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How Ukrainian military looks for new approaches to recruitment – interview

Azov people
Azov people

“Your civilian profession will become your first military job in the Azov Battalion.”

With these words, the National Guard’s 12th Special Purpose Brigade is looking for soldiers, medics, and support specialists via listings on — Ukraine’s jobs website — with over 25 vacancies currently being open.

Artur Mikhno, CEO and co-founder, explained in an interview with NV Radio on Nov. 19 how this novel approach to military recruitment works.

NV: How did you come up with the idea of selecting military personnel other than through the standard procedure? And what does the process look like?

Mikhno: It [idea] appeared on Azov’s initiative. Of course, it’s been more than a year and a half since the full-scale invasion and let’s just say, most of those who looked like assault infantrymen or paratroopers have already joined the army.


And all the advertising that we see on our billboards, sometimes from other places, is out of whack with those people who are still here and could potentially perform military tasks.

Read also: Ukraine’s mobilization has not ‘stalled’ — Danilov

Therefore, Azov faced the task of what to do to attract recruits to its unit. And it was important, because the brigade, like the entire army, lacks not only assault fighters, snipers, riflemen, or artillerymen. Depending on the brigades, two-thirds of the troops may include quite basic and common professions.

Like any organization, the military needs drivers, mechanics, welders, construction workers, even cooks or secretaries. And we understand that a person’s effectiveness at their workplace, both in ordinary civilian life and in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, can differ many times, if we say that a person isn’t professional or, on the contrary, professional.

Therefore, the idea that arose together with the Banda creative agency, to which Azov turned, was to show that the army needs different jobs. Any person who is willing to join the Azov Battalion or perhaps the Armed Forces of Ukraine, if they join with their civilian profession, it may be more useful at some point than an ordinary military profession.

Therefore, we’ve now created Azov’s page on where you can see all the vacancies that the assault brigade currently has.

We’re not talking about how many, but we’re just talking about variety. And you can find out in more detail what the requirements are and what is needed to join [Azov].

NV: Have you worked out any security issues other than not posting the number of people needed?

Mikhno: Of course. And the security concern is probably the primary one.

Are there guarantees that if I go to work as a cook or a secretary, that I won’t have to go and be in the trenches? There are two components that should be clear. On the one hand, we must understand that there is a war in the country, and no one can give full guarantees. On the other hand, if we talk directly about Azov, at the level of a commander who needs various specialists, [Azov commander Denys Prokopenko aka] Redis directly says that everyone will perform their task. And there’s no need to replace an experienced rifleman with an inexperienced cook. On the one hand.

Read also: Zelenskyy announces full review of medical exemptions from mobilization

On the other hand, if we understand that some conditional attack or breakthrough may take place, then, perhaps, we will all defend Kyiv again and take up assault rifles. And the same can happen in Azov.

We have to be very careful with the word “guarantees,” but from the point of view of common sense, it’s important to use each person to the maximum in the tasks they can perform best.

NV: Could there be a traitor there who will later leak something somewhere? Or is this a question exclusively for the military?

Mikhno: This is definitely not a question for, and it’s definitely not some new component. The question remains even with a regular conscription through military recruitment offices or other recruiting programs. And that’s exactly what military psychologists or any bodies that check soldiers should do.

A funnel that recruits people and allows each person to choose the most effective place for their service is our component. All other components work in the same way as they work in other cases.

My personal goal in this partnership was not just to help Azov, but to highlight the need and opportunity to act in this way — supplementing the conscription that takes place through the military recruitment offices throughout the country.

There are many unique professions in the army, on which the lives of dozens, and maybe even hundreds of people could depend. Because if a car is repaired by a random person, if he tries to start the engine, or tries to build a river crossing site, but doesn’t have enough skills for this, he will do it much worse, while the lives of hundreds of people may be endangered.

Therefore, the whole country should do the same as Azov does, i.e., to attract specialists to positions with non-military professions, but very important for the military. And perhaps, changing legislation in some way or bringing it into order, giving the opportunity for commanders to hire people for specific positions. When going to a military recruitment office, a person is simply afraid that if he is used outside of his profession, he won’t even be able to realize his potential.

And the question is not whether a person is simply afraid or not afraid to join the military, but how effective he will be there. It seems to me that with this example we show that it’s possible, that it’s quite simple, and that the tools are already ready for this.

And I believe that the state will see this and get involved. And we’ll do many more cool things that will make it possible to generally step up our state’s defense capability and strengthen our army, making it more effective, making every person more motivated.

NV: Our military recruitment offices and the current way of conscription have been widely criticized. One issue is heads of territorial recruitment centers. But another issue is when the medical commissions are willing to overlook serious health problems to maintain a stream of mobilized recruits.

Mikhno: I think it’s very important to focus our energy. Take it as a principle not to criticize what we have, or not to retell what we once had, but to offer solutions and show how we want tomorrow to be.

Indeed, the country is facing not the best period, and it needs many changes. And if we focus and say “let’s do this,” we’ll put all our energy into this transformational change.

This is what, for example, Azov wants to show. Not to repeat how badly the military recruitment offices work, but to show that it can work differently. To let the commanders of brigades or units post job offers as regular vacancies.

Read also: Zelenskyy signs decree dismissing all regional draft commissioners, appoints ex-combat officers

And it’s very important that, from the point of view of the state, they can guarantee that the person they choose through the competition can perform tasks in their brigade. This can even lead to positive competition.

Because every commander will understand the better his brigade, the better his soldiers’ motivation, the better the conditions, the better the people around him, the more opportunities he has to attract professionals. And this is a positive vector that takes us away from the Soviet Union era and towards the future.

NV: How did the government react? Have you faced any resistance, or was Azov deciding everything?

Mikhno: We haven’t faced the state on this. But there are a few things I can’t yet broadcast live. I’ll say the negotiations with state authorities have taken place, and we’re now in quite a positive inquiry stage and there’s a fantastic understanding.

Moreover, the state is currently considering such processes in parallel. And I’m sure we’ll see the results of these negotiations soon.

NV: What is the feedback from this Azov page on How many people visit it and respond? Do you already have some results worth sharing?

Mikhno: Yes, of course, there are results. And they significantly exceeded the expectations we had.

About half a million people visit every day. The site’s audience is 4.5 million people per month. Therefore, Azov’s quite active promotion, of course, made it a fantastic focus. And we see more than hundreds of thousands of views every day. Responses are measured in thousands every day. Unfortunately, I cannot talk about more specific data.

NV: If someone has already been selected, this information should be classified.

Mikhno: Exactly, it’s classified.

Read also: US has clear plan to help Ukraine defend itself against Russian invasion, Blinken says

We also see there are many responses for military, combat duty jobs, such as riflemen, artillerymen, and tankers. And even they have responses, despite the fact that we seem to be a civilian website. These are also not single cases, but dozen responses to these jobs.

Very important. A person who responded, for example, to the job of tank soldier or rifleman, can you imagine how different his motivation will be if he passes all the preliminary qualification tests? How different will his motivation be to serve and zealously devote his energy and skills to defend his country?

NV: Azov is a very cool media story. The brigade is very active in the information space, just like several other brigades of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. To what extent are the opportunities to find the right people depend on the media coverage and activity of the unit itself?

Mikhno: Of course, it depends, a lot. Just like for any company or brand.

Let’s take, for example, a cashier job. Recruiting cashiers, for example, in Silpo [national retail chain] is definitely much easier than recruiting cashiers in some no-name store. Because people trust the brand, management, and company culture. They want to be part of something good and don’t want to go into uncertainty.

Such a thing as an HR brand, i.e., trust in the brand, but not from the point of view of the buyer, but from the point of view of the person who will go to work is extremely important for a civilian company or any HR department.

We’re ready to open and provide free services to any unit or state institution to help Ukraine in general. And this is a completely open and accessible platform for everyone where they can talk about their companies, branches, needs, culture, etc.

Of course, they have to learn how to do it. Of course, they need to pay attention to this, as well as developing a corporate (perhaps not quite military terminology) spirit, to form culture, values, and work principles. This is all that helps not just perform some tasks but understand the key purpose.

Understand why and how. And to have the opportunity for each person to make their own decisions at the level of their responsibility. Because if a hierarchical structure is established, and everyone waits for the approval of the general director (or a general in the army) to make any move, this is a failure and a waste of time. It’s very important that the culture is built in such a way that everyone can make their own decisions at the level of their responsibility. And this, of course, must be broadcast, explained, and included in communication.

Read also: Berlin sends ATVs, satellite communications to Ukraine

If we’re talking about the army, the possibility of such communication is available for each unit at the level. And I hope they’ll get approval from the Defense Ministry in the near future. I hope we’ll hear it live next week, as we’re in the final stages of approval.

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Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine