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For years, Deloitte has been helping service leavers transition into civilian life via their ‘Deloitte Military Transition and Talent Programme (DMTTP)’. Within this programme is the Veterans Work series consisting of two reports and a series of short films which Vigilance has contributed to. Chris Recchia is a partner in Deloitte’s Risk Advisory business and the sponsoring partner for DMTTP, previously serving for 14 years in the military. Liz Coombs is a Director with a background in talent and recruitment who helped Chris establish the programme in 2012.
What is Veterans Work? What was the idea and motivation behind it and who is involved?
As part of Deloitte’s Military Transition and Talent Programme, Veterans Work began three years ago to provide tangible evidence of the value that veterans can bring to a business. The first year we produced a report on the benefits of a commercial organisation hiring veterans. This was the first time organisations had been provided with the data and facts they needed to understand the benefits of hiring veterans: the transferrable skills, the motivation and the leadership they bring. It was about equipping the industry with information. The following year we released three short films to share the message with a much broader audience. Last year we produced a report outlining the drivers behind the decisions service men and women make when leaving the armed forces. Veterans Work is there to connect service leavers with industry and educate it. In January, we are continuing the series with Veterans Work: The Debate.
In the first 2016 Veterans Work report, on average 30% of businesses nationwide were not actively considering veterans for recruitment. Three years later, has this changed?
There has been a change and it has been positive. Over the past years I’ve seen service leavers transition into commercial organisations and do amazingly well in their careers. I’ve also seen veterans start their own businesses and do extremely well. If you consider all the training they’ve had throughout their military career, veterans bring a lot of benefits to the workplace—and organisations are recognising that. There is still more to do: we need to dispel the myths that service leavers are a liability, because they aren’t.
What are the main obstacles for veterans transitioning into civilian life and getting gainful employment?
Myths, perceptions and lack of understanding are the main obstacles. Organisations might think that a group of service leavers will create difficulty for their employers and that they are hierarchical, but it’s the complete opposite. They’re clear thinkers, act autonomously to solve issues and get things done. Another obstacle is the perception of the word ‘veteran’. Many people would think of First and Second World War veterans, but actually there are loads of veterans of an employable age, who bring tremendous skills and value.
What are the benefits of hiring ex-military personnel?
We knew there were many benefits to hiring veterans, but it was good to get it confirmed with tangible evidence when we did the first report. The list of benefits goes on but things like; they are promoted quicker, have very strong communication skills, take less time off sick than their civilian peers and the leadership skills go without saying, of course. My own personal opinion from having worked with lots of veterans is that they have a great fantastic can-do attitude, they are great at working under pressure, they’ve got a good attitude to team working as effectively as possible and I haven’t met one who doesn’t have a great sense of humour. So, they are a real pleasure to work with.
And an interrelated question; for an employer, where do the challenges lie in hiring from this talent pool?
The main challenge is for employers to understand which skillset they are hiring for. When they’ve figured that out, they need help to connect with the right veterans so they can access those skills easily. When they have been hired, veteran employees do need to be supported through their transition; the more support they get, the quicker and easier the transition and productive integration into the business is. That support can be mentoring plus the necessary ‘technical’ training in the new area they will be working in. In my experience if these things are in place, because of their skills and experience, they get up to speed very quickly.
If a company that has had no previous experience of recruiting from the Armed Forces wanted to hire veterans, how does Veterans Work recommend that they go about that?
There is so much information and various bodies out there that can help, the Veterans Work website (www.veteranswork.org.uk) is able to point people in the right direction. A good first point of call is ‘Defence Relationship Management’, set up by the Ministry of Defence. They have an Employer Recognition Scheme, where companies can sign up to the Armed Forces Covenant. Signing up and showing various levels of commitment to the scheme shows people that you are a veteran friendly employer [A Silver Award holder, Vigilance is seeking Gold in 2020]. You’ll find details too of other organisations such as The Career Transition Partnership (CTP) and The Officers’ Association who can provide help and guidance for any organisations thinking about hiring veterans.
Have you seen any change to veterans getting jobs over the last couple of years?
The data that we have suggests that there has been a change. One of our statistics shows that service leavers will take a role just to get a job, which means their skills aren’t being best utilised and isn’t good value for money. So, one of our challenges, is making sure service leavers get the right roles suitable for their skills and they fully realise their potential.
There’s very interesting research in the Veterans Work reports but for you what have been the most remarkable findings coming out of this project?
Chris: Many key findings, but to pull out one statistic: 71% of medium to large organisations say they would consider employing veterans, while only 39% would employ someone with no industry experience. This again shows how industry needs to be educated to understand the transferrable skills a service leaver brings. I think it’s important to remember that veterans bring skills such as leadership, management and motivation (which can’t always be taught), whereas the skillset you might need for a specific role can be trained.
And for Liz: an interesting finding in the first report was actual understanding of the word ‘veteran’. The association the public had with the word veteran, meant the words that came up were old, male, American… and some younger members of the public thought it meant working with sick animals, confusing a veteran with a veterinarian! This demonstrated the need for wider education of industry and public, and the lack of understanding about the value that a potential young female veteran who is a cyber expert might bring to organisations crying out for those skills.
It appears that veterans have a strong homing instinct when leaving the services, and that this frequently affects employment choices and prospects. Is there a fix for this?
What organisations have to remember is that while they served in the military, veterans moved either on their own, or with their families every two to three years. That means uprooting everything. So, it’s not surprising that 50% of veteran service leavers choose to stay in the area they live in because they already have a home there. As an industry we have the possibility of agile working through technology, so organisations shouldn’t think of this instinct as a negative. Considering the cost of office space in London and other big cities, having employees working remotely can be a positive.
Are there areas that prospective employers should be more aware of in considering a veteran for a role?
There are some areas which both employers and veterans think they are more suitable for; such as Vigilance’s own field of Security, Cyber and Project Risk Management. But we always urge employers to consider wider transferrable skills rather than just obvious expertise. A couple of years ago we recruited a guy who has been a brigadier in the Army and came to Deloitte for some work experience. When he came in, I asked him what he’d be interested in and he mentioned Risk Advisory and Consulting. I also asked him which areas he wasn’t keen on; he didn’t think he could work in Tax as he didn’t know anything about it. I decided to introduce him to my boss and even though sceptical, he went to the meeting and through it ended up with a job in Tax, working on our global tax digital transformation. He didn’t initially need technical experience, because what the team needed was someone with strong stakeholder management and project management skills, which he has in spades. It’s a great example of someone seeing potential in an individual and their transferrable skills.
Challenges for ex-services personnel, like PTSD are well publicised but still relatively little understood. Is mental health an area of focus for Veterans Work?
It’s an area that should not go unnoticed and it’s an area where individuals who are subject to those illnesses need to be supported and helped. The organisations and charities are there to help them. However, Veterans Work and our programme are there to educate the industry on the benefits of hiring service leavers. Saying that, I’ve seen service leavers with mental health issues who have been very successful after transitioning into commercial life.
The first Veterans Work phase highlighted the wealth of ex-service potential and skills, while the second phase identified the factors that affect veterans in transitioning from the military. Have you identified yet the next phase project focus?
Many of the organisations and industry people we frequently speak to are already aware of the benefits of hiring veterans and so we’re really preaching to the converted. We know that there is an ‘echo chamber’ which perpetuates many of the same positive and negative myths and stereotypes about veterans and so the next step is to smash open the echo chamber. On 21st January 2020 we’re planning Veterans Work: The Debate, which will be a half day interactive event with panel discussions on the topics of the veteran brand, how employers can more successfully collaborate to hire more veterans and lastly, the future of work and the role veterans can play. All the people who contribute to the veteran narrative will take part; industry, MOD, policy makers, the media, military charities and veterans themselves. We have a great variety of really exciting speakers lined up so we hope it will be a very robust debate which moves the veteran narrative on. We are keen to get organisations involved who don’t currently hire veterans either being present on the day or by joining live streaming of the debate.
Vigilance has a uniquely high percentage of veterans in its workforce, bringing many very clear strengths, and a small number of challenges. What has been your perception of the balance of this SWOT relationship in leading ex-military recruitment within Deloitte?
For Deloitte it’s been tremendously successful and over the years we haven’t only supported thousands of individuals through transition, we’ve also hired into our business. And while it’s not the purpose of the programme, we have got over 200 veterans in our organisation. Last year we hired around 25 people into our cyber department from GCHQ, which has been really successful. It’s a great example of how specific skills can be directly transferred into a commercial organisation.
For those who want to get involved with Veterans Work, how can they best lend a hand?
If people want to get involved, they should read the reports we have released, Veterans Work: Recognising the potential of ex-service personnel, Veterans Work: Moving on and watch the videos on our YouTube channel. Once you understand your organisation’s needs, hiring service leavers can add a lot of value to your company. You can see this in action within organisations like ours, and of course Vigilance’s. It could be something small like having a coffee with a veteran, talking about what they might want to do next, and looking at their CV. Engagement has a huge impact; the biggest help is to spread the word. If you are interested in attending Veterans Work: The Debate please email email@example.com.
We want to thank Chris, Pete and Liz and the team at Deloitte for taking the time to share their expertise with us. Vigilance serves public, private and commercial sectors, providing security with integrity. Please get in touch regarding your requirements, so we can create a bespoke security package based on individual risk assessments of your needs. Call us now on 020 3416 5340 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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