At the age of 30, an armed forces veteran might have already chalked up years of experience managing multiple teams of subordinates and fleets of expensive military vehicles. While military veterans are often overlooked in the private sector due to the lack of credentials in conventional career pathways, they come with a unique and expansive skillset that employers would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. Although we may not be looking to hire new staff, here are some military skills that we could incorporate into our business operations.

Born to Lead

Military team leaders are often expected to lead their subordinates through dangerous and complicated situations. Hence, they need to rely on more than promises of a pay rise or threats of a demotion to motivate their team members. Good leaders establish rapport with their team members by displaying role model behavior that inspires confidence and trust. They take measures to ensure the safety and welfare of those under their command and share in the hard work that is required to complete their missions. This method of leading by example is lacking in much of the corporate environment, where superiors tend to offer rewards and punishments that only create shallow, short-term motivations.

Part of this exemplary form of leadership comes from the strong work ethic of those who have been through military training. Because military missions are based on objectives and not manhours, veterans are more willing to get their hands dirty, work long hours, and sacrifice nights or weekends. (This is not to say, of course, that employers should institute unfair labor requirements on their staff.) From night maintenance to international trading, more and more jobs are breaking the 9-to-5 mold. Therefore, the stamina and discipline to go the extra mile can be indispensable, particular in positions of leadership.

In addition, military personnel have learned to take ownership of their actions and perform their tasks with minimal supervision. In comparison, this level of independence and sense of responsibility could take years to foster in a typical civilian employee. Because circumstances in the field change by the second, military veterans have the initiative to think on their feet and handle stressful situations. Tight production schedules and logistical obstacles are no match for military personnel who can remain cool under pressure and adjust their actions to suit the situation.

Lima Charlie, Loud and Clear

The phonetic alphabet or the military alphabet is a technical skill widely employed in the military that has been adopted by the private sector. The military alphabet is a well-known code language that is often used to strengthen the effectiveness and clarity of communication. If you have watched war movies, you would have heard radio operators using the military alphabet, for example, saying Alpha for ‘A’ and Zulu for ‘Z’. Similarly, in international aviation, pilots identify their aircraft to ground control using the military alphabet.

Since the development of telephony in the early 1900s, experts have been trying to devise a spelling alphabet to compensate for the lack of clarity on low-quality telephone circuits. Due to the pronunciation similarities of certain alphabets such as ‘B’ and ‘P’, spelling alphabets were used to avoid confusion and miscommunication. While spelling alphabets were mainly used by aviators in times of peace, the need for such a code language become more urgent during World War II, when clear radio communication was central to achieving successful battle outcomes. Throughout the war, many nations had their own versions of the spelling alphabet. However, this created communication barriers between the armed forces from different allied countries. Eventually, most countries agreed that a universal standard should be established. This led to the NATO phonetic alphabet or military alphabet being adopted as the global standard for aeronautical and maritime radio communication.

Although we are in the civilian sector, businesses can still gain positive effects from using the military alphabet. Customer service departments benefit greatly from the use of the phonetic alphabet. Every day, thousands of people around the world are on the phone to call centers and customer service representatives. As our society becomes increasingly multicultural, it can be impossible for operators to know exactly how to spell unfamiliar names and words, particularly if callers are speaking with heavy accents. Misspelled details can lead to customer frustration, loss of business, and delayed delivery outcomes. According to research, businesses in the US are losing $75 billion per year because of poor customer service, with 67 percent of customers considering switching brands after a bad customer service experience. Therefore, using the phonetic alphabet can help to remove any doubt and reconfirm important information. This attention to detail also lets customers feel more assured and appreciated.

Given the numerous skills that can be picked up during military training, businesses can look to the armed forces for inspiration on how to push their organization to the next level. From work ethics to communication skills, corporate employees can learn a great deal from our military veterans.