Military Culture

In the military, as the saying goes, "if you're not five minutes early, you're late." Many transitioning members of the Canadian Armed Forces retain some of the cultural cues they've lived with for years. Sometimes these cues were ingrained as a matter of safety. Other times they were just part of normal duty. One thing's certain, you'll never hear someone say "sorry I was late, I was getting a latte."

Senate Subcommittee Report on Transition to Civilian life

A 2011 joint survey by the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada showed that 62% of the CAF veterans who released from the service between 1998 and 2007 reported an easy adjustment to civilian life. However, 25% reported a difficult adjustment to civilian life.

The purpose of the study is to look at initiatives taken by the public and private sector to promote the meaningful employment of releasing CAF members and veterans during and after their transition to civilian life.

Understanding the Difference Between Military and Civilian Cultures

Some corporate employers function very differently from the military structure, which can cause miscommunication for both parties. The following is a basic description of the structure differences. 

Military: Command & Control Operations Model

  • Hierarchical / vertical structure
  • More exact rules of conduct
  • Defined roles, rank & status (defined/assigned military occupational career fields)
  • Consistency across units/organizations
  • Clearly defined career progression
  • Additionally, veterans share a bond in beliefs, traditions, values,  and the importance of rank and structure

Corporate/Non-military: Collaborative Model

  • Matrix structure
  • More implied or "understood" rules of conduct
  • Flexible/ambiguous roles & status
  • Variations across teams/divisions
  • Less defined career progression / opportunity for lateral assignments
  • Corporate culture imposes corporate values on the organization

Military Ladder

Typically, a military member rises to the top, based on a career ladder (from non-commission member- Private to Chief Warrant Officer, or from a junior officer to a senior officer, within a 20 year career); and most often in the same career field, i.e., intelligence, logistics, aviation, infantry, medical, administration, and such. The Army, for example, does provide opportunities for soldiers to become Warrant Officers, through a board and selection process. In addition, some members will leave the military, attain a college degree, and rejoin as an officer.

Corporate Matrix

On the non-military side, the opportunities are less defined, both inside companies and within industries. Some companies allow employees to move freely between departments, while other have defined career paths. Employees can often progress more swiftly by changing companies and industries, whereas military professionals seldom if ever change branches.