Hiring is tough. Finding the right person who will make a great employee is one of the hardest jobs we do as leaders. We are searching for that rare individual who will come into our organization and make a difference quickly. If only there was an easier way. If only there was a pool of potential employees who were eager, motivated, intelligent, quick-to-learn, team-oriented, mission-focused, and proven under pressure.
The truth is, companies like Amazon, General Electric, Uber, Starbucks, General Motors, Toyota, Dow, Merck, and Wal-Mart, have found that pool. They have discovered something I’ve known for years; military veterans can get the job done and hiring veterans is good for business.
What these and many other highly successful companies have recognized is they are gaining higher quality employees by seeking out candidates with military experience. Veterans are bringing much needed experience, energy, and leadership to their organizations.
Amazon, for example, discovered military veterans are ideally suited for the high-paced, demanding work environment in their fulfillment centers. They found veterans, with their “leadership skills and problem-solving abilities,” were able to quickly make a difference in the performance of those centers. In fact, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has set a goal to hire 25,000 veterans and military spouses over the next five years. The company that is dominating retail knows veterans can improve their bottom-line.
These companies are validating exactly what I have observed over the past 20 years as a business leader. Hiring veterans is good for business. In my experience, military veterans are high value candidates who make outstanding employees. They possess numerous traits like loyalty, dependability, resilience, adaptability, integrity and discipline that are needed in the workplace. Their extensive training, leadership experiences, mission-focus and team-orientation allow them to add immediate impact to any organization.
So why aren’t more companies seeking out veterans? It’s simple. Most recruiters have both a lack of understanding as well as severe misconceptions about veterans. Hiring managers have a hard time understanding how military experience translates to the needed skills in the civilian workforce. Recruiters often don’t understand the work history and military terminology on the resumes of veterans, especially when they are looking for candidates with specific work experience at competitors. They simply overlook military veterans.
The other side of the problem is misconceptions. The knowledge gap among civilians about the military is significant. Companies often have grossly misinformed assumptions of what veterans are like based on popular culture. They assume veterans can’t work with women. They assume veterans will have PTSD. They assume veterans can only lead by barking orders or making people do push-ups. They assume veterans are rigid and can only be successful in a command-and-control environment and that veterans can’t think on their feet. These assumptions are flat-out wrong and jade the opinion of recruiters causing them to miss out on landing top-notch talent.
As a veteran myself, I don’t have these misconceptions. I have been hiring military veterans for over 20 years. In every case, these veterans have quickly become significant contributors to the success of my business. They are some of the best employees I have ever hired. In my experience, here are six reasons why veterans make outstanding employees:
Veterans know how to lead AND how to follow. Whether serving as a platoon leader, squad leader, junior officer, team leader, tank commander, or hundreds of other military leadership roles, veterans have deep experience leading people, often in tough conditions. Because the military grows its leaders in-house, veterans also know how to follow. The military is a mission-focused, team-oriented organization that requires precision. Following directions and guidance is critical to accomplishing the mission.
Veterans are high performers and results-focused. Kirkland Murray, CEO of Anne Arundel Workforce Development says, “Veterans have a great work ethic; they take on challenges with a singular focus and can be counted on to show-up on time ready to work. Veterans aren’t wasteful; they have honed skills which give them the ability to work with limited available options.”
Veterans are good under pressure. The military provides unique, high-stress experiences where soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen must perform at a high level. Whether repairing a vehicle under fire, landing a damaged aircraft, or bringing a submarine to periscope depth in rough seas, veterans are trained to excel in tough situations.
Veterans know how to work as a team. From boot camp to combat, veterans have been trained to work as a team to complete the mission. Military veterans know each member of the team must do their job to perfection for the team to succeed. In the case of combat or dangerous exercises, failure to perform as a team can lead to serious consequences. Numerous employee studies point to the fact that veterans are excellent at teamwork. If you are looking to build an unstoppable team, veterans can provide an unselfish, team-oriented, mission-first mindset.
Veterans are quick to learn. As I recently wrote in an article called 10 Leadership Lessons I Learned Living on a Nuclear Submarine, the volume of information the military expects you to know is significant. Veterans understand the quicker you learn, the faster you get qualified and start making a difference. There is positive peer pressure in a military unit and nobody wants to be unqualified.
Veterans understand self-sacrifice. Many new hires are focused only on themselves, their careers, and what they can get from a company. Veterans know what it means to put their country, their mission, and their team ahead of themselves and their families. It is one of the core reasons for their success in teams and why they perform so well in civilian organizations. They are willing to fight for a cause that is greater than themselves.
As a leader, your job is to build a strong team of the best people which can accomplish big things. Military veterans bring unique attributes, skills, and experiences that will enhance any organization. They are loyal, dependable, hard-working employees who know how to lead, how to follow, and can get things done in tough circumstances. Successful companies like Amazon have recognized this and are seeking out veterans in large numbers. If your recruiting strategy does not include adding veterans to your team, you’re missing out on some of the best talent available.
If you are unsure of how to implement a veteran recruiting strategy, let me suggest one resource. The Foundation for Veteran Employment Transition Support (AKA Foundation for VETS) is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) public charity dedicated to helping veterans, employers, and the country by reducing and removing barriers to civilian employment. One of their programs, VETS Connect Employers (VCE), connects employers with high value military applicants. It is designed to facilitate access to veteran candidates. It is a free service for both the employer and the veteran.
Have you hired a veteran or do you work with one? What has that experience been like? Are there other attributes of veterans that I missed? Why do you think so many recruiters pass over veterans? Let me know your thoughts.
By: Jon Rennie
Co-founder, President & CEO of Peak Demand Inc., a premier manufacturer of transmission and distribution components for electrical utilities and OEMs. Former U.S. Naval Submarine Officer with seven deployments on the USS Tennessee. Submarine and Nuclear Engineer qualified. BS Mechanical Engineering, MBA, and MS in Manufacturing Leadership from Cambridge University in the UK. Leadership blogger at jonsrennie.com.
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