Creating a supportive structure for veterans


THE creation of an internal military network as a forum for networking and information sharing is a great way to connect with forces veterans, reservists and military spouses. Indeed many companies like HSBC and KPMG use their internal networks as the foundation of their Armed Forces or ‘veterans’ programmes.

And using this network as a platform for sharing best practice, detailed case studies, and information on how to practically implement programmes with other employers will help spread the message about the multiple benefits of employing veterans. It is also a great way to help Service leavers and veterans find their way to the right job with the right employer.

Setting Up An Internal Military Network

How could your company go about setting up an internal military network?

  • Designate a military champion or champions who can take responsibility for leading the network.

  • Have a clear strategy and purpose for what your business wants to achieve with the internal network and ensure the strategy is held to account.

  • Make the network inclusive, opening it up to anyone with an interest in the military.

  • Feedback progress and activity to a senior sponsor and communicate throughout the organisation.

  • Call on the network to support military recruitment by assessing CVs and applications.

  • Support hiring managers to spot military skills and experience.

  • Help new employees by using the network to run a buddying/ mentor scheme for ex-military personnel.

  • Engage with other networks within the business, such as the LGBT network.

  • Use the network to support fundraising and communications initiatives for military causes.

  • Where possible, link your military network into external ones.

  • Make sure your network is inclusive to prevent it from becoming cliquey and hierarchical. The military works on a strict hierarchy but that shouldn’t carry over to civilian life.

How KPMG Set Up Their Military Network

Professional Services company KPMG operates a successful military network for over a hundred ex-forces employees. The network was launched by Sid Welham MBE (pictured), Chief Operating Officer, Financial Services, at the company. He spent 18 years serving in the British Army, originally in the Royal Regiment of Wales, which amalgamated into the Royal Welsh. He left the military in October 2011 “having thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Army” and moved straight into a role as an Operations Manager, Financial Services before moving up through the organisation.

He and a friend established the company’s military network, ‘Forces In The Firm’, around four years ago, starting with 40 members. Membership of the network has now tripled and ‘Forces In The Firm’ regularly hosts guest speaker evenings for staff and guests on military topics, providing insight and networking opportunities.

“KPMG sets a lot of store on corporate responsibility but this is very much about the value that veterans bring,” he said. “In a service leaver, what you have is a talented individual who has had a huge amount of training invested in them with some fantastic skills and experiences.”

Military Network Helped KPMG Win Gold Award

The company was presented with Gold in the Ministry of Defence’s Employer Recognition Scheme awards in 2016, to mark its work supporting its ex-forces employees and the military community.

“Our network goes from strength to strength,” said Sid. “As time goes by and we continue to deliver more good quality people, more people hear about it and they realise what military people can bring to the business.

“We are working with people at all levels, from the most junior to the most senior, from Corporals and Lance Corporals to full Colonels, across the three services, really benefiting from the stream of talent which comes out of the forces.”

KPMG also champions the value of employing military veterans wherever possible.

“We set out our stall and how it’s been good for us. Different companies want to do it slightly differently. Some organisations have grand plans and others are smaller – all perfectly valid if they’re supporting Service Leavers,” said Sid.


HSBC's UK Armed Forces Network: Driving Employee Engagement

HSBC formed their Armed Forces network in 2014 to enable employee engagement across the UK and to enact on their pledges in the Armed Forces Covenant. The network quickly gained senior leader support which, in turn, accelerated employee involvement and momentum.

HSBC's Steven Lee said: "We have been at the forefront of leading change, for example we initiated a change in HR policies to enhance the support we provide to our employees who are Reservists and Cadet Force Adult Volunteers, so we now have one consistent policy which provides them with the flexibility they need to serve the country and have a career at HSBC.

"Our focus and tangible impact led HSBC to become the proud recipients of the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme Gold Award 2016 and be formally recognised by HSBC UK as an active contributor to the bank’s diversity and inclusion agenda."

Steven's top tips for maintaining a network:

  • Forming a network requires patience and time as it can be absorbing and distract from your day job.

  • So to begin with, create a committee to help, identify quick wins, and maintain a long-term perspective.

  • It’s vital that you quickly gain senior leader support and be sure to pin your objectives to a business outcome.