Features
28 May 2015 10:57am

Big Four harnessing military talent

Harnessing talent from military training pays off for Deloitte and PwC

With increasing levels of employment in the UK, the competition for talent is back. For two of the country’s leading professional services firms, recruiting service leavers and supporting Reservists is bringing prized skills sets into the business. Deloitte’s and PwC’s programmes are also creating new careers for service leavers and supporting the wider Armed Forces community.

Deloitte’s Military Transition and Talent Programme helps the business succeed

The Deloitte Military Transition and Talent Programme (DMTTP) was established in 2012 and in that time there have been huge benefits for both transitioning military personnel as well as the organisation itself. “The primary motive has always been to do the right thing,” says Chris Recchia, former Army captain, lead partner for DMTTP and partner in risk advisory. “These people have given a huge amount through their service to our country and through this programme we’re able to give something back by creating opportunities to support them into a civilian career.” Deloitte was one of the first 50 companies to sign the Armed Forces Covenant and its programme was launched in recognition of the capabilities the firm has to provide those leaving the armed forces with support in re-entering civilian life.

However, as an ex-serviceman himself, Chris says, “I am also acutely aware of the motivation, ambition and leadership skills that ex-servicemen and women have to offer and the asset they can be to an organisation.” He himself has shown how skills honed in the military can be transferred to ‘civvie street’ and says the trick is to translate military experience into commercial value. Recognising the importance of transferable skills and matching them to a suitable role is absolutely key. If that is done properly through a careful selection process, experience shows that recruiting former service personnel can be hugely successful for businesses. The ex-military personnel now working at Deloitte make good, sensible, pragmatic decisions and are succeeding at all levels.

The demand for support amongst this great pool of talent is there; since DMTTP began three years ago, over 750 people have attended its ‘Insight into Professional Services’ quarterly events. Attendees say it is hugely beneficial in working out where they might fit into a commercial organisation and the transferrable skills they can bring to that role. With sessions on commercialising a CV and networking, it can also act as a huge confidence boost for former military personnel who may be daunted by the thought of having to enter the business world.

Deloitte has over 150 ex-military personnel and reservists working throughout the UK firm, including seven partners sitting across consulting, corporate finance and tax. Some bring niche technical skills in security, risk management and sophisticated project management that can be highly valuable to an organisation. More generally though, they bring great problem solving skills, an ability to remain calm under pressure, humility, impressive leadership attributes and a fantastic can-do attitude. “Their value to the business is evidenced by the fact that in the past year, Deloitte has recruited another 37 ex-military personnel across various parts of the firm.” It acknowledges that the joiners need careful coaching and support initially to negotiate the steep commercial learning curve and a culture very different to the military one they knew. However, if supported effectively, they are hugely flexible, adaptable and ambitious to succeed.

DMTTP aims to provide a wide level of support. In addition to the Insight days and recruitment there is a thriving internal military community and a large pool of people that provide informal advice and mentoring. Deloitte is also providing a year of pro-bono business support to ex-military social enterprises that aim to improve employment opportunities and employability through a programme called ‘Super Pioneers’, which is part of the firm’s wider support for social enterprise.

Alongside its support for former members of the military, Deloitte has also sought to put in place policies which enable its people to pursue a role as a military reservist. Simon Dixon, a member of DMTTP and a consulting partner who drove through the change to the reservist policy at Deloitte, said, “Earlier this year we changed our reservist HR policy to accommodate the increasing numbers of people within the firm who wish to combine a reservist career with their role at Deloitte. The policy is over and above legal requirements and offers additional paid holiday for training and increased job security if mobilised.”

Deloitte is dedicated to supporting veterans and using the firm’s skills and talents to help them transition into civilian life. With an understanding of business skills and private sector life, all veterans can develop a successful commercial career once leaving the military.

James Fisher: career transformation after an Insight event at Deloitte

I joined the Army in 1999 and served 16 years as an Officer in the Parachute Regiment. Life in the Army was an incredibly rewarding and enriching experience. I also led several transformational projects such as the delivery of a new telecommunications system to the Army’s high readiness task force. After a while, I felt I needed another challenge.

After hanging up my uniform last year, I did a Master’s degree in Security and Risk Management, adding an academic perspective to the practical experience I had amassed in the military. I then began exploring the commercial job opportunities available to me.

My challenge was translating the huge range of skills gained through my years in the military into a commercial environment. It seemed daunting at first. After attending one of Deloitte’s Military Insight days, I began to understand how my experience may be of interest to employers.

The team at the Insight day were on hand to help people like me refine our CVs to ensure that keywords were recognised when applying for a job whether with Deloitte or another company. I got the job I wanted with Deloitte.

I now work within the risk advisory team based in Leeds. I feel I have gained fresh industry experience and learnt new skills to complement those I developed in my military career. I am grateful to Deloitte for helping make my transition into the business world go smoothly.

 

PwC: from Invictus Games sponsorship to Armed Forces Covenant signing

PwC has recruited over 100 ex-service personnel with experience in the regular or reserve service. These individuals are all successfully employed throughout the firm’s four business divisions and its internal departments. Even though they join without in-depth commercial expertise or knowledge, PwC recognises the transferable skills and benefits these individuals can bring to a professional services firm.

Realising the potential that exists in such a talent pool and keen to provide better support to the Armed Forces Community, PwC established a Military Network. This brings consistency to the approach of engaging with and recruiting those transitioning from the services and, importantly, the network offers support to those veterans and reservists now employed within the firm.

And PwC’s support is set to increase. The firm plans to host a series of formal networking and knowledge sharing events targeted specifically at those leaving the three services. Their goal is to give potential applicants an understanding of exactly what life is like within a professional services environment, sharing the experiences of those who have made a successful transition into the firm.

In addition, PwC will soon sign the Armed Forces Covenant, which will formally mark the commitment PwC has made to the Armed Forces and the responsibility that comes with it. This recognises that no member of the Armed Forces community should face disadvantage in the provision of public and commercial services compared to any other citizen - in some circumstances, special treatment may be appropriate for the injured or bereaved.

The signing of the Covenant is being recognised at board level and signals the level of support that PwC is extending to the military community and the commitment to “doing the right thing” for those that have served their country. In particular, PwC’s sponsorship of the Invictus Games galvanised the firm’s support for the military network and its commitment to the wider military community and those who have been injured as result of their service.

Furthermore, PwC has undertaken a number of events around the Games themselves, offering the opportunity of work shadowing to any competitor who volunteered for one. The firm also ran a career insight day for injured service personnel at the Recovery Centre in Wiltshire, Tedworth House.

PwC sees a consistent set of core skills in service personnel that stand them in good stead for a career in professional services. Their ability to solve problems, demonstrate leadership under pressure, build trusted and loyal relationships whilst possessing the integrity to take responsibility whatever the outcome are skills truly recognised and valued around the business. Pete Flynn, Director, Financial Services at PwC says: “Those in the military have developed the ability to think clearly whilst under pressure, lead teams in demanding environments and defeat challenges, which makes them an asset to any employer.”

It is PwC’s recognition of this skill set that has fostered a positive relationship towards the Reserve Forces. Realising what a powerful skill set can be developed through Reserve service at limited cost to the firm, it gives an additional 5 days’ paid leave to those employees undertaking Reserve commitments. The firm also assists Reservists through operational deployments, ensuring that they and their families are supported appropriately.

PwC understands the power that drawing talent from the Services pool can offer. As the profile of those having served grows, so does the support and ability of the network across all the lines of business.

 

Richard Wilton: from the Army into the world of Assurance at PwC

On a cold morning in mid-December in 2007, Commissioning Course 071 passed off the Sovereigns Parade in front of Old College at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. I was one of those starting their careers as the next generation of young Army Officers.

Almost eight years later, I found myself moving on from a military career that had covered a myriad of jobs, two deployments to Afghanistan and some experiences that will forever be a part of who I am. Among the deeply ingrained skills taught through my time in the Army, I soon found that traits I took for granted - punctuality, problem solving, relationship building and flexibility, were currency highly valuable to future employers.

It was this hard-wired skill set that gave me the confidence to interview for a role in Assurance at PwC that was clearly not within my comfort zone.

It was also on these skills that I initially relied during my first few months in Assurance. The learning curve was steep and the amount of technical information I had to assimilate was vast - yet this was comparable to situations I had previously found myself in whilst under time and environmental pressures in the Army.

The core soft skills that had been developed and honed within the Army helped me into a new career in professional services. Whilst learning so much that was new to me, carrying forward the ‘can do’ attitude of the military allowed me to forge positive relations in the firm. This quickly built me a reputation as someone willing and able to take on projects and work in often unfamiliar areas - with those around me offering support and guidance when needed.

Patricia Ockenden

 

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