Sunday, November 11, 2012

I Love a Parade

I checked the Palm Beach Post yesterday, scoping out the parade options.  I have a choice of several but it appears that West Palm Beach offers the best of the lot.  The parade will be on Clematis Street, an oasis of upscale casual dining and night clubs.  It will be followed by entertainment.

Today, Veterans Day, will be marked by pronouncements made on high and somber flag raising ceremonies.  And, tomorrow  Well, tomorrow well go back to business as usual. 

Less than 1% of Americans have been on active duty in the military.  So, its difficult for us to relate to the challenges of the veterans whose service we celebrate today. 

I have served on the board of Operation Homefront's Florida chapter until its merger with the national organization recently.  OH helped over 156,000 veterans and their families last year alone.  Yet, as the wars wind down, the challenges of reintegrating veterans into civilian life absorb less of our attention. 

United Way of Broward County and their counterparts at the American Red Cross have come together to create a consortium of non-profits and government entities with the goal of helping veterans.  The effort has been branded as Mission United under the leadership of Commander Nancy Vaniman, USN (ret.).  Nancy is the type of person who, when told to take the hill, will be planting a flag there before long.

There are a variety of national efforts focused on defining the challenges of veteran reintegration.  Much of it focuses on the impact of PTSD on the individuals and their families.  My focus, as a member of the Mission United Advisory Committee is on employment. 

I asked Nancy if there were a set of best practices that have been documented so we dont reinvent the wheel.  Were not reinventing the wheel, she said.  Were INVENTING the wheel. 

Its a daunting challenge.  When I got out of the Navy, nearly every hiring manager had been in the service.  Now its rare that you find someone who has served.  Do those folks understand the value of hiring a vet?  Are they up to the challenge?

Put another way  How many people who say they support out troops are really willing to help?

So, how do we develop and implement a plan to close the gap between our best intentions and actual results?

I tend to rely on my business training when developing a game plan to achieve an objective.  Before you make a to-do list, you need to define your strategies.  To address the challenge of improving the employment results, we have developed four.

First and foremost is Reintegration.  A lot of work has been done to create a framework for integrating veterans.  The military was the first and only job many of them have ever had.

Second is basic training.  No, not pushups and the rifle range, but rather learning how to write a resume and interview for a job. 

Next is our communication strategy.  We must let veterans know how to get help and get our message to prospective employers.

And, of course, we need to train those employers on the value of hiring veterans and the associated challenges.  This isnt just about doing the right thing; its about the value a military veteran can add to a business.

Its this last challenge that I think will be the toughest.  Employers no longer value general skills like discipline, creativity and goal orientation which military veterans have in abundance.  They are looking for direct functional experience. 

I never hire that way.  I would rather hire someone who has the right attitude and personal orientation and teach them the fundamentals.  I like teams who are goal oriented, committed to a plan and who wont give up until they achieve their objectives. Results are more important than expertise. But, as regular readers know by know by now, I am something of a dinosaur. 

Yes, I love a parade.  But, when Monday comes, veterans face a very difficult reality. 
And you?  Are you a hiring manager?  Are you willing to adapt your hiring practices to truly support our troops? 

Or to put it another way  WHO WILL LEAD?


  1. Hopefully, John, it will be all of us. BTW, US employers are given incentives to hire veterans and on most job postings you are given preferences if you are a veteran (and sometimes if you are the spouse of someone on active duty).
    Posted by Karen VanAssche

  2. Might I ad that discrimination still exists. It is just hidden better. Some employers still try not to hire vets or others who might still be bound to the military. Furthermore, many are denied promotions because they serve. It's not respected everywhere as it should be. The perverse form of capitalism we have in this country often puts profit before all else. Well, maybe not before selfish personal insecurity.
    Posted by Robert McGraw, M.B.A.

  3. John:

    I read an essay recently, entitled 'Redeployment' by Phil Klay. It is part of a book edited by Dave Eggers entitled The Best American Non-required Reading of 2012. Phil Klay is a Marine Corps veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has an MFA from Hunter College.

    The essay is very well-written and gives the reader a glimpse of the magnitude transitioning to civilian life requires of the soldier just doing his tasks of 'daily living.'

    I would think that prospective employers would be more apt to read something like 'Redeployment,' than a list of 10 things which suggest PTSD, written by a government agency and funneled to managers from the HR department.

    I've actually been thinking a lot about the question you pose in your blog. It seems that much is done to help the soldier (resume writing, interviewing practice, etc.,) to be hired; what is done for the prospective employer (making the idea of hiring a vet appealing) in understanding what this segment of the workforce has been through and creating a culture of success in their business for them? That's where the leadership aspect comes in - creating a culture of success for both the employee and the employer. Anyone can hire a vet and get government 'credit' for doing so (much like the EEO/Affirmative Action numbers we had to keep in the 80's and 90's). Hiring a vet and integrating them in a new work environment demands a partnership. Internships, mentoring programs, the opportunities are potentially endless in this regard.

    My thoughts have not crystallized yet, but it has captured much of my thinking since reading your blog. If you haven't already read Phil Klay's essay, it's a good read.