HR Pros – You Can’t Handle The Truth

I got a chance to spend some time this past weekend with a group of veterans and here’s what I came away with…

As HR/Talent Pros we are constantly looking for “silver bullets” when it comes to hiring.  We’ll pretty much try and do almost anything it we think it’s going to bring our organizations better talent.  This is why I’m perplexed at the one huge Talent miss most organizations are not fully invested into using – Veterans!  Think about the following benefits of hiring veterans:

  •  Team Work – if anyone has been drilled on team work – it’s our military men and women.  Many of us struggle in our organizations to get our people to play nice with each other – and here we have this huge pool of talent that is all about team work (No One Gets Left Behind isn’t a slogan, they have lived it!).
  •  Follow & Give Directions – HR Pros have classic stories about employees who can’t follow simple directions – and/or can’t give simple directions. I’d bet 90% of HR Pros nationally will at some point this year be having conversations with their senior leadership about “leadership” training – that simply consists of getting their managers to give straightforward, concise directions and feedback.
  •  Ability to work under pressure and meet deadlines – When someone’s life or safety is at risk, you learn how to work under extreme pressure, which probably pales in comparison to much of the pressure we put on ourselves and our employees in normal work situations.  Regardless, having individuals who can not only handle pressure, but thrive under pressure, are skills our organizations need.
  •  Planning and Organization – One thing our military veterans are known for is the training they receive in regards to planning and organization – and it’s the one thing we struggle with getting our employees to be good at.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken to hiring managers where they’ll say “it’s critical this person be highly organized” – veteran’s military training turns them into organization machines.
  •  Flexibility and Adaptability – One thing is constant in all of our organizations – Change!  We spend so much of our resources on change management – primarily because we know our employees, for the most part, will freak out at the slightest change.  Not veterans – they have lived in a world where they were forced to adapt and change constantly, based on external environmental changes they had no control over – again – their training takes over – they move on and work to continue the mission of the organization.

So, why do we as HR/Talent Pros struggle to hire Veterans?  First off I have to say, from personal experience, not hiring veterans is not an issue of the veterans, but it’s an issue of HR Pros!  We (the HR collective) are very set in a single mindset that we can only hire people, and our hiring managers will only accept people, that meet every qualification listed on the job description – which is complete BS – but we allow this to continue.  Am I going to go out and hire a former Army tank mechanic to run my accounting department? No – they don’t have that background – but could I hire a great person and train them to be a machinists, or an inspector, or a hundred other positions in our organizations!   We are a “instant gratification” society – so we struggle with the concept of hiring great solid citizens, then training them to do what we need.  “But Tim! You don’t get it – we train them, then they take off on us!”  Yeah, I get it – stop using that as an excuse – people don’t leave great work environments – and by the way – veterans have a higher loyalty index than your average employee.

Also, there are some misnomers we truly need to dispel –

1.People go into the military because they were trouble makers or not smart enough to get into college.  Not true – I know plenty of stupid, trouble makers who went to college! And I can show you pictures!  The fact is, at 18 years old many of us didn’t know what we wanted, but they might have known going to school for another 4 years wasn’t something they wanted.  The military seemed like a better option – and for the majority – it definitely was.

2.  Veterans are rigid and only know top-down management style.  In the 1950’s this was true – but today’s veterans have gone through so much soft skills leadership training it would make the most skeptical OD person smile.

3. We don’t have the time or money to train veterans for our work environment – we need fully trained people now!  No you don’t – is that why you’ve had that position open for 6 months – because you need it “Now!”?   The fact is, this is an organizational choice and you as an HR Pro have the influence to change it.  There is so much money out there for organizations to train returning veterans it borders on ridiculous – but you’ll have to do some work with your local veteran’s employment offices to get it – but it’s there.

We live in a great country – no matter what the 99%ers are telling you.  We have great men and women who make a personal choice to keep this country great – in our military veterans.  As employers, as citizens, we owe these men and women a chance – a chance to make our organizations great, a chance to pay them back with opportunity for their service, a chance for them to show us they made the right decision to serve our country and become highly functioning, loyal, mature adults ready to work their butts off for your company.  All they want is a chance to show you they can be great.  They are asking for a handout – just an opportunity.  We hold that opportunity – are you willing to give it to them?



6 thoughts on “HR Pros – You Can’t Handle The Truth

  1. Even for HR professionals that want to hire veterans, few vets can make it through the automated filtering mechanisms of online applications.

  2. Tim,
    Great post, I would love to be able to get my open positions out to Veterans. Do you have any suggestions on where I should start?

  3. Hi Tim — I cover human capital and careers for CFO magazine and I’m planning to post an article Friday on the topic of hiring ex-military folks. Would you kindly give me permission to re-use some of the content from your blog post today (giving you credit, of course)?

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