Cyprus, The UN, Reservists and the war for talent


Once again, my role in resourcing leads me to territories that seem unlikely for my role and my humble beginnings…. In January, I found myself in the UN Buffer zone (Operation Tosca), as a guest of the MOD. I was there on trip to promote the benefits of businesses recruiting Reservists (The Territorial Army Volunteers to you and Me)….

Accepting gleefully – for a wanderer like me to visit a country with interesting history is always top of my agenda – However, this was a richer and deeper experience than I was expecting. I was travelling with serving reservists, and those with experience of the military.

Unexpected access to areas of a very real military and political conflict in the European region is rare for a mere civilian… However, what I witnessed at first hand was men and women of the military in uncomfortable environments, having to learn quickly about the history, politics (theory and pragmatic) on how to keep the peace and manage relationships in potentially explosive situations. This is not to mention managing relationships in multi national teams and living in close quarters with people from very different backgrounds (this is a UN mission after all).

To see this is interesting and as always I see the angle from an HR and Recruitment perspective… A high percentage of these people are there on 6 months tour of duties, released from their day jobs, studies and searches for full time employment. they are true reflection of society from our society from working class boys to the Officer class, meaning, in reality, the unemployed to the Senior Managers in industry but they had to share the same living quarters, same orders and for all them a very different expectation in what they were there for. Interestingly, bonds were made across class and seniority very quickly and the diversity of experience, according to all of those on the ground, really added to the overall quality of the derive, thinking and experience of these individuals. (I was lucky enough to talk to those on the ground and the leaders and all concurred).

What does this have to do with the war for talent? Well, some of them are praised, promoted and empowered by their employers because of the fact of what they bring back both in terms of the experience (just think of diversity, exposure, leadership) and their general attitude e.g. service ethic, openness to new experience and learning.

There are two points here that are important from a talent perspective, as I have argued before. Firstly, if we only aim to recruit people with ‘relevant experience’, we will only repeat the mistakes we have always made and our business will never adapt or grow. Thinking about this from a Diversity and Inclusion perspective, if we continue our current view of ‘Talent’ (which I have always argued is narrow), we rule out people for roles with different life experiences that can challenge current thinking and lead to to creativity, service and growth.

The challenge lies with those of us responsible for talent, recruitment and development…. This not just a wake up call for HR but business leaders as well…

Thank you for the wake call MOD – guess you will never hear those words in many places…..

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