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Michael Brash

Pathfinder International


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‘The best trained workforce in the world:’ Recruiting veterans to plug skills gaps 

Michael Brash, Editor of Pathfinder International, believes that veterans are good for business. Their extensive military training leaves them with skills and qualities many organisations are lacking – could a veteran be your next hire?
black and gray jet in sky, veterans

Armed Forces Day on 29 June is a chance for the public to show their support for the men and women who make up the Armed Forces community: from currently serving personnel to Service families, veterans and cadets. 

Showing support for the Armed Forces provides a much-valued morale boost for serving personnel, veterans and their families. However, supporting our sailors, soldiers and aviators goes beyond Armed Forces Day. 

In fact, many businesses, alongside the Government, and local communities across the UK have committed to supporting Armed Forces personnel past and present by signing up to the Armed Forces Covenant. For employers especially, this pledge is not just a show of respect, it’s a smart talent acquisition strategy.  

What is the Armed Forces Covenant? 

The Covenant, in essence, is a promise that together we acknowledge and understand that those who serve or have served in the Armed Forces, and their families, should be treated with fairness and respect in the communities, economy, and society they serve with their lives. 

Its two principles are as follows: 

  • Those who serve in the Armed Forces, whether Regular or Reserve, those who have served in the past, and their families, should face no disadvantage compared to other citizens in the provision of public and commercial services. 
  • Special consideration is appropriate in some cases, especially for those who have given most such as the injured and the bereaved. 

Veterans are good for business 

There is more to the Covenant than simply showing respect and ensuring fairness. Increasingly, employers are acknowledging that veterans are good for business, borne out by the fact that many Covenant pledges are centred around employment. 

The British Armed Forces are often referred to as ‘the best trained workforce in the world’, but what can a business expect when hiring people from a military background? 

Plugging skills gaps through veteran recruitment 

First off, be prepared for an almost encyclopaedic range of specialised skills: the modern military trains and develops people in fields as diverse as cyber security, medicine, logistics, catering, management, communications, and much more. 

Beyond job-specific skills, people who have served in uniform have qualities – or soft skills – that are extremely attractive to potential employers. Ask anyone who has hired a veteran to put a name to these skills or values and you will almost always hear the following: 

  • Integrity 
  • Can-do attitude 
  • Resilience 
  • Dedication  
  • Calm under pressure 
  • Team player 
  • Respect for others 
  • Loyalty 

Be prepared for an almost encyclopaedic range of specialised skills.

Exceptional leadership skills among veterans

Another recurring theme is leadership, and this is where veterans truly shine. The military training programme is constant and relentless, operating under an ‘education for promotion’ system. You do your basic training, you learn, you go to your unit to work with your team. After that you do a course and get promoted. You go back to your unit and put into practice what you’ve learned, train and lead others, do another course and get promoted. 

However, you cannot lead people beyond where you can and are willing to go yourself – this is why military leaders are role models and must actively demonstrate the above values in everything they do. By consistently doing so, they will be considered an authentic leader who ‘Walks the Walk’ as well as one who ‘Talks the Talk’ – this promotes integrity. Your veteran leaders who lead by example will also inspire courage and selfless commitment. 

Another recurring theme is leadership, and this is where veterans truly shine.

Veteran employees are complex problem solvers and creative thinkers 

The brain, like a muscle, develops through use. Military leaders encourage those they lead to think by giving them problems that stretch them. ‘Thinking outside the box’ and finding an innovative solution to a problem is a fine quality in a serviceman or woman. Giving people the opportunity to think and suggest ideas demonstrates respect for others. This, in turn, generates trust and confidence, which builds loyalty. 

It is human nature to enjoy being praised, and reward recognises effort. This inspires further endeavour and motivation to do even better. Leaders must apply a full range of rewards, from formal recognition to timely and regular verbal praise. The military are taught that recognition should be positive and assist the individual or team in enhancing their performance even more. The correct application of reward promotes loyalty and respect for others. 

Hiring veterans could be your most fruitful recruitment strategy 

Do these sound like qualities you’d like to see in your organisation? Could you use some integrity, loyalty, resilience and leadership in your teams? Hiring veterans is good for business – it really is that simple. 

To learn more about veterans in the civilian workforce, check out

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Michael Brash


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