Veterans Wired for everything from customer intel to robotics
What Roles They Fill
Military specialties such as aircraft maintenance and construction equipment operations translate directly into civilian life, says Ross A. Brown, head of military and veteran affairs at JPMorgan Chase. At his employer, for example, those previously in military intelligence excel at customer research. Many vets also have experience with advanced technology, including GPS, A.I., drones, robots, and virtual reality, says Katherine Webster, founder of VetsinTech. Cybersecurity is a sweet spot, she says: “They have security clearances and an ingrained desire to protect.”
In addition to tech skills developed in the military, many veterans are certified in software from Salesforce, and more than a dozen other technology companies have pledged to train 60,000 veterans and military spouses, mostly for free, by 2021.
How to Help Them Succeed
Communications in the military are simple and direct, lacking the nuance and social niceties of typical business exchanges, so teach new hires the less formal language of their new profession. Rising through the military is like walking upstairs: Each step is well defined and predictable. Rising in a business is like rock climbing: You’re always looking for handholds, sometimes going sideways before you rise. Managers should lay out career paths and requirements to veterans in detail. They should pay particular attention to leadership, to which many veterans will want to return.
Companies Doing It Right
Starbucks was recently criticized when an episode of racial insensitivity toward some customers got national attention. In hiring, however, the company has pursued diversity, including a push, begun in 2013, to hire 10,000 veterans and military spouses by this year. It’s already reached 15,000, and is on track to hire 25,000 by 2025. Most are young people early in their civilian careers with a single tour under their belts coming in as baristas. But “we also look for more senior veterans to fill leadership positions: store managers and district managers,” says Matt Kress, Starbucks’ senior manager of veterans and military affairs. “When we put veterans into field leadership positions, the retention is so high it is amazing. This started as a national obligation, but we quickly realized that they make us a better company.”
“Companies overlook veterans’ amazing skill sets, particularly when it comes to technology, leadership, team building, and transparent decision making.” JULIA TAYLOR KENNEDY Senior vice president at the Center for Talent Innovation