For America’s returning veterans, the transitions to civilian life brings many changes. Most notably, coming home provides insecurity when soldiers are left without jobs. Hiring military veterans has become a priority for many corporations and a new aspect of diversity and inclusion in every workplace across the country.
Companies like Amazon, Southern Company, ManTech International, CSX Corporation, USAA, and Northrop Grumman have made consistent efforts to hire veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and recent retirees from the armed forces.
These companies were all featured on GI Jobs’ annual Top 100 Military Friendly Employers.
Northrop Grumman ranks in the top eleven for best workplaces for military retirees and veterans. The aeronautics and defense contracting corporation has created Operation IMPACT (Injured Military Pursuing Career Transition), a program that assists wounded veterans in finding jobs at Northrop Grumman and other workplaces.
The program was installed in 2004. Program manager Michael Sullivan is proud of the Operation IMPACT’s success.
“The program encourages hiring managers within Northrop Grumman in helping to identify career opportunities for those service members who return home from their service severely injured,”
As part of Operation IMPACT, Northrop Grumman has created the Network of Champions. A partnership with almost 70 companies, the Network of Champions works at finding suitable positions at major corporations like Best Buy, GE, and The Sierra Group.
“Northrop Grumman has led the way in assisting wounded warriors with career transitions. Not only Northrop Grumman, but just careers. It is essentially a consortium that provides career assistance for severely wounded veterans,” added Sullivan.
CSX, a transportation company that does significant contracting with the military, is approximately one-quarter ex-armed forces.
“We have always actively recruited military because they are proven success stories for us,” said Susan Hamilton, Chief Diversity Officer at CSX.
CSX was also the first business to partner with the Wounded Warrior Project.
“Our company has Wounded Warrior interns, known as “externs,” serving in various departments as they engage in a program of getting back into civilian life and recovering from their injuries,” said Hamilton. “We have also hired some Wounded Warriors permanently.”
Not surprisingly, the defense industry is the one of the top hiring sectors for military retirees and veterans. The transition makes sense for ex-GIs, who often work with contractors while in the military.
“It’s a hard transition for service personnel when they get out. The defense contractors are a natural fit — they worked with us often in the field. There’s an inclination to go to the defense contracting industry as a first step,” said Sullivan.
USAA, although a non-contracting company, still has a military connection. The company was founded in the 1920s to provide financial services to service members and their families. USAA currently employees approximately 2,900 military retirees and veterans.
“For many years, it’s been a core part of how we focus on hiring our employees. It’s the right thing to do for our country. Veterans need jobs. The key is to finding the right fit, and the right job for the right veteran,” said John DePiro, Military Talent Manager at USAA.
“USAA exists to take care of military veterans and their families. We like to hire them for the same reasons other companies do: leadership skills, work ethic, and management skills.”
Most companies find very few obstacles when hiring recent veterans and retirees. When they do, they are often rooted in the transition from military to civilian life.
“Veterans sometimes may not understand how their military experience translates well to the work that’s done by the private sector employers. The transition from military services to civilian work can be a time of pretty intense anxiety, and sometimes veterans do not give themselves enough credit for the knowledge and abilities they have,” said Sullivan.
With a different focus than the defense industry, USAA has encountered other obstacles.
“The core job for us is customer service, whether banking, insurance, or investment services. Their skills are based in other areas, so hiring military people for those jobs becomes problematic,” said DePiro.
Both Sullivan and Hamilton attest to the superiority of ex-GIs as workers and recommend the hiring of military veterans and retirees.
“Their training is first-rate. They have technical skills and personal attributes that are easily transferable into the world of 24/7 rail transportation,” said Hamilton. “They understand the discipline needed to run a railroad and they are focused on the job.”
Sullivan agrees: “Our experience is that veterans and retirees bring with them a great work ethic and leadership experience that is very difficult and maybe can’t be trained.”
“They’re focused on mission and purpose,” he continued. “They have a willingness to take initiative and do what it takes.”