We are all aware of the current skill shortage that the defence industry is facing. Our veterans and ex-service personnel are an important resource in finding a solution to this problem as they hold a wealth of knowledge and skills unique to their Defence training and experience. Although some practical abilities may not be relevant in a business setting, their soft skills are a huge asset. Collaboration, problem-solving, attention to detail and leadership are just some of the many skills that are commonly held and refined by most ex-Defence personnel.
Hiring and retaining these workers is an excellent opportunity to inject strength, diversity and efficiency into your business. With that being said, you often need to plan and fine-tune your hiring and retention strategies to maximise your chances of identifying, attracting and keeping these hidden gems.
So, here are four strategies we recommend you implement to make the most of hiring and retaining ex-ADF candidates.
1. LOOK DEEPER WHEN ASSESSING RESUMES
When you look at a resume with a lot of Defence experience, you probably won’t see examples of sales targets, KPIs, and customer service. Instead, look at the examples of resilience and technical training you may not be familiar with, and consider the teamwork, strategic thinking and leadership skills they had to use on each project. If you have veterans already working inside your organisation, it can be a great idea to get their thoughts on the candidate’s resume; it might help shed light on particular experience areas.
2. CONSIDER INTERVIEWING AND HIRING DIFFERENTLY
Traditional interview questions may not draw out the true skills of ex-defence personnel. Behavioural based interview questions have a much higher chance of getting a feel for a candidate’s capabilities, such as problem-solving and critical thinking. Instances of skill use may not come in a familiar ‘story of a time when…’ but if you prepare to actively listen you will certainly find abilities you need wrapped in examples you may not be familiar with.
Hiring for soft skills rather than black and white experience can be beneficial as we all know that having a variety of perspectives and strengths in your staff leads to innovation, efficiency and a well-rounded workforce. Explore their ability to be trained and to adapt to your environment.
3. INDUCTION PROCESS IS CRITICAL
Moving from the world of the military to the private sector can be a daunting task, particularly because the culture and general operations are completely different. What this means for you is that you might need to spend more time familiarising hires with terminology and culture and helping to transfer their communication and leadership skills to a business setting. See our blog on the differences between leadership in and out of defence for some insight. During this process, we recommend offering a buddy system, additional training and development, providing mental health support, and encouraging open communication. Although it might take a bit more initial effort, it will be more than worth it in the long run.
4. ASSIGN A MENTOR
The benefits of mentoring are well known and well established. The best way to fast track a hire's integration into a business is to assign them a mentor. This dedicated person will watch out for them and teach them the ins and outs, smoothing any bumps. The benefits of assigning a mentor include fast-tracked learning, developing skills in key areas, increased confidence, and a sense of belonging within the organisation. This is particularly important for ex-military employees, even for small things like everyday acronyms, how they communicate internally and how private industry conducts itself. It would be even better to connect them with someone else in the business that has also made the transition out of the forces, even if it’s just for a couple of lunches.
As initially stated, veterans and ex-service personnel have great values and hold a wealth of skills and attributes that can be hard to identify and are under-utilised in the business world. Fostering smarter hiring and onboarding processes to capture these people will surely benefit your business in a multitude of ways.
** This blog has been updated in 2023 to reflect more recent defence industry trends.
Photo Credit: Department of Defence