With data such as that found by LinkedIn and Westpac revealing that defence personnel over-index on all of the top twelve skills Australia leaders look for in employers, it’s no wonder leading organisations are hiring ex-military personnel.
To help more organisations both hire and nurture these valuable employees, we spoke to nine ex-military personnel currently thriving in new careers with a range of our Endorsed Employers. From how their force’s skills transfer to the workplace to the ways in which their employers attract and retain military personnel, their insights are vital intel for HR and recruitment teams.
Hiring ex-military employees brings a wealth of transferable skills onboard
Michael Tan | Business Development Manager, Programmed: I think the most important skills that I brought from my military career would be my resilience and integrity. You need resilience to forge ahead and adapt to your change in circumstances after departing the military. Integrity has allowed me to build trusting working relationships in my new role; my colleagues and clients know that I give my all and that I will support them to achieve success.
Wayne Vickers | Partner - Technology Consulting, EY: Throughout my military career I received continual learning and development opportunities ranging from all corps to trade specific. The most transferable skills that I have taken from my time in the Australian Army are those pertaining to leadership, strategic planning and my Signals Corps specific technical capability. These set the foundations for working as part of (or leading) teams with the common goal of solving the difficult problems for our clients. These solutions require teamwork, planning and effective communications skills in order to be successful.
Geneen Lord | Locomotive Driver, Aurizon: [The most important transferable skill I’ve gained] is a good understanding of safety. The ability to perform my job safely, to have the moral courage to identify, discuss and report issues when something is not being conducted safely.
Carly Caseur | HR Coordinator, Rheinmetall Defence Australia: Being adaptable, adjusting to change, and remaining focused are the biggest things I have brought with me from my time in the military.
Eric Atkinson | Station Officer, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services: Unfortunately for myself no skills were transferable but what was valuable was the experience of working in high stress situations. My deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan provided me with experience that I felt were more beneficial than any skill I could have learnt. Having this experience gave me the building blocks to learn more about myself in high-stress situations and in everyday life.
Jodi Philips | Program Manager Educate, Amazon Web Services: Initiative and accountability. In AWS you have a lot of freedom to take good ideas and put them into practice to drive better outcomes for our customers. In my experience, military veterans are comfortable being out of their comfort zone, taking risks and being mission focused to achieve an outcome — so I see great cultural alignment between the two.
By hiring ex military personnel, you’re hiring key core values
Carly Caseur | HR Coordinator, Rheinmetall Defence Australia: [Military] values never leave you and it makes you a more ethically sound and emotionally intelligent employee. The resilience, teamwork and self dependence taught in the military allows you to effectively integrate into established teams and drives the continued focus and adaptability shown by ex-defence employees who have transitioned into a new career.
Jodi Philips | Program Manager Educate, Amazon Web Services: When I looked at the Amazon Leaderships Principles I was immediately struck with how similar they were to the military. Ownership, Invent and Simplify, Bias for Action, Insist on the Highest Standards, Earn Trust and Customer Obsession are just another way of saying be accountable, have high personal and professional standards, drive, initiative and integrity — all the things that are core to being an officer of soldier in the military. It’s the same ideals, just a different language.
Michael Tan | Business Development Manager, Programmed: My integrity and loyalty were beneficial in a new work environment as it helped me to form friendships and positive working relationships with colleagues and clients. There is always an adjustment period when starting a new chapter in your life; having the core values and strengths that were embedded within me from the military made it easier for me to find my way and align myself to the workplace values of my employer, Programmed. Determination and dedication have been invaluable — I have easily applied them at work, and as a Business Development Manager it has helped me to focus and build strong, trusting business relationships.
Paula Bowen | Logistics Coordinator, Naval Ship Management: My military career taught me resilience, which I have utilised within my civilian career many times. From changing roles and environments to the change of a contractor (going from one shirt to another in the same role) the challenges can be significant and being able to exercise resilience and mentor others to learn this trait is really valuable when managing change.
When contracts and jobs are being reviewed, effective leadership utilising tactics in resilience means that employees continue to be motivated and informed, enables transparency and discussion of information, continuing effective business operations. This is the value I was able to bring in these situations.
Eric Atkinson | Station Officer, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services: As a Station Officer with Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, the core values of transitioning from the Military to become a professional Firefighter are identical. I feel it has helped me throughout my professional development from starting as a recruit Firefighter to a Station Officer. QFES expects a level of discipline and courage not just on the Fireground but also at the Fire Station ranging from having the courage to speak up when things are out of alignment with our core values to showing courage in emergency situations to help the community.
Wayne Vickers | Partner - Technology Consulting, EY: Core values are instilled in members of the military where all are dedicated to the success of the mission, from planning, stakeholder engagement, orders delivery and execution. This aligns closely to the way consultants approach services provided to client organisations.
Members of the military transitioning to consulting or service delivery bring with them a high degree of technical capability, leadership and strategic planning capabilities that allow for an easier transition to other career paths. These values have enabled me to obtain the trust and respect of my newfound work colleagues and clients.
Six expert tips for supporting and recruiting ex-military employees
1. Offer support from the very start
“I believe it is important to provide meaningful pathways for ex-military personnel to transition back into the civilian workforce. This can be quite a confusing time, as when you transition out you may have a feeling of identity crisis; when you are in the military you are part of this tight knit family and then when you transition out you are on your own.
“Many ex-military personnel don’t think that they have the transferable skills necessary to make it in the civilian workforce; this can either stop them from transitioning out or slows the process down and can ultimately lead to further issues such as mental health concerns. Support needs to be relevant to the individuals own circumstances and experiences. For some people it takes a lot longer to adjust and they may need that extra layer of support. The ‘one size fits all’ approach does not work. Structure and a sense of camaraderie are some of the main things that ex-military people may be looking for. If we can provide this, it will help to streamline the transition process and make things go easier.” Michael Tan, Business Development Manage, Programmed.
2. Invest time in understanding the benefits of ex-military personnel
Michael goes on to suggest: “From a workplace perspective, it is important to be flexible and recognise the individual’s unique experiences, be respectful on days of significance and allow people to observe them in their own manner. Employers should be seeking out the value of employing ex-military personnel as their unique perspectives and experiences as well as their core values can really help build a strong team.”
“The advice I would provide to the organisation is to understand and identify the full range of experience, qualifications, multi-skills and knowledge within and external of the military member’s allocated Corp and rank.” Geneen Lord, Locomotive Driver, Aurizon.
3. Aid the adjustment (it’s worth the investment)
“Military life brings a certain set of values/principles that somewhat differ to the civilian way of life. These values can be so entrenched it may be problematic when expecting a working/management style to align with their civilian counterparts.
“Support and coaching to align the ex-military employee to business expectations is worth the investment, particularly in the field of people management. In my experience, having maintained a leadership role in the Military does not guarantee a parallel output unless the ex-military employee is given the tools to align themselves with the business expectations. I believe there is a corporate responsibility to these individuals (and all employees) to teach methods applicable to their expected output within the workplace.” Paula Bowen, Logistics Coordinator, Naval Ship Management.
4. Set up a support network
Carly Caseur, HR Coordinator at Rheinmetall Defence Australia advises: “Ensure there is a good support network in place with the flexibility to accommodate the veterans needs.”
Mark Gainsford, Service Delivery Executive at Cisco Systems, suggests that this can be done by tapping into and supporting existing networks that are focussed one helping military personnel in this transition: “Once you hire, provide those foundational programs to enable a successful transition — buddy programs, onboarding processes and training, strong managerial structures that discuss expectations and provide the support and counselling needed to succeed.”
An example of this is BHP Veteran Military and Families Group on its Yammer (networking) site. Zoua Davis, Principal Planning & Scheduling, explains: “Veterans such as myself are able to communicate with other veterans at BHP locations throughout the world. We share ideas and are able to talk about similar experiences from our military career and/or current career. Knowing I have colleagues that understand my military background makes me feel at home. It’s always nice to be understood.”
5. Show your support wherever possible
Carly Caseur also suggests employers should: “Openly show support towards organisations that support Veteran services, such as Legacy, and actively contribute where possible. Educate members of staff who do not have Defence backgrounds to divide that can exist between the two.”
Again, this point was further echoed by Zoua Davis from BHP: “I’ve received a lot of “thank you for your service” from co-workers at each company I’ve worked at post military, but have never been recognized by the company itself until my experience at BHP.
“Every year since I joined the company in 2013, I’ve volunteered at the Houston Rodeo during Armed Forces Appreciation day. As a sponsor of the Rodeo, BHP opens the volunteer opportunity to BHP veterans first before the rest of their employees. I am thankful that the company encourages me to donate this work day to help my former colleagues enjoy the Rodeo with their family. It’s also my chance to give back and say “thank you for your service because I know the sacrifices you go through”.
6. Help HR to help their teams
“I also think it is key that organisations have the right mental health support mechanisms for all staff, not just veterans, to access help if they need it and to ensure their HR staff are well informed around veteran friendly recruitment practices and development. One of the hardest things when you leave the military is trying to distill all the things you have done and achieved in the military into a relatable format for HR staff that have no idea about military service. The more training HR staff have around veteran recruitment the easier that will be.” Jodi Philips, Program Manager Educate, Amazon Web Services
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