Why Should You Hire a Veteran?

The short answer is because it’s good for you and good for your business. Let me explain.

The federal government, universities, banks, companies that have government contracts and others who do business with the federal government are required to included veterans as a “protected class” under the law that includes a hiring preference for veterans. This so-called protected class is because of their selfless service to the nation in often difficult and dangerous circumstances. Okay, that’s the requirement; but what I want to discuss is the business case for hiring a veteran because it’s good for business and your bottom line.

Some interesting facts

Less than one percent of the United States population serves in the military today, and that includes the active forces (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard) and the reserve forces (National Guard and Reserves).

The Armed services are very selective. Only 25-percent of America’s youth are eligible to join the armed forces. Disqualifiers are drug use, obesity, medically unfit, failure to graduate from high school, or criminal records.

The military stresses lifelong learning. Once you join the military, you are in for a series of sequential and progressive schools. At first, you are taught to perform job specific skills, then you are educated to do staff/administrative work, and finally you have numerous opportunities to complete undergraduate and graduate level education, and for some, executive level leadership/management programs at senior service colleges and prestigious universities.  

The military is a meritocracy. Superior performance is the basis for advancement. The U.S. Army today has 475,000 soldiers. Of that number, there are only eleven 4-star generals. Fewer than one-half of one-percent of commissioned officers make it to the top three ranks of Army General (Major General, Lieutenant General, and General).

Below the rank of general officers, the percentage of Army officers in each grade is also controlled by law. The authorized number of Colonels is 2%, Lieutenant Colonels is 6%, and Majors are 13%. The other services have similar percentages.

Similarly trained and educated, non-commissioned officers (NCOs), the military’s first line supervisors. They too are promoted based on strict criteria and merit. They are the leaders who are primarily responsible for executing a military organization’s mission and for training military personnel. It is widely recognized that the U.S. military NCO corps is the best in the world.

Because of the physically demanding nature of military work, the average age of the Army and Navy is 29, the Marine Corps is 25, and the Air Force and Coast Guard is 30.

As you can see by the facts noted above, military personnel are thoroughly vetted, represent a very select but small segment of the population, and are provided with training, education, and experience worth millions of dollars.

About 200,000 military service members are released from active duty each year. These include enlisted members who have completed their enlistment obligation and those who decide to leave for a variety of reasons, including downsizing because of congressional mandates, and retirements.

As a former Army officer and businessman, I value former military personnel for the following reasons:


Socrates and the Barbarians

The Army values include Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage. While each military service has its own set of values, they are similar in that they demand excellence in everything they do to carry out their assigned mission. In the military, where they occasionally are called upon to use deadly force, the value system is essential to the good order and discipline of the organization. Those who violate these values are disciplined, even those in the senior ranks.

Work Ethic

In the military service you’re on duty 24-7-365. Especially those who serve in a hostile fire zone where the work day is often 16-20 hours a day, every day, under stressful and at time dangerous situations. Young people grow up fast in these demanding circumstances. When they leave military service and join the “normal” workforce, a 40+ hour workweek is a piece of cake. And, if they have to work longer to get the job done, that’s not a problem.

Managing Change

I moved 15 times during my military career. In each instance, I had to adapt to a new environment, make new friends, learn new processes, and build a new life for my family. I also had to rely on my family to take care of themselves during my absence, secure in the knowledge that my organization would be there for them in times of need. Dealing with and managing change is one of the core strengths of military personnel. While nobody likes it, change is inevitable, and the military handles it well.

Building and Managing Teams

In military basic training they tear down the individual and build up teams. While one person can perform a given task, teams always produce a better outcome. Military personnel are good followers first and then good leaders. The military places a great deal of trust and responsibility on its leaders at a very young age. It’s not uncommon to find a 24-year-old Captain, in the role of a unit commander, with over 140 personnel, in combat; planning, organizing, training, and leading combat operations under very difficult circumstances. The confidence, skills, knowledge, and experience they gain are second to none.

Remaining Agile and Flexible

Togetherness, Closeness, and Connections

The military services are unique in the federal government because of the importance they place on lifelong learning. In the past, they may have taught our service members “What to Think.” Because the world is so complex, and the range of challenges are so great, the emphasis is now on teaching them “How to Think,” because whatever they learn in the classroom today will likely to be different from what they face in the future.  

In the business world, the same is true. Because of the pace of innovation and disruptive technologies, companies that fail to innovate eventually decline over time. Add to this advances in robotics, artificial intelligence, and the ever present need to protect one’s intellectual property, and you have the perfect storm of innovation and vulnerability. The military understands the importance of developing, protecting, and applying leading edge technologies to win on the battlefield and in the marketplace. Many of the technological advances we work with today in the private sector were developed and tested in military laboratories and used with success on distant battlefields.

Evidence of the importance of hiring a veteran was driven home to me by a CEO of a company who called, saying he needed to hire a retired senior military officer for an important position in his company, for which no specific skills, besides leadership, were necessary. He told me he had a company full of specialists, but they were not leaders. He needed a leader who was capable of forming, organizing, educating, and leading change in his organization to remain competitive in the marketplace. He knew he could teach this person what he needed to know about the company and their product line.

The bottom line is that hiring a veteran is good for them, good for you, good for your business, and good for the nation. Put some of this talent to work in your company.