Incorporating veterans into your hiring strategy

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Former group HRD of The Go-Ahead Group, Val Proctor shares her experiences of building a veteran employment programme

Much of my career has been focused on building a diverse and productive workforce that reflects the customer base it serves. For the transport industry ‘workplace diversity’ is more than just a buzzword – it’s a business necessity.

More than a billion journeys take place on The Go-Ahead’s Group’s rail and bus services each year, meaning its customer base is about as broad as it gets. As part of The Go-Ahead Group’s commitment to delivering the best customer experience, it was my job to bring a mix of people from different backgrounds into the organisation and create an inclusive environment to ensure that mix worked well together.

That’s why in the two years before I stepped down from my role I took a number of steps to incorporate veterans into our hiring strategy. Military personnel are highly trained and have a strong work ethic – why wouldn’t we look into that population for talent?

Finding the right partner

The starting point was figuring out where people from the services could fulfil a business need. Military recruitment expert SaluteMyJob helped us to identify roles that matched the skills of people in the services. That meant it was able to put forward candidates with the right skills – many of whom might have been overlooked by our traditional recruitment practice.

As a former military wife and with a daughter serving in the Navy, I’ve seen first-hand the challenges service personnel face when transitioning out of the military. Am I a manager? Am I a director? Who do I get my orders from? These are the types of questions service personnel often ask themselves and it can create a lack of confidence and self-worth. That’s why it’s important to find the right partner who can offer transition support to help service personnel become competitive and job-ready.

Designing a recruitment process that works for you

The key to designing an effective employment programme is creating a recruitment process that works for you. The Go-Ahead Group wanted to move towards a pipeline of good applicants coming through on a regular basis, rather than waiting for jobs to become available. With high volumes of recruitment in engineering and a big skills gap across the industry it made sense to constantly interview good candidates. If they were talented we would hire them because we knew the business would always need good engineers. That was the process that worked for us.

One example is Robert. He started with The Go-Ahead Group in January. A former tank maintenance manager in the Army with 14 years' exemplary experience, he is now working as a service engineer. Although Robert wasn’t a qualified engineer we accepted that his military training, experience and expertise were sufficient evidence of his aptitude and ability to pass a practical, technical course.

Putting down the welcome mat

Taking steps to support people to settle into the business is just as important as getting them there in the first place. Establishing an internal military network or setting up a buddy scheme are just two of the ways businesses can help new recruits adapt to the commercial world.

Business in the Community’s new toolkit Capitalising on military talent is a really useful place to start. It helps organisations to think about each stage of the employment process – how to make the proposition inspiring, how to create an accessible recruitment process, and how to go about on-boarding. And it brings it to life with best practice examples from others who have embraced military recruiting.

All of this takes time. And you can’t expect a tidal wave of applications to come through immediately. But with a little bit of investment we were able to attract some brilliant people.

Ex-service men and women are a valuable asset to any employer that understands the value of workplace diversity. I’d encourage you to make them welcome in your business too.

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