Workplace heroes why SMEs should hire ex-military personnel

Ian Rand CEO for Barclays Business Banking

Written by Ian Rand, CEO for Barclays Business Banking, and former Major in the British Army.

It doesn’t matter what size your business is, or the sector you’re in, getting the best people is key. The right workforce will drive productivity, increase profitability and support your business’s growth. Yet, it can often be a difficult task, particularly at a time when many industries are still struggling to plug significant skills gaps. 

Nonetheless, with small businesses’ generating 60 per cent of private sector jobs and around half of UK GDP it is essential they can access the right talent pools to meet their business’s needs. However, in this battle to find the best, one of country’s most important pools of talent is being significantly overlooked the military.

Thousands of individuals are leaving the military every year bringing with them a wealth of transferrable skills that could add value to any business. However, despite having these important and relevant qualities, too many veterans are finding themselves at a disadvantage when transitioning.  

The problem in part lies in a lack of awareness of the skills and expertise that military personnel can bring to employers across the UK. Research from Barclays in which 2,000 company decision-makers were asked to show how highly they would rate particular attributes on a CV, showed that fewer than half (43 per cent) of employers in companies with 10-49 employees would look favorably on military experience on a CV. In fact, 1 in 10 employers at small businesses would go as far to say they would look unfavorably upon armed forces experience. 

The issue, however, is two-fold as a further study conducted by Barclays revealed that finding a job is the biggest worry for almost half of veterans, with a quarter feeling unequipped to create a CV that would grab the attention of an employer.  

What’s clear is that there are some myths that need to be debunked when it comes to the types of skills that are built within the armed forces. Having come from a military background myself, it’s easy for me to recognise the parallels, but it’s vitally important as a business leader that I encourage others to do the same.

  • Leadership: Military thinking is suited to the ‘battleground’ nature of commercial business regularly dealing with factors beyond our control but staying focused on delivering success through periods of uncertainty. Developing and maintaining a disciplined, confident approach to management is something that veterans can translate to a commercial situation to great effect.
  • Communication: Clear and concise communication is necessary across all of the armed forces to ensure operations run smoothly, often against stressful or hostile conditions and is a skill that translates across all industries. The military teaches you how to present complex issues in a way that is easy to understand; it’s a crucial discipline that helps drive decision-making.
  • Being driven: Military personnel are required to be task and results-orientated in order to inspire and motivate the team around them to work is a dynamic and productive way. Roles in the military can often change every 12 to 18 months, which also means that military personnel are constantly taking in new information, learning quickly and adapting even faster. These qualities are equally welcomed within the commercial world.
  • Service ethos: Inherent values of integrity, honesty and responsibility characterise many roles and positions within the armed forces. Being willing and able to learn, with a can-do’ attitude to hard work is just one part of the innate skill set that can be adapted to suit a variety of civilian roles.
  • Comradeship: A palpable skill amongst current and former serving members. Whether it means being an active team player or the leader considering all ways to approach a task, being able to seamlessly connect multiple opinions into one positive direction is a daily necessity in most roles. 

At a time when SMEs are looking to grow their headcount, but the skills gap continues to grow it’s critical that SMEs are focusing their energy on strengthening their ranks and looking beyond the traditional ‘civvy’ CV to find those uniquely special candidates with innate service ethos values of integrity and team spirit that can bring real value to the commercial sector. 

Small yet simple measures, such as considering the differences in the way army experience is portrayed on a CV and methodically translating these into workplace qualities can go a long way in improving outcomes for both employees and employers alike, as well as providing veterans with a fair chance when it comes to their post-military lives and careers.

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