I interviewed Thomas Tanel who discussed Logistics/Supply Chain Talent Challenge: Seize the Opportunity to Replenish the Logistics and Supply Chain Work Force with Military Veterans.
Hi I’m Tom Tanel, President and CEO of CATTAN Services Group, with more than 40 years of seasoned and practical supply chain experience, I am offering a perspective based on being a Vet. I am a Service Disabled Veteran with 11 years of active duty during the Vietnam and the Cold War eras, I served in infantry, transportation, and logistics US Army officer slots at various posts to include Fort Benning, Fort Campbell, and Fort Eustis, as well as overseas in the Republic of Korea and the Federal Republic of Germany.
Dustin, once again thanks for having me back to discuss Part III, the final part of our series on the Logistics/Supply Chain Talent Challenge. Today, I would like to talk about the opportunity to replenish the logistics and supply chain workforce with military veterans.
Why are companies proactively seeking to hire veterans?
One of the numerous challenges faced by companies today is finding and keeping skilled labor as well as finding quality people. At a time of relatively high unemployment, why are companies facing a dwindling talent pool? One reason is a negative and/or lack of perception about logistics and supply chain careers among students, parents and even high school guidance counselors. There is also a rising sentiment that jobs involving roll-up-the sleeves physical work or shirt sleeve supervision are somehow inferior—which isn’t helping.
Many companies in the transportation and logistics field are looking to recruit veterans as traditional labor pools produce fewer job candidates. Three transportation companies—BNSF Railway, CSX Transportation and Schneider National—made the Military.com list of the top 35 veteran employers. On its Web site, BNSF says it has hired more than 6,000 veterans since 2005.
Trucking companies most often look to the U.S. military for experienced truck drivers and mechanics. But motor carriers, railroads and third-party logistics companies also may benefit from veterans’ military logistics experience to fill operations, supervision, and management roles. Ironically, “Logistician” ranks sixth on the G.I. Jobs list of top 20 “hot jobs” for veterans.
So why are companies proactively seeking to hire veterans? Because returning service members bring unique skills and experience to the civilian workforce. Because of their training and their work ethic, many companies report that veterans make excellent employees, with a higher rate of retention.
Veterans have the proven ability to learn new skills and concepts. In addition, they can enter your workforce with identifiable and transferable skills proven in real-world situations.
If you are looking to hire a veteran, more than 2800 One-Stop Career Centers nationally offer employers assistance connecting with and recruiting veterans. These resources include specialized local Veterans' Employment Representatives (LVERs) and Disabled Veterans' Outreach Program (DVOP) staff who work solely with veteran populations and can provide relevant veteran applicant referrals.
What are some of the reasons behind their decision to hire veterans?
Trained to perform under stress in resource scarce environments, veterans make solid leaders who handle accountability well. Without consciously targeting them, Amazon found in its early days in the mid- to late 1990s that it had hired multiple former officers to run its warehouses, where logistics skills readily translated. The distribution organization became a magnet for vets.
At Amazon, according to Phil Dana, a former Navy warfare surface officer, who now serves as Human Resources manager of military recruiting for North America Operations, the position of Area Manager is an ideal fit for veterans because its “rubber meets the road, roll up your sleeves, and jump into the fire” type of leadership role – the kind of role that resonates with military veterans. It poses dynamic challenges, where no day is the same. It’s demanding and rewarding. In this role according to Dana, you have a big goal, with little guidance, so it requires the ability to be nimble and make analytic decisions based on what you see at that specific moment.
Hiring military veterans is good for business, according to a new study conducted by the Washington think tank Center for a New American Security, that uncovered why companies hire veterans and the challenges they face in doing so.
The 69 businesses examined, including AT&T, Bank of America, the Boeing Co., Kraft Foods and PepsiCo, provided a number of reasons behind their decision to hire veterans, including:
- Leadership and teamwork skills: Veterans typically have led colleagues, accepted direction from others and operated as part of a small team.
- Character: Veterans are perceived as being trustworthy, dependable, and drug-free having a strong work ethic.
- Structure and discipline: Companies appreciate veterans' experience in following established procedures.
- Expertise: Companies value veterans' occupational skills, job-specific experiences and understanding of the military community.
- Dynamic environment: Veterans are accustomed to performing and making decisions in dynamic, rapidly changing circumstances.
- Effectiveness: Company representatives report that veterans "get it done."
- Proven success: Some organizations hire veterans largely because other vets already in their organization have been successful.
- Resiliency: Veterans are accustomed to working in difficult environments, traveling and relocating.
- Loyalty. Veterans are committed to the organizations they work for, which can translate into longer tenure.
For example, General Electric a long time military recruiter states, “Your service made you a leader and a disciplined, strategic thinker with a level of loyalty that is unmatched. At GE, we recognize and value your strengths, which makes us a great choice for your civilian career.”
The Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies for over 50 years has helped US veterans and on their website says: “Veterans and reservists who work within our companies have a chance to apply the outstanding leadership skills and core values they gained from their military experience. They bring disciplines and perspectives that our teams value.”
How is a veteran an attractive candidate for employment in the logistics and supply chain field?
Military analysts expect approximately 200,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to be released from active duty each year for the next five years. A hurdle for veterans is that the excellent skills and traits they bring from their service careers don’t easily appear to translate directly into new civilian careers.
So let me translate those excellent skills and traits for you.
Through military experience, veterans have honed leadership, teamwork, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and have learned how to work under intense pressure—all top-rated competencies sought by employers. According to Bill Offutt, executive director of the U.S. Department of Labor’s HireVetsFirst campaign, veterans have a strong work ethic and exhibit loyalty.
Working in logistics equates to operating under extreme pressure. Despite the rigidity of military regulations and the certainty provided by standard operating procedures, officers and enlisted soldiers alike are accustomed to making significant decisions in stressful conditions, under the threat of physical harm and in a myriad of uncertain situations. The ability to creatively solve problems using the “field expedient method” in the face of unprecedented situations is a quality for which companies will find immense value from a Vet.
Vets are trained to keep a watchful eye on the big picture, while maintaining an immaculate, relentless sense of detail. In the military, you handle tasks according to priorities of work. It’s crucial, especially in a combat zone, to understand what needs to get done first since your life or others may depend on it!
One of the first leadership tenets we learn in the military is that, to become a good leader, one must first be a good follower. In this sense, rising through the ranks is a rite of passage for all military officers and non-commissioned officers to develop their own management styles. Working in any dynamic corporate supply chain environment requires a similar process, and often the most effective leaders are those who were able to mobilize their teams from the bottom of the chain of command, simply by setting the right example for others to follow. Lead by example is a military practice! The US Army infantry motto is “Follow Me”.
A leader in the military is always accountable for his or her team. They know how to diagnose the strengths and weaknesses of the team and ensure the unit is synergistic when facing challenges that may arise. They know how to leverage the people around them and influence them to help get that work done. I would say they have an aptitude to articulate the vision of what they want people to do
Integrity is a necessary ingredient in relationships and is also one of the most transferrable characteristics that veterans bring to the private sector. Veterans understand loyalty; and they understand integrity. You can trust them to do the right thing, even when no one else is watching.
Veterans are accustomed not only to assessing situations and quickly formulating actionable plans, but also to performing After Action Reports, which require all members of a team to identify areas that should be improved for next time out. The ability to define clear goals, and then work with a high degree of discipline and focus to accomplish those goals is paramount. I feel it comes from a genuine understanding of both responsibility and accountability, as well as intimate experience in situations in which there is no clear precedent or path forward.
Michael Ward, chairman, president and chief executive officer of CSX, which was named to The Top 100 Military Friendly Employers list for the seventh time said “We’re committed to hiring America’s veterans because their superior training, experience in logistics and ability to work safely in demanding, team-based environments make them real assets.” Therefore, please hire a Vet!
About Thomas Tanel