BT has a well established historic link with the UK armed forces which dates back to the First World War when BT was still the General Post Office. Over the following decades, the organisation has continued to build on this relationship.
Approximately six years ago, Openreach, (BT’s engineering division) had a need to recruit personnel in large numbers. The military were used as an effective avenue to fulfil this recruitment need. As well as recruitment, BT has various ongoing programmes to deliver their military engagement agenda which helps fulfil a strategic corporate social responsibility target for the company.
In order to bring the various military engagement initiatives together in a coherent programme, BT appointed Mark Arscott as Head of Military Engagement in September 2015. Mark has brought the various initiatives at BT together under three main streams as follows:
The Outcomes & Benefits
The benefits of the programme to BT are wide ranging. As an organisation with a long history and a part of the cultural fabric of the UK, maintaining the links with armed forces and supporting the armed forces is an important part of the BT corporate image. Through its various military focussed initiatives, BT are able to engage and promote a positive image to both their internal and external stakeholders. It also helps fulfil one of BT’s key corporate responsibility targets which is to ensure that two thirds of their employees engage in volunteering by 2020.
Added to this, there are also other more operational level benefits. Volume recruiting is one such benefit. As Mark Arscott explains, other traditional recruiters will not be able to deliver these numbers. Between, 2010 and 2014/2015 BT recruited 2,000 military personnel. Mark also points out that ex-military personnel who enter the BT assessment phase have a 60% pass rate compared to the 50% for those with a non-military background. This means the assessment centres are more effective at each of these recruitment cycles.
The employee engagement initiatives help promote a sense of community within the organisation and aid a more supportive culture for the transition of ex-military personnel. This delivers many benefits in the long term including areas such as cost of hire, risk of hire, retention and return on investment on employees.
The Costs & Challenges
Some of the costs involved include the staff time and related costs. BT created the specific role of Head of Military Engagement which incurs costs. The employees who are involved with various mentoring, volunteering initiatives related to the armed forces also incur staff time which is a cost. The sponsorship of initiatives such as the Transition Force programme also incurs costs.
One of the greatest challenges is to keep the military engagement initiatives as a constant key aspect in every agenda throughout the organisation. It is also important to manage expectations of various parties involved. As Mark mentions, ‘it’s just trying to get that balance between doing the right thing, not overpromising, but delivering as much as you possibly can.’
Another key challenge is to ensure that the programme is sustainable in the long term. Ensuring that the military engagement continues regardless of personnel and other organisational changes is important. This would require devolving and delegating responsibility to employees at regional and local levels and ensuring that every employee is in a position to become a part of delivering these various initiatives.
BT are planning to evolve military engagement initiatives further within the three main streams of Business Benefits, Employee Engagement and Purposeful Business Agenda. They are looking into developing joint training and skills accreditations with the Ministry of Defence to enable more effective transition of military personnel into BT.
Volume recruitment works effectively for Openreach engineering roles. Going forward, BT plan to identify the best fit between various military ranks and branches and a wider range of BT roles.