Smart Businesses Recruit from the Military

Every year on Memorial Day we celebrate those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and died serving our country. We also take a moment to acknowledge the 1.5 million men and women serving in our armed forces today, helping to protect the freedoms we enjoy in the United States.

In addition to being grateful for their service, smart businesses also recognize the value that young people who leave the military can bring to their companies.

In 2008, senior executives at Walmart were dealing with the potential vacuum of young leaders to grow into store management roles. Their usual recruiting methods couldn’t keep up with their projected growth.

The CEO, Bill Simon, who was a 25-year veteran of the Navy and Naval Reserves, suggested the company create a program to recruit junior military officers.

“The thinking was that we could bring in world-class leadership talent that was already trained and ready to go,” said Jennifer Seidner, a senior recruiting manager at Walmart. “And then we could teach them retail, because we know that pretty well.”

The Walmart JMO program was launched and dramatically changed how Walmart recruits young talent. This past February the company announced that effective this Memorial Day weekend, it would commit to hiring more than 100,000 honorably discharged veterans within 12 months of leaving active duty for all types of positions.

Walmart isn’t the only company that sees the value in hiring young, trained talent.

The financial services company USAA launched the “Combat to Claims” initiative to train post-9/11 veterans to become claims adjustors.

“The reason the program is working so well is because military folks have such a sense of discipline and order,” said Joe Robles, the CEO of USAA and a retired Army major general.

Each year Victory Media publishes the “Top 100 Most Military-Friendly Employers” index to serve the 400,000 military personnel who leave the service each year to enter civilian work. The list is based on surveys of businesses with annual revenues of more than $500 million.

The trucking company Crete Carrier is on the list and actively recruits military on its website: “We’re looking for men and women with honesty and integrity, who assume responsibility and adhere to a code of ethics. In other words, if you succeeded in the military, we’d like to enlist your services. Welcome home.”

Another company on the list is Travelers Insurance. “We find that military veterans bring dedication and discipline to their roles, and that they seek and accept responsibility readily,” said John Clifford, executive vice president of Human Resources. “The skills they learned during their military service transition well to any position within our company.”

Other companies that actively hire military officers include Deloitte, General Electric, Shell, Amazon, Accenture and PricewaterhouseCooper PwC.

Hiring veterans isn’t just a feel-good thing to do for your country. It makes sense for your business. As Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said, “We actively seek leaders who can invent, think big, have a bias for action, and deliver results on behalf of our customers. These principles look very familiar to men and women who have served our country in the armed forces, and we find that their experience leading people is invaluable in our fast-paced work environment.”

Any Time of Year is Good to Express Appreciation

I know a CEO of a large security services company who began a tradition when his company was first founded. Every year he wrote a card to each employee during the holidays, expressing his appreciation for that person’s contribution to the success of his company.

As the company grew larger and larger, he kept up the tradition. He had to start earlier in the year, and may have enlisted others to address the envelopes, but he never quit writing those cards.

envelope and noteI’m sure some of you are shaking your head already. “Why should I thank them for doing their jobs?” you may be thinking. Or, “We thank all our employees twice a month. It’s called a paycheck.” Or you may think that no one thanks you, so why should you be bothered to thank others?

It’s true that criticism is much more prevalent in the workplace than appreciation. It’s partly human nature to point out the negative and leave positive actions unrecognized. And a lot of managers don’t believe in showing gratitude or just feel awkward about it.

Jack Welch is the former Chairman and CEO of General Electric, now an author and founder of the Jack Welch Management Institute. One of the tenets of his leadership philosophy is “Lead by Energizing Others, not Managing by Authority.”

He believes in making people passionate about their jobs and prefers inspiration to intimidation. Part of this leadership lesson includes letting others know exactly how their efforts are helping the organization and sending handwritten thank-you notes to colleagues and customers.

There are even sound business reasons for doing so. Ones that contribute to your bottom line.

In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal online about showing appreciation at the office, it was reported that more than half of human-resource managers say showing appreciation for workers cuts turnover, and 49 percent believe it increases profit.

Dr. Noelle Nelson, a consultant and clinical psychologist, wrote a book called “Make More Money by Making Your Employees Happy.” In the book, she cites a study from the survey research consultancy Jackson Organization, (since acquired by Healthstream, Inc.), that shows, “Companies that effectively appreciate employee value enjoy a return on equity and assets more than triple that experienced by firms that don’t. When looking at Fortune’s ’100 Best Companies to Work For,’ stock prices rose an average of 14 percent per year from 1998-2005, compared to 6 percent for the overall market.”

Increased profit, less turnover and a more pleasant, positive work environment. All from showing employees a little appreciation.

One way to express appreciation is with a personal handwritten note sent to the employee’s home address. In the note, cite a few of that person’s contributions over the past year.

If that isn’t possible, at least consider rewarding all the employees at your company. Take an example from Apple. In 2011, the new CEO, Tim Cook, gave all the employees paid vacation during Thanksgiving. In a memo he wrote, “In recognition of the hard work you’ve put in this year, we’re going to take some extra time off for Thanksgiving. We will shut down with pay on November 21, 22 and 23 so our teams can spend the entire week with their families and friends.”

You may not be able to shut your entire office for three days to show your appreciation, but consider an afternoon off or treat the office to lunch one day, any time of year.

In fact, any gestures of appreciation you make at times other than holidays often get more attention.

Joey Reiman, CEO and founder of BrightHouse, gives all his employees March 4 off every year. He calls it, “the day to March Forth on our dreams.”

Voltaire was probably not talking about company profits with this quote, but it is appropriate in an office setting too: “Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”