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As we approach the 4th of July (or Independence Day) weekend, let us all remember that “freedom is not free.”  Our nation’s military veterans have all served and sacrificed; some have paid the ultimate price and given their lives.  As a Citizen-Soldier, I am proud and humbled to wear the uniform but certainly recognize that countless other heroes (and their families) have given so very much to this country.

When I completed my active duty Army service obligation in 1999, I joined one of the nation’s premier military placement firms.  The opportunity to learn about Corporate America and assist my fellow Veterans was fulfilling in so many ways. Fortunately, my transition was practically seamless; joining a “paramilitary organization” was fun, challenging and rewarding.  The opportunity to learn about Corporate America and assist my fellow Veterans was fulfilling in so many ways.

However, the transition from military fatigues to business attire is challenging for some military veterans.  The Department of Defense, local governments and the private sector are doing a much better job today than in years past; it is wonderful to see the creativity, passion and collaboration in this unique public-private partnership.

Companies that embrace discipline, values and esprit-de-corps are often successful in onboarding former military personnel.  In fact, over the past 15 years, some of America’s premier large companies:  GE, Johnson & Johnson, P&G and FedEx have fully embraced military hiring initiatives.  Certainly, it can be daunting for small and mid-size businesses that lack the infrastructure and resources to ensure these individuals are successful as they join new teams and organizations.  Yet, as we enter a period of time where the Active Duty military is reducing in size, our business communities must improve their knowledge and ability to interview, assess and potentially hire our heroes!

As we enter 2015’s second half, the US economy is growing.  Just read that unemployment was down to 5.3% nationally.  Some parts of the country are booming (such as our home – Greater Nashville).  There may be some human capital challenges on the horizon.  Over the next 10 years, our nation faces a significant labor shortage as the Baby Boomers complete their exit of the full-time workforce. Specifically, the manufacturing industry could see as many as two million jobs remain unfilled (per Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, February 2015).  So, how might companies leverage the military veteran population to fill critical roles, both in the leadership ranks and in technical roles?

I was fortunate to attend a luncheon last week, hosted by the Middle Tennessee Society for Human Resources Management (MT-SHRM). The topic was Military Hiring Best Practices.  The keynote speaker, Bob Ravener, Chief People Officer for Dollar General Corporation did a wonderful job of detailing his track record at his present company, as well as at Starbucks and Home Depot.  A portion of his remarks centered on the “3 A’s” – Aptitude, Attitude and Aspiration.  Allow me to elaborate on each briefly (all definitions are from Miriam-Webster.com).

Aptitude is defined as “a natural ability to do something or to learn something.”  Military candidates are highly trained, beginning with their initial training.  Our officers and sergeants develop the ability to not only “complete the mission” but to also critically think and problem solve.  Most companies can benefit from this inherent ability.

“The way you think and feel about someone or something” is known as your Attitude.  Most of our military is perceived as positive, make-it-happen type of people.  When you are guarding a post at 3am in the rain or fighting a gritty enemy in a fire fight, your disposition makes all the difference.  In the workplace, a positive outlook can help influence others and raise the productivity of departments and entire companies.

A select number of our young people volunteer to join the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines.  Some of them have an Aspiration, defined as a strong desire to achieve something high or great.”  Whether leading a team of 25 or 25,000, military leaders want to excel in all that they are given.  In the globally competitive marketplace of today, this attribute is not only needed, but could be called critical.

In closing, military veterans want to be challenged in the private sector.  They want to compete and earn a job offer, along with opportunities to learn, grow and excel.  With a proven aptitude, an optimistic attitude and a real aspiration to succeed, our military patriots are uniquely qualified to succeed in a variety of roles and a plethora of industries.  Please consider hiring a veteran today; my experience tells me profits and retention are likely to increase.  Happy 4th of July!

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