24 February 2024

How does The Salvation Army's HR Department value people?

A photo of Alex O'Hara.

Human Resources Director Alex O’Hara talks to Major Julian Watchorn about how the Army’s values shape its policies.

The Salvation Army in this territory has set out its key values as boldness, compassion, passion, respect, integrity and mutual accountability. What does it mean to you to have values to work to?

Everything. Values are the measurement of mutual accountability. Both employer and employee know what should be expected. The fact that we are a Christian church means there are additional expectations on our behaviours and how we treat others. That is an excellent foundation to work from.

In an organisation of such size and complexity, to what extent can you choose HR policies and how they’re applied?

The basis of all our people policies is the Valuing People Framework, which ensures we are applying our values, reflecting our identity and measuring our performance. Our aim is to create an environment where people flourish.

The working landscape has changed considerably and we want to ensure that we give our employees the best opportunity to thrive in work and not to the detriment of their personal lives. The two should go hand in hand.

To what extent does HR law affect these values in practice?

Employee legislation doesn’t hinder them. We want to be more than just legally compliant: it is a matter of integrity to be the best that we can be and create a culture where everyone feels valued and supported in their working environment. That’s what we are striving for, and to continually review and improve the service we provide.

The Army recently introduced new policies in the form of the family friendly and time off policies. How did they come about and how have they been received?

It is about investing in our people, ultimately. The new time off policy is the umbrella for a number of policies that dealt with employees needing various periods of time away from the workplace. It was an opportunity to improve and consolidate our approach to that. Recognising the increasing complexity of people’s lives – and wanting to ensure that our response is flexible and appropriate to their individual needs – has led us to re-evaluate our approach and become more trauma-informed.

We are placing greater focus on making our policies more user-friendly and clearer on how we can support people, rather than being prescriptive. There is more flexibility to give people choices in how to deal with the challenges of life without undue pressure, enabling them to flourish at work and at home.

We have significantly improved our family friendly provision and given due recognition for some of the more sensitive situations that people can experience. There have been lots of positive changes that we hope demonstrate our compassion.

It’s early days, but these changes seem to have been warmly welcomed.

What are your hopes for the future?

We want to continue to do more. We have been focused on the family friendly policy, but we would like to do more with some of the challenges around caring responsibilities, which many of our employees have outside work. We also want to continue our work in identifying skills and areas of personal development. We don’t want our employees to feel restricted to the roles they joined us in. If they aspire to other roles or want to learn new skills, we want to encourage and support them in a development plan.

It’s about encouraging growth and ensuring we are giving back to employees as they journey with us, and demonstrating how everyone can contribute to the mission of The Salvation Army.

Interview by

Photo of Julian Watchorn.

Major Julian Watchorn


The Salvation Army red shield and Love God Love Others

The Valuing People Framework


Discover more

A weekend for all ages to explore belonging, discipleship and membership within the Kingdom of God and The Salvation Army UK and Ireland Territory.

Dr Claire Luscombe and Dawn Richardson share the positive impact of trauma-informed care with Stevie Hope.

Everyone involved in The Salvation Army is encouraged to express our values.

Major Beverly Baker talks to Emily Bright about the new book 'Big Questions for Small Groups: Our Values'.