The Employer’s Equation:
Veteran Recruitment and Retention
One thing I learned in training to become an infantry officer or as a Marine officer in general: You have to turn the map around. In combat – that means you need to see how your enemy expects you to act, and then exploit their plan. In the civilian world I see it as a mix of strategy and desire as described by the amazing and late, Randy Pausch, creator of the Last Lecture at Carnegie Melon University.
Randy says, in life there are walls. But those walls are for other people; those walls help you because it keeps those other people from getting to YOUR dream. If it’s your dream, you’ll find a way around those walls. As a vet looking for a job, your opponent, your wall, is not an adversary; instead it’s the need of the employer. If it’s YOUR job, then you will find a way to get over the translation wall and exploit the needs of the employer by demonstrating your ability to fill them.
But for now, I’d like to share an idea with Employers. In the 1990s, only 3% of the nation’s population was made up of Veterans, while 8% of CEOs in the fortune 500 were Vets – that’s no coincidence. That’s what happens when drive, technical expertise, and leadership ability come together.
When employers begin thinking about hiring Veterans into their company it starts with the question: Why Veterans at [insert company]? Truth of the matter is… they aren’t turning the map around, and they are asking the wrong question. Let me correctly rephrase the question:
“Does [insert company name] deserve Veterans?”
Hiring Veterans makes business sense; it is not a philanthropic issue. I’d like to point out a few issues that face employers who enact a Recruitment and Philanthropy only Initiative, and I present them as an equation that results in Turn-Over or Retention.
Philanthropy V. Business, PvB (negative values for Philanthropy; positive values for Business)
Culture Training, CT (a value of 0 for no training, and increasing positive value for added training)
Mining for Oil, MOe (An exponential, “force-multiplyer” of the sum of the previous two values)
Turn-Over / Retention, “Retention” (a negative product results in increased turn-over; a positive product results in retention and efficiency in recruitment)
There should be a multiple in front of CT, as internal training on culture for the Vets, and leadership for managers is more impactful to the equation than the PvB in many ways, but I cannot identify a percentage to weight it. I’m going to give a brief explanation of each component, and then I will explain aspects of the equation in my next article.
Philanthropy V. Business:
Recruiting Veterans is a business choice, and it makes business sense. Just like any business venture with a measurable ROI, it takes investment and monitoring. Philanthropy is more like what fighter-pilots refer to rockets as “fire and forget”. You write the check, sign off on the agreement, and it generates smiles, warmth and a few positive PR effects without much follow-through needed. It also has hard to measure ROI, and its effects cannot be controlled once committed. If employers only see Vets as a philanthropy and PR topic, rather than the ability to increase training, retention and desire through-out the company – they will never get the value out of the investment.
As outlined well through experience and in documented surveys in Emily King’s book “Field Tested”, hiring a Veteran for their leadership and not helping them adapt to corporate culture is a quick way to increase turn-over (civilians don’t take well to command and control leadership). However, adjusting this to more of a highly efficient, servant leadership style is easy to do if you plan for it. Veterans also receive a full-time education on customs and courtesies of the military until it encompasses all they do –this needs to be readdressed with recently transitioned Veterans in the workforce. Don’t think it is that powerful? I will address this very issue in articles to come. In the meantime, feel free to revisit the second half of, Isolated.
Mining for Oil:
Veterans are like Mining for Oil… especially the good ones. If a company recruits and retains a Vet, providing them with a positive experience – the Veteran will tell his friends. High-quality Veterans that employers are seeking are often connected with each other. You find one – and you find many. This works in reverse as well: Burn one good one, and they will warn off their buddies. The result is a greater negative effect on Employer desirability in the Talent Market, and increased struggles for the company to find good talent. With companies like LinkedIn now tracking an employers’ “Total Brand Index”, this is a force to be reckoned with.
I will leave it here for now. The equation is my gift to employers. Stay tuned as I carry out the next series of articles centered on this very topic. Touching further on the level of friendships and relationships Veterans once shared, culture of training, mining for oil, and how quotas (often a product of philanthropy) can hurt your company.
As always – please share, and please share your thoughts.