We ask Dave Stockton, Head of Business Improvement for HMRC's Business Tax Change Programme and, in his spare time, a Senior Non-Commissioned Officer in the RAF Reserves Intelligence Branch, serving with 611 (West Lancashire) Squadron, about these two apparently very different roles and how they complement and enhance each other.
What are your roles in your Civil Service job and in the Reserves?
I’ve undertaken a number of roles in the Civil Service, primarily leading programmes including Operational Delivery Profession in HMRC. I'm also the Senior Responsible Officer for Civil Service Local (West Midlands), where I lead the Regional Steering Group and Civil Service Reform regional work programme, requiring collaboration between up to 30 departments with a footprint in the region. I'm also the HMRC Departmental Reserves Champion.
In the Reserves I‘m a Senior Non-Commissioned Officer intelligence analyst, specialising in targeting, and also an accredited Defence instructor.
Are there any skills that are common to both roles?
Collaborative working springs to mind immediately, as in the Reserves I often work in coalition on joint and combined operations, sharing information which can be critical to the success of a mission.
Leadership also comes into play in both roles and the principles of mission command are equally as applicable in the Civil Service as in the Armed Forces. The new Civil Service Leadership Statement themes are all about being confident, inspiring and empowering - and these are all competencies which are honed during military leadership courses and experiential learning.
In addition, my role as a Defence Instructor requires me not only to provide initial and ongoing trade-related training, but also to coach and mentor subordinates.
Building capability is also key to my Civil Service role, and the skills and knowledge gained through courses such as Defence Train the Trainer are really useful in the day job.
Have you developed new skills in the Reserves that have improved your performance at work?
For me, the most transferable skills from Reserve service are enhanced analytical, leadership and communication skills.
What opportunities have there been to develop leadership and team working skills and to work well under pressure?
One specialist area that has been really useful is civil contingencies and emergency management. As a local government director, I was asked to lead on civil contingencies for my council and completed Cabinet Office courses in strategic leadership in emergency management. My military service made me a natural for this role and I was able to slot easily into silver or gold command roles, working in high-pressure scenarios, requiring collaboration with multiple agencies and swift decision-making.
Has your time in the Reserves enhanced your Civil Service career in any other ways?
I was selected as a Lead Delegate Liaison Officer for the NATO (Wales) Summit in 2014 as a result of my Reserve service, which meant I rubbed shoulders with world leaders at the biggest gathering of leaders in the UK. As a Delegate Liaison Officer (DLO) with the FCO UK NATO Taskforce, I was given responsibility for the Kazakhstan delegation, meeting with embassy officials to plan the visit of their Foreign Minister, including bilaterals with the UK Parliamentary delegation.
I escorted the Foreign Minister and ambassadors throughout their visit, from the time they arrived in the UK to their return flight, implementing plans for events, travel and security and providing round-the-clock advice and support. My military planning skills came to the fore in this role, and I mentored many of the other DLOs who had seen my plan and wanted to replicate it. It was my first protocol role and I really enjoyed the experience. It was great to be part of a hugely successful and high-profile summit.
I am also a Departmental Reserves Champion, as a result of my Reserve service, and am fortunate in being released to attend many engagement events, including a reception with the Deputy Prime Minister in 2014.
Do you think it’s possible to balance your worklife and Reserve service?
Absolutely! I am delighted to say that HMRC is 100% supportive of my Reserve service and was the first department to adopt the Civil Service-wide policy of 10-15 days special paid leave. This allows Reservists to attend either an annual camp or (as is more common these days) three weeks of courses/exercises without having to use their own annual leave. This makes a huge difference to how Reserve service is perceived by family members, meaning we don't have to use annual leave which would otherwise be used for family holidays
Would you recommend Reserve service to colleagues or to your staff?
I regularly and enthusiastically recommend Reserve service to colleagues and many of them have joined as a result. I think the Reserves offer fantastic opportunities for personal and professional development and to serve your country. I firmly believe that if we spread the word about the opportunities, more and more civil servants will also reap the benefits of a demanding but hugely rewarding second career!
Would you make the same decision again?
And what does Dave Stockton’s line manager Joe Corcos, who has keenly supported Dave's Reservist career, think about Reserve service?
The transferable skills Dave has gained from serving as a Reservist are of significant benefit in his Civil Service roles. In the Reserves, Dave often works in a tri-service and coalition environment, which has equipped him well for working across directorate and departmental boundaries.
Dave has been mobilised twice for operations in recent years. Reasonable levels of fitness are required for operational tours and Reservists need to be robust. Military life encourages physical fitness, and keeping active and healthy has contributed to his unblemished work attendance record and reliability.
Dave’s Reserves’ role is a hybrid as a specialist instructor and intelligence officer, and he clearly benefits from training and courses undertaken with the military, which recently included ‘Defence Train the Trainer’. Dave’s operational delivery role focused on building capability, and that course was of real benefit, also resulting in the award of coaching and teaching qualifications.
In my experience, Reservists are highly committed, reliable individuals, providing HMRC with a wealth of transferable skills including leadership, decision-making, communication and team-building skills.
To find out more about how you and your teams will benefit from Reserve service, come along to The Reserves Experience on 24 June at the Birmingham Council House, 1 Victoria Square, Birmingham B1 1BB.
Register for a ticket now:
The Reserves Experience will be visiting other regions later in the year.
* This blog was updated on 15 June 2015.