Making Armed Forces Covenant pledges more meaningful

Since the Armed Forces Covenant scheme was launched in June 2013, some 2,650 organisations , large and small, have publicly pledged their support for the military community by signing the Armed Forces Covenant. With around 25 new signings per week, recent signatories include Microsoft, General Dynamics and Eddie Stobart Logistics. Japan Tobacco International (JTI), who already work with SaluteMyJob on veteran employment, have also just signed up.

At SMJ we applaud and are keen to support companies that become signatories, especially those who implement structured, sustainable and measurable programmes to deliver the pledges they make.

However, many veterans who engage with SMJ are more critical. They tell us that, in their experience, many pledges are not very meaningful. They believe that, when it comes down to it, signatories will often do no more than sign a piece of paper as a PR stunt or to curry favour with the MOD. Veterans say what they are really looking for is meaningful work that takes advantage of their acquired military skills and experience. Jobseekers say that few employers’ pledges translate to their websites or into their recruitment and selection processes.

So why have so many  companies signed the Armed Forces Covenant?

Because it’s good for business.

  • The Armed Forces community stands at around 4m. That’s a big customer base.
  • Ex-military people have the knowledge, skills and experience to help fill employers’ skills gaps.
  • Many employers wish to seen to be ‘doing the right thing’ to their clients and employees.

So how do you make your pledges to the Armed Forces Community meaningful?

The Covenant is a commitment by the three parties involved - the Ministry of Defence, the public and you - to ensure no member of the Armed Forces community is disadvantaged. We recommend, as a  starting point, that employers set themselves objectives setting out the value they seek to gain from their Armed Forces’ programmes - and impact on their bottom line. This ensures the pledges are meaningful from Day One.

So your commitments could be anything from:

  • Discounts on products & services;
  • Offering training and/ or work placements;
  • Actively encouraging veterans to work for you;
  • Offering flexible working for military spouses;
  • Encouraging and supporting reservists;
  • Enabling military spouses to transfer to other branches if their partner is posted elsewhere.
  • Supporting your local Cadet Forces.

You could also consider asking employees or customers from the Armed Forces community to help you in deciding what your pledges will be.

Barriers to the employment of veterans and reservists

Perceptions and stereotypical views are a barrier to employment for many veterans. Indeed, the government’s Veterans’ Transition Review, written by Lord Ashcroft, found that:

  • More than nine out of 10 members of the public believed it to be common or very common for service leavers to be  physically, emotionally or mentally damaged.

The reality is:

  • Rates of mental illness amongst ex-service personnel are lower than in the general population;  
  • Most British military personnel do not experience mental health problems while they are in service or when they transition back to civilian life;
  • PTSD rates were low among British forces , with a prevalence rate of 4% in deployed personnel and 6% in combat troops*.

What are the benefits of employing veterans?

Veterans fill skills gaps - if you’re struggling to find qualified, motivated staff to fill gaps in your business, veterans could be just what you need. They are well-placed to meet critical gaps in cyber security, operations and project management, business assurance/ risk and safety and health management.

They have strong technical skills and unique qualities -  veterans get great technical training in the military in all kinds of areas, from logistics to cyber security. They have excellent soft skills and leadership qualities.

They are loyal and adaptable - service leavers bring valuable attitudes and behaviours to the commercial workforce such as loyalty, mission focus, responsibility and resilience. They are used to pressured environments and are constantly learning.

So what next?

So once you’ve decided how your business can support the Armed Forces Community, you can tailor the Armed Forces Covenant pledge provided by the MOD.

If you need more help in implementing your Covenant pledges then we can help. You can get in touch by calling 01249 691415 or by emailing Andrew Jackson.

We’d love to welcome you and your company to a growing and proud group of companies supporting the UK’s Armed Forces community.

*A study of 10,000 ex-service personnel conducted by the King’s Centre for Military Health Research