The Employer’s Equation: Veteran Recruitment and Retention

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)

Looks like:

Employer's Equation for Retention
Employer’s Equation for Retention

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.

Culture Training: 

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.

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Soldiers of Fortune (JMOs): Veteran Profiles – Part III

The United States Marine Corps awards the right to carry the “Mameluke” Sword (Seen in Chrome and Gold) to Commissioned and Warrant Officers.  The Marine Officer’s Sword commemorates the jeweled Mameluke sword that was awarded to Lt. Presley O’Bannon after leading a small Marine Detachment to march over 550 miles through the desert before attacking and retaking the enemy’s, heavily-fortified, Derna, Tripoli position.

The Commissioned Officers' Mameluke Sword and the Marine Enlisted's "NCO Sword"
The Commissioned Officers’ Mameluke Sword and the Marine Enlisted’s “NCO Sword”

Today we focus on the Junior Military Officers [JMOs]:

So, let’s briefly go over the profile of a Jr. Military Officer.  I have to admit – I am not as excited about this group as I am the Jr. Military Enlisted – but that doesn’t make them ANY less valuable to the workforce.  On the contrary, my reduced enthusiasm is because JMOs are SO well positioned to take on roles in Corporate America!

First – the hard numbers.  When I refer to JMOs, I am referring to the bell of the curve for officers that:
–          Commissioned after earning a degree and have not had prior military experience as a JME
–          Served honorably for 4-12 years (considering those under 4 years doesn’t help as they are under obligation to serve for a minimum of 4 years, and frequently longer).
–          Previous salary ranging from $66k-$101k/yr (Tax adjusted equivalent: $74k-$115k/yr)
–          Make up less than 10% of the Active Duty Military

JMOs Typically
–          Directly responsible for Assets and equipment usually ranging in Millions to hundreds of millions of dollars.
–          Responsible for 5-150 personnel
–          Have had unparalleled leadership training, and leadership-development training to include proper implementation of performance evaluations, and performance evaluation systems.
–          Have hands on experience in organizational change and change management
–          Have “Employee Relations” and Human Resources expertise regardless of their military specialty
–          Have at least a SECRET DoD security clearance

Depending on the service, many JMOs will have a degree that is relative to their career field.  The Navy is the service where this is most common.  The Marine Corps would be on the opposite spectrum, as Military Occupational Specialties (jobs) for Marine Officers are assigned based on the needs of the Service, with respect to the Marine’s most desired role, and their performance.  At the same time, The Marine Corps is the only service that requires ALL Officers regardless of job, to attend the world’s highest rated leadership course, known simply as “The Basic School” [TBS].

From every civilian organization I have had conversations with, I hear a common theme – It is not so difficult to find someone great at their job; it is ever-difficult to find an effective leader that develops members of the organization at the team level.  In civilian organizations, the logic follows “I’m the best at what I do, and I have earned the right to be promoted into a Sr. role”.  That may be true – but technical expertise and leadership are far different.  JMOs are taught to lead FIRST.  Then they are given the tools of their trades.  Marine Officers spend 6 months, 60-100 hours per week, training with peers – solely on LEADERSHIP, refining their ability to develop OTHERS.  They are the Michael Jordan of corporate employees.  When they are on the court, the rest of the team plays better!

JMOs have experience in developing and being held responsible for the development of protégés, and the junior members of their organization.  Their measure of performance is based on their team.  This is a trait normally reserved for very senior and C-suite executives.    It doesn’t have to be – a JMO is willing and able to fill the void your organization has in developing it’s young talent, creating organizational loyalty, commitment, and efficacy.

When reviewing the resume of a JMO, or interviewing them and you notice a specific job skill they don’t have enough “experience” with – ask yourself:  Which will cost my organization more, teaching him how to use Salesforce, or sending my Salesforce Admin to six months of leadership training and a following 3 years of practical application?  You can hire one technical expert, and you’ve gained one savvy technical expert for your job field.  You hire a JMO, and you gain a team of motivated members of the organization; all constantly being challenged to perfect and grow their technical expertise.

How to Create a Veteran Associate Program (Hiring and Program Guides for Managers and Veteran Profiles included along with an incredible study conducted by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families out of Syracuse University.

Jr. Military Enlisted: Veteran Profiles – Part II

The United States Marine Corps awards the right to carry the “Non-Commissioned Officer’s” Sword (Seen in gold and black leather scabbard) to those Enlisted Marines once they obtain the rank of Corporal (E-4).  The Marine NCO-Sword is the oldest weapon in continuous service in the U.S. inventory.

The Commissioned Officers' Mameluke Sword and the Marine Enlisted's "NCO Sword"
The Commissioned Officers’ Mameluke Sword and the Marine Enlisted’s “NCO Sword”

Today we focus on the Junior Military Enlisted:

According to the most recently available (2011), complete figures I could obtain per the Dept. of Veteran Affairs, Junior Military Enlisted service members (Those enlisted members with 4-12 years of service, and in the ranks E-3 to E6) make up nearly 50% of the Military’s force.   That is the single largest group of any of the four groups described last week.

First, to reduce risk of carpal tunnel, I will refer to a Junior Military Enlisted service-member, or a Veteran of that group, as “a JME”.  The typical JME has spent 4-12 years on Active duty in the military and in addition to being immersed in leadership training that entire time, they have spent 2-10 of those years in a leadership role.  During which time they have been responsible for up to 30 direct reports (in cases much higher, and in cases never more than a handful).

JMEs with this leadership experience are experts at handling ambiguous situations and making decisions based on what they best understand their superior’s goal or intent to be.  This translates into becoming a manager in a larger corporation that can lead and employ his team, setting and meeting team objectives that are aligned with the organization’s strategic vision.  In the military we like to refer to it as “Understanding a clear Commander’s Intent while operating in a decentralized command structure”.

With the fruition of the Post 9/11 GI-Bill, JMEs are able to pursue higher education at amazing rates.  Based on size alone, separating JMEs who pursue higher-education vs. those who don’t would constitute adding a 5th group.  For ease of identification we will remain with four.  However, from this point forward, I will refer to solely the group of JMEs who pursue higher-education.

For the corporate world, where a Bachelor’s degree is required for employment, seeing a JME with a degree or in pursuit thereof is a great signal!  This means they are already demonstrating a prized leadership quality – Know yourself and seek self-improvement.  Not to mention they have taken Initiative to do so, maintain an internal locus of control, and are combating the ambiguity of financial pressures and security in order to complete their education as opposed to looking for immediate financial gain.  This is a distinction worth noting.

JMEs are SEVEN TIMES more plentiful than Jr. Military Officers (JMOs), and bare the same leadership and educational experience after completion of their degree.  It should be said however, that JMOs get more formal training in the honing and development of their leadership abilities.

To wrap things up, here are two points that are often over-looked by under-exposed and improperly educated Recruiting “Professionals”, often those who will only recruit or who have “clients” that will only hire prior “commissioned officers”:

  1. Formally, Staff-NCOs (Ranks E-6 and above) are charged with the development and mentorship of all JMOs until the rank of Major/Lieutenant Commander (O-4).  In practice, JMOs until the rank of Captain/Lieutenant (O-3) receive constant mentorship and development from JMOs (E-4 and above).  Yes – these NCOs or JME are exactly who have been developing these highly sought after JMOs!
  2. A typical JMO that gets out of the military after 4 or 8 years of service has earned a degree, and THEN gained his leadership training.  A JME who pursues higher-education will have received his leadership training first and then receives the most current in academic training while earning a degree.

 

I’d like to leave our brief description of the JME at that.  Next week, I will even things out a bit by diving further into the unique and valuable assets the JMO offers employers in today’s corporate world.

Until then, I hope to see as many Veteran seeking, or knowledge hungry Human Resource Professionals at the NYSE 2nd Annual Call to Action Forum on Nov. 1st at the New York Stock Exchange in New York, NY!

How to Create a Veteran Associate Program (Hiring and Program Guides for Managers and Veteran Profiles included along with an incredible study conducted by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families out of Syracuse University.

Educating Employers: Veteran Profiles – Part I

Overly delayed, but as promised, let’s start looking at the different profiles a high-potential U.S. Military Veteran will likely fall into.  I like to give a broad breakdown of the Veteran Profiles that are most likely to be seeking to enter the non-military workforce.  In doing so, there are four main groups.  I have also described and made the case for one of the four groups in the recently released Hiring Manager Resources published on the New York Stock Exchange Website (I’ll link the work at the end of this article).

The Commissioned Officers' Mameluke Sword and the Marine Enlisted's "NCO Sword"
The Commissioned Officers’ Mameluke Sword and the Marine Enlisted’s “NCO Sword”

The four main groups of Non-Retiring Veterans are:

–          Senior Military Officers (SMO)

–          Junior Military Officers (JMO)

–          Senior Military Enlisted (SME)

–          Junior Military Enlisted (JME)

Many have heard of the JMO, as they have become a highly targeted candidate pool for both corporations and placement agencies alike.  Where else can you find a pool of talent with post-degree work experience, and a resume of leadership and responsibility that often includes multi-million dollars in assets and organizational command often exceeds 300 people?  The problem is, they only represent 7% of the military – and not all 7% exit the military.  The amount of JMOs actually exiting the military is closer to 2% of the entire military assuming 67% of the military’s JMOs are retained after their first 4 years of service.

For the following summary and description of each group, I will be referencing my own work as published on the New York Stock Exchange website.  Not every member of the military will perfectly fall into the following four groups.  However, for organizations looking to hire Veterans, a clear understanding of the following groups will best prepare you to close the communication gap, and understand the majority of the Veteran population that are currently entering the workforce.

Four Main Categories of Non-Retiring Veterans

  • SMO – Sr. Military Officers (Executive Group)
    • 12+ years of service
    • Often with Master’s credentials and positioned well for Executive and Fast-track leadership programs
  • JMO – Jr. Military Officers (Professional Group)
    • 4-8 years as a Commissioned Officer
    • Highly sought after professional group for Junior and Mid-level Management roles in med-large companies
  • SME – Sr. Military Enlisted (Skilled Group)
    • 12+ years of service
    • Various levels of education and degree progress
    • Often are technical-skilled experts in their job field
  • JME – Jr. Military Enlisted (Skilled Group – Early Growth Stage)
    • 4-8 years of service
    • Mostly hold a High School diploma upon exit, if not a GED.
    • This group is further broken into two categories:
      • JME pursuing/has a degree
      • JME not pursuing a degree

You will notice that “JME pursuing/has a degree” is bolded.  That is because it represents the most under-targeted group that I argue should be considered as equally positioned to JMOs when considered for entry-level and junior leadership roles requiring a degree.  JME within our targeted service time of between 4-8 years of military service make up nearly 50% of the military per 2011 numbers!  That is SEVEN times more than the JMOs.  Additionally, with the onset of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, JMEs are pursuing college degrees at the highest rates seen in history.

This unique set of circumstance creates a large pool of candidates with 4-8 years of leadership training and experience that is unparalleled outside of the military.  Of which many have now earned or are near completion of a degree with the most current curriculum in academia.  Where else can you find a degree holding candidate, with a Quarter-Million-Dollar leadership education and looking to start their career at a salary under $60k/yr?  No Ivy-league school can compete with that.

Stay tuned for next week, as I compare and contrast the great assets both Junior Military Officers and Junior Military Enlisted offer while also giving a more in-depth description of each group.  If you can’t wait until then – feed your curiosity by visiting The Veteran Associate Program page on the New York Stock Exchange Website.

How to Create a Veteran Associate Program (Hiring and Program Guides for Managers and Veteran Profiles included along with an incredible study conducted by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families out of Syracuse University.

Don’t Hire That Veteran!

Yes – I work personally and professionally to place Veterans into Corporate America by educating employers and coaching Veterans in their transition process… and I’m telling you NOT to hire that Veteran.  I will explain.

The momentum continues to build as I work to help Veterans transition and encourage Employers to take advantage of the amazing talents Veterans offer!  When I present to a company I am all passion and rightfully so.  To ensure my message is not clouded by any elephants I need to address the issue of the the Vets that don’t provide value.  There is nothing patriotic about keeping a Veteran that subtracts value from your organization – so don’t.

Jack Welch made a practice of releasing the bottom 10% of his company annually; Jim Collins (in his award winning book, “Good to Great”) will tell you that “Great” companies will make sure the right people are on the bus and the wrong people are kicked off the bus. No organization is 100% effective and I won’t preach that U.S. Military Vets are any different. I WILL tell you that there are far too many outstandingly qualified and high performing Veterans out there that you should never be holding onto a less than ABOVE-average performing Veteran out of “Patriotic Duty”. All they do is give a poor and inaccurate representation of Veterans in the work force.

There is much to be said about how to spot accurate flags to weed out the “bottom 10%” early in the process; more so than will be written here today. There are 3 primary reasons a Veteran is underperforming.

1. The Veteran is poorly matched to their job role (this can happen anywhere, with any employee).

2. The Manager is weak. Yes, bluntly put – if the manager is not willing or able to identify sub-par performance and demand better, the Veteran will have a false sense of acceptable expectations (as would any employee). Veterans are diligent and will sacrifice for a greater goal – give them their goal!

3. The Veteran is in the “bottom 10%”. Get rid of him. Don’t let that Vet ruin it for other Vets. Of course as with any employee, due diligence should be administered in ensuring this is the problem before making a decision to terminate.

Now that we have the elephant addressed, stay tuned as I start my next series of articles on the profiles of Veterans and how each fit into and add above-average value to your organization!

Posted on the go from my Droid RAZR, technology is our friend!

Can I Ring Your Bell?

NYSE Euronext celebrates 2nd Annual Veteran Associates Program
NYSE Euronext celebrates 2nd Annual Veteran Associates Program – Photo Credit to Ben Hider at Ben Hider Photography

Through an initial vision, or a Call-to-Action of NYSE Euronext CEO, Duncan Niederauer – the NYSE developed the Veteran’s Associate Program.  After Niederauer’s idea was relayed to the Human Resources department, a program was developed from the ground up and implemented for the first time in June 2012.  The program offers a paid internship to Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces who are currently seeking or have recently received a degree.  It provides key exposure, education and experience in the corporate world to Veterans.  The Veterans, effectively demonstrate their value by demonstrating the high-value, highly sought after, intangible traits they have developed during their military careers.  These are the same traits that have made Veteran Specific recruitment a multi-million dollar industry for multiple agencies across the nation.

Now that there is some perspective, I wanted to boast a little bit about an amazing experience.  I also wanted to include the first ever, YouTube videos on LifebyDamien.com.  Below you will find the recordings of U.S. Military Veterans ringing the closing bell of the New York Stock Exchange.  You can find me in the July 5th closing, front and center as I push the button to ring the bell and my adjacent colleague strikes the gavel.

I have included all 3 closing bell ceremonies as participants of the 2013 Veteran Associate Program were part of, if not the entirety of each bell ringing.  Lastly, I have included a brief video documenting the 2012 Veteran Associate Program’s Inaugural class, and their closing bell ceremony.

Learn more about the Veteran Associate Program, and how to create a Value-driving program in your organization at the NYSE Veteran Programs and Initiatives page.

July 10th, 2013 – Celebrating the Veteran Associate Program 2013

July 5th, 2013 – Celebrating the Veteran Associate Program 2013

June 14th, 2013 – Celebrating the U.S. Army 238th Birthday with Members of the VAP 2013

As promised, Celebrating the Inaugural Veteran Associate Program, July 5th, 2012

A New Approach to Veteran’s Transitions – Fire and Maneuver

Deltas Walking
My Last Day in Uniform along side my Transition Support Team.

While I decide on the next series of articles for LifebyDamien, I wanted to give an update on the world of Damien Bertolo as it will affect the focus of the next series of articles.

As those of you who follow are aware, I was working to build a Veteran Recruitment Division for a Staffing Agency in Manhattan.  While continuing on with that division is no longer in the immediate future plans for that agency, I have been debating the depth at which I will continue to move forward with it.  As it stands, I intend to work on two “fronts”.  First, I will focus my efforts, as an Independent Consultant, to help employers develop hiring, and on-boarding programs that will provide opportunities to Veterans. Second, I will use my own personal time, at no charge (in sort of an unofficial, self-funded NFP function) to aid Veterans who are transitioning out of the military.

Currently, I will be working for the New York Stock Exchange as in Independent Consultant, aiding (while also learning) in their Talent Acquisition of qualified candidates for needed roles.  I am very excited to be offered this opportunity as it provides benefits to me on MANY fronts!

To continue consulting additional organizations, I want to move away from Talent Acquisition, aka Recruiting, in an operational function.  Instead of giving employers “fish” when they are hungry, I want to give them the pole, line and tackle box.  From those I have talked to, it seems employers don’t have a solid grasp on how to identify the solid Veteran Talent, how to interview Combat Veterans, what to look for, what to dismiss, and what to keep.  I’d like to help employers develop their HR functions to be able to do all of the above, successfully.  This way they will see the direct, short and long-term value that the unique traits offered by Veterans provide to an organization.  Then they can continue with their efforts long after I am gone and WITHOUT having to pay a recruiter fee each time they are seeking a qualified Veteran to add to their organization.

As a Not-For-Profit function, I haven’t decided on a name, but I am thinking “DPB Transitions” might be it.  I have already done it before, and I’d like to position myself to do even more of it in an official capacity.  I want to help Veterans see the smoothest of transitions to the “civilian world” as possible.  In an effort to do so, I intend to offer my knowledge learned in HR, recruiting, and professional development to pass on to Vets, so they aren’t reinventing the wheel.  I will offer my help, and my network to any Vet transitioning.  This includes but is not limited to, Networking, Resume Construction (not just a template, but actually understanding the coded 8.5” x 11” grail), Interview Prep, Salary Negotiations, Professional Development, Life Coaching and any additional odds and ends that help the Veteran stay focused on a successful mission of transition.

Why do I think my two-laned approach will work?  Simple – this is Fire and Maneuver, not Attrition, nor Fire and Movement.  When a Recruiting Agency markets their military talent, they offer it one time, with one success per contract, and more importantly, one fee.  They will seek through as many candidates as possible until they find one that “makes it through the lines” and gets placed (Attrition, or maybe Fire and Movement if actually done well).

I will develop a sense of employers’ needs, through consulting and developing their HR functions with the ability to seek, screen and on-board Veterans. This gives me a look at the clients’ positions.  In Military tactics jargon – I’m turning the map around.  Then, I am in touch with Military Talent, Veterans eager to be of value to society.  I am able to help them, and guide them, with the insider’s view of the other side of the “battlefield”.  Then, Employers can trust I will refer quality talent to them, without any fees per hire.  I pin down the employers needs as a Consultant; and I aid the Veterans to move around and penetrate their lines (get hired) as a NPO – Fire and Maneuver.

Advice, support and resources to recommend are always appreciated!

Don’t forget, find me at: Damien B on LinkedIn or on Twitter @Mr_DamienB