During the past 50 years, the UK Armed Forces have not only been the vanguard for the defence of the UK; they have also continually propped up critical services when industrial action or inabilities to deliver a service has placed the country in a more than precarious position – think Fire-fighter strikes, Olympic security and of course the most recent Coronavirus response. Despite this, unemployment for service leavers in the first year post discharge remains unfathomably high – at around 6%.
With 15,000 service leavers a year, there are many opportunities for organisations to leverage the capabilities of such a rare, valuable and differentiated talent pool, yet many fail to take the opportunity to benefit from the potential that military veterans can bring to the workplace.
There are two main reasons as to why this is the case:
1 The Mad Dash
Tethered by a 12 month notice period, service leavers do not have the luxury of securing another career prior to submitting their resignation from the Armed Forces. This so often results in a last minute dash to secure a desired position before they walk out of camp for the final time.
2 Translation of Skills
Many employers report that although they are attracted at the prospect of hiring veterans, many do not really understand the value of their experience whilst they were serving in the military; and how it is relevant to their organisation. Part of the problem being that CV’s of military veterans can often be ‘milicentric’ and difficult to comprehend.
To help employers understand the benefits of hiring veterans, I have created a guide that outlines the many transferrable skills that veterans possess. This guide is also intended to help service leavers and veterans focus on a number of key areas, which will help them translate the wealth of experience they gained during military service, into commercially relevant language.
Leadership for veterans is about creating measured influence across all verticals and horizontals within an organisation.
As transformational leaders’ veterans have demonstrated value-based influence, inspired colleagues to perform, considered development on an individual basis and intellectually stimulated colleagues to keep them engaged and focussed on the task.
Armed Forces personnel are used to working in hostile environments. The difference being that they can’t just get up and leave if they do not want to be there anymore; so they adapt, improvise and overcome to tackle adverse situations.
Resilience for the Armed Forces is about operating as effectively in hard times as they would do in less tough times. This requires a sense of personal responsibility, in order to succeed within a team.
Armed Forces personnel swear an oath of allegiance to serve their monarch and leaders in pursuit of the defence of the nation; but their concept of service extends so much further than what is written on that neat piece of parchment.
Service for the Armed Forces is based on replicating excellence globally in a professional and courteous manner, regardless of who is in receipt of it. This requires empathy, self-awareness, respect for diversity and emotional intelligence.
In an increasingly fickle market, finding and retaining the right talent is an unenviable task for most businesses. It drives up salary expectations and results in huge hiring costs.
Veterans are accustomed to being loyal to their cap badge. Being part of a team that continually seeks to improve through constant development, empowers Armed Forces personnel to be the best that they can possibly be, resulting in high self-esteem and workplace satisfaction.
Inevitably, disruptive events cause job losses. When this occurs, businesses face the issue of poor productivity based on eroding morale; this is the point where character is needed to continue to operate effectively.
Veterans have operated through some of the toughest conditions known in order to complete a mission. They have achieved this through a desire to get the job done, despite all the barriers that stand in their way, up to and including a grave risk to life. This is character.
Structure & Discipline
Governance within a successful organisation is a must, as it creates processes and procedures for an organisation’s regulatory, compliance and legal obligations.
Veterans have demonstrable experience in following a set of playbooks, which forensically details how a task should be performed; giving due regard to effectiveness, efficiency and safety. Known as ‘following the drill,’ Armed Forces personnel, train repeatedly to follow processes, so they can complete any task consistently no matter how adverse the environment.
In an ever digitally transforming world, companies have to keep up with the pace of change by continually training employees to use new applications in order to do their job more efficiently and effectively.
Veterans are used to regularly assimilating new skills and honing them until they gain expert knowledge on a specific system. With some of the most technologically advanced equipment in the world, on offer; the Armed Forces require a technically competent workforce, to expertly operate equipment and keep the cogs of the nation’s defence turning constantly.
Effectiveness has become a buzz word in the workplace and has little meaning on its own. To use it as a main selling point, assumes that the competition is not effective in what it does. Effectiveness is better applied to individual effort.
Veterans are adept at performing tasks with the same objective in mind, which is to complete the task (no matter how mundane) to the same level of quality each time. The important aspect being that they always finish what they started.
Diversity & inclusion is rightly recognised as a cornerstone in the workplace, to help foster a healthy culture. Bringing in talent from different backgrounds helps drive growth & productivity within organisations’.
Veterans represent one of the most compelling forms of resource diversity in the marketplace. As a global employer, the UK Armed Forces has benefitted by harnessing the power of diversity, which has resulted in it becoming a world class organisation, that produces world class talent; ready and able to make a difference to your workforce!
There is still a lot of work to do to address the shortage of service leavers entering the commercial workplace. Encouragingly, the government announced at the April 2020 Budget a financial incentive to encourage organisations’ to take on more military veterans. With this and a number of other initiatives currently in flight, designed to help veterans into the workplace; the future looks increasingly encouraging for veterans and service-leavers; however, in the famous words of Winston Churchill: ‘This may not be the end; but it may be the end of the beginning’ in finally addressing the struggle of military service transition.
About the Author: Steve Maguire is the Co-Founding Director of Forces Cyber Pathways, an organisation that provides opportunities for organisations to hire veterans using apprenticeship levy funding. Prior to starting the company, Steve served in the 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment, before taking up a career in Law-enforcement with the British Transport Police and latterly within Barclays’ Chief Security Office.