Hire a Vet
Need to find highly skilled and dedicated workers? Look to those returning from military service.
Agile. Adaptable. Resilient. Loyal. These were just a few of the adjectives used to describe U.S. military veterans during the Integrating Veteran Talent Into Human Capital Strategy forum held at the New York Stock Exchange this past November. The event brought together human resources and other executives from Wall Street and Corporate America with top military brass, active and retired, and the veterans themselves to discuss not only the benefits of hiring them but also how to ease the process of doing so. This, the speakers noted, is an especially important undertaking right now, as an astonishing 1 million service men and women prepare to enter the workforce.
The resounding message was this: Giving employment to veterans is not charity; rather, it is a savvy business decision. “These are the best people anybody can find anywhere, and the most qualified to do anything we want them to do,” said U.S. Army Colonel Jack Jacobs, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient (now retired). “These young people, who have taken on enormous responsibility and authority at an early age, are disciplined, critical thinkers who can identify objectives and allocate resources.”
NYSE Euronext Deputy Chairman Marshall Carter, a former U.S. Marine Corps officer and Purple Heart recipient, can attest to what he calls “extraordinary leadership skills and life experiences,” combined with an “ability to deal with pressure and stress in themselves and others, to multitask and react quickly on an ethical basis, and to work long hours without a loss of efficiency. It is our duty to help them put forth these skills in the civilian corporate world.”
According to the first group of panelists, which included executives of The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS), General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) and TiVo Inc., one of the easiest ways to engage with veterans as potential hires is to institute an internship program. This establishes an eight- to 10-week review process for getting to know and assess the candidates.
Another is to form an affinity network that brings together employees with military backgrounds. Goldman Sachs launched one in 2011 to provide not only one-on-one mentorship but also assistance with attracting and retaining veterans. “We rely heavily on the veterans’ network to help screen résumés, decipher candidates’ skills, conduct interviews and answer questions the potential veteran hire might have,” said Steven Davis, vice president of human capital management at Goldman.
GE, whose affinity network has 10,000 members, plans to hire 5,000 veterans during the next five years, according to retired U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sergeant Joseph Beal, vice president of Enterprise & Operational Risk at GE Energy Financial Services. He maintained that “if you put everything together with great leadership support, you will see that the program doesn’t cost much.”
Tom Wolzien, lead independent director at TiVo and a Vietnam veteran, pointed to the 10 percent unemployment rate among post-9/11 veterans, a number that will only rise as the drawdowns continue. He reminded HR executives that they are on the “front line of the veterans employment challenge.” Therefore, he continued, “you need to work with your managers to recognize the value in hiring someone who has run logistics across mountain passes or managed global communications networks. Or think about the growing number of vets who have been trained in cyber-warfare or cyber-defense. Several of them now work for TiVo’s networks.”
Admiral James A. Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, referenced his days serving on the USS Enterprise, the 51-year-old aircraft carrier that recently completed its final deployment. “These young sailors are going to be looking for jobs, and you should be looking for them,” he said. “They are ready to take off the cloth of our nation and put on the cloth of business. They are ready to get to work. And I challenge you to take action.”
For more on the value of hiring veterans, including video excerpts of the forum, click here.