Myth – busting about employing ex Armed Forces

Did you know that roughly 5% of the UK population have served in the UK’s Armed Forces? Whilst that number is declining as we lose those who served during the era of National service, the proportion of working age ex-Forces will increase. Each year, between 12-15,000 people leave the Armed Forces, the vast majority of whom are looking for a fulfilling second career. So with a unique set of experiences, highly trained and skilled, what’s the problem when it comes to employment?


Unsurprising, there are many misconceptions about what employing an ex-military candidate might be like. Research from the VeteransWork consortium highlighted that 60% of businesses rule out recruiting someone if they have no industry specific experience. This can place Armed Forces leavers at a distinct disadvantage. More disturbingly, Armed Forces charity SSAFA identified that nearly half of recruiters said they would worry about hiring service leavers.


They’re all mad, bad and/or sad

Quite rightly, awareness has been raised about the lack of support for the minority of Armed Forces veterans who suffer mental or physical ill health as a result of service. This has helped to reduce stigma as well. An unfortunate consequence is that there is a belief that all Veterans will suffer some form of mental or physical ill health. This simply isn’t the case. Proportionately, UK Veterans are less likely to suffer mental health issues than the wider population; one in five Veterans compared to one in four in the general population suffer with mental ill-health at any one time. Ex Armed Forces are also less likely to be involved with the criminal justice system than non-Veterans


Lack of commercial experience

There is a misconceptionthat, as the military is not concerned with making money, individuals who serve lack commercial acumen. However, many Veterans will have worked in circumstances with limited resources, trying to reduce costs and increase efficiencies. This is particularly true of those in senior leadership roles. MOD budget constraints are well documented in the media and military personnel have had to play their part.

Moreover, within some roles, personnel will have had responsibility for budgets and projects valued into the £millions. These can range from leading single projects to managing multiple, concurrent projects running into the $100mn mark. Almost all will have worked with civilian agencies and contractors, navigating the complexities of service level agreements and variations in working terms and conditions. Moreover, those in leadership roles will have been responsible for the day to day management of those business relationships. So many ex Armed Forces have both commercial acumen and contractual experience from their time in the military.


They shout at and order people around:

This myth also has the entertainment industry to blame. Gone are the days of leadership you see in Full Metal Jacket and an Officer and a Gentleman. Instead, think more along the lines of We were soldiers once and Band of Brothers for more realistic depictions of modern military leadership style.

Modern military leadership is intent based. Military leaders will adapt their leadership style to suit the situation and the people involved. It revolves around empathy and emotional intelligence. It is collaborative and based on trust and respect. Quite often the person in charge isn’t the technical specialist. They are a generalist and must build trusting working relationships with their teams to engage the specialists. All whilst being humble enough to admit to not having all the answers.

In many respects, it is a hard form of leadership. They cannot allow “knowledge is power” to be applied. If you employ an ex-military leader, you will find that they do demand high performance. But they are hugely supportive of their team. They will put immense efforts into enabling their team members to perform to their full potential. They will engage their team and lead them with a clear purpose and performance standards.

So next time you’re looking at recruitment, consider opening your recruitment process to include ex Armed Forces. Joint Force Alba works with ex-Armed Forces candidates looking for new roles across Scotland.

Get in touch today to find out how beneficial one of our candidates could be for your business. We can work with you either as a recruitment agency or we can help you set up the systems and processes to recruit ex Armed Forces directly.