Find out how and why we're doing more than ever to support people in the armed forces - both past, present and future - at Vodafone UK...
“Being in the military absolutely helped me,” says Vodafone UK CEO Jeroen Hoencamp. “There’s no way I’d be in the role I’m in today if it wasn’t for the years I spent in the Marine Corps.”
We’ve been talking to Jeroen about all things armed forces in the wake of our move to support the Armed Forces Corporate Covenant – our effort to do more to welcome more servicemen and women into Vodafone UK and better support those (or their families) already here – and have found out why he thinks they make such great members of our community in the process. But what is the covenant? And why is it so important? Read on to find out what it all means…
‘A few years in a tough environment can really develop you’
“I was an officer in the Dutch Marine Corps,” Jeroen says, “so I understand what goes on in the military, and I have a deep passion for the environment. Up until my military days I was a very typical student – I was partying all over the place,” he adds, laughing. “But if you spend a couple of years in the Marine Corps and they’ll soon straighten you out! You come out completely different.”
And all joking aside, Jeroen believes that’s a fantastic experience to go through:
“When you leave university aged 21, you tend to think the whole world is waiting for you, and that you’re going to be anything you want. The reality isn’t quite like that,” he says, “but a few years in a tough environment can really develop you. At the age of 23 I had the opportunity to lead a platoon of 34 people under pretty tough circumstances, and that helped me develop.
“When you finish that kind of career and go to work for a company, you realise you have leadership experience…”
“When you finish that kind of career and go to work for a company, you realise you have leadership experience and have learned to work under pressure. And you can work with other people. There’s a lot more to real working life than whatever you learn in college, and the armed forces are a great addition to that. When you’ve been part of that system you recognise some of the qualities that these people bring to your business.”
It’s this level of experience that ensures we’ll make good on our efforts to give those in the armed services, whether they are veterans or Reservists, all the help they need:
“I’d say there’s a definite responsibility for us to support the forces in this way,” he explains. “When we talk about one of the cores of our business being ‘giving something back’, this is a perfect way for us to do that. Traditionally, ‘giving something back’ would mean writing a cheque for a charity and being done with it. But really engaging – either for charity or with the forces – in a way that gives us something in return, makes perfect business sense.
‘We want to bring these skilled people into our business’
Walk through just about any part of Vodafone UK’s campus in Newbury and you’ll probably be rubbing shoulders with ex-servicemen and women, people who are currently in the Army Reserve, or those whose partners are in the armed forces. And as such, we know it’s vital to provide the right kind of support, so that they can do a great job for both us and for the country, all while we show our thanks.
That’s why we’ve just signed up to the Armed Forces Corporate Covenant in the presence of Minister of State for the Armed Forces, Rt Hon Mark Francois MP, and Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshall Sir Stuart Peach, which stands as a promise that Vodafone UK will champion the hiring of, and support for, those who are or were in the armed forces. As Jeroen goes on to explain, it’s a great move for everyone involved…
“It’s great for us to be part of this,” he tells us, “as it means we can proactively work with the Armed Services to hire people for all areas of the business. There are a lot of really good people in the forces: people who are trained, disciplined, and who understand teamwork as well as the concept of delivering something that works under tough circumstances. They’re all great skills to have, and we want to bring these skilled people into the business.
“Supporting these people creates better, happier and more engaged employees.”
“We also have people already working here who are or want to be part of the Army Reserves,” Jeroen adds. “They want to go out and be part of that system, and I think that’s great because it means they’re motivated people. They’ll continue to be trained and they’ll hopefully be very loyal to Vodafone if we help them do that.
“Allowing them to go on their training exercises regularly and giving them the time off and the flexibility to do so is a great thing to be able to do, but another smaller – and sometimes forgotten – area is that there are also a lot of people who work here whose partners are in the forces. If your wife, husband or partner goes on a three month tour, we need to be flexible around giving you leave before and after so you can spend some time with the family. Supporting these people creates better, happier and more engaged employees.”
“It’s an excellent way for us to give back to an important institution and we look forward to building on this commitment over the years to come,” he says in closing.
On Reserve… Stay tuned for more about our work with the armed forces soon, including talks with some of the servicemen and women who work here at Vodafone right now. In the meantime, you can read more about the Armed Forces Corporate Covenant – and how it could help you get a great, well-supported role at Vodafone – right here.