FINDING AND TRAINING LEADERS
One of the most common challenges is the recruitment and retention of individuals in leadership positions. The U.S. military spends billions of dollars each year training service members and developing competent and highly motivated leaders, so tapping into this audience can result in significant ROI.
Fluor Corporation, an engineering, procurement, construction and maintenance company headquartered in Irving, TX, faced this problem as a contingency contractor—a company that obtains goods, services and construction from commercial sources in support of U.S. operations that could involve military action. Fluor needed highly qualified managers who had served in the military, had command experience and understood the challenges of specific projects overseas in countries such as Afghanistan. So it created a Former Military Program (FMP), an initiative to train personnel who had been in senior enlisted or junior officer positions.
In addition to the standard civilian training, FMP employees receive instruction around interpersonal communication, customer service and reading contracts. Once on the job, they go through periodic performance assessments to ensure they are meeting expectations.
Fluor recommends companies work toward familiarizing themselves with the different military occupational codes and titles, so they can better understand how various skills can be applied to leadership positions. Taking the extra step to hone in and capitalize on special skills that employees bring to the table is a common best practice in hiring, and applying this to veteran candidates can prove to be even more valuable.
ONBOARDING AND TRAINING PROGRAMS
Providing training programs for employees is a great way to attract veterans who have the right attitude and aptitude but may lack certification or credentialing in a particular field. Creating these programs also ensures your organization has the ability to manage the skills that are coming into the company and represents an investment in your talent pipeline—an important quality of an employer for many veterans.
Carl Vickers of PeopleScout, a recruitment process outsourcing company headquartered in Chicago, stresses the importance of training as a major pillar of a recruitment strategy. “If there are technical skills required for the job, definitely have a training program with a specific budget set aside, whether that’s out of a larger training or education budget, or operations.” The training could be job shadowing, or a skill preparation class to get veterans or spouses acclimated to a new responsibility.
If a position doesn’t exist, try creating a new one to address a need. Roush Enterprises, a global engineering company headquartered in Livonia, MI, has developed a new position, mechanic trainee, geared toward applicants who have some basic mechanical skills. Roush assists with relocation expenses as necessary, funds the initial purchase of necessary tools with an interest-free repayment program and provides up to $5,000 per year in tuition reimbursement for the employee to further their education.
Also consider internships and apprenticeships or both for student veterans, returning veterans and military spouses.
Global financial services firm Citi, headquartered in New York, encourages transitioning service members to consider employment opportunities within the company and the greater financial services industry. Employees have the chance to engage with veterans and their families through the company’s mentoring partnerships with American Corporate Partners and Joining Forces Mentoring Plus, as well as resources such as Hiring Our Heroes’ eMentor program.
Mentoring is important for many junior employees, and especially transitioning veterans and military spouses who may not have had as much professional exposure.
Mentoring is important for many junior employees, and especially transitioning veterans and military spouses who may not have had as much professional exposure. It’s not just talking about career opportunities. It’s often about the ability to network. And networking isn’t merely about getting a business card; it’s about building a rapport. Working with a mentor can help transitioning service members gain or enhance these skills, and can help corporate employees become more familiar with military culture, skills and lifestyle.
There are different types of mentorship programs; pick one that will work best for your company. For example, American Corporate Partners is specific to transitioning service members—particularly student veterans. Its participants are often going into graduate school or finishing an undergraduate degree, and are looking to get into the corporate world.
As a part of that program, Citi is allowed to bring in a certain number of mentors, who are expected to have a one-year commitment to meet with their mentees about once a month. “For me, it’s always great to connect,” says KC Choi, Citi’s veteran program director, who has been a mentor through this program for a few months. “Especially in the case where someone is starting a different career path, it’s nice to be able to help give support. It goes along with the esprit de corps that you have when you serve.”
Choi recommends a mentor program with a high-touch feel, even if connections are virtual. Citi’s involvement with the Business & Professional Women’s Foundation’s Joining Forces Mentoring Plus program is important since Citi has a strong female executive population. While the goal of the mentorship programs is typically not for the mentee to get a job at their mentor’s company, that does happen—it has happened before at Citi when the individual’s mentor thought he was an excellent fit for an open position.
MANAGEMENT TRAINING PROGRAMS
Safeway, Inc., headquartered in Pleasanton, CA, created an intensive, multimonth training program for junior military officers and noncommissioned officers (NCOs), placing them into an accelerated leadership program. Recognizing the untapped talent of veterans, Senior Vice President of Human Resources Russ Jackson launched the program in 2010 to bring “a new type of leader into the company.” Safeway sees this effort as an opportunity to find proven leaders who have been educated and trained, and who have experience leading people under a variety of circumstances.
The program kicks off with one week at corporate headquarters and includes a combination of on-the-job training; interaction with co-workers and customers on the sales floor; seminars; job shadowing; independent study; and participation in various department and key leadership meetings. At the end of the program, participants are equipped to fill various positions at Safeway, including retail store managers, warehouse superintendents and maintenance engineers. Their career progression then includes higher-level positions in retail, as well as in marketing, supply chain and logistics.
One of the biggest challenges Safeway faces when hiring veterans is helping them understand civilian career progression. Veterans are used to the frequency of career progression, job focus and physical location change every few years; the corporate world does have career paths, but not necessarily conforming to the same operational frequency.
"Safeway gave me a chance to continue with a profession, without starting from scratch."
To assist with the transition, individuals hired to this program participate in focused periodic training to further enhance their careers at Safeway. Apart from the actual training program, opportunities abound in positions of greater authority and responsibility; areas of varying focus; and additional opportunities nationally.
Feedback from new recruits is also important to Safeway. The company’s military talent acquisition recruiter performs periodic check-ins with participants and conducts surveys twice during the program. Senior leadership reviews each survey, and comments and suggestions are instituted where applicable. For example, one comment spurred the establishment of a program for NCOs. This was a substantial shift in the strategic direction of the program and has “proved to be an exceptional addition to the organization,” according to Safeway leadership.
On the corporate level, biweekly conference calls are held between members of corporate human resources and division-level leadership to discuss participant performance and program feedback. On occasion, current or former program participants are invited to share their experiences and feedback on their respective training programs.
Ross Merritt, a 12-year Marine Corps veteran, program participant and Safeway’s category manager for dairy/refrigerated, says, “Safeway gave me a chance to continue with a profession, without starting from scratch. One of the greatest obstacles I experienced when leaving the Marine Corps was finding a company that valued my years of leadership experience and [that] was willing to allow me to assume a leadership role in their organization. Safeway not only valued those skills, but allowed me to grow them further by placing me in a key leadership role and allowing me opportunities for further advancement.”
To date, Safeway has hired more than 200 veterans into this program.
Does your organization have a case study to contribute? Let us know