Veterans not able to reach full potential

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Veterans are often paired with jobs that don't let them reach their full potential, the Institute of Leadership and Management has found

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

Through a series of focus groups the Institute of Leadership and Management found that the skills veterans had developed in the military meant that many (41%) did, however, successfully transition to civilian jobs.

Speaking to HR magazine, head of research, policy and standards at the Institute of Leadership and Management Kate Cooper said that differing attitudes on teamwork could be a challenge for veterans transitioning to civilian jobs.

“One of our standout finds was the way people who have served in the military view teams. In the army leadership and teamwork are intertwined; your success is dependent on how you work together. In the world of work processes like appraisals and targets mean that everything’s very centred on the individual. It can be a big culture shock,” she said.

Awareness of your company’s culture is key to making the most of veterans' skills, Cooper added. “It starts with awareness and being sensitive to differences. Employers need to recognise if they have an individualistic culture, and start taking steps to change this from one that’s centred on ‘I’ to one of ‘we'.”

Cooper explained that, if harnessed, the mentality veterans often have around teamwork can be extremely beneficial to businesses.

“When you look at what employers want from graduates, they say they want people who are able to work as a team, but universities require you to do so much on your own. It’s a sign that employers need to look at applicants outside of the traditional education route.”

Feelings of social isolation at work can be another area where veterans struggle, Cooper said.

“There’s obviously a huge sense of camaraderie in the army; where you're working with people 24/7 and developing close bonds. Whereas in work you see your colleagues for a certain number of hours a day and you often lead very separate lives," she said. "But there’s always ways that employers can help in integrating people and encouraging them to make friends – and everyone can benefit from a supportive sociable environment.”

Cooper said that, among other activity, the Institute of Leadership and Management has developed a LinkedIn group where former military personnel who have transitioned successfully can offer advice to others in a similar position.

She added that veterans often have a desire and drive to learn that can be a real asset in the workplace. “Employers were really impressed by veterans’ ability to keep learning, developing, and preparing for their work; it’s something you don’t come across frequently,” she said.

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