Former military personnel have long described themselves as ‘flexible and adaptable’ to future employers. These, in addition to ‘dynamic and enthusiastic’ often provide the opening lines to many CVs. Clearly these are admirable attributes - who would not wish to hire such a person?
However, the problem with these adjectives is that they are largely unsubstantiated and meaningless without context.
Many employers do not headline such adjectives in job descriptions, favouring instead specific skills and qualifications, some of which military people may lack. This often leads to a fear of applying for jobs, assuming they will not be successful.
How can employers better understand the wealth of multi-functional skills that veterans bring and look beyond the need for industry experience and qualifications?
Veterans’ Work, a research report produced by Deloitte in collaboration with the Officers’ Association and Forces in Mind Trust (FIMT), bringing their collective insight and passion for the veterans’ community, highlights the challenges ex-military face when job seeking and the perception of some employers towards veterans.
In the report, it was found that 53% of employers said that the veterans they had hired were promoted faster and were more loyal and committed.
Rupert Stevens, former officer, Grenadier Guards and now Lead Product Manager with Metro Bank said:
“Military personnel are very good at delivering results and keeping teams and groups focused on the task at hand, while not getting distracted by minor events that may be going on concurrently.
The proactive and focused mind-sets, driven personalities and problem-solving approach that becomes embedded in officers are hugely beneficial, regardless of industry and job role. This combination ensures officers are effective agents for delivering tangible actions and workloads.”
Military CVs often do not do justice to the raft of transferrable skills that veterans possess. Skills such as excellent communication, planning and time management are often attributed to veterans, in addition to team working and leading and inspiring others. Military people are quick to pick up new information and have a positive attitude as well as intuitive listening skills. Add these to an ability to work in fast-paced, rapidly changing environments where judgement and decision-making under pressure are paramount and you get a good idea of what a military person can bring.
Former Army officer Tom Costin now working as a Maintenance Performance Manager at Thames Water in his first civilian role commented:
“People expect an ex-military person to be a different manager in the team but as soon as people start working with you they get to see the real person behind the title and treat you accordingly.”
All of these skills have been well tested in diverse environments and situations. Whether it is operating within or even establishing headquarters such as those in Lashkar Gah, Afghanistan, Basra in Iraq, or supporting the UN in Somalia, veterans are masters at robustness and productivity in difficult conditions. Grit and resilience, curiosity, critical thinking and logical reasoning are all second nature.
This is where adaptability and flexibility come in. An ability to be enterprising, come up with creative solutions and make the best of any situation is invaluable. They see things differently and add a fresh perspective.
Former officer Louise Chaplin, Head of Board Practice at Executive Search and Interim Management firm Eton Bridge Partners took part in a recent OA Virtual employment event said: “The civilian world isn’t as structured as the military world, so challenge your thinking and be creative.”
Why is this relevant in the current environment?
In the long term, there forms a link between adaptability and performance. Employers are now reviewing the way they work, undertaking home based or remote working, and this number will continue to rise as they try to work with clients to tackle operational, technical and logistical challenges. Offering flexible solutions to keep the wheels of work turning and as well as employees safe will be crucial to a firm’s success and survival in this landscape. Veterans are ready to rise to meet these unprecedented changes in the status quo.
Indeed, levels of readiness and resilience may well determine an organisation’s path out of the crisis and the related workforce implications. Intelligent firms are keeping on top of ways to return to ‘normal’ – whatever that might look like – from COVID-19, as well as opportunities for deeper restructuring to adapt and evolve.
Lee Holloway, Chief Executive Officer of the Officers’ Association (OA) commented:
“Former military personnel have gone through some of the toughest recruitment and training programmes in the world. As a result, they are well equipped to tackle the management and leadership challenges in today’s Covid-19 hit economy.”
In the current crisis, we have seen companies collaborating for the wider good, such as airlines offering grounded cabin crew as additional staff to temporary hospitals, or even adapting completely by making something different and useful, such as a gin manufacturer producing hand sanitiser, Dyson making ventilators and even the Royal Mint making plastic visors for healthcare staff.
Organisations will also continue to adapt to how we use public transport, logistics, ways of doing business, hiring people… It is clear that agility will be an important skill this year as companies take steps to simultaneously bounce back and move forward.
This is an opportunity for those with such skills in abundance, such as veterans. We have seen that COVID-19 is a catalyst for change. Perhaps being ‘flexible and adaptable’ is the key to success after all?