As an employer could you do more for veterans?

By Andrew Jackson, Managing Director, SaluteMyJob

In its new 'Continue to Employment' Report, the Forces in Mind Trust concludes that “employers could and should do more to seek out and recognise the ex-Service man or woman and the skills and experiences they possess”.

However, once discharged from the Armed Forces how do employers find the ex-Service man or woman? How do they understand the relevant acquired military knowledge, skills and experience ex-military people possess?  And how do they ensure former soldiers, sailors and airmen are suited to the roles they offer and, perhaps most important of all, will fit their 'civilian' culture?

Here are our top three recommendations for employers looking to 'do more' for veterans:

Implement a structured programme

In the same way employers put resourced programmes in place for apprentices and graduates transitioning from education to the adult workplace, so the single best way employers can make the most of, and help, ex-military talent is to implement structured, resourced programmes to facilitate the transition from military to civilian employment. These programmes are necessary to:

  • Educate ex-military people, the overwhelming majority of whom joined the Armed Forces direct from school, college or university. Thus, while they may have valuable and varied life experience, they have no more commercial experience than younger people joining the adult workplace from education.
  • Overcome any barriers faced by either employer or veteran and allow both parties to ‘try before you buy’.
  • Enable the veteran to plan their exit (either from the Armed Forces or any unsatisfactory first employment or contract thereafter) and ‘resettlement’ training and align it the needs of prospective employers. 

SaluteMyJob’s core business is the provision of advice to employers seeking to implement structured programmes. We help employers understand and apply good practice to the needs of their business, set objectives (and metrics) and agree the components of the programme with internal and, where appropriate, external stakeholders

Target communications to the ex-military community

Contrary to the expectations of many employers, communications with a very disparate ex-military community break down quickly once individuals are discharged and ‘bomb-burst’ out of the Armed Forces. The two best communications channels are:

  • For service leavers, the MOD’s Career Transition Partnership (CTP). This provides some 64% with a generic outplacement within their final two years of service and for up to two years thereafter;
  • For the wider ex-military community and those who are ineligible or choose to opt out of CTP, specialist providers they know and trust and, often closed, social media groups. Many former soldiers, sailors and airmen remain loyal to their military ‘tribes’, including Service charities to which they supported or benefited from during their Service. At SaluteMyJob, we take pride in our ability to collaborate with a variety of Service associations, charities and other social enterprises to communicate opportunities to former Service men and women.

Collaborate with, and learn from, other employers 

In the US, over 200 employers have joined forces to hire approaching 400,000 veterans between them. Until recently, no such employer-led initiatives existed in the UK. Now pilot projects such as The Scottish Veterans Employment and Training Service (SVETS)enable employers to share good practice, offer opportunities and match suitably qualified veterans and spouses to them. SaluteMyJob, along with other SVETS partners, aspires to growing this type of project into a nationwide, employer-led, service. 

Business in the Community (BITC)’s guide to ‘Capitalising on Military Talent’ is a valuable resource for employers looking for guidance on building successful Armed Forces or ‘veterans’ programmes. Download your free copy now.

Andrew Jackson is managing director of SaluteMyJob. A retired Army Brigadier, he has spent the last 10 years’ specialising in military and commercial HR, latterly as an IBM employee.

The Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), Continue to Work report by Kantar Future (a follow-up of the original Transition Mapping Study published in 2013) has a threefold purpose: to review research and activity around the area of transition since 2013; to increase understanding of skills transfer and employment post-transition; and to update the quantitative model of the costs of poor transition from the original report.

Andrew Jackson summarises some of the key findings from the 2017 report:

  • The costs of poor transition projected by the model are £105m in 2017, climbing slightly to £110m in 2020, rounded to the nearest million pounds. This compares with £114m in 2012 (from TMS13). The four largest areas of cost are as follows: family breakdown accounts for 27%; common mental health disorders and PTSD, taken together, account for 23%; harmful drinking accounts for 19%; and unemployment accounts for 15%.
  • Employers who are able to make the most of transitioning Service leavers are those who treat it as a strategic part of their recruitment strategy. Typically, they commit time to recruiting Service leavers, provide an experience of working in the organization, and track metrics that enable them to evaluate the return on investment of recruiting Service leavers.
  • One conclusion is that while Service leavers are encouraged to acquire vocational and technical skills, and these are valuable in getting through the door of civilian employers, the skills that are most valuable in sustaining employment are soft skills that are harder to convey in a CV.
  • There remains no Service-wide work placement scheme, though the new CTP contract does emphasise early engagement with employers, and Lord Ashcroft further notes in his 2015 report update that there is continuing inconsistency in unit-level support for leavers. In 2016 he reported that junior ranks were more likely to rate their ability to secure “adequate time off to attend resettlement activities” as poor, and around twice as likely as officers to say that support from their line manager had been poor.
  • The image conveyed by the fund-raising narratives of some Service charities, and their related promotional and advertising material, does not always help the interests of good transition from the Services.
  • In general, outcomes are linked to age and, as a rule of thumb, the younger the leaver, the greater the risks of a difficult transition. Those leaving early will be in a weaker position in the labour market.
  • To some extent, the leaver’s transition is framed by myths — both at the point they decide to leave and the point they enter the job market. More bridges need to be built between the military and civilian worlds to correct this.
  • The management and decision-making aspects are the ‘soft’ skills, and they extend to capabilities such as communication, team working and team building, problem solving and the ability to work under pressure without compromising the military’s core values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless, service, honour, integrity and courage. These types of skills are highly valued by employers and might make up for lack of formal or easily transferable qualifications. However, leavers might not realise they have these skills or recognise their importance, and the role of the CTP consultant or other recruitment adviser is often to unpick them and help the leaver translate them for a civilian audience. To put it simply, hard skills learned in the military might not be completely transferable, but soft skills are. 


Thumbnail Image Source: Defence Imagery