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Joining forces

Employing ex-forces personnel and reservists in service industries has many benefits, says Simon Biggs of Monthind Clean. He explains how supporting the Armed Forces Covenant is not just the right thing to do, it’s good for business

The Armed Forces Covenant is the nation’s commitment to those who serve in the armed forces and their families, and is a protocol that is very close to my heart. From the age of 16, I spent eight years in the Royal Artillery, eventually attaining the rank of bombardier. I toured Northern Ireland, Belize and Canada and was stationed in Germany for much of my career. For me, the army was the opportunity to gain a degree in common sense and management – skills I still draw on.

When I left the army, I chose to complement my competences with retail experience gained through management programmes, before holding a number of senior management positions within the cleaning industry. In my role at Monthind Clean, not only am I able to support veterans, reservists and their families through employment opportunities, I can also promote the covenant among my industry peers.

As a former reservist myself, I have always appreciated the proficiencies of ex-military staff, and the calibre of personnel prepared to make the sacrifice and commitment of joining the reserve armed forces. I am also keenly aware of the challenges many ex-forces staff face getting back on ‘civvy street’, including finding employment. Because the majority of roles within our armed forces are seen to be so far removed from those outside, it is very easy to overlook the perfect opportunities to transfer skills and enhance a civilian workforce.

Sometimes it is just a case of looking closely at experience and skills and drilling it down to basic competencies. If you can strip down and repair a piece of military machinery or weaponry, then you have the skills to maintain equipment in the civilian sector. If you can organise and execute a military operation in the field, then you can manage a team of operatives and ensure their work meets the high cleaning industry standards on a daily basis.

There have been several government initiatives over the years to support military staff leaving the forces, but the Armed Forces Covenant is the nation’s current commitment that those who serve in the armed forces and their families will be treated fairly. That commitment continues after they leave the services. The AFC works with businesses, local authorities, charities and community organisations to support the forces through services, policy and projects. Its 2017 annual report reveals a successful year and an increase in momentum to maximise the covenant’s potential.

Reservists and veterans have a host of skills to bring to the workplace, but sometimes need a little extra support or a helping hand during the transition to the civilian career ladder. A military career gives employees a plethora of transferable skills, many of which are key to excellent performance within the contract cleaning and facilities management sectors, and which provide a great opportunity to demonstrate their potential for further development.

Ex-military personnel understand leadership, inspiring and motivating others. They can assess situations and are happy to work as part of a team to achieve results – or will just as happily make decisions themselves and instruct others to meet goals. They will have learnt communication skills, and how they can save lives; whether listening to instructions, conveying orders, or just passing on information, a veteran won’t be distracted and will be effectively and persuasively articulate.

Whether it is setting priorities, managing time, reporting, co-ordinating teams or recording and sharing data, military personnel live and breathe organisation. These skills maximise productivity. When someone has spent years of their life maintaining equipment that their life might depend on, they develop technical skills and proficiency that can be easily transferred to other equipment and machinery, chemicals and procedures. Military personnel will also have developed interpersonal skills enabling them to supervise, co-operate, coach and empathise. All of which contribute to management level performance.

In a contract cleaning or facilities management setting, it’s important to have staff with integrity, resilience and self-discipline. Working as part of a team is essential, and there are no greater examples of team working than our military services.

From an employer’s perspective, reservists bring a wealth of talent and the added value of specialist training. Reservist training covers a wide range of skills and disciplines, including teamwork, self-confidence, decision-making, leadership, presentation skills and project management. Some training is aimed at helping reservists to acquire specific trade skills, such as document handling, communications, computer systems, planning and implementation, assessing situations quickly and adapting to challenges.

About Sarah OBeirne

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