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EXCLUSIVE Ex-military on the march to FM

06 February 2015

Some ex-military personnel find their skills serve them well in the facilities management sector

In an industry that’s dynamic, fast-paced and diverse in its job requirements, FM employers must find suitable candidates that have the adequate skills and attributes to ensure clients have the most suitable working environment for their activities.

In particular, skills including organisation, leadership, a strategic mind and an ability to keep a calm head in critical situations are essential qualities of a FM, and perhaps unbeknown to many employers, an ex-military officer can fit these requirements.

Some service providers take seriously their commitments to ex-military personnel. Take Norland Managed Services which provides facilities, energy and project management services in the UK, Ireland, the US and EMEA. It says its three divisions are structured in such a way so as to meet customer needs, and that this localised approach has led to a customer retention rate of 96%.

Norland says it’s established a strong relationship with ex-military personnel over the years, recognising that those from the forces can fulfil their requirements for highly qualified employees. The business employs several ex-military officers, including account director, Mike Feeney, an ex-Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander.
John Dunstan, business unit director at Norland Managed Services, said: “The military way of thinking and their overall ethics and team spirit are some of the many qualities potential employees bring with them from the armed forces, and just a few reasons as to why we continue to recruit ex-military talent in our business.
“Mike has brought with him a range of skills that are essential to the smooth running of any business. He has extensive leadership skills, which are vital in times of crisis and change, alongside a strategic mind and a real essence of team spirit.”
Feeney left the Navy after 25 years’ service, and through his resettlement period, took guidance from The Officers’ Association, a charitable organisation that helps place ex-military personnel into civilian employment. The association works with employers helping them identify roles suitable for former officers and providing tailored services including advertising campaigns to assist businesses in finding suitable candidates.

“The association was very helpful as a sounding board and is not only beneficial to ex-military personnel, but is a useful resource for employers looking for ex-officers for their businesses. Not many people understand the skills that people from the military can bring to their organisations.

“They’re professional, reliable and have a real ‘can do’ attitude. And beyond that, they have a wealth of secondary skills. In my case I can speak fluent Spanish thanks to my time in Chile, but many officers have degrees up to master’s level on top of their experience and attributes, and are a perfect addition to help progress any business, particularly in the FM industry.”

The criticality of a facility is subjective, Feeney adds, while understanding what your client thinks is 'critical', assisting in the creation of a client-centric business.

Also understanding the benefits that ex-military officers can bring to an organisation is Canary Wharf Facilities Management. Canary Wharf Group, a British property company headquartered in London, owns and develops  nearly 100 acres of property at Canary Wharf and says it’s achieved one of the greatest feats of civic engineering, turning a once derelict Docklands into 97 acres of London’s, and the world’s, most sought-after office and retail space.

Like Norland Management, it employs several ex-officers within its organisation, including retail building manager Jim Duncan, a former Quartermaster of the Signal Regiment in Hereford.
Natalie Moore, recruitment and personnel advisor at Canary Wharf Group, said: “Jim brings with him a wealth of man-management skills to the retail management team. His military background has given him the general overall experience and flexibility that we look for in our employees, with a range of skills that have been highly transferable to the corporate world of Canary Wharf.”
Duncan also used The Officers’ Association during his resettlement period, and like Feeney, credits the organisation for their role in helping him find a new career.
He said: “Jobs in the military don’t actually differ that much to those in the civilian world. My role in the army was very similar to my current role. As a quartermaster I would troubleshoot a lot, coordinate, prioritise and cope with ever-moving goal posts that presented different challenges every day. And that’s exactly the way FM works, I just had to adapt by deleting the soldier and inserting the tenant.
“But it was The Officers’ Association which was really invaluable in helping me present my skills in a manner in which employers outside of the army could understand. And it’s for that reason they’re so effective, and why employers within this industry should really consider putting their job opportunities with them.”

Duncan points out that communication skills are ‘ideal’ for the FM world. “The communications skills I’ve gained and developed throughout my military, interacting up and down as well laterally with all levels of authority including outside agencies, have been invaluable. Often I’ll be briefing the Managing Director (MD) or Chief Administration Officer (CAO) as well as contractors and staff.” 
As a retail building manager, Duncan says he’s constantly front-of-house interacting with the public or his retail tenants. “I feel that manner and appearance in my role are vital and my military background has been of great help. A professional manner, authoritative bearing and a sharp, smart appearance is what a company wants to portray.

“We have a high level of leadership and management skills which have been developed in some very in demanding environments and situations where the result isn't always predictable. This has also given us the ability to think quickly on our feel and given us a well rounded judgement which is a useful tool when under pressure. Civilian companies with drive and focus appreciate the military view of discipline. We know how to deal with issues of discipline and have the will to follow a procedure through.”
Lee Holloway, CEO of The Officers’ Association, said: “There are many talented people leaving the Services with a unique set of qualities that can add huge value to many sectors and organisations. However, the potential this pool of talent can bring isn’t always easy to translate to the commercial world. We work closely with employers to make them aware of these exceptional individuals, so they can benefit from all they have to offer.”

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