Setting Veterans Up for Success at Your Landscape Company - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Setting Veterans Up for Success at Your Landscape Company

The transition from military service to the civilian workforce can be a significant challenge for veterans. However, the landscape industry provides the opportunity for them to have a new mission-driven purpose along with camaraderie.

“We simply need to learn how to translate and bridge our industry to what comes natural to our veterans,” says Tim Vela, CEO of United Veterans Construction and Landscape Solutions, Inc., based in Fort Worth, Texas. “The biggest benefit is we are addressing a challenge our veterans face while positioning our company to win the mission.”

Successfully Transitioning Veterans

John Janes, sales and marketing support manager for Caterpillar, says the best way to support veteran employees is to provide them the opportunities to be the best they can be.

“Most veterans do want to join that land care company and they want to serve, and they want to be the best they can be,” Janes says. “They do have an immediate useful set of skills in leading people, taking care of people and getting the job done.”

(Left to right) Zach Rohr, Scott Childers, Brian McGrady, & Joe Lewis.
Photo: Yard Solutions

Joe Lewis, chief operating officer for Yard Solutions, based in Groveport, Ohio, advises having an open mind when hiring veterans. They brought on Master Sergeant Scott Childers on as an intern with no experience in the industry. He was serving in the Marine Corps on recruiting duty and before that, he was an intelligence analyst.

“Neither were directly related to our industry, yet he found an opportunity with our team,” Lewis says. “He asked questions, involved himself with every aspect of our business, helped improve processes, and was hired as an operations manager at the end of his internship. He immediately improved our efficiency and increased morale. Along with Scott, Yard Solutions’ COO, VP of HR, and branch manager are Marine Corps veterans. We have found veterans seamlessly adopt our core values of committed, humble, enthusiastic, and capable.”

Janes says it’s important to give your veteran employees a purpose and a team.

“The teamwork that takes effect in many different forms,” Janes says. “Having that monthly barbecue on a Friday afternoon where it’s time to come together and break bread. We’re a team here. We’re a family here. I know it sounds very simplistic, but just having those routine interactions that are associated with good food. It works wonders.”

Vela encourages company owners to consider becoming members of NALP’s Veterans in Landscape Network.

“This is a new network that is a resource to help our members assess and implement veteran initiatives.  We want this to be a resource for our veterans and NALP members to connect, educate and compete.  And remember, the greatest gift we can give a veteran is a job.”

Rights and Resources

While you don’t need any special policies in place to hire veterans, there are some different rights to be mindful of.

Photo: United Veterans Construction and Landscape Solutions, Inc.

For instance, disabled veterans are a protected class. Vela says they have opted to be fair over being equal for the greater good of the company.

“One example is we never interfere with VA medical appointments,” Vela says. “If these appointments are missed, it could result in the veteran losing their disability compensation. These medical appointments are never charged to their PTO account. Is that equal? No, but is it fair? Absolutely.”

Lewis encourages being aware of USERRA (Uniformed Services Employment & Reemployment Rights Act) when hiring people in the National Guard or Reserves. This will help you stay aligned with the service member when it comes to drill weekends and/or deployments.

“There are great resources available for employers to assist employers with hiring veterans,” Lewis says. “Some of the programs we utilize are career development and job placement, mental health and veterans employment, employer certification and development, as well as apprenticeships and on-the-job training.”

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.