The search for skilled labor is a constant concern, but one promising pool is military veterans. Each year the military discharges 270,000 service members and 80 percent won’t have a job lined up.
“It makes good business sense to hire veterans,” says Elly Zemetra, senior director of talent management for BrightView, based in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. “The veterans we work alongside at BrightView inspire us every day. Their character and the organizational skills they bring to the table, along with their ability to lead, greatly benefit BrightView. We are grateful for our veterans’ service to our country and are fortunate to have them as part of the BrightView family.”
Michele Posehn, senior recruiting manager of diversity/early talent initiatives for SiteOne, based in Roswell, Georgia, says it’s important to explore every avenue for great talent and you shouldn’t limit your choices just to those with industry experience.
“If a company’s not considering veterans, then before they start complaining about a labor shortage, they need to look themselves in the mirror and say, ‘What haven’t we tried?’” says Joe Lewis, COO of Yard Solutions, based in Groveport, Ohio.
Ana Valentin, director of human resources for SiteOne, says the landscape industry offers a number of positions in different fields that would be relevant to a veteran’s experience.
“We have veterans in various positions, from CDL drivers to executive leadership positions, across multiple departments like IT and supply chain,” Valentin says.
Benefits of Recruiting Veterans
Veterans are a diverse group of individuals who have experiences, skills and knowledge others might not have. They have a mixture of the hard and soft skills sought in the landscape industry, such as being problem solvers, great communicators and comfortable working in the field and with tools.
“The leadership qualities of veterans are indispensable,” Zemetra says. “They are strategic, they are motivators, they think ahead, and they put their team before themselves.”
Posehn adds that aside from their leadership qualities, veterans are also accountable and results-oriented, which is critical in the world of customer service.
“The caliber of individual and the caliber of people that you will get is they’re dependable,” Lewis says. “They’re drug-free. They are exposed to a higher level of leadership and management responsibility and development. You tend to get a really solid, individual team player. It is a great resource.”
Lewis adds veterans are coming in with more experience than the average new hire and are able to run at a higher operations tempo. Zemetra says veterans are comfortable taking direction, operating as part of a small team and working in challenging environments. Another benefit of hiring veterans is the fact they are always learning and developing as leaders.
“You’re missing an opportunity on people that are reliable, trainable, team players that can thrive in a team atmosphere that can manage chaos,” Lewis says.
Misconceptions About Hiring Veterans
One of the main misconceptions about hiring veterans is not relating their military experience to a job in the private sector.
“The first thought many people have about veterans is that they are leading men and women on a battlefield and don’t see the transferable skills into ‘corporate’ America,” Posehn says. “Being in the military isn’t just about battles and protection, however. It’s about preparedness and strategy. There’s logistics involved and leading teams of people. Many service members manage budgets and are required to be problem solvers in a fast-paced environment.”
Posehn encourages hiring managers to look past the military jargon on resumes and focus on what aligns a veteran to the job they are hiring for.
“My advice would be don’t discount right away,” Posehn says. “Have a conversation with the veteran candidate because resumes can’t truly reflect the intangible skills being brought to the table.”
Lewis says some of the misconceptions he’s heard is the belief that veterans only want management positions or companies don’t know where to place a veteran because they’re so highly skilled. He stresses you don’t know for sure what an individual veteran wants until you talk to them.
“The companies I’ve been with, we’ve only benefited by hiring veterans and what they’re bringing to the table,” he says.
Another misconception is the belief that veterans are too regimented and can’t adapt to a fluid environment. Lewis argues this is the exact opposite.
“It doesn’t matter whether the goal is increasing business sales, retaining clients, or servicing a client’s landscape needs, every goal is a mission to a veteran,” Valentin says.