Why you should hire veterans and encourage reserve service

When filling vacancies for any business finding suitable candidates a can be a long, costly and frustrating process. It is also one that still leaves a lot to chance in terms of what the candidates present throughout the process, and what they tangibly deliver once employed.

Even once employed, companies across all industries invest millions of pounds annually providing their employees with access to online courses and team workshops to help develop extra-curricular skills such as leadership, communication, planning and strategy, which all contribute to the employee’s development as they climb the career ladder ideally within that business, but this cannot be guaranteed. 

Skills and the military:

Business can learn 'clarity of purpose' from military

Case study: Banking on ex-military talent

The benefits of hiring an army reservist

Frequently the reality is that the return on this investment is restricted for several reasons. The courses are sporadic so embedding the skills is piecemeal, employees are taking part alongside their day job which often leads to them being distracted and being more focused on ‘that big presentation’ the following day.

Sometimes (albeit rarely), employees are doing it because they have been told to and therefore their minds are closed to the new information and its utility for their career development. 

Supporting the hiring of veterans and reservists is something Metro Bank has publicly endorsed since signing the Armed Forces Covenant in July 2019. Being awarded the coveted ‘Gold Award’ in August 2021, a mere two years later, is external validation of the methods and processes in place to ensure no disadvantage is faced by those leaving the British Armed Forces.

With veterans, from their first day in military training, are taught key skills including the ability to judge situations, assess risks, combine disparate groups behind a common purpose, task delivery, coaching skills and leading teams.

These skills become embedded and practised at all levels with many receiving recognised qualifications in these fundamental business skills. It is these items, which complement the technical expertise of one’s day job, that can turn the strategic intent of a company into a series of connected tasks which when delivered into the marketplace with momentum, is the basis for business growth.

The hiring-manager conundrum is that the veteran transferring into a new industry will not have the ‘technical’ knowledge and experience for the role, and therefore they often get overlooked in favour of a candidate who can demonstrate that experience despite the fact they may not have the other skills, that turn that subject-matter knowledge into market delivery.

Metro Bank’s hiring mantra is ‘Hire for attitude, train for skill,’ to ensure it hires those with the potential to grow themselves and the business. Experience can be acquired by anyone.

In the Armed Forces, for the military to meet its commitments and also ensure the personnel have the breadth of experience they need as they rise through the ranks, personnel move roles every two to three years. Therefore, a technical skills gap should be seen as a temporary issue for businesses because a motivated veteran with self-discipline and desire to succeed in gainful employment will absorb what is required as quickly as they needed to in their military service.

However, while they are doing this, the newly hired veteran can help increase the business’s return on their investment in courses and workshops as they will live and breathe those key skills being taught and help train them into their teams.  

This symbiotic relationship helps the entire team grow and increase their output which simultaneously helps the individuals in those teams progress in their careers while the businesses can realise their strategic goals more efficiently.

A flexible approach pays off. Hiring managers who encourage reserve service in their teams will benefit even if reservists are out of the business a little more than regular employees. Metro Bank, for example, allows reservists to take an extra 10 days for training leave on top of their annual leave allocation.

These employees volunteer for this vocation, the days they are away are not spent watching television but being trained in those key skills to a high level, under pressure. Skills they bring back into their day job with the added benefit that the business has not had to pay for them. 

There is a pure financial angle too. Since April 2021, company National Insurance contributions are waived for the first year of any permanent hire from the military and for those companies that use external recruiters, an internal veteran placement scheme removes commission costs.

Finally, an organisation that supports reservists will reduce their churn as those employees will feel valued by their leadership and will be motivated to do more in return. For both veterans and reservists, ‘loyalty’ is one of the core military values.  

Employing veterans and reservists is a rare opportunity for businesses to not only do something in return for the service this valued community in the UK provides, but it makes commercial sense as well. It’s a genuine ‘win-win.’

Rupert Stevens is Metro Bank's lead mortgage product manager and a former captain in the Grenadier Guards