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Realising the value of employing ex-military and reservists

Every year over 14,000 skilled and experienced individuals leave the Armed Forces ready to enter the civilian workforce. Individuals with a services background have a multitude of skills they can offer organisations and are highly suited to roles in areas such as engineering, logistics, project management, accounts, administration, and general management.

I work for a facilities management services provider which operates in many market sectors, one of which is defence, therefore we are naturally more aware of the value a former member of the armed forces can have within the workplace.

As well as their highly sought-after vocational skills, ex-forces individuals also possess a wide range of transferrable soft skills including communications; organisational; leadership and management, team building, decision making and problem solving.

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They also have a great deal of experience in dealing with a diverse range of people from all levels, nationalities and cultures; a high level of awareness of areas such as health and safety, security and the importance of sharing best practice. They develop vital skills to enable them to cope under pressure and operate with a high degree of professionalism.

But there is often a wariness from employers about recruiting ex-service personnel. Research published by SSAFA in 2019 revealed that British ex-service personnel struggle to find work due to mental health stigma.

According to the research almost half (46%) of UK recruiters worry about hiring a service leaver in case they had mental health issues and over a third (31%) of recruiters stated they feel reluctant to hire someone who had previously served.

SSAFA’s research also reveals the divide in understanding veterans in the workplace is profound. As on the other side of opinion, 43% say they would feel proud to work alongside a service leaver. In fact, workers cited being a team player (57%), driven (43%), a problem solver (42%), resilient (41%), quick thinking (40%) as qualities they associate with service leavers.

HRD’s can tap into this skilled group by investing some time in gaining insight into the full employee lifecycle experience and the employee value proposition when recruiting from the military community, whether ex-military and their families or members of the reserve forces

Connecting with the likes of SSAFA, DRM and the CTP can help build an understanding of what your organisation can offer service leavers and vice versa what they can offer you. 

It is important to not only equip managers and leaders in your business with the tools and knowledge to leverage the skills service leavers bring to the business but to ensure service leavers get the support they need to adjust to civilian working. 

We have created an employee network to do just this. Led by colleagues the feedback we are getting from the new network is proving invaluable as we continue to shape our people practices and policies to ensure we are a ‘forces friendly’ organisation.

The social impact of our business is very important to me personally and my employer, Sodexo.  The company has a commitment to doing all we can to recruit and support service leavers. Working in the sector I do, I am continuously looking at ways in which we can improve the way we engage with service leavers to help them find employment which helps them continue to have useful and rewarding careers outside of the military world.

For me it is not just about what opportunities my employer can offer it is also about how I can use my personal skills and experience to help them and I do that through SSAFA mentor scheme which myself and some colleagues joined last year and have encouraged others to do so too.

The mentor scheme pairs you with a mentee for a year. As I approach the end of my time with my first mentee, I have gained more of an understand about how hard it is for them to transition from military life and how much they have appreciated being able to talk about the challenges they are facing both employment-related and personally.

I look forward to meeting my next mentee and encouraging colleagues and fellow HR practitioners to realise the value ex-service personnel can bring to your organisation.


Rachel Evans is HR director, government and agencies at Sodexo UK & Ireland