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  • Writer's pictureMatt Wood

Addressing the Elephant

Updated: Feb 3

I never understood how the phrase, "Let's address the elephant in the room," came to be. Was it such a problem in ages past where people would have elephants entering their homes, workplaces, or wherever that this needed to be a thing? Were they trying to talk politely to said elephant, or did they just want to speak to it?

Whatever the reason for this phrase becoming part of our normal use, I do want to take some time to talk about why having a company like Suiting Green Consulting work with your company will be a benefit. The three topics I'll use to address this are an understanding of the military community, the competitive advantage your company will gain, and how your recruiting, onboarding, and employee retention will improve.

To start with, as the Chief Headache Reducer of Suiting Green, I understand the skills former military professionals and military spouses bring to an organization. This knowledge comes from 21 years of active military service and 11 years as a military spouse. If you've read my "About Me" page, you know I had the fortune to serve on active duty in the United States Army for a few days in a variety of different roles. This provided me with a fair amount of insight into the knowledge, skills, and experience our military imparts to service members. Not only did I get to serve for as long as I did, but I also experienced life after the military working in a Fortune 100 company where I saw, firsthand, the knowledge gap that exists between our military community and their civilian counterparts. There is a leadership ability that most people don't quite realize exists in the military that starts almost from day one and continues until the time a service member decides to hang up their uniform for the last time. Of course, levels of leadership experience will vary depending on the individual's roles and rank, but the experience is still there. Leadership is not just taught in a classroom setting, but it's also proven through practical, hands-on exercises on a daily basis in a wide variety of environments and situations.

Not every job outside of the military is going to put people in situations where leadership decisions can mean the difference between life or death, but service members are trained to deal with that level of decision-making. What this means for your company is that you're hiring people who can remain calm under pressure, and, may see their peers who react negatively to leadership decision-making with a bit of derision. Honestly, it's not meant to be a put-down, it's just that the way former military professionals look at the decision options, they see it as, "What's the worst that could happen? No one's going to die, no one's shooting at me, and no one is actively trying to harm the people I'm leading." From that perspective, leadership decisions become easy for them to make.

This leads me to my next point, hiring former military professionals and military spouses provides your company with a competitive advantage because you're gaining experienced leaders who have led teams of various sizes. At the lowest level, a military leader could be in charge of four to six people, responsible for their morale, welfare, training, and job performance. At the highest levels, they're leading organizations that number in the tens of thousands. Yes, they're using decentralized command for a lot of that, but at the end of the day, the proverbial buck still stops with them as the person in charge.

At my most senior leadership point, I was responsible for 250 new employees and 16 seasoned individuals. This was over the course of 10 weeks, and I had to be able to talk about everything that was going on on a day-to-day basis, along with forecasting needs, plans, and requirements, and helping to resource all of the requirements for this organization. There aren't very many corporate leaders who are doing that on a daily basis.

The other way your company gains a competitive advantage by hiring from the military community is you're employing people who are highly trainable, learn quickly, and have a mindset of wanting to make your company better, whenever they eventually leave, than it was when they got there. They are also not comfortable with continually doing things a certain way because that's the way they've always been done (unless they're from the Navy and it relates to some traditions). They look for ways to do things better, smarter, and in a more common sense manner. These are also people who are not afraid to work independently, but also know how to be successful as a member of a team.

Lastly, let's touch on how your company's recruiting, onboarding, and employee retention will improve, which is a huge money-saver. There are programs where you, as a company, can get to experience the knowledge and experience former military professionals bring to the table where you don't have to pay these people. Much like test driving a new car, you can do something very similar with service members who are nearing the end of their time in the military, and it doesn't cost you anything but time and the willingness to be open-minded. There are also programs that allow companies to partner with certain branches of the military to guarantee service members jobs when they leave the military. Since I know you're wondering, there are also similar programs for military spouses to help your company hire from this great stream of talent as well.

We've talked about the hiring and recruiting aspects, but what about the onboarding and retention sides? That's where your current veteran employees, military spouse employees, or military-affiliated employees can come into play. They can be utilized to help with resume translation, and provide sponsorship/mentorship to new employees, which, in turn, helps with streamlining your onboarding, and show that the company is serious about its military hiring initiative. If your company is large enough to have employee resource groups, this is another means to tap into your veteran or military spouse assets. By integrating them into the hiring and onboarding process, you are providing these new hires from the military community with something they are familiar with and a way for them to really make sense of life outside of the military community that they are unfamiliar with.

These are just a few ways in which you can approach hiring from the military talent stream. But to really take on this opportunity, it helps to have someone in your corner who can make it make sense for you. That's where Suiting Green Consulting comes in. We are here to help you hire smarter, save money, and employ and retain that top talent every company is so desperately searching for. As the old phrase says, "We're from the government, and we're here to help."

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