"The way we habitually think of our surroundings and ourselves create the worlds that each of us inhabit. 'There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says 'Morning, boys. How's the water?' the writer David Foster Wallace told a class of graduating college students in 2005. 'And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes 'What the hell is water?'
The water is habits, the unthinking choices and invisible decisions that surround us every day -- and which, just by looking at them, become visible again."
This excerpt is a great summary of why so many companies want to hire veterans. Veteran recruiters specifically look towards the veteran population because many of the habits developed through their years of service are valuable in the workplace. Below we'll review four of the many habits and qualities that make veterans attractive members of your workforce, and four habits you should keep if you are a veteran.
1. Leadership and Teamwork
Business New Daily corresponded with several business leaders and asked what leadership means to companies. One of the business heads, Andor Kovacs (CEO and founder of Restoration 1) defined a leader in the following way: "A leader places the people around him or her in a position that sets them up for success. This is a difficult task because a leader must have an in-depth understanding of each individual, such as understanding their career goals and knowing what motivates them. By being committed to helping each person achieve their own personal goals, the leader sets the organization up for greatness. Leaders are [also] good listeners. They listen to verbal and nonverbal cues to understand [what is] occurring in the organization. This allows you to address problems before they become big issues."
Indeed, it is difficult to imagine anyone in the military lasting long without developing these habits of trust, humility, and decision making which stem from qualities of leadership and team playing.
Veterans are accustomed to being on top of their assignments and show commitment to completing the task that needs to be done. It is no surprise that over 40% of companies that hire veterans do so because they understand the value of having a committed and disciplined member on the team.
One of the most difficult things that challenge hiring managers and recruiters is being able to judge candidates in areas such as discipline, reliability, and strong work ethic. However, years of service, training, and habit formation make veterans especially attractive.
Veterans have a strong work ethic that distinguishes them from many civilian counterparts. Their focus and work-oriented attitude is something that has been a natural part of their experiences while serving, and this quality transfers to the civilian workplace. Former service-members also understand that being on time and even arriving earlier shows respect, one of the most important habits that veterans pick up throughout their years of service. It communicates reliability, and veteran recruiters recognize that punctuality is strongly correlated with commitment and discipline.
A former Sergeant who has transitioned into the civilian world after fighting in Iraq during OIF emphasized that "People like us show up early, stay late and if you ask them to do something they work hard to see that it is done. In the worst case scenario, they will be responsible enough to tell you when they need help."
3. Critical Thinking
Veterans understand that "a problem clearly stated is already half solved." Former military members draw from their experiences, and the constantly changing circumstances they were placed in to to make quick and effective decisions and do so while articulating their thought process and understanding the problem's situation.
This goes hand in hand with decision making. Veteran leaders know how to make decisions. Years of military experience sharpen habits of making intuitive and informed judgments about the best course of action. Intuition is the ability to understand something immediately and is important, in the corporate and military world alike, in coming to a quick and correct decision that took into account all possible options.
These skills aren't honed in a classroom setting but in the everyday as well as in real-life experiences where problems that need solutions arise daily. Having the ability to quickly ascertain changing conditions and knowing the difference between what matters to the mission and what doesn't are highly desirable skills in today's business world.
Patrick Lefler points out that "The average combat solder or Marine probably makes more critical decisions in a single day than his or her peers in the civilian world do in a month. These decisions all focus on selecting the action that gets the most done at the least cost, all while minimizing risk. Today's veteran knows the difference between interim, adaptive, corrective, preventive and contingency actions — distinctions valued in the modern business world but not completely understood by the majority of their civilian peers. They also understand the importance of prioritizing decision-making objectives. Distinguishing between 'necessary musts' and 'nice-to-have wants' helps prevent poor decisions in which essential requirements are sacrificed for the sake of meeting less important criteria."
Veterans also learn quickly. While on duty, service members are accustomed to switching jobs frequently and, as a result, must learn how to be adaptable and climb learning curves quickly. Veterans expect and welcome challenges and can be key change agents within a company.
One of the company managers interviewed in the CNAS study mentioned that "The majority of senior veterans stay longer. They are used to having loyalty to an organization. I recently completed a study on the turnover rates at [my company] and based on the analysis, the attrition rate was 7 percent lower for vets than civilian employees."
Loyalty is a quality that has retained its value in both the military and in the workplace. The same study mentioned above concludes that "Companies that purposefully hire veterans proclaim the benefit gained from employing individuals who exhibit the same loyalty and strong performance in the civilian workplace that they did while serving the country."
Check out RallyPoint's career corner and find qualified veterans for your workforce, or look for career opportunities waiting for you.