Tapping Into Military Skills Pays Off for Atkins

Becoming an Armed Forces friendly organisation is helping Atkins recruit and retain valuable talent, bring leadership skills into its divisions and even support new business development overseas.


Atkins is one of the world’s most respected design, engineering and project management consultancies. We build long-term trusted partnerships to create a world where lives are enriched through the implementation of our ideas.

When Sir William Atkins started building runways in 1938 ahead of World War II, little did he know that his company’s association with Defence would be long-lived. For over 75 years, Atkins has been providing services and capabilities that meet the evolving needs of the UK Defence market and the business has gone from strength to strength. Its 18,000 employees are now working on projects around the world, from offices across the UK, the Middle East, North America and Asia Pacific.

From its very earliest beginnings the company has been involved in a wide range of technically challenging and time critical projects across a diverse range of sectors, including serving as the official design and engineering services provider for the London 2012 Games. Atkins’ current work commitments outside Defence include developing infrastructure across the Transportation, Energy, Water and Built Environment, including major projects such as HS2 and Crossrail.

A stable, motivated workforce with top technical expertise and a pragmatic approach is a key priority for Atkins. Over the years the company has been successful in attracting men and women with the right mix of technical skills and emotional intelligence by opening its recruitment doors to Reservists and veterans. The business now has a growing number of Reservists on its payroll. Reserve Forces staff bring a wide variety of important skill sets for the business as well as first class leadership training. Even the company’s new UK & Europe Chief Executive Officer, who took on the role on 1st December, was a commissioned officer in the Army Reserves for ten years.

Atkins also has a large number of veterans working across all of its divisions. These include over 20 ex-service personnel who were brought into its rail business as part of a fast track railway signalling testers recruitment initiative.

Geoff Robins, Atkins’ Managing Director of Defence, Aerospace and Communications, comments: “We understand and recognise the skills and capabilities that staff with military training bring to Atkins and our clients and we want to  continue attracting high calibre people.

‘‘Military personnel demonstrate leadership and a massive can-do attitude. They are incredibly selfmotivated and we empower them to use their skills in the workplace.’’

The Ministry of Defence has just recognised Atkins’ commitment to Defence personnel by awarding the company a Silver award as part of its Defence Employer Recognition Scheme.

Atkins’ Human Resources Director, UK & Europe, Sharron Pamplin adds: “We are really proud to have our support of the Armed Forces community and our Reservist and veteran staff recognised through one of the first Silver awards.

“Among the many benefits of employing Reservists and veterans, we see that people with a military background bring a real understanding and appreciation of the wider world and different cultures and particularly how things work in challenging environments. They also have impressive leadership qualities and a wide range of useful skills. We fully support our Reservist and veteran staff and would like to see their numbers grow in the near future.’’

To make sure that Reservists find an open door into the business, Atkins has successfully established HR policies and procedures to ensure such staff have the support they need. They actively promote the benefits available to Reservists through the company’s intranet, hoping that other staff will either come forward to identify themselves as Reservists or perhaps consider the benefits of joining the Reserve Forces.

By supporting initiatives such as Armed Forces Day, raising money for Defence charities during Remembrance week and promoting these and other activities externally, Atkins puts its commitment to Defence at the heart of its CSR. The company believes that its involvement with Defence has had positive effects on employee engagement and brand awareness among current and potential recruits into the business.

Sharron Pamplin comments: “We offer specific benefits to Reservists and make sure everyone is aware of them. We are offering an extra week’s paid leave to help Reservists with their training commitments. We communicate our support internally through our intranet, using our channels to run articles and features on why Reservists are important to the company. We have worked really hard to develop a clear and fair approach across the organisation and part of that is making sure that all the information Reservist staff and their line managers need is easy to find.”

Geoff Robins says: “We want all our staff to have leadership skills, not just those who are in management roles. Leadership is all about communication and motivation. We find that those who have a military background have experience of leadership and know how to motivate others in the workplace. However, there’s no leadership without trust.

Our military trained staff use their leadership skills to communicate, motivate, inspire and get people to go the extra mile. What more could we ask for?”

Being Armed Forces friendly is also helping Atkins to bid for and win contracts in other countries. Geoff Robins explains: “Supporting the UK MoD gives us a very big tick in the box for our overseas clients. We have worked in the Middle East in Defence arenas and also in the U.S. The fact that we have staff who are veterans or Reservists only enhances our employer brand and increases recognition and confidence in ourexpertise among our clients.”

Atkins plans to expand its involvement and no doubt will be working towards getting the Gold Employer Recognition Scheme award from the Ministry of Defence. Watch this space.