Smarter Use of Talent in the Armed Forces – Guest blog

In this blog, Charlie Wallace, Scottish Veterans Commissioner, writes about the future trend ‘Smarter Talent’.


There has been much discussion recently about “smarter talent” and it is a topic picked up by the Lifting our Sights team. Much of the focus is on the increased need for technological know-how in the more technically-orientated corners of the Armed Forces. The spin-off is a smarter talent pool coming into the civilian job market. This presents a couple of challenges: firstly, the MOD will want to focus on keeping this smarter talent within the Armed Forces in order to deliver the operational output it has been charged to provide; and secondly the civilian jobs market must be able to recognise the “smarter talent” that the Armed Forces produces. Between these two competing viewpoints, there is a danger that the individual could lose out. In considering its relationship with society and how it can better attract the talent it needs, the MOD may wish to explore how it can be seen as a force for good in the development of “smarter talent” for the wider economy.

Perhaps we should consider this from a slightly different perspective. Rather than focusing on “smarter talent” perhaps we should consider a “smarter use of talent”. In itself, “smarter talent” implies a focus on the technological elements of the Armed Forces at the expense of some pretty impressive talent which exists elsewhere in the Armed Forces. As the discussion on the Lifting our Sights website articulates, the Royal Navy and the RAF are both highly technically-orientated and are living the challenges of developing their personnel to deal with the ever-increasing complexity of the machinery they must operate and look after. The inference is that the Army is not as technically-orientated and so does not require or develop “smarter talent”. This presents a challenge for Army Service-leavers who may appear to the civilian jobs market as un-skilled or under-skilled and so not as attractive to potential employers. However, is this reflected in the post-Service employment records of the three Services: do Royal Navy and RAF personnel find it that much easier than Army Service-leavers to find appropriate jobs in Civvy Street? And are technical or other skills and qualifications gained during Service readily understood and valued by civilian employers?

One of the great strengths of the British military is its fantastic mind-set in developing talent. The competitive nature for promotion, the regular tests of competency and the wonderful opportunities for self-development create a rich environment for a smarter use of talent. It has been recognised that the UK Armed Forces are one of the best institutions for producing the right conditions for social mobility: if you are good, you have every chance of getting to the top.

So, perhaps it is worthwhile us considering the wider talent spread across the Armed Forces and being smarter on how it is developed and portrayed, rather than just focusing on the more technically-orientated talent in certain parts of the Armed Forces.

Read about Smarter Talent and download the trend.

How do you think smarter talent will affect the future of the Armed Forces? Share your thoughts in the comments below to help inform our final report. 


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