Corporate Covenant Employer Recognition Scheme Bronze Award – setting our course for excellence in Armed Forces community engagement

At the end of July Prime Minister Boris Johnston announced the opening of a new Office for Veterans’ Affairs, a hub established to coordinate and drive Government policy on veterans’ mental and physical health, education and employment.

While this is clearly an excellent development, at Sopra Steria we believe that responsibility for helping veterans to access rewarding and gainful employment extends beyond the UK Government and into the private sector. There are initiatives that industry can drive to support the effectiveness of this new office, leveraging technology to bring together the veteran community. 

The Armed Forces community possesses a wealth of qualities that enrich business. In our organisation we have often found that veterans come to us having held posts of phenomenal responsibility, sometimes having managed teams that are much larger and more complex than those that they’ll encounter in the corporate world.

To engage and retain such outstanding individuals, it is important that businesses bear in mind that many veterans and other members of the Armed Forces community (including spouses of serving members, reservists and cadet instructors) have differing professional and personal development needs from their counterparts. The Armed Forces are unique; our conventions and turns of phrase often baffle the uninitiated! Leaving the familial military environment and entering the commercial sphere can be a big step, even for a community known for its grit and agility.

It is for this reason that I and other business leaders at Sopra Steria signed the Armed Forces Corporate Covenant in 2013. Our public commitment signals to veterans that we value the contribution that they can bring to our organisation and offer practical help and support to facilitate their introduction to a domain less familiar. I am delighted that we have now been awarded Bronze status under the Employer Recognition Scheme; an important step that sets out our intention to structure and professionalise our approach to Armed Forces community engagement. Bronze Award is a stepping stone on our journey to best practice, a destination that will rank us employer of choice for these talented people. We will focus new energy on this in the coming months, with the aim to digitally-enable this powerful community.

Vern Davis – Managing Director for Aerospace, Defence and Security

The Armed Forces community and the corporate world; transferable skills to add business value

This weekend, more than 300 events were held across the UK to mark Armed Forces Day.

As an Armed Forces Corporate Covenant signatory Sopra Steria encouraged employees to support their local events, in order to acknowledge the community who protect our nation with honour and courage.

The Armed Forces community – including not only veterans, but reservists, cadet instructors and spouses of serving members – plays a vital role in the fabric of Sopra Steria UK. This is not an accident; the Armed Forces equip individuals with exceptional training, resourcefulness and transferable skills, all of which can enhance an organisation’s effectiveness.

However, the civilian workplace can sometimes be a worrying prospect for a member of the Armed Forces community – particularly new veterans who may be struggling to adapt to their new way of life. A Sopra Steria employee recounts: ‘I thought leaving the military after 25 years and moving into the corporate world would be extremely daunting.’ Happily the employee in question grew to recognise that the skills he gained were extremely valuable to the business: ‘They helped me to see that skills and experience I had gained over the years were transferable, which immediately put my mind at ease, making my transition into the civilian world so much easier.’

This is sadly not the case for all veterans, as outlined by the charity Veterans Work following a recent report: ‘Across the country, three in ten businesses admit they have not even considered employing veterans. While the majority claim to be more open minded, 60 per cent of businesses rule out recruiting someone if they have no industry specific experience. There are roughly 700,000 veterans currently in employment, over half find themselves in routine, low-skilled or low-paid jobs. It is an alarming waste of talent.’ In this company we recognise the potential in Service veterans, even if they often don’t recognise it themselves.

It is in the interest of businesses like ours to facilitate such transitions by creating welcoming and supportive working environments, underpinned by core values; this resonated with me when I joined Sopra Steria as an Armed Forces veteran. We have more work to do as part of our pro-active Armed Forces Engagement Initiative, but I’m proud to lead a team that includes many members of the Armed Forces community who are thriving and fulfilled in their careers.

Vern Davis, Head of Aerospace, Defence & Security