60 per cent of businesses rule out recruiting someone if they have no industry-specific experience. If you think a potential procurement hire is not your type on paper… you need to think again!
The wrong number
When Procurious first approached The Drive Project about taking part in their webinar on procurement unicorns, I thought they’d got the wrong number. “Unicorns? Sorry, not us… maybe check next door?” I suggested.
But they persevered. Raising the issue of restrictive hiring criteria, Procurious Founder Tania Seary explained about the “perfect” procurement candidate that businesses seem to be searching for, these mythical creatures who have all the right grades, qualifications, skills and experience. Candidates who are, on paper, 100 per cent perfect. But that employers were struggling to fill their teams with them as they were no-where to be found! “This narrow approach to recruitment just doesn’t work,” said Tania, “employers run the risk of missing out on extraordinary talents.”
Well, this was music to my ears.
I first met Darren Swift (Swifty) back in 2011 whilst working at the Theatre Royal Haymarket Masterclass Trust as a Creative Producer. Driven by the belief that theatre can empower the individual, I developed a theatre recovery programme (‘Bravo 22 Company’) for wounded, injured and sick service personnel that was designed to not only improve the confidence, self-esteem and motivation of those on their recovery pathway, but to give them a platform to use their voice. Their debut performance ‘The Two Worlds of Charlie F,’ opened at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in January 2012 earning 5-star reviews, the Amnesty Award for Freedom of Expression, patron support from Ray Winstone, partnership with the Ministry of Defence and a documentary called ‘Theatre of War’ was created about it for BBC1’s Imagine series. Most importantly, it helped to change the lives of the soldiers taking part, taking them from their “dark place” to restoring their pride, confidence and motivation. One of these soldiers was Swifty.
Whilst serving in the Army in 1991, Swifty was seriously injured by a bomb. He lost both his legs, a number of his fingers and damaged his arms along with various other injuries. An intense 18 months of recovery at Woolwich Hospital and DMRC Headley Court followed whilst Swifty slowly came to terms with what had happened and began to look forward. In the years that followed he adopted the mentality to keep his ‘chin up,’ never let his new disability hold him back and completed more challenges than you and I put together( I expect)! He cycled solo across Iceland, took a gold medal in the British skydiving championships and was the world’s first double above the knee amputee snowboarder. He says of his recovery journey: “After years of being told no, I learned to ask ‘why not?’”
Seven years on and Swifty continues to live by this motto, championing individuality, pushing the boundaries of life as a double amputee and creating his own path. So when a unique opportunity to challenge the negative perceptions of veterans came our way last year, we knew Swifty would be a perfect fit.
A waste of talent
In March of last year, Deloitte UK, the Officers’ Association and Business in the Community approached The Drive Project about their research report Veterans Work which details some of the challenges faced by U.K veterans entering employment. Findings included:
- 3 in 10 businesses admit they have not even considered employing veterans.
- While the majority claim to be more open minded, 60% 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.
On the roof with Joanna Lumley
We were asked to bring the Veterans Work report to life using the arts. In doing so, our goal was to ensure that employers across the U.K became aware of the commercial benefits veterans can bring to their businesses whilst enabling veterans to fulfill their employment potential. This important message needed to be accessible to all employers regardless of size or industry.
Well, this was going to be no easy feat but in the words of Swifty… why not!
Recognising the importance of easily digestible content, together with award-winning filmmaker Jacob Perlmutter, we produced a series of short films so that these key messages would be communicated clearly and with impact:
- What Does An Idea Sound Like – making sense of veterans’ transferable skills and experience
- Not Only A Veteran – changing perceptions of who a veteran actually is
- Space For You – outlining the commercial business case of hiring a veteran
4 months, 3 film scripts, 9 veterans (Swifty included!), 4 CEOs, 13 celebrities, 42 crew members and a lot of coffee later, we found ourselves on the rooftop of the BT Centre in London giggling with Joanna Lumley about the ‘hot talent’ starring in the films! It was surreal… but totally amazing.
Open your mind to diversity and difference!
It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing a common misconception about a group of people. Or to overlook a particular skill or quality that you don’t feel is totally relevant to the role you’re hiring for. But these veterans, like Swifty, despite not having particular university degrees or perhaps the right experience in a corporate environment, are unrivalled when it comes to real life skills in high-pressure environments. They are tenacious in their drive to success, unflappable in stressful situations, cool, calm and collected leaders… I could go on.
So next time you feel that perhaps someone doesn’t quite fit the mould of the position you’re recruiting for, I would encourage you to take a closer look. They could just be your perfect candidate.
Swifty features in our upcoming #ProcurewithPurpose webinar Don’t Go Chasing Unicorns. Sign up to hear more of his incredible story and learn how to build truly diverse procurement teams.
If you would like to book Swifty as an inspirational speaker, please contact [email protected]
To watch the Veterans Work films and to find out more about hiring a veteran, please visit: www.VeteransWork.org.uk
Bravo 22 Company’s production of ‘Unspoken’ is touring the U.K (Edinburgh, Birmingham, Liverpool & London) from August this year – to find out more and buy tickets, please visit: www.UnspokenPlay.com