2 Problems Solved by Hiring Military People
3 minutes to read
(NOTE: This is part of a series of articles for civilians who want to help veterans transition better. If you’re current or former military, pass this on to a civilian friend.)
Unemployment is at its lowest rate in ten years. So you’d think it would be easy to find a job. Yet veterans and civilians struggle despite 7.1 million openings. What gives? Many business owners, economists, and government officials agree a skills gap hampers hiring. Economist James Bessen wrote the most lucid explanation I’ve found. He identifies two problems: 1. Finding people with certain specific skill sets and 2. Recruiting employees who can adapt their skills at the pace of industry change. Both describe military people.
The Military Trains in Adaptability
Take the second issue first. Have you seen the movie, Heartbreak Ridge? Clint Eastwood inculcates his Marines with the ethos of “Improvise, Adapt, Overcome.” The Marine Corps embeds these values in its people.
I saw it in action when my air wing deployed. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323, the legendary Death Rattlers, had some of the oldest fighter jets in the fleet. Yet ingenuity and tenacity maintaining their planes kept them flying as much as those of squadrons with much newer equipment.
And I’ve seen Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen as resourceful as Marines. With today’s undermanned units and equipment older than maintenance crews, you have to be creative to get the job done.
Veterans don't think to mention this skill. It’s so much a part of them it would be like saying they know how to breathe. And you don't see it in information on veterans, such as this summary by the VA. Not every veteran has it in equal amounts. But if you ask about their experience, you’ll soon find the level of their adaptability.
The Basics of Military Personnel Structure
With resourcefulness a given, you need to find military people with specific skill sets you need. Here’s the challenge. Many veterans don't know how to translate their military training and experience into language civilians understand. But if you make a small investment in learning the military personnel system, you can use terminology they know.
Consider that veterans have little or no experience finding a civilian job. They don't know the process, language, or how to market themselves. The people who train them in such skills mean well. But they don't have much job-hunting experience either.
If you have a growing business, you need to expand your workforce on a regular basis. So it makes sense to have one or two people at your company learn the military personnel structure. Then they can find quality employees with your required skills sets among the many resourceful veterans looking for work.
I’ll explain the basic structure here. Then, over the next few weeks, I’ll deal with:
- How pay grade relates to education, experience, and leadership ability.
- Military job codes and how you can use them to unearth the skills you need.
- Questions you can ask veterans to help them uncover their true abilities.
There are three categories of personnel or pay grades in the military:
Enlisted people (E1 through E9 pay grades). Technical skill and leadership ability increase with pay grade. They break down into three groups, though variations exist among the service branches:
- Junior Enlisted (E1 through E3). Rank and file employees, such as technicians, mechanics, and analysts.
- Non-Commissioned Officers - NCOs (E4 through E6). High skills level and first level supervision, such as team leaders.
- Senior or Staff Non-Commissioned Officers - SNCOs (E7 through E9). Skill mastery and leadership from managers to lower level C-Suite capability.
Warrant Officers (W1 through W5 pay grades). Combine the expertise and training ability of SNCOs with the operational leadership of commissioned officers.
Commissioned Officers (O1 through O10 pay grades). Leadership ability and command authority increase with pay grade. They break down into two broad categories and three levels. The categories are:
- Line Officers. Exercise command authority.
- Staff officers. Professionals, such as lawyers, doctors, and chaplains who advise commanders.
The three levels are:
- Junior Officers (O1 through O3). Tactical and small unit leadership, equal to mid level management to lower level C-Suite.
- Senior Officers (O4 through O6). Operational and administrative unit leadership, equal to mid to senior C-Suite level.
- General and Flag Officers (O7 through O10). Generals and admirals who form the uniformed senior leadership of each service branch. Equal to senior C-Suite executives and directors.
Like with any organization, abilities vary based on the individual. But with this basic structure in mind, you can begin to target the skill and leadership level you need.
What is the biggest hiring problem you face?
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