent with cadets, regardless of rank / position.
From the above points it can be quite clearly seen that the volunteers feel anything but valued and more like they are kicked at every turn.

From the open answers a repeating theme is that the organisations’ electronic systems are not regarded as fit for purpose and need a dramatic overhaul. Document control seems to area commented on, although anyone who has been in the Corps for more than 6 months will experience this. They also seem used far too much for data that can only be generated at squadron level which has little relevance to the squadron’s ‘day to day’ running has probably generated much of the disquiet about bureaucracy, and there is a sense that this would be used for decision making about squadrons from a distance without understanding the dynamic of squadrons. I’d be suggesting that they close the system down and clear out everything that isn’t required, archive it and start again.

With respect to open answers single responses need to be considered as valid as multiples as they could be an amalgamation of concerns and not just the respondents.

Overall I sense there is too much to change in a way that empowers and advantages volunteers, so it won’t happen, as there will not be the appetite to give us control over things. When NGB qualifications were first mooted there wouldn’t be any need for additional clearance.

I would sooner expect that they try and weed out the negative commenters.


Well I’m feeling valued this evening. . . :slight_smile:


The Corps Training Officer confirmed it was OK to bracket and append one signature per page, which makes perfect sense.


We use them as a revision tool - teach in one lesson, complete at the start of the next. The main issue is with cadets who are a bit slow at completing them, or who get them wrong and then need a lot of admin time catching up.

I do, and if someone tells me that it’s not acceptable then I also have a rubber mallet for inserting it somewhere uncomfortable.


Why not just change the booklet? Or promulgate the ‘workaround’ through the correct channels?

If we get audited, and I’ve only signed one page, and my cadets lose their BTECs as a result, will the corps training officer stand up for me? Or will it be a case of “you didn’t follow the correct procedure - tough!”?


Hopefully sanity will prevail…he is a helpful chap with loads of experience!


The issues is not if the Current Corps Training Officer backs you (they probably will). The issue comes when people change & a new one comes in to post who, being new, takes a fresh look at the difference between current regulations and actual practice and then tries bringing practise into line resulting in much confusion & frustration all round.


Just lose them and save shed loads of money spent printing the bloody things.

I find it incredulous that we have an almost never ending story of the MOD needs to save millions because of the financial incompetence of budget holders and ends up with this sort of thing is being allowed to be produced. OK it’s not going to save millions, but by allowing something that isn’t required to get done, just shows how the financial incompetence is rife at all levels.


Given that the BTEC don’t come with UCAS points or for that matter anything else, it wont hurt a cadets job prospects, it wont damage your job (ahem!) who cares… It may upset someone at HQAC which may affect their pension(s)…


To my cadets, though, getting a BTEC is kind of a big deal.

If circumventing the “system” just on someone’s say so, regardless of how senior, risks their qualification, then I won’t do it.

If the Corps training officer says the system is gash, then I’d expect them to be in a position to do something about it - either publish the work around using the correct channels, or change the system.

Ultimately, it will be the cadets that lose out, which is the opposite of what we’re trying to do!


If that is the case and we know it is the Corps Tng Officer isnt doing their job properly by letting the current shambles continue.


Like so many things the current training system wasn’t brought in to be better, it was brought in to be cheaper.
They didn’t want to print the books anymore and the exam system was apparently not fit for purpose and had been for years, despite somehow somewhere in the region of 90%-95% of the questions on ultilearn being exactly the same as those on the old paper sheets.

As soon as cost becomes the driver for change without any real understanding as what is required, it never works out for the best. The biggest cost saving associated with online/electronic systems HQAC were able to take advantage of was hardware and software, as this was passed quite nicely to squadrons and then teddy chucking at the top if squadrons didn’t comply or cited it as a problem. The biggest giggle was suggesting using school computer rooms, which had a cost attached to pay for support and then the need for, as we found everyone needing a login. Schools it seems run increasingly as businesses and even as a youth organisation discounts are difficult to get.


The exams were being generated by software on a single, very out-of-date PC which apparently couldn’t be brought up to date and was likely to fail. They had to move away from that system one way or the other or run the risk of losing the ability to generate any exams.


When I think of the times we’ve migrated between systems at work where we’ve changed software, and it’s taken time and a bit of fiddling, to get things to be usable, but it’s happened. Therefore this was possibly the weakest reason for HQAC to give and means that someone just sat there and let it happen. I’ve forgotten how many hours I spent transferring things into MS products when we moved from Lotus 123 and Freelance in the early 90s.

What I cannot get my head around is that the questions have remained largely the same, ergo they could have removed the question db and put them onto something more robust years ago and stay with paper based exams, which were controlled and gave the classification system a nod to formality and robustness.

What happens when what we’ve got becomes less usable, based on the fact that software companies don’t keep updating things as OS change and OS only have a limited support life.


Do you ever feel responsible for single handedly bringing everyone’s mood down?


There is little point in thinking it’s all rainbows and unicorns, as seems to be the case at HQAC.

If there was the loosest grip on reality in the ivory towers, we wouldn’t be where we are now.


To be fair, I do like the ease and flexibility of online exams.

We tend to forget the faff that the old system entailed. Paper based exams meant arranging for another staff member to come from a different squadron to invigilate - not always easy to get there in good time when I was at a more rural squadron. Plus, back when I took over a squadron, a lot of squadrons were starting to have trouble generating ‘spare’ staff to go off and invigilate. Not to mention that by the time resits had been ordered, the cadets concerned would have ‘lost’ a couple of months on the training programme.

However, that said, I think that Ultilearn is far from the best online tool out there, and tends to get a bit laggy during squadron hours. A good idea, poorly executed…


Faff it might have been, but it was much more robust as a system and this in the largely 60 odd years pre-BTEC, which is odd that we now have a loose system when we are offering recognised qualifications.

Our Wing got around the problem of people travelling around by having several squadrons going to the same place and we’d mix up the levels in each room, with open doors to get around cheating.
Admittedly the time between resits was a pain, but that’s how it was when I was a cadet and the first 25+ years of my staff life and you accepted it.

We had a much more structured programme, which I’ve had to change to something far looser, as I get cadets taking 3 or 4 attempts to pass the poor excuse for an exam we have now and was criticised in annual inspections, as my training programme was too rigid. In the old days, our exams were in March with resit in May and November, which meant classifications mostly between Sep and Mar and summer things after Easter. But as I was criticised I changed it and as I felt I was forced to change it I’ve never been happy with it.


Stop derailing the thread with exams please.


If everything was just about cost, why bring in the first class logbooks which are clearly costlier to the organisation than having sqns run assessments on unit?