Written by Lee Kirby, Co-Founder & Chairman of Salute Mission Critical
In business, emotional decisions seldom produce the desired outcomes. Progress is made when the focus is on the business value (ROI). It is easy to get a positive emotional reaction from anyone when you ask if they want to hire veterans. The gap between that initial emotional response and actually being able to take advantage of this high value resource pool is about two key areas:
- Establishing an effective training & development program
- Changing HR hiring practices to consider military experience
Salute has proven that the costs to establish effective training and development programs can be offset rapidly due to how quickly veterans learn and adapt to new and ever-changing situations. To ensure sustainability a financial commitment must be in place and the success metrics tracked to ensure your investment is yielding the expected results. Leading technology companies in this industry “get it” and have established programs for attracting, training and developing veterans. Other companies get it but do not have the advantage of scale. Fortunately, those other companies can turn to Salute to provide digital infrastructure services in a new business model that has far greater benefit than a traditional services company. Salute has a proven training program that develops veterans into world class data center technicians and delivers quality on-site data center services to our clients, in a unique partnered services model. This partnered services model allows the veterans assigned to client sites to grow and become a pipeline of candidates that are known and valued for all the skills they bring to the table. This allows any size company to get the double benefit of quality services and optimally trained veterans to fill vacancies. A great example of that partnership is EdgeConneX and their CEO explains it in this video here
The other key area to address is HR hiring practices. There are still artificial barriers in HR requirements that do not adequately accommodate military experience. The Uptime Institute is doing some great work to define a taxonomy for jobs and career paths in the data center industry. This will be released soon, and my hope is that it can be used to establish common definitions and criteria that will help force the change in HR hiring practices. When you consider “entry level” and “individual contributor” roles the difference in them is understanding relevant experience. Veterans are not “entry level” candidates! The scope that veterans dealt with is far beyond their peers. One easy example is contracts or program management in the military is typically dealing with millions if not billions of financial responsibility. So rather than hiring a veteran into an entry level contracts administrator role, just a couple good interview questions will find that they qualify for far great responsibility; that is your que to hire quickly.
The most significant thing you could do in the area of HR requirements is to look deeper than the military specialty and any military to civilian translation tool you access. It is not immediately obvious but behind every military specialty is far more relevant civilian job skills than you may realize. Let’s review two quick examples of veterans that are not typically considered for technical positions in the data center industry: one Infantry and one Cook.
- While in the military, a veteran from the Infantry followed procedures to maintain their vehicle, weapon systems and communication systems and so much more. Without any further probing this is easily transferrable to a data center technician role. Civilians tend to think of Willem Dafoe in Platoon when they hear Infantry. Many of our best data center technicians at Salute were Infantry (including me). Looking past the obvious will dramatically increase the candidates to choose from.
- A veteran who was a Cook is often overlooked and destined for the food service industry. Take a moment and consider the planning, coordination, logistics and execution required to feed hundreds of Soldiers, three times a day and sometimes in austere conditions. These are the key areas I look for in project managers and with all the leadership training and cultural benefits added in, selecting a cook for PM vacancies has proven effective. One of the best project managers in the industry started out as an Army National Guard cook and he recently received an outstanding contributions to the industry award (Pitt Turner).
Everyone loves the idea of hiring Veterans. Beyond the emotions, the company that changes how it hires and trains Veterans will reap the rewards. Training and HR practices are the key to dramatically expanding the number of candidates and new hires by giving military experience its full measure of credit. The use cases are there to begin immediately. If you have questions, I would be happy to share what has worked at Salute and other companies that “get it”.