In the past the military personnel and the corporate world seldom intersected and interacted. The understanding about each other was very low.
These days, the corporate world is increasingly becoming more inclusive and taking an interest in the veteran talent pool. Similarly, veterans who exit the military service at a younger age are also looking to the corporate sector to start their second career.
There are many reasons for this mutual interest. For the corporate sector, there is the growing realization that the military veteran pool of talent is a valuable resource, one that brings diversity in experience and world view to the organization, thereby strengthening the organization. Then there are skills that are built with a career in the military. These include excellent general management, people management, and communication skills and the ability to deal with conflicts. In addition, most veterans by their nature of service are highly adaptable and very quick learners. All qualities that are valued in the corporate sector.
For the veterans, the allure of the corporate world lies in the possibility of a new job that utilizes their skills, the potential for a relatively painless reintegration into the civilian society, along with the not inconsiderable advantage of financial security. A winning combination.
Every year, over 50,000 military personnel retire from the armed forces, typically in the age range of 35-45 years. A ready talent pool, you’d think. However, frequently that is not the case. Veterans often need to unlearn skills they have painstakingly acquired in the military world before they can realize their potential. The military world teaches you to deal with various scenarios and imparts excellent leadership qualities. On the other hand, the corporate world is vertical and you are taught to specialize very early in your professional life.
As a result, the veteran landscape in the corporate world typically built around the Administration, Facilities, and Physical Security job families. And yet there is a variety of veteran skills that could be tapped including, engineering, supply chain management, communication, technology, cyber security, project / program management, human capital, etc.
While the Director General Resettlement, several placement agencies, and some educational institutes have structured programs to help veterans get ‘job ready’ for the corporate world, there is a need for greater awareness amongst companies about the skills that retiring armed forces personnel possess and widen their scope of hiring these veterans across job families. And once hired, for them to successfully move across job families if needed. For instance, I started my corporate journey in June 2009 in Wells Fargo after taking premature retirement from the Navy post my permanent commission. I initially pursued my professional career in information security and later moved to operational risk and compliance. In addition to what I brought to the table, my job mobility was enabled through a number of interventions at every level.
Corporates that are serious about harvesting this talent pool will seek to make a number of changes to their modus operandi. At the recruitment stage the intent to include this workforce should be demonstrated with customized recruitment communication.
Once employed, corporates would need to invest in dedicated learning and development that supports this transition. Holistic development should cover other facets including building awareness within teams about the diverse needs and capabilities of the veterans, enabling the newcomers to connect with existing veterans to enable a smoother transition into the corporate life. The hand-holding should reach further via mentoring, leadership engagement, networking, and community outreach opportunities as well.
This commitment to diversity can be manifested as painlessly as through focusing on supplier diversity to identify and onboard veteran-owned businesses and encourage vendor partners to diversify their workforce by recruiting more veterans.
It is more challenging to hire veterans with physical disability acquired in the line of duty. The good news is that these days corporates are actively seeking to include those with diverse abilities into their workforce, be it through the design of physical spaces or workstations or access enablement, etc.
All of this effort might seem like a fair amount of investment, but then the value-add more than makes up.