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APM supports study into how British businesses missing key productivity and skills boost by ignoring military veterans

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Businesses are missing out on key opportunities to boost their skills base and productivity by not effectively employing well-qualified former military personnel, according to new information released today by The Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) and supported by APM.  

According to the ILM, 86 per cent of veterans say business managers still don’t understand how military honed skills can transfer into boosting businesses on civvy street.

ILM’s new report Tales of Transition, identifies the barriers to helping ex-forces personnel enter the civilian workplace. The report also details the steps that business leaders can take to support the transition of around 15,000 people who leave the UK Regular Armed Forces each year.

Based on findings from a series focus groups, the report reveals that veterans are often being recruited to jobs that don’t match their skill sets, which goes to affect productivity when they’re not used to their full potential.

At a time when the UK’s business community could benefit from a productivity boost and an uplift in skills, the research found that service leavers often feel disadvantaged when they enter competitive ‘civvy street’, despite the years of varied training they’ve received and the skills they’ve developed during military service.

Commenting on the research, Alan Macklin, Vice Chair of APM and Principal Programme Manager at Jacobs. Formally a Major General in the British Army said:

“Members of our Armed Forces are embedded in an environment that promotes high levels of personal development, resilience, self-discipline and commitment to a greater purpose than self; at all levels. During their service about 30 per cent of their time is spent training and that training is set in a context that recognises the need for adaptability to different circumstances.  Service leavers at all ages bring an unmatched ethos towards team work along with an ability to respond to changing circumstances and skills across a variety of trades.

This research analyses some of the issues facing Service leavers and employers: to the former it should give them confidence to adapt by learning a new language to sell their old skills: to the latter it shines a light to break down stereotyped views and opens a door to access untapped potential to transform their business performance.”

The key findings and highlights from the focus group research include:

  • Military life – Participants felt that military personnel had a strong culture of learning, as around 30 per cent of their time in the military is based around learning and developing skills. It is also felt that the military lifestyle creates a culture of strong team work and continual improvement where good teamwork is often considered more effective than the actions of an individual.
  • Barriers to employment – There is a stark contrast between the language and corporate behaviour used by civilians and veterans, so it’s unsurprising that culture dominated almost half of the sessions (46 per cent), as a barrier to employment. Participants also discussed issues in demonstrating confidence, ‘selling themselves’ to civilian bosses and the struggles they faced when finding employment at a similar skill level to the one they were operating in while part of the military, often due to biased civilian perceptions.
  • Better transition – The group recognised that a range of services are available to help the transition for veterans. However, it was believed that the most vulnerable and in need of these services failed to access them, as they were unsure about which options best addressed their own transition.

According to The Institute of Leadership & Management’s Leadership Redeployed report, 86 per cent of survey respondents said many employers don’t understand how military experience transfers to other sectors. Also, 69 per cent said many civilian employers are not aware of the talent, skills and attributes of ex-forces workers and so they miss out on the full benefit of employing them, even when they do offer them a job.

But it’s not all doom and gloom, as the research shows the positive perspective veterans have about the leadership skills they’ve developed in the military and that many people do make a successful transition into civilian jobs. Veterans identified leading a team, people management and communication as the top three leadership capabilities – all of which are crucial in the civilian workplace. In addition, almost half (47 per cent) of survey respondents said they described the transition of their military skills into a civilian environment as a positive experience and 41 per cent said it was easier to seek help and develop a suitable support network in civilian organisations (40 per cent).

Kate Cooper, head of research, policy and standards at The Institute of Leadership & Management, said: “Members of the Armed Forces acquire many new skills and capabilities during their service, the skills and capabilities that modern organisations need now.

Our research encourages employers and veterans to think again about how truly transferable these skills and capabilities really are.”

 Download the report 


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