Want Employees with Courage, Agility and Ability? Hire Veterans

Want Employees with Courage, Agility and Ability? Hire Veterans

The character and skills of veterans are what we could use more of in our facilities and workplaces.

Is there a question on your HR application that says, "Can you rescue fellow employees from imminent danger while you are injured?"

What about, "How quickly can you assess a volatile situation, devise a plan and implement it?"

While these questions are never asked during an interview, they get at core leadership characteristics.
 
And it so happens that there are many potential employees who embody these traits: veterans.

You have only to look to the recent example of August 21 when two veterans, U.S. Air Force Airman Spencer Stone and Oregon National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, tackled an armed, would-be terrorist on a train in France. Skarlatos heard the sound of a magazine being jammed or changed out and immediately alerted Stone and his friend Anthony Sadler to the danger. They sprang to action to subdue the gunman, and although Stone was bleeding from both his neck and thumb, he immediately attended to another wounded passenger.

When I heard of these heroic acts and learned that two veterans were involved, I wasn't surprised. We all understand the dedication, training and character of the men and women in our branches of the military.

And they have proven their abilities many times over.

So why don't we consider these skills as the ones that matter when we're hiring employees? While life-and-death situations rarely occur in the workplace, the character and skills of veterans are what we need in the business world.

Some company executives already know this. A perfect example is Drew Greenblatt, president of Marlin Steel. Here's his explanation for why 14% of his workforce is comprised of veterans:

"One of the big reasons clients come to Marlin is because they need products quickly. Like yesterday. One of our vets, Brent, who led troops in battle during two tours in Iraq, was frequently under fire. Now he is back stateside, running our most expensive medium-frequency welding robot cell with tight deadlines and challenging tolerances. Timely, custom wire basket deliveries will not give him stress compared with what he went through. You need a Brent in your life."

Similarly, here are some of the reasons why soft drink giant Coca-Cola hires veterans:

Leadership: Veterans are nimble decision-makers and troubleshooters who can think and act on their feet and under pressure. In addition, they are natural team-builders and collaborators.

Expertise: The U.S. military provides unparalleled training in technical and people skills that transcend function and geography, which means veterans enter the civilian workforce as credentialed professionals and proven peak performers.

Character: Military personnel channel a positive, mission-first energy, a relentless work ethic and a can-do, get-it-done attitude that's both inspiring and contagious. And because of their physical training, veterans make excellent role models who inspire those around them to become more active, healthy and fit.

The Center for a New American Security studied the issue and concludes that hiring veterans is actually one of the best moves an employer can make:

"They're accustomed to uniform policies and structure, but can adapt to dynamic workplace situations. Vets tend to boast leadership and teamwork skills that outpace those of their civilian counterparts, and they're often more loyal as well. Veterans are committed to the organizations they work for, which can translate into longer tenure."

Character, leadership and loyalty—those are the most important traits in any employee and cannot be ascertained by an HR test, questionnaire or interview. We are lucky in this country to have many, many veterans with these traits and they should be at the top of the hiring list.

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