The Social Media Spouses team at the British Forces Broadcasting Service

Adam Waters, Director of Digital Content at the British Forces Broadcasting Service, shares his thoughts with us on e-learning and digital skills.

I’ve spoken to many charities who struggle to recruit skilled staff onto their digital teams. Why do you think that is and what would you advise them?  

We have had an awful lot of success specifically for the Free Social Media Training Programme for Military Spouses and Partners by hiring people who can work remotely. That may sound simple and obvious but it was a cultural shift for the organisation, and opened up a new talent pool. Many organisations treat flexible workers as a risk to be managed but it is fantastic for hiring as it creates new possibilities. Could the roles you are hiring for be done remotely? I also think it’s a good way for charities to support their missions and aims by being more inclusive and providing opportunities for talented people from all backgrounds.  

Tell us more about why the Free Social Media Training Programme for Military Spouses and Partners has been developed. What need does it serve? 

Military spouses are an underrepresented demographic. If you are married or living with someone from the military you can be posted to another country at short notice, and you may be responsible for childcare. These things make it very difficult to get work, learn new skills and develop a career. We noticed that spouses are good at developing social media because it is such a key part of their world, and wanted to do something to support them. There are other training offers that are out there but many exclude men, are UK specific, and charge a lot of money. Our programme is global and accepts all spouses regardless of gender or how they identify themselves.  

Military spouses are very entrepreneurial, and many work for themselves, encompassing professions from accountants to yoga instructors. We realised we needed to help two types of spouses: those who want to work in social media, and those who need to use social media to help their small businesses.  

The Armed Forces Covenant Trust supported us to hire 3 social media coaches who are all military spouses themselves. I have a team of superstars to run it, and because we can hire from anywhere we have got the best people. As military spouses they know the lingo and the situation of the people we are there to support.  

From this summer we’ll be offering online coaching, employment guidance, and also plenty of live classes run by our staff. We have started up a Facebook group for the programme and over 1k people joined within the first week. We are already seeing a huge amount of mutual support, as well as people struggling with imposter syndrome and anxiety. The e-learning platform is ready to go and we can scale it up as we need to. In the mid-term we also want to launch a version of the programme for Gurkha military spouses. 

We think our programme is a good example for other charities because we thought about our strengths and our capabilities and use what we are good at in a different way. Transformation doesn’t need to be about big restructures. It can also be about using the core of what you are good at in a different way.  

What impact are you hoping the programme will have? 

We want to change as many military spouses’ lives as possible. That could mean getting them work as social media managers or helping their businesses to thrive or feel less isolated. We will be checking in with as many as possible and encouraging some to be ambassadors for the programme 

Military spouses are the hidden support network for the armed forces and I’m excited about how the programme could help them.  

Do you have any tips for charities about online learning?  

Different people respond to different types of learning. It is important not to have just one method, so for example on our programme there will be video and other online resources, and there will be work to do in their own time. We wanted to avoid being too prescriptive about the method of learning. Finally, don’t be scared to ask for a charity discount on elearning platforms.  

Find out more about the Free Social Media Training Programme for Military Spouses and Partners