A Common Bond

19 June 2023

In November 2022, Leonardo UK established its Armed Forces Network Group to connect and support the company’s veterans, reservists and military family colleagues and communities. As part of Armed Forces Week 2023, network group Chair, Richard Varley – himself an Army veteran and now a reservist – explains what has been achieved so far, and how he and his team plan to grow the remit and membership of the group in the future.

Balancing work and reservist duties

I joined Leonardo in August 2022, after 15 years in the British Army’s Royal Artillery. This included a variety of different roles, initially as a junior officer, later specialising in training and instruction, as well as mentoring roles in training establishments. My military career concluded in Army headquarters, working in procurement, which provided a natural link to my subsequent career as a Business Development Manager focused on the British Army with Leonardo’s Training and Services Support team.

When thinking about transitioning from a military to civilian career, a significant factor was finding an employer who would be supportive of my commitments as a Royal Artillery reservist officer, which involves a minimum of 19 days each year. My background as a gunnery instructor means I was able to transfer to a nationally recruited battery called 221 Battery Royal Artillery, largely made-up of ex regular personnel with a training and instructional background.

It was Leonardo’s firm commitment to its veterans and reservists – through things like being a gold award holder of the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme and signatory of the Armed Forces Covenant – which drew me to the company. In addition, Leonardo sponsors many activities across the tri-services, from sponsorship of the Royal Air Force (RAF) Typhoon Display Team to many of the sports clubs and associations across the British Army. This, combined with its contribution to the whole force delivering capability where and when needed, made it an appealing place to work.

Strength through shared experiences

Despite Leonardo’s commitment to the UK Armed Forces, the company did not have a forum for colleagues with a military connection. Therefore, I was delighted to work with the company’s Head of Inclusion and Diversity to form our Armed Forces Network Group – one of seven employee-led network groups operating across Leonardo in the UK. As Chair of this network group, I am pleased to have the opportunity to help others receive the support they need when making the move into industry.

Since launching the Armed Forces Network Group in November 2022, we have established a committee, with Leonardo UK Sales Director for Electronics, and former Tornado Navigator, Dave Appleby, acting as Executive Sponsor. We also have a strong leadership group, including Vice-Chairs, a communications lead and several site leads. We aim to recruit a couple more, so we have representation at each of our UK sites.

The group is open not only to veterans and reservists, but also to people whose spouses or partners are currently serving in the Armed Forces. From my point of view, this is really important since ex-service personnel and reservists have bonds that bring people together. When the cord is cut on someone’s full-time military career, it’s nice to still be able to have conversations and gain support from people with shared experiences. I can sit down with an Army veteran or reservist, or someone from the RAF or Royal Navy, and have really interesting conversations because there’s a common foundation. For me, a lot of my military career was spent within the Army, so now there’s perhaps more opportunity to speak to people from different Services than there was when I actually served.

Mentoring support

Within the Armed Forces Network Group, we are in the process of establishing a mentoring facility. So far, we have two coordinators and several volunteers who have stepped up to mentor new people when they come into Leonardo.

Its aim will be to assist with the transition to industry life, because when you’re in the Services, there is a wraparound; it’s quite a bubble. When you then come out of that, to have the benefit of the experience of someone who has already been through it and is a little further down the line, or a long, long way further down the line than you are, I think that’s incredibly beneficial. It gives you the opportunity to connect with like-minded people through mentoring assistance and get support for any issues that may arise. This collective approach is always important.

Extending the network group’s influence and support further

Aside from developing the mentoring programme, over the coming year, we will be setting up regular face-to-face and virtual drop-in sessions for our network group members. These will provide ‘coffee and chat’ touch points with others who have a similar military experience, which people can choose to join in with as they see fit.

I would also like to have a stronger link between the company’s on-boarding team and the Armed Forces network group, so that when someone comes into the company, we are immediately informed and the new starter is aware of the provisions available to them as ex-service personnel.

Finally, I’m keen to grow the membership even further. Currently, we have almost 80 members, but there are clearly more people across Leonardo UK that we would like to reach out to.

I hope that initiatives like Armed Forces Week and this year’s coffee mornings on Reserves Day, will help people see the value of being part of the network and create an even stronger cohort. I also want to encourage our colleagues across the business to get together, and learn more from veterans and reservists and hear first-hand about the real difference that the work Leonardo does makes to those serving on the front-line.

Armed Forces Network Group

Leonardo's Armed Forces network group connects and supports our veterans, reservists and military family colleagues and communities. Additionally, it assists new employees as they transition from military to civilian life.

For the wider Leonardo UK business, the group helps enhance our collective sense of pride in being part of UK and allied defence, through sharing stories from our veterans, reservists and military families.

Transitioning to a civilian career

Leonardo’s commitment to the Armed Forces Community is pledged through our support of the Armed Forces Covenant, while we have been awarded the UK MoD’s Employer Recognition Scheme Gold Award.

We understand that the transition from military service to civilian life can be a major challenge for some people. To address this, we work with the Career Transition Partnership to provide initial and ongoing support.

We also have a dedicated Armed Forces Network Group which supports Leonardo UK Armed Forces veterans, reservists and spouses or partners of serving members.

Developing your career

Leonardo’s growth in the UK has resulted from the skills, energy and dedication of our people. We are committed to equal opportunity and offering personal fulfilment through the highest quality education and development.

Looking to the future, we want reinforce our competitive position in the UK and other markets. To meet this challenge, we offer an environment for qualified people with the will to succeed and a passion for excellence to fulfil their potential and enable our company to stay at the forefront of innovation and technology.

Company Benefits

At Leonardo, we believe that our employees work best when they are able to achieve balance between work and other aspects of life. That’s why we are committed to designing policies and developing a working environment that promote the benefits and wellbeing of all our employees.

Interview Support

When we invite you for an interview, we want to hear about you; your achievements and what you can bring. By thinking about the role you are applying for, align your skills and experience to it. Make it easy for the Hiring Manager to decide you are the best candidate they can select for the role.

When preparing for your interview, review the company website and enhance your knowledge as much as possible, such as where Leonardo is present, who our customers are, and what is important to us i.e. sustainability, corporate social responsibility. Look at our mission and values and consider how your own values align to us. Read some of our employee profiles, speak to anyone you know who works for us, and follow us on social media.

We carry out Competency Based Interviews (CBI). To help you prepare, we suggest you make yourself aware of the BACK model:

  • Background – What was the situation and what was your goal?
  • Action – What action did you take?
  • Consequence – What was the outcome / end result?
  • Knowledge – What feedback was received? / How was the success measured? What did you learn from this experience? / Is there anything you would have done differently?