Many people think their company’s culture is about its heritage, about “the way we’ve always done things.” Jim Knight thinks those people are wrong.
“At its core, a company’s culture is about the present — it’s really a collection of individuals and, as they join or leave the organization, it changes,” said Knight, the opening keynote at the Society for Human Resource Management’s Talent Management Conference and Expo in Orlando, titled “Culture that Rocks: How to Amp Up or Revolutionize Your Company’s Culture.” “People say ‘My culture’s not the same as it used to be.’ No duh, sister! People come and go all the time!”
Because culture is shaped by the present, it’s malleable, and HR has an opportunity to shape it through constant communication, said Knight, former senior director of training and development at Hard Rock International and author of the book Culture That Rocks. “You have to let people know what you’re trying to do, otherwise people will make it up on their own.”
A shared mindset is the key to success, Knight said. “Individual agendas produce random results, but a shared mind-set produces aligned actions.”
He cited fast-food chain Chik-fil-A as a prime example of a successful company culture that drives performance. Despite the company’s policy of having all stores closed on Sunday in observance of the Sabbath, the average Chik-fil-A restaurant generates $1 million more in a typical year than an average McDonald’s restaurant, said Knight. The company builds its culture starting with the entry-level employees at its restaurants, who receive two days of onboarding.
As part of their onboarding, the new employees watch a company video titled “Every Life Has a Story.” In the video, set to a violin score, a camera pans over a scene of customers at a Chik-fil-A restaurant, pausing over each one briefly as a bit of text appears over each person summarizing their story: “Just lost his job and is wondering how he’ll support his family,” “Only son recently deployed to a war zone,” “Parents divorced when he was 7 ,” etc.
The video, which closes with the message “Every person has a story … if we bother to read it,” left a number of people in the audience visibly moved.
“As a training guy, I so wish I’d been the one to make that video,” said Knight. The take-away, he said, is that customers crave differentiation and that employees should want to give customers “a little more than what they were expecting.”
Whenever we ask employment and HR experts about the value of exit interviews, they inevitably arrive at the same, logical conclusion: Departing employees can be a source of priceless advice that, if acted upon, may just save you from losing talented workers in the future.
Taking action, of course, is the key. And the problem, as the experts have always pointed out, is that some (many?) employers don’t do enough with the information gleaned from exit interviews to address the issues that soon-to-be-former workers bring to light.
Take heart, however. Menlo Park, Calif.-based staffing firm Office Team offers evidence that more companies are getting the message.
Office Team’s recent survey of more than 300 HR managers found 63 percent of these respondents saying their organization commonly acts on feedback received in exit interviews.
How are they reacting? When asked how they follow up after conducting said interviews, the most common actions were to update job descriptions (29 percent), discuss feedback regarding management (24 percent), make changes to the work environment/corporate culture (22 percent) and review employee salaries (19 percent).
The poll also asked HR managers how often their firms act on the information gathered during exit interviews. Thirty-five percent said they do “somewhat often,” while 28 percent reported taking action “very often.” Another 24 percent indicated they instigate change based on exit interview feedback “not very often,” and 13 percent said they “never” do so.
In a press release highlighting these findings, Office Team offers some tips for getting the most out of these final sit-downs with employees about to leave the organization. For example:
Time it well. Consider scheduling the meeting on one of the worker’s last days. Keep the conversation brief and professional.
Don’t make it awkward (and make sure HR is involved). Because departing employees may be uncomfortable discussing certain topics with their supervisors, have an HR representative conduct one-on-one meetings in private settings.
Don’t get defensive. Avoid correcting or confronting the employee, and listen carefully in order to gather as many details as possible.
Don’t brush things off. Give all comments that are shared the proper attention. Also, check for patterns in feedback collected from employees, which can signal persistent problems.
“The only silver lining to losing employees is obtaining useful feedback to help stem further turnover,” says Brandi Britton, an Office Team district president, in the aforementioned statement.
“Departing workers can provide valuable insights that current staff may be reluctant to share. Although not every criticism will be worth responding to, the most crucial issues should be addressed immediately to help keep existing team members happy and loyal.”
I have no way of knowing the full extent to which last August’s New York Times’ blistering article about Amazon’s workplace irked founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. But if I’m correctly interpreting his most recent shareowners’ letter, I can’t help but conclude the story, though not mentioned by name, continues to weigh heavily on his mind.
Some of those interviewed by the NYT said “the culture stoked their willingness to erode work-life boundaries, castigate themselves for shortcomings (being ‘vocally self-critical’ is included in the description of the leadership principles) and try to impress a company that can often feel like an insatiable taskmaster.
“Even many Amazonians who have worked on Wall Street and at start-ups say the workloads at the new South Lake Union campus can be extreme: marathon conference calls on Easter Sunday and Thanksgiving, criticism from bosses for spotty Internet access on vacation, and hours spent working at home most nights or weekends.”
Soon after the NYT’s article appeared, Jeff Bezos sent a memo to employees expressing is disbelief in the article’s claims, noting that it doesn’t reflects the Amazon he knows.
Well, now roughly eight months later, Bezos obviously felt that further clarification or messaging was needed.
After noting that Amazon has now become the fastest company ever to reach $100 billion, Bezos went on to share his point of view on the topic of corporate cultures, pointing out that, “for better or for worse, [corporate cultures] are enduring, stable, hard to change.”
The letter explains …
“They can be a source of advantage or disadvantage. You can write down your corporate culture, but when you do so, you’re discovering it, uncovering it—not creating it. It is created slowly over time by the people and by events—by the stories of past success and failure that become a deep part of the company lore.”
It continues …
“If it’s a distinctive culture, it will fit certain people like a custom-made glove. The reason cultures are so stable in time is because people self-select. Someone energized by competitive zeal may select and be happy in one culture, while someone who loves to pioneer and invent may choose another. The world, thankfully, is full of many high-performing, highly distinctive corporate cultures. We never claim that our approach is the right one—just that it’s ours—and over the last two decades, we’ve collected a large group of like-minded people. Folks who find our approach energizing and meaningful.”
It’s anyone’s guess, of course, as to whether Bezos’ latest shareowners’ letter is his final volley at the NYT’s article—and certainly that was one of its intended targets. But a close reading of it certainly suggests Bezos wants the world to know he’s quite satisfied with the culture he’s built at Amazon.
And why wouldn’t he be? After all, whether Amazon is your cup of tea or not, Bezos now has 100 billion reasons to be satisfied.
These days Bill Gates is known primarily as the benevolent overseer of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the philanthropic vehicle through which the world’s richest man (estimated net worth: $56 billion) tackles poverty and disease and seeks to improve education. But back in the early days of Microsoft, Gates was known as a fearsome manager.
“I worked weekends, I didn’t really believe in vacations,” Gates recently told an interviewer for the BBC’s Desert Island Discs program, in which celebrities disclose which music and books they’d take with them to a desert island. This work-all-the-time mindset was applied to his employees, too: “I knew everybody’s license plate so I could look out at the parking lot and see, you know, when people come in.”
Peter Holley, a writer for the Washington Post, recently compiled some anecdotes about Gates’ old management style from people who worked with him. The stories suggest a man for whom work/life balance wasn’t just an afterthought, but a totally alien concept. This is in stark contrast, of course, to the professed mindset of so many of today’s New Economy companies that are offering unlimited paid family leave, for example.
He cites Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who wrote a piece for Vanity Fair a few years ago about how Gates would “prowl” the parking lots on weekends to see who had come in to work. One employee put in 81 hours in one week finishing a project, only to be asked by Gates “What are you working on tomorrow?” When the employee replied that he was planning on taking the day off, Gates asked “Why would you want to do that?”
“He genuinely couldn’t understand it; he never seemed to need to recharge,” Allen writes.
Gates also had a harsh leadership style that included the frequent deployment of f-bombs, with one of his favorite sayings being “That’s the stupidest f—- thing I’ve ever heard!” writes Allen.
These days people with a management style like Gates’ are condemned as “toxic bosses.” But the sentiment is hardly universal. Holley notes that the authors of the book Primal Leadership described Gates’ style in a Harvard Business Review essay as “harsh” and yet, “Gates is the achievement-driven leader par excellence, in an organization that has cherry-picked highly talented and motivated people. His apparently harsh leadership style — baldly challenging employees to surpass their past performance — can be quite effective when employees are competent, motivated and need little direction — all characteristics of Microsoft’s engineers.”
Of course, Steve Jobs was another tech titan with a famously acerbic management style, one that reportedly left many people in tears (interestingly enough, Jobs himself also cried frequently, according to Walter Issacson’s biography Steve Jobs). Gates and Jobs are visionaries, the type who attract people willing to forgo things like having family time, or being treated with some semblance of respect, in the furtherance of building a company or product they believe will change the world (the promise of hefty stock options no doubt can make it a little more bearable, too). But visionaries don’t have to be nasty in order to get people to accomplish great things — and even Gates himself has acknowledged he’s changed and mellowed a lot in the intervening years. With the rise of social media, I would suspect it’s a bit harder to get away with a management style like that today and still be able to attract great candidates.
With everything else slowing down for the holidays, this is the perfect time to look ahead/gaze into the crystal ball/read the tea leaves on the trends facing HR leaders in the year ahead.
With that said, KornFerry Futurestep recently released its Top Talent Trends predictions for 2016, which are based on insights from 24 global experts.
“Today companies are taking an even more strategic approach to talent acquisition, becoming increasingly inventive to attract and retain valuable candidates,” said Byrne Mulrooney, CEO of Futurestep. “While 2015 indicated the start of this thoughtful attitude to hiring, next year we expect this approach to pay off as organizations start to see the fruits of their labor, with the right talent being matched to the right position and making a truly lasting impact.”
The eight trends that Futurestep believe will shape the global recruitment and talent management industry in 2016 are: 1. Candidates are in the driver’s seat According to McKinsey’s 2015 Global Growth Model study, from 2005-2015 there were three times as many workers as retirees. By 2025, the ratio of workers to retirees will be 1:1, making the candidate pool much smaller. Couple that with a need for specialized employees, especially in the technology and life sciences fields, and it is clear candidates are in the driver’s seat. Often entertaining multiple job offers, workers are choosing the employer whose values align with their own and one that lays out a clear path to career advancement for them – making a strong employer brand critical to winning the best talent.
2. Investment hiring to edge out competition Companies are increasingly looking beyond just the skills and background workers bring to the table. Instead, they are hiring people with the right traits and motivations who can be trained on-the-job for professions from software coding to customer service. More often than in the past, these employers are becoming less adamant about hiring only college graduates and are evaluating people on their ability to perform in the future.
3. Smart data to source and develop talent Metrics like time-to-hire, cost-per-hire and source-of-hire (while remaining key operational metrics and relevant) are now simply table stakes, and many companies are today hiring full-time analysts to mine for more in-depth talent metrics. This has included analysis of competitor talent pools to find candidates with the right skills who have potential to join their organization, and even data on whether full-time or part-time employees bring the highest ROI. In addition, companies are using data to capture a whole-person analysis of candidates to determine if they have the competencies, experiences, traits and drivers to succeed. When hired, this type of data can help guide individualized development programs.
4. Streamlined HR Technologies enabling centralized global recruitment Increasing globalization has been the catalyst for many organizations consolidating their HR function, acknowledging it as a shared service in line with IT and finance – the ultimate aim being to align talent with wider business strategies and improve operational efficiency. HR technology will become more streamlined as clients turn from multiple HR technology vendors to bundling their Human Capital Management, Applicant Tracking Systems and video interviewing, all on one platform. Even the areas of talent acquisition and talent development, which have traditionally worked in silos, will come closer together for improved succession planning.
5. Candidate Concierge Experience
Talent acquisition leaders are more conscientious of the candidate experience and 2016 will see a rise in adoption of new services and investments designed to make a lasting impression on future employees. Services will become more personalized as the likes of Candidate Concierge services come into play. Here, candidates are sent a link to download an app for their mobile device that would offer GPS guidance to the exact location of an interview, a complete rundown of with whom they will speak, and when on the corporate campus, geo-location beacons will send notifications as candidates pass campus landmarks. This trend will go beyond technology. Recruiters will be expected to deliver “the white glove treatment” for candidates; giving special tours of other departments within the company, developing presentations on the company culture and providing lunch between interviews will be de rigueur.
6. Talent from within will be realized as a true asset Instead of focusing outside of their organizations for talent, many companies are integrating formal internal mobility programs with dedicated portals for employees to learn about opportunities and share their interests and abilities. Sourcing internally has its benefits, from a shorter time to productivity – existing employees already have an understanding of the business – to lower staffing costs, which as a result means better financial performance. As well as this, it provides greater levels of employee satisfaction and retention, reducing competitive intelligence leakage and positively impacting an organization’s employment value proposition as a result.
7. Graduate recruiting for today and into the future College recruiting is more prevalent than it’s been since the great recession. Companies see grads as a strategic asset – they bring new, fresh thinking, are drivers of innovation and change, and can immerse themselves and ‘seed’ the culture of the organization, making them “home-grown talent.” If they don’t have all of the needed skills and experiences, they can be trained on the job. In addition, graduate hires can create a sustainable managerial/executive pipeline of high-potential talent. Be warned however that Millennials often demand to be advised of their proposed trajectory for several career moves within the organization, or they may not accept the job or leave after a short period.
8.Embracing diversity proving key to growth While equal opportunities in the workplace have always been important, this has now changed tack from a box-ticking exercise to a true necessity. This year we saw organizations understand the real value of minority groups, including women and veterans, and moving forward into 2015 we can expect to see them receive even further attention. In fact, it is estimated that nearly 1 million active members of the military will be making the transition to civilian service within the next few years, bringing tremendous skills to the marketplace. This isn’t just a volume exercise for industries that are plagued by a lack of skilled talent, such as STEM, but also a strategic one. New data is constantly supporting why diversity positively impacts business performance and in 2016 we will begin to see to start its impact.
(Interestingly, it seems human resource executives and their C-suite counterparts largely agree that HR is and will remain crucial to the organization’s success, but see the talent-related hurdles that lie ahead a little differently. Check out this executive summary for a few examples of where C-suite execs find common ground, and where their views diverge.)
The poll also asked C-suite leaders outside of HR to specify some of the changes their companies are making within the HR department, or plan to make in the next few years.
Overall, 71 percent said their current and future plans include broadening HR’s scope to help make the function … wait for it … more of a “strategic partner” to the business.
Among the actions non-HR C-suite executives are already taking to make HR more “strategic”? Twenty-two percent said they are “engaging top executives to develop HR strategy,” with the same number indicating they are “refreshing HR strategies such as selection, compensation, benefits and training.” Another 20 percent said they’re “getting senior executives more involved in implementing HR strategies.”
Looking ahead to the next 10 years, 21 percent of non-HR respondents reported that their organizations would be refreshing HR strategies “to align with evolving business goals,” while 19 percent said they will be “measuring the specific effects of HR programs” and 18 percent foresee “getting senior executives more involved in implementing HR strategies.” In addition, 16 percent predict transferring more HR-related tasks to line management.
Whatever tasks HR professionals will or won’t be carrying out one, five or 10 years from now, the C-suite seems to have reached a consensus in terms of the HR function’s ongoing importance.
“At the majority of organizations, both HR and non-HR C-suite executives view HR as having a strategic role,” notes the aforementioned executive summary. Indeed, 63 percent of non-HR C-suite executives said they see HR as such, with the most common perception being that of HR as a sort of transactional and strategic hybrid.
Whatever shape HR takes in the future, the function “needs to make the changes that will drive positive value and improve organizational effectiveness” in the days to come, said Deb Cohen, senior vice president of knowledge development at SHRM, in the research report.
“The HR profession suffers a multitude of critics both within and outside the ranks. HR does not need any more negative attention,” said Cohen. “If change will be constant … then HR needs to embrace its role in being an effective facilitator of change.”
These days, anyone who knows a recent college graduate also knows that student loans have become a necessary evil for many of those in pursuit of a higher education.
Indeed, we recently wrote about how employers are beginning to recognize the burden these new entrants to the workforce face, and what some of them are doing about it.
Now comes word today that Natixis Global Asset Management has announced a new benefit to assist employees with the repayment of their student-loan debt. The company will contribute up to $10,000 to every full-time employee who has been at Natixis for at least five years and has outstanding Federal Stafford or Perkins Loans.
Natixis — a Boston-based, multi-affililate organization offers access to more than 20 specialized investment firms in the Americas, Europe and Asia — said its student loan repayment benefit will take effect on January 1, 2016, based on employees’ outstanding student loan balances. The payments will be taxed at the supplemental bonus rate and cannot be combined with Natixis’ tuition reimbursement policy.
According to the company’s press release, the decision to offer this benefit was born out of conversations with members of Natixis’ team — millennials (Gen Y) in particular — who are delaying important financial milestones because of the burden of student debt. In addition, research conducted by the company indicates that although the best practice for retirement saving is to start young, student-loan debt is keeping a significant number of young workers from taking that first step.
The company’s 2015 Retirement Plan Participant Study of 1,000 U.S. investors found that nearly one in four (23 percent) Americans and more than a third (35 percent) of millennials who do not contribute to a company-sponsored retirement plan cite the need to pay off student loans as a factor that keeps them from participating. Among the survey’s millennial respondents, student debt is the third most common factor for not participating, behind needing the money today (54 percent) and feeling the company match isn’t big enough (43 percent).
“At Natixis, our mission is to help people make the right financial planning decisions that allow them to meet their goals, and that includes extending the spirit of that mission to our employees as significantly as we can,” said John Hailer, President and Chief Executive Officer of Natixis Global Asset Management in the Americas and Asia. “In addition to hearing firsthand from our younger employees about the toll student debt can take on other financial obligations – such as saving for retirement – our extensive research on Americans’ financial health supports the need to provide student loan repayment as a benefit.”
The benefit will consist of one $5,000 cash payment to employees after five years of anniversary working at Natixis, followed by annual payments of $1,000 distributed over the next five years for a total of $10,000.
“We pride ourselves on already providing a fantastic range of benefits to our employees and are excited to help lead the charge in offering student loan repayment, a largely untouched benefit in the workforce,” said Ed Farrington, executive vice president of business development and retirement at Natixis Global Asset Management. “We are confident that this new benefit will empower our younger employees to take full control of their financial futures.”
While student-loan payment programs may indeed still be “a largely untouched benefit in the workforce,” it’s safe to assume that it’s only a matter of time before it becomes standard fare on most organizations’ roster of benefits.
Every so often, you run across a talk with a message that personally resonates.
Such is the case with a recent presentation delivered by UPS Director of Human Resources for IT Service Delivery Regina Hartley, who gave a talk at the firm’s first-ever TED@UPS Talks event (titled Longitudes) on why job candidates who often don’t look good on paper may be precisely the kinds of folks you might want to be hiring. Or at the very least, people you might want to take a closer look at . (TED@UPS Talks took place on Sept. 2 at UPS’ corporate headquarters in Atlanta.)
Hartley’s talk, titled “Why I Hire People Others Ignore,” explored the merits of hiring “scrappers” over “silver spoons”—people who had to “fight tremendous odds” to get to where they are versus those who “clearly had advantages” and were “destined for success.”
Hartley, who has worked for UPS for about 25 years, pointed out she doesn’t hold anything against the silver-spoon candidates. “Getting into and graduating from an elite university takes hard work and sacrifice,” she said. “But if your whole life has been engineered toward success, how will you handle the tough times?”
In contrast, she said, scrappers succeed, despite the fact that their lives seem “engineered toward failures.”
“The conventional thinking has been that trauma leads to distress—and there’s been a lot of focus on the resulting dysfunction,” Hartley said. “But during many studies of dysfunction, data began to reveal an unexpected insight: that even the worst circumstances can result in growth and transformation … .”
In non-scientific terms, she explained, “we just say, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ Whatever you call it, its discovery has opened the door to entirely new areas of psychological study.”
Hartley also noted that “scrappers have a sense of purpose that prevents them from giving up on themselves. They adopt a ‘what’s the worse-thing-that-can-happen-to-me’ attitude.”
They also understand that “humor gets you through the tough times” and that “people who overcome adversity don’t do it alone.”
For these and other reasons, Hartley said, employers would be well served to “bet on scrappers.”
I spoke to Hartley earlier today and asked what led her to develop this talk for the UPS event. “For years,” she said, “it’s been brewing inside me.
“As an HR professional and an observer of leadership in general, I noticed that so many people [who] I read about and met, especially at UPS, seemed to come from these disadvantaged backgrounds—and it always intrigued me. I wondered, what was it about the mix of adversity … determination … opportunity that led to success?”
(If you view the video of the talk, you’ll also notice Hartley has some personal stories to share.)
Often, she said, hiring managers are seeking that perfect resume—“that flawless, no-gaps-in-employment [history with] no known failures. Because of that, they’re overlooking some very talented people, be they an external hire or someone internal.”
Hartley, who wanted to make sure no one interpreted her message to mean that UPS only hired scrappers, said her talk definitely resonated with those attending, including members of UPS’ leadership team, some of whom approached her afterward and identified themselves as scrappers.
If you haven’t done so yet, check out Hartley’s talk (embedded above). It’s only 13 minutes—and well worth watching.
But even if you don’t take the time to watch, as you begin to rev up your hiring engines in the first quarter of next year, you still may want to put aside some time to reconsider what constitutes an ideal candidate these days—and what doesn’t. As Hartley suggests, it may not be as cut-and-dried as some folks think.
Just last week, I finished writing a feature focusing on what a handful of 2015’s “Most Admired for HR” organizations are doing to prime today’s young employees for tomorrow’s leadership roles.
(By the way, this piece is slated to run in the upcoming December edition of HRE, and, naturally, I think you should check it and the rest of the issue out.)
In “Millennials Take Up the Mantle,” HR leaders from companies such as Wells Fargo and Comcast Corp. share some of the programs and initiatives they’ve put in place to groom employees of the millennial generation—a cohort that most projections say will make up roughly 75 percent of the workforce by the year 2025—for the leadership and management positions they’ll soon take over in large numbers.
Many millennials—generally defined as those born between the early 1980s and early 2000s—are already transitioning into leadership roles, of course. Some new data, however, suggests they aren’t the only ones who could use some help adjusting to Gen Y being in charge.
A recent study conducted by Future Workplace and Beyond surveyed 5,771 employees of all ages. Overall, 83 percent of respondents said that millennials are currently managing Gen X and baby boomer employees at their organizations. Among Gen X and boomer respondents, however, 45 percent said they feel that millennials’ lack of managerial experience could have a negative impact on a company’s culture.
And, while 44 percent of millennial respondents regard themselves as being the most capable generation to lead in the workplace, just 14 percent of participants overall agree that Gen Y workers are the best for the job.
It shouldn’t be surprising to see that some (OK, many) older employees aren’t completely comfortable with taking orders from younger, less experienced colleagues, at least not initially. And that uneasiness may help explain the more than one-third of millennials who reported difficulty in managing older employees.
All the concerned parties here certainly have some work to do if they and their organizations are to succeed. In the aforementioned HRE feature, Vanessa Walsh, who heads up leadership and professional development at Wells Fargo, explained what the San Francisco-based banking and financial services firm is doing to help its people bridge the generation gap.
Wells Fargo, which holds the No. 11 spot on this year’s “Most Admired for HR” list, currently oversees 10 affinity groups. The latest addition is “My Generation,” which consists of employees from different age cohorts “who are interested in what it means to be of a certain generation in the workforce,” says Walsh. “We don’t have one group focused on boomers or Gen Xers or millennials. These groups just get people together to learn about these different age groups.”
The idea, she says, is to discuss—and in some cases, debunk—stereotypes associated with various generations in the workplace.
What the group is not, says Walsh, is an effort to force young workers to adapt to old and “established” ways of working. Such an endeavor would be fruitless anyhow, she says.
“I don’t know that we’re going to ‘rewire’ 75 percent of the workforce. Nor should we. So, for me, the question becomes, ‘How do we shift to where they are?’ ”
In honor of Veterans Day, we’re posting a Q&A with Ross Brown, director of military and veterans affairs at JPMorgan Chase, about a recently announced initiative by The Veterans Jobs Mission to hire a total of 1 million veterans over the next several-plus years. It’s ironic, given the training and leadership responsibilities so many of them have had, that U.S. veterans continue to suffer an unemployment rate that exceeds that of the general population. The VJM, a coalition of more than 200 companies representing all industry sectors, recently changed its name from the 100,000 Jobs Mission, with the goal of increasing the engagement and career development of vets in the private sector. Brown himself is a veteran, having spent 27 years as an officer in the Army after graduating with a bachelor of science degree from West Point. His tours of duty included Honduras and Iraq, where he commanded the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. At JPMorgan Chase, Brown’s role includes overseeing veterans employment and small business development. As you’ll read below, he’s a passionate advocate not only for veterans, but for the gifts they can bring to the workplace.
What sort of timeline are you looking at for hiring one million veterans?
Throughout the course of the conflicts of the last 12 to 14 years, we’ve routinely been transitioning about 200,000 veterans into civilian jobs from active duty. So I said to the coalition, that’s one million service members over the next five years. So we collectively decided to make that our goal — hire one million veterans — and, when we reach it, then let’s make it two million. We’re also looking to help the coalition have a greater impact by having an exchange of veterans — if, for example, a veteran applies for a job at AT&T, but they don’t have an opening for that person at the moment, they can alert Verizon, in order for that veteran to be hired.
How many veterans has JPMorgan Chase hired?
We’ve hired over 9,500 in recent years. They work in all sectors of our business. We have a three-tiered process for bringing vets into our organization. First, we have recruiters focused on former military members. Eighty percent of these recruiters have been in the military themselves, so they already understand what veterans offer and how to translate their experience into a skill we’re looking for as a firm. Then, once a vet has been hired, we have a sponsorship program that pairs them with a vet who’s been here for a while — that person helps the new hire navigate the organization. And third, we have a veterans business resource group, analogous to a fraternity or sorority, that sponsors events and activities so they can bond with people who share a common experience, commiserate with other vets.
What do vets tend to commiserate about?
First, let me highlight the characteristics that vets bring. The first is leadership. Given the conflicts we as a nation have been in, we have people even in the lowest levels of the military making important decisions. The second is a bias toward problem-solving: I know from personal experience that the challenges you face in the military are dynamic and ever-evolving and the answer is rarely found in a book. The third is teamwork: The military prides itself on being a team of teams. And then there’s character — these are people who volunteered to serve their country knowing full well they’d be sent into combat. And last, they have a bias toward getting things done. Now they find themselves transitioning to these different organizations where they may be a sole contributor rather than a member of a team. In many cases they’ve gone from being empowered to make decisions, even at the lowest level, to situations where they may have very little autonomy.
Another important thing to consider is that in the military, there’s typically a clear career path — an institutional construct for how you will advance, which schools you’ll need to attend, and so on. And there’s often less of that in civilian organizations, where there may not be that same kind of organizational infrastructure. So these are the challenges faced by vets in the civilian workplace, and that’s why being able to commiserate with others with a shared background helps them in that transition.
As a veteran yourself, what sort of qualities most appeal to you in an employer?
What’s important to me are shared values. If I hadn’t felt that the organizational values here at JPMorgan Chase were consistent with my own, then I wouldn’t have joined. Second, I have to feel that whatever business the organization is in, there has to be a commitment to excellence. What attracted me to this job was the opportunity to have a positive impact on peoples’ lives, on veterans’ lives.
Are there some common misperceptions about veterans that can get in the way of them finding work — for example, misconceptions about the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder?
This is my perspective, and it’s borne out by statistics: For the majority of vets transitioning today, if they served in combat, they are strengthened by it. They’ve been strengthened by that experience. And that’s the bottom line.
What are the biggest roadblocks standing in the way of veterans finding good jobs?
There needs to be universal acknowledgement that vets are good for business and we need to continue creating pathways for them to be employed. It’s not that there’s no desire to hire them, but what’s the best way to acquire them.
What’s your advice to HR leaders who want their organizations to hire more veterans?
I would suggest they get their companies to join our coalition, The Veterans Jobs Mission, because we offer a support structure to help them employ veterans in whatever industry sector they’re in. We represent a community that shares lessons learned, discusses benefits and opportunities, and so that’s what I’d suggest: Join us.
News, Strategies and Resources for Senior HR Executives (formerly The Leader Board)