Opportunities and Challenges In Operationalising the Full Potential of the Total Workforce Model


The aim of this article is to provide a framework for discussion on providing greater agility in how Defence delivers the personnel contribution to capability, through embracing the flexibility inherent in the Total Workforce Model.


The ADF Total Workforce Model (TWM) is the ADF’s key strategic personnel initiative, seeking to increase the supply of people to meet critical capability needs. It provides for a contemporary workforce with an enhanced set of flexible service arrangements, further opportunities for Reservists to serve and streamlined supporting tri-Service processes. It will enable the ADF to utilise its workforce more economically, by drawing on both the Permanent and Reserve workforce components more flexibly, and encouraging greater mobility between them.

The project builds on and enhances existing ways of serving, including the Service’s Flexible Work Arrangements.  For individuals, it will provide flexible career options that ADF members can seek as their circumstances change. For all three Services, the TWM provides greater potential for retaining its personnel, both Permanent and Reserve, and filling capability gaps through further innovative and localised use of Reservists. Strategically, by transforming the nature of military service, a more agile, integrated, sustainable and capable force can be delivered, providing the foundation to mitigate future risks of skill shortages and changing security threats.

The TWM is more than simply introducing new Service Categories and Service Options within the Service Spectrum. Key to increasing the supply of people to commanders are:

  1. The introduction of a Service Category (SERCAT 6) that enables, through legislation, the ability for the CDF to agree to a permanent member of the ADF providing less than full time service in meeting their inherent continuous full-time service obligation.
  2. Greater certainty and stability of service arrangements for Reservists over more than one financial year, which will encourage more Reservists to commit to service and provide COs with greater certainty of people capability. SERCAT 5 delivers on this need.
  3. Revised remuneration arrangements, in particular a new Reserve Capability Payment, which enables delegates to offer this incentive payment to attract part-time Reservists with critical skills and experience to fill capability needs.
  4. A tri-Service transfer process that supports the TWM.
  5. Introduction of a Dual Employment Service Option (SERVOP D) arrangement to share high demand, skilled personnel with industry[1] in order to build and sustain critical capabilities, whilst retaining these people in the ADF.
  6. Efficient and effective application of military employees’ expenses (MEE), including appropriate delegation of authority to commit MEE, that optimises the operation of the TWM across the SERCATs.
  7. ForceNet, a secure, web-based platform that enables communications across all elements of the ADF to support Regular and Reserve information needs, as well as a key medium for calling for and identifying the availability of talent needed to contribute to capability. From late 2018, an ‘App’ version of ForceNet will be available providing greater access to this important enabling capability.

Enhanced Reserve Service Opportunities

The TWM’s modus operandi is underscored by improved access to Reservists and seeks to accomplish this through, amongst other things, the establishment of SERCAT 3 – members who have indicated their ability to serve, or are providing service to meet a specified task within a financial year.

This group is a valuable, under-utilised resource for Navy, Army and Air Force. There is scope for better nurturing this group, to readily identify people to fill critical capability gaps across the ADF.

This nurturing could be partially achieved through better awareness of SERCAT 3 opportunities at unit (and above) level ‘Transition’ interviews, communications strategies through ForceNet; and the use of Reserve Capability Payments.

The investment that has been made with these members during service in skilling, building resilience, inculcating Navy’s, Army’s and Air Force’s ethos, values and culture underscores that this resource has significant potential as a proven, low cost option to meet capability needs. Importantly, SERCAT 3 further enables flexible service arrangements for those in SERCATs 5 – 7 and their commanders in maintaining directed capability outputs.

All services should look to:

  1. the development of a plan to encourage members of SERCAT 2 and those transferring from permanent service or Active Reserves to transfer into SERCAT 3 from the category’s establishment date.
  2. the development of a plan to use SERCAT 3 to remediate critical capability gaps and enhance current and future flexible service arrangements.

It is within the Service’s purview to determine the size and make up of these pools in meeting its capability obligations, endeavouring to achieve a balance between capability need and administrative overhead.

Greater Certainty and Stability of Service for Reserves

Initial surveys to build the Case for Change in 2012 identified that Active Reservists are 1.8 times more likely to select employment offers which include guaranteed service days. All three Services are now able to provide this assurance over a number of financial years, as provided within the Portfolio Budget Statements. Similarly, there is potential to ease units’ personnel administration and allow for more focused workforce planning decisions when the assurance of days is complemented by a commensurate assurance of service by the SERCAT 5 member.


Notwithstanding the further ‘structural and procedural’ development required in SERCAT 3 and SERCAT 5 across all three Services, the Year 0 Evaluation of the TWM identified a number of culture and behavioural aspects within Navy, Army and Air Force that will preclude the optimisation of the TWM:

  1. There is low awareness of the Total Workforce Model and a limited understanding of the need for or purpose of the model.
  2. There are perceived constraints for the TWM, presented through the way Defence manages budgets and undertakes its resource planning.
  3. The flexibility that most would consider to be required for smoother integration and management between reserve and full time members has, for many, been a credibility challenge.
  4. There is clear and evident concern that a move towards a more flexible service, and a potentially increased role for reservists, could threaten the culture and might ultimately limit the capability of the ADF to do its primary job of defending Australia and Australian interests.


A senior Defence committee in December 2017 considered the key findings of the TWM Year 0 Evaluation and agreed that there is poor awareness across Defence of the TWM and that a well-planned and resourced communications campaign is required to achieve the necessary cultural change. Defence has sought specialist communications, learning and development and process improvement resources to work with the Services to realise the required behavioural and cultural change. The Services have finalised their input into the TWM Flexible Service Culture Change Plan and the ongoing development of SERCAT 3 and 5 will need to be orchestrated in conjunction with that Plan.

A sense of urgency is required to take responsibility across all three Services, particularly at Command team and career management levels, to realise the needed benefits of the Total Workforce Model.

[1] Partnering with Defence industry would be the norm however, industry in the context of SERVOP D can be defined more broadly, e.g. health, cyber-security etc.

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