By Damien Gottschalk
It’s almost cliché that military veterans’ discipline, teamwork and leadership skills make them good hires for an organization. But desirable as those traits are, hiring managers sometimes overlook their value to focus on experience or specific training for the job opening.
That could be a mistake. Job candidates’ worth is not just in what they know, but how their work habits will help them to grow and change as their job and your business evolves.
As a lance corporal, E-3, in the U.S. Marine Corps and president of PNC’s Military Employee Business Resource Group, I’ve interacted with many veterans including the 1,000-plus working in this company.
The following are five characteristics that make veterans special:
1. Follow the S.O.P.
Your business policies and procedures are there for a reason. They make customer service consistent and help you avoid legal and regulatory issues. Veterans not only get this, they’ve generally lived with a much more comprehensive set of standard operating procedures (S.O.P.s) than the average person.
There is a military S.O.P. for almost everything, from how to tie neckwear to how to prepare a cargo plane for takeoff. Veterans will follow yours, and maybe write a few for you.
2. Attention to Detail
If you leave for school without your algebra book, or forget to make a dentist appointment, you’ll probably survive. If a soldier forgets to pack dry socks, the consequences are real. Details matter. Veterans have had this drilled into them.
Is the form signed? Was the documentation sent? Have I returned each item to the right file? For people who start off their careers where trifles are a matter of life or death, these are not mere formalities. They are absolutely critical to the job.
3. Establish Security
The average veteran cares deeply about protecting other people, and they’ve all learned some version of the U.S. military’s standing orders that start: “I will guard everything within the limits of my post.”
You can expect veterans to have a laser-like focus on security. They follow password protocols, check IDs before unlocking doors, and treat sensitive information like the classified material it is. For businesses that consider customer account information at least as valuable as what is in the cash drawer, a veteran on staff might be the best security feature available.
4. Adapt and Overcome
Your business faces economic uncertainty, competitors working to outmaneuver you, supplier disruptions, and occasionally desertion by your best customers. In other words, the conflicts of commerce. Veterans have a tried and true way to overcome all: Adaptability.
They have an alternate objective in mind. They know where they’re going to rally if the other side strikes first. They don’t panic in the face of the unexpected, and when someone else fails, they step in to fill the gap.
5. Seize the Initiative
The typical veteran has situational awareness, a fine-tuned sense which notices when things have changed. Traffic has slowed. People are whispering. A bad storm disrupts the supply chain. Something has become more risky, or an opportunity has opened.
Even better, they don’t have to be told to seize the initiative. They’ve always been empowered to press an advantage, go on the offensive, and follow their intuition. In the workplace, this can translate into landing an account with a prospect who never took your calls before, or scheduling a retention meeting with an employee before he’s told you he might quit.
In 2014, PNC was recognized with the Freedom Award, the country’s highest award for employer support of the National Guard and Reserve. We won by providing for service members who have our backs in the workplace.
Damien Gottschalk is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and currently a product manager in charge of mutual funds for PNC's Asset Management Group. He is also president of PNC’s Military Employee Business Resource Group.