Hiring Veterans: They Want a Chance to Show How Great They Can Be

I got a chance to spend some time this past weekend with a group of veterans and here’s what I came away with…

As HR/Talent Pros we are constantly looking for “silver bullets” when it comes to hiring. We’ll pretty much try and do almost anything it we think it’s going to bring our organizations better talent.

This is why I’m perplexed at the one huge talent miss most organizations are not fully invested into using – veterans! Think about the following benefits of hiring veterans:

5 benefits of hiring veterans

  • Teamwork – If anyone has been drilled on teamwork, it’s our military men and women. Many of us struggle in our organizations to get our people to play nice with each other, and here we have this huge pool of talent that is all about teamwork (No One Gets Left Behind isn’t a slogan — they have lived it!).
  • Following and giving directions – HR Pros have classic stories about employees who can’t follow simple directions and/or can’t give simple directions. I’d bet 90 percent of HR Pros nationally will at some point this year be having conversations with their senior leadership about “leadership” training that simply consists of getting their managers to give straightforward, concise, directions and feedback.
  • Ability to work under pressure and meet deadlines – When someone’s life or safety is at risk, you learn how to work under extreme pressure, which probably pales in comparison to much of the pressure we put on ourselves and our employees in normal work situations. Regardless, having individuals who can not only handle pressure but thrive under pressure are skills our organizations need.
  • Planning and organization – One thing our military veterans are known for is the training they receive in regards to planning and organization, and it’s the one thing we struggle with getting our employees to be good at. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken to hiring managers where they’ll say “it’s critical this person be highly organized.”  Well, a veteran’s military training has turned them into organization machines.
  • Flexibility and adaptability – One thing is constant in all of our organizations: change! We spend so much of our resources on change management, primarily because we know our employees, for the most part, will freak out at the slightest change. Not veterans; they have lived in a world where they were forced to adapt and change constantly, based on external environmental changes they had no control over. Again, their training takes over, they move on and work to continue the mission of the organization.

An issue HR Pros need to face up to

So, why do we as HR/Talent Pros struggle to hire veterans? First off I have to say, from personal experience, not hiring veterans is not an issue of the veterans, but it’s an issue of HR Pros!

We (the HR collective) are very set in a single mindset that we can only hire people, and our hiring managers will only accept people, that meet every qualification listed on the job description – which is complete BS – but we allow this to continue. Am I going to go out and hire a former Army tank mechanic to run my accounting department? No, they don’t have that background. But could I hire a great person and train them to be a machinist, or an inspector, or a hundred other positions in our organizations.

We are a “instant gratification” society, so we struggle with the concept of hiring great solid citizens and then training them to do what we need. “But Tim! You don’t get it. We train them, then they take off on us!”  Yeah, I get it. so stop using that as an excuse, because people don’t leave great work environments. And by the way, veterans have a higher loyalty index than your average employee.

Misnomers about hiring veterans

Also, there are some misnomers we truly need to dispel:

  1. People go into the military because they were troublemakers or not smart enough to get into college. Not true – I know plenty of stupid, troublemakers who went to college! And I can show you pictures! The fact is, at 18 years-old, many of us didn’t know what we wanted to do, but they might have known that going to school for another four years wasn’t something they wanted. The military seemed like a better option – and for the majority, it definitely was.
  2. Veterans are rigid and only know top-down management style. In the 1950’s this was true, but today’s veterans have gone through so much soft skills leadership training it would make the most skeptical OD person smile.
  3. We don’t have the time or money to train veterans for our work environment – we need fully trained people now! No you don’t; is that why you’ve had that position open for six months, because you need it “Now!”? The fact is, this is an organizational choice and you as an HR Pro have the influence to change it. There is so much money out there for organizations to train returning veterans it borders on ridiculous. You’ll have to do some work with your local veteran’s employment offices to get it, but it’s there.

Not a handout — just an opportunity

We live in a great country , no matter what the 99 percenters are telling you. We have great men and women who made a personal choice to keep this country great – our military veterans.

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As employers and as citizens, we owe these men and women a chance – a chance to make our organizations great, a chance to pay them back with opportunity for their service, a chance for them to show us they made the right decision to serve our country and become highly functioning, loyal, mature adults ready to work their butts off for your company.

All they want is a chance to show you they can be great. They are not asking for a handout – just an opportunity.

We hold that opportunity; are you willing to give it to them?

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.

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