Hamlin Tallent

OPINION

How veterans boost your bottom line

They might just be the strongest part of your workforce

Veterans will continue to struggle in corporate America more so than their civilian counterparts. While the national unemployment rate stands at 7.6 percent, nearly 10 percent of vets are without work.

It’s true that job creation has been paltry over the past few months, but the problem will only exacerbate as sequestration finally takes hold. Active duty personnel will be given “RIFs” or notice by the Defense Department that they will be released from service as their positions are eliminated. That will mean more vets looking for work in the coming months, and the likelihood of finding employment will be as daunting as ever.

Herein lies a great opportunity for businesses looking to make the right hire at a time when applicants far outnumber the openings. In fact, hiring a vet who keenly understands how to do more with less will add great value to your bottom line very quickly. Stack a former military service member against anyone else in any competitive job interviewing process, and I’d bet on the vet every day of the week, and twice on Sunday.

So, it’s amazing to me why there is such great disparity between the unemployment rates of veterans and the rest of the job seekers. I would submit that the answer has nothing to do with any sort of lack of preparedness by the veterans or corporate America’s disregard for those who honorably served. Nothing could be further from the truth on both these counts.

Instead, a very key reason for this sustained trend lies in how many business owners are generally unfamiliar with the many ways veterans can add value to their organization. Sure the level of discipline, sacrifice, teamwork and dependability of a military service member are widely known and highly respected.

That’s not enough, say many businesses, who believe the position they seek to fill is too technical or unique to be performed successfully by someone coming to them from the Armed Forces. In the eyes of many civilians, a veteran is viewed as someone who follows orders to the letter, doesn’t deviate from what’s told and can only operate in certain circumstances.

The reality, though, is quite the opposite. In fact, the most junior military service member often times possesses greater critical decision-making skills than managers of large companies. Working in extreme conditions, such as the remote provinces of Afghanistan that are hundreds – if not thousands – of miles away from any support, with seemingly insurmountable challenges against an elusive and cunning enemy, requires that these individuals be creative and adaptable to situations as they develop.

There are countless examples about how an order from on high gets “overcome by events,” leaving a young enlisted person to their own devices. Without fail, they succeed where others most certainly would not. The stories are legendary and numerous, but all with a common theme: they occurred because military personnel are trained first and foremost in the art of making decisions.

Additionally, many in corporate America have a challenge in understanding how the technical capabilities of veterans translate to handling the systems and processes in their workplace. This is an easy fix and more of an exercise in translation than anything else.

Case in point; a Navy hospital corpsman assigned to forward deployed Marines has most likely performed a slew of very specialized medical procedures, from stabilizing patients with multiple internal injuries to performing surgeries in battle. Yet without specific state and federal accreditations, this individual will have difficulty getting onboard a local fire department.

Additionally, a military IT specialist will have worked in very harsh physical conditions where sand and heat are cunning enemies who are second only to the sophisticated state-sponsored terrorists who continually attack their data networks; however, the service member’s lack of industry security certifications will hold them back, despite their keen ability to thwart invasion and keep information flowing to those whose very lives depend on it.

Corporate America has a great opportunity to better understand what a veteran brings to the table. As service members in transition try to “cilivian-ize” their resume, and avoid using military jargon during job interviews, businesses can meet them part way by having a clearer idea of not just what these individuals did, but how that experience can be leverage to make them a “force multiplier” within their firm.

Their ability to think creatively, build team cohesion and work smarter will make everyone around them more productive and of value to a company. Government agencies can also help by developing equivalency certification programs that recognize a veteran’s technical talents and accomplishments that can be used when seeking employment that requires them.

The bottom line is this: the higher than average veteran unemployment rate in the United States is not only a disservice to those who gave so much in defense of this country, but equally a disservice to Corporate America looking to grow their business, provider better customer service and generate greater shareholder value. There’s a big silver lining to all of this, though; the problem is most certainly fixable.

 

About the Author

(retired) Rear Admiral Hamlin Tallent, USN, (htallent@sentekconsulting.com) is former director of operations for U.S. European Command, and is currently the vice president of C4ISR systems for Sentek Consulting.

Reader Comments

Fri, Apr 26, 2013 Boxer

It is about time that contractors addressed veterans' needs. Of course it is self-serving, but no matter. That is the Amurican way, eh? Problem is, some companies waving this flag are woefully prepared to deal with veterans, especially younger ones--not retirees. They tend to be less costly to hire, but have less experience. Some companies are serving up to their clients your women and men with little to offer than that they are veterans. Of course, if the work involved is mindless fed work where output or outcome, or even cost, is not an issue, they can be hired and deployed on these contracts. But make no mistake about out, these arrangements are just holding pens for people who often need to get more education, get acculterated to the work place, and learn to serve clients, not country. The companies are straining to do that, but it is costing them, other than in transitory feel-good ways. This being the MIC, however, all sides claim massive victories, just like overseas. This will get better over time. The real solution is to produce fewer ve terans, and you know how that is done, but some contractors will not like the thrust of this approach.

Wed, Apr 24, 2013

Two points: 1st, to fellow reader's comment, on the "retiree with health benefits...[not drawing] on the corporate plan." That worked in past years, likely won't in the future (to the same extent), especially given the skyrocketing service/VA medical costs; not the right answer for America, hope we'll see appropriate adjustments and understand retirees will have to share somewhat in that burden to reduce costs. 2nd, RADM Tallent's points are spot-on, but I think sometimes there's a fear of the former military, in the sense (as ADM Mullen said in past years, "we don't know [the American public], and they don't know us. Some civilian hiring authorities, without exposure to the military, think they're going to get "Full Metal Jacket"-style battlefield leadership from their veterans; couldn't be further from the truth, but you only know what you know, so you can't blame them too much. Grateful for other initiatives to soften that, from our President on down, and recognize what RADM Tallent worded so well.

Tue, Apr 16, 2013

Let's not forget how hiring a retired veteran adds to the bottom line too. A retiree with health benefits means they won't have to draw on the corporate plan, thus saving the company money.

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