Employers and project managers need to broaden their consideration of the untapped potential of veterans and the diversity of skills they can offer, says Karen Gallacher. She explores veteran employment and the skills veterans can bring to the workplace, considerations for employers when recruiting veterans, and tips on how to foster and retain veterans in the workplace.

According to a recent article from The Strategist, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute blog, an average of 5,000-6,000 Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel leave military service annually, presenting an overlooked opportunity for employers to access a wealth of talent and diverse skills.

Military personnel and veterans are often cross trained in a variety of skills and have experience in tasks and responsibilities that can be directly applied to the civilian workforce. Importantly, they have embedded alignment to strong values and behaviours. These varied skills and real world experience make veterans an asset in the workplace and talent that employers should not overlook.

Skills veterans bring to the workplace

Veterans gain a wide range of sought-after skills from all levels of service representing a significant diversity of skills and experience to enhance private and public sector organisations.

They are natural problem solvers, have a strong work ethic, perform well under pressure, and work extremely well in teams. The Prime Minister’s National Veterans Employment Program states that the top five skills veterans have developed from their time serving in the ADF and can bring to the civilian workforce include:

  1. Leadership: experience working in and leading teams that work together to achieve goals. Natural ability to lead by example, delegate effectively, while also motivating team members to deliver results.
  2. Planning: experience in planning, including implementing risk mitigation strategies to achieve results, particularly in challenging situations.
  3. Problem solving and critical thinking: experience in using their knowledge and facts to solve issues and problems. High levels of situational awareness from service provides an analytical mindset for problem solving and critical thinking.
  4. Communication: experience in identifying, articulating, and sharing information using clear, concise, and accurate communications.
  5. Values-driven: shared common values of integrity, loyalty, self-discipline, and perseverance that support a strong work ethic and dedication to tasks.

Other technical skills that veterans can bring to the workplace include project management, change management, analytics and reporting, stakeholder engagement, and security awareness.


Translating skills and capabilities

Members of the ADF have had access to world class training, however, translating the unique skills and capabilities veterans have developed to a civilian career can be challenging and stressful. Employers should be mindful of this challenge and understand ways in which they can assist with overcoming this barrier during the recruitment process.

Some considerations for recruiters and hiring managers to identify or translate military skills may include the following:

  • use interview techniques and questions tailored for veteran candidates
  • assign a dedicated recruiter or ‘Veteran Champion’ with veteran lived experience to translate veteran skills and resumes
  • have a veteran employee on the selection interview panel
  • gain an understanding of rank, skills and length of service via Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ Core Skills Identifier.

Fostering and retaining veterans in the workplace

It is not only important to attract and employ veterans, but it is as equally important to have initiatives in place that offer support for veterans, allowing them to continue to thrive in the workplace.

There are several ways employers can further foster and support veterans’ engagement and retention in the workplace, some initiatives could include but are not limited to:

  • developing and implementing a veteran policy and engagement plan
  • establishing a veteran network to connect veterans within the workplace
  • recruiting or having access to dedicated employees (including those who are also veterans) that can provide support with skills translation and transition
  • offering short and long-term career opportunities
  • offering flexible working for reservists and family members of veterans
  • partnering with ex-service charities and organisations to get involved in community initiatives.

By supporting veteran employment, and veterans who have dedicated their lives to keeping our nation safe, Australian employers can benefit from the incredibly valuable contribution veterans offer the workplace. With employers struggling to find talented people at a time of global change, as well as experiencing a national skills crisis, veterans represent a unique, diverse, and high performing source of talent that are highly sought after and valued.

This article is taken from the Summer 2022 edition of Paradigm Shift.