(David Casey is Vice President, Workforce Strategies and Chief Diversity Officer at CVS Health, No. 50 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list. He also served as a U.S. Marine in Operation Desert Storm.)
Before Leo Trimble retired from the U.S. Army after 21 years as a Signal Support Technician, he didn’t know what he would do as a civilian.
“When I first made the decision to leave the military, I was all over the place on what to do next,” said Trimble, now a Field Support Technician for CVS Health. “I was drawn to CVS because they helped me to identify IT opportunities that allowed me to continue to do what I love. I wouldn’t change where I am today for anything.”
Trimble is not alone in his transition from military service to a civilian career. On average, enlisted service members have been leaving the U.S. military at a rate of roughly 200,000 each year, and the U.S. Department of Defense estimates the rate will remain high through 2019.1
The good news is that the veteran unemployment rate is the lowest in 10 years and well below the national average.2 For the first time in more than a generation, businesses are beginning to absorb substantial numbers of veterans into the private sector workplace.
As an American and veteran, I am heartened by this trend. Yet there are still too many companies that have yet to discover — or rediscover — the benefits of recruiting military talent. Veterans are an invaluable and perhaps overlooked resource to private employers, especially for industries fiercely competing for highly-skilled workers.
In the United States, two-thirds of companies report having positions for which they cannot find qualified applicants, with unfilled jobs costing the U.S. economy $160 billion each year.3
The challenge is particularly acute in IT and health care. In health care, for example, it is projected that by 2020, 5.6 million new jobs will be created, which may lead to a sizeable shortage in pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants – the very highly-skilled workers we need to compete and run our business.4
At CVS Health, we’ve expanded our military recruiting and training initiatives to take greater advantage of our country’s military talent pool. That includes, most recently, opening our Fort Bragg Talent Connect Center, a state-of-the-art employment and training facility dedicated to helping veterans and their families transition from military life to private sector civilian careers.
Companies that hire a veteran of the U.S. Military enjoy a host of benefits. Below are several good reasons why any business should consider veterans for employment.
Leadership preparedness at every level.
Veterans are natural leaders. Officers and enlisted soldiers alike are accustomed to directing large numbers of troops, rapidly making decisions under immense pressure and adapting to uncertain situations often in the face of moral dilemma or the threat of physical harm. There is a large talent pool of service men and women whose experience makes them incredibly valuable for 21st century companies seeking world-class leadership talent that is already trained and can make an immediate contribution. Companies with the best military recruiting, development and training programs will acquire some great leaders.
Veterans come from a goal-oriented culture.
Few organizational cultures are engineered like the ones the U.S. Military have been a part of and even fewer focus entirely on mission accomplishment and personal development. Our men and women in uniform are trained to not only quickly assess situations and develop action plans, but also to identify ways in which their performance could be improved the next time they deploy a specific strategy. In business, veterans will apply this goal-oriented attitude to their work, while motivating others to drive higher levels of achievement and improvement.
Former military can fill STEM gaps.
Companies today now compete globally for scarce workers with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and training. At CVS Health, we believe one key to sustaining our focus on innovation is leveraging an untapped talent pool: our nation’s armed forces.
These men and women have operated high-tech weaponry, applied sophisticated software to move supplies and troops around the world, and analyzed volumes of complex data to identify and respond to global threats.
Veterans bring these problem solving skills and sharp understanding of what technology can accomplish on the battlefield and can apply it to your company, which today is important for growing any business. In fact, while many military occupations are specific to the military, the vast majority have civilian equivalents.5
The ultimate team players.
Veterans are also great team builders. Their training helps them to excel at organizing and defining team roles in order to accomplish a specific task or mission. Equally important, they’ve had to learn how to work and collaborate with people from diverse backgrounds. When you hire a veteran into your company, you can be assured that they can successfully merge with and contribute to an existing team, not to mention be effective at mobilizing groups of employees simply by setting the right example for others.
An unbending integrity.
Integrity is an important attribute in any company that values its relationships with employees, business partners, customers and investors. Talk to any Human Resources Officer and they’ll you that integrity can build or destroy a company’s culture. It’s also one of the most transferable leadership characteristics that ex-military can bring to a private sector company.
Hiring a veteran not only reflects the gratitude we have for our nation’s military and all they have done for us, but it is also a reminder of all that they still have to give our nation. As a new generation of service men and women come home, we owe them every opportunity to live the American Dream that they helped to defend.
1 “Military Separations” (PDF). gao.gov.
2 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 2, 2017; https://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t05.htm.
3 The Economic Costs of Unfulfilled Jobs in the United States, Centre for Economics and Business Research, November 2014.
4 Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce; June 2012 http://cew.georgetown.edu/.
5 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Military Careers,
https://www.bls.gov/ooh/military/military-careers.htm (visited July 09, 2017).