Human Resources: Hero for hire

This month I’d like to take on a significant subject: the advantage of hiring veterans.

I don’t have the actual number of vets employed within the salaried and hourly ranks in Wisconsin. But including Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, I think it’s reasonable to assume the number is well into the thousands.

I’m a Vietnam vet, having served as an Air Force combat pilot there for 18 consecutive months. My life was forever changed by the experience, and I’m sure this is true for any vet who has served our country, regardless of which conflict they were participating in.

Here’s what you can expect if you hire a vet or someone who is serving in the National Guard or military reserves.


Team orientation

Your vet employees are highly trained to be team players, especially team players who, while on duty, lived under constant stress and periodic distress. As such, they rely on strong and decisive leadership, especially leadership that demands results and consistent performance from employees, without a hint of favoritism.

Many vets will tell you that they respected their military leadership, but didn’t necessarily like them. To them, the definition of respect translates to perceived trust and competence in the leader.

The issue of liking has been studied by the leadership experts for 50 years. They generally conclude that being liked isn’t the same as being an effective leader.

The typical vet is accustomed to an indisputable bond with fellow team members. In a conflict, their life is dependent upon the success of this bond. Each team player is expected to perform flawlessly. “I’ve got your backside” or “I’ve got you covered” more or less says it all.

In business, we know that team play is the best play, but we also know that our players are not all capable of playing equally. Hence, they need constant training, coaching and personal development to reach this goal.

The vets I have talked to, especially those in the management ranks, find this to be one of their greatest frustrations and a huge source of personal impatience. Their frustration and impatience turns to dislike and distrust, and they avoid employees who they think aren’t pulling their share of the load. This is where a strong leader can intervene to right the ship.


Personal characteristics

Vets, as a whole, are very proud – proud of their contributions, proud of the branch of the military in which they served, and proud of their country. They support our Constitution and never hesitate to say, “one nation under God.”

They’re taught to be physically and mentally strong, and to follow the rules. There are few mavericks among the vets I’ve known over the years. As an employee, they’re loyal and tenacious, and incredibly consistent.

They’re accustomed to doing much with so little. They are survival-oriented, and prize the tools they are given to accomplish objectives.



While in the military, vets are heavily involved in training and personal improvement programs, even in combat environments. Maintaining proficiency and personal skill levels is a primary requirement of anyone serving in our military.

So you can expect the vets you employ to be positively responsive to the training and development opportunities you provide them. And they will use it to the benefit of your company. TEC members who are vets make it clear to us that if they can’t get usable take-home value from TEC, they won’t stick around.


Accountability for results

In the military service, we have it ingrained in us that we’re accountable for the results that we or our team achieves. Each branch has its own way of doing it, and that is commonly known as “efficiency ratings.”

In business, we call it a performance evaluation or job review. To your vet, this is nothing new. It’s considered part of the job. It’s the measure of accountability for them. So you can expect them to be responsive and appreciate the feedback.

Most significantly, vets respond positively to recognition for their accomplishments. Not surprisingly, personal recognition is just as important as team recognition.


A final thought

If you haven’t yet hired a vet, I sincerely hope you’ll consider it when a job opening occurs. You won’t be sorry. I promise.

Until next month, thanks to our vets – for all they have given us, and for all we can expect from them in the future.

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