Through the Deepest Valley: 4 Critical Skills Veterans Bring to the Future Workforce

veteran young soldier man with half uniform half suit

ADP executive Harris Morris says the veteran workforce has a lot to contribute to organizations during these challenging times and beyond.

"Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death." --Sun Tzu, The Art of War

When Sun Tzu composed this line, he didn't have the coronavirus in mind, but the quote applies today just as much as it did when it was penned in The Art of War in the fifth century BC.

After more than 22 years in the Armed Forces and 8 years serving in various diversity initiatives in the private sector, I couldn't help but draw the parallel between today's complex environment and the skills and talents of the 250,000 veterans entering the workforce every year. It's critical for organizations to understand the valuable contributions veterans can make in emergency or challenging situations.

Here are four critical transferable skills veterans can bring to organizations adapting to the COVID-19 environment or other challenging situations:

Skill #1: Stability During Emergencies

First and foremost, any person who has served in the military has persevered in a situation where their world could be thrown upside down at a moment's notice. From the first step off the bus at boot camp, to their first experience with deployment, they've been training in preparation for the unexpected. Veterans are trained to act and respond in extreme circumstances and to adjust to rapidly changing situations.

Keeping cool under pressure and relying on your knowledge and skills when you don't know what might be coming your way, is the kind of stability that veteran candidates can bring to their post-military roles in any organization.

Skill #2: Project Management Triage

Project management is a cornerstone skill of the business world, with world-class training opportunities creating extremely skilled practitioners in organizations across verticals and categories. Former members of the armed forces, who are used to approaching issues methodically and doing what it takes to get the job done, bring a practical mindset that translates well into project management.

Establishing milestones, identifying roadblocks, utilizing the resources you have and staying on a timeline — this is the language service members use to accomplish their missions as a unit. It's also how business teams work together to manage business requirements, despite changing guidelines, new direction and strategic use of critical resources.

Skill #3: Progress Without Perfection

In a situation like the world is in now, there is no specific moment in time when all challenges are overcome. Former military members can shine in this kind of setting due to their ability to make progress toward a goal without having to know what of the perfect outcome will be.

Being able to identify positive steps forward and make decisions in an everchanging environment is just the kind of adaptability and flexibility organizations need to thrive under challenging circumstances.

Skill #4: Resourceful and Innovative

Among the many proven benefits of diversity in the workforce, innovation often stands out as the most valuable. We can see examples of this at organizations pivoting to meet the needs of today's workers. For example, clothing manufacturers Hanes and Fruit of the Loom, who are making masks (as reported by Fast Company), and Anheuser-Busch, which is joining distilleries to make hand sanitizer (as reported by the New York Times).

Resourcefulness and innovation are common in the Armed Forces. Service members are often asked to accomplish amazing things in restrictive environments, to make do with what they have and to be creative in getting the job done. Organizations that recruit veterans for roles will be able to harness those adaptable critical thinking skills to make sure they're seeing problems — and solving problems — from all angles.

Overcoming Barriers to Hiring Veterans

Veterans often aren't aware of the potential roles available based on their unique skills and talents. They also may not know that their experiences have created transferrable skills that are valuable to organizations.

This is why proactive recruitment strategies like leveraging diversity and inclusion initiatives are important for engaging veterans. Organizations should review their sourcing, recruiting and hiring practices carefully to ensure they provide equitable access to candidates with different backgrounds and problem-solving diversity. Incorporating training programs which help hiring managers to better understand the unique skills veteran candidates can bring to roles in a corporate setting will result in a better organization overall.

As we watch the courageous efforts of our healthcare workers, first responders and essential employees, I cannot help but appreciate the hard earned skills our transitioning service members can bring to organizations during this time of challenge and beyond.

Learn more

Workplace Spotlight: Veterans in the Workplace

Launch this webcast for insights on how HR professionals can help newly transitioned military veterans into valuable, long-term employees and leaders in your organization.

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