February 12, 2016 BestCompaniesAZ

Five Lessons from an Award-Winning Military Friendly Company

A USAA Success Story

How quickly the hiring climate has changed for veterans. Just a few short years ago, former military men and women faced serious biases and barriers in making a transition to civilian work. Now, the armed forces offers career-building resources while many employers have rolled out the welcome mat for military.

USAA Claims Adjuster Rich Peoples, a Marine veteran, shared his story and gave us an inside peek at some of the programs and practices that make USAA a military-friendly leader.

Rich decided to enlist in the Marines after his efforts to get through college while working three jobs proved unsatisfying. Determined to make the most of his time with the Marines, Rich went into the infantry because that was the most direct path he could find to reconnaissance training. As part of the Special Forces, Recon training was similar to that for Navy SEALS; rigorous and lengthy. As a member of a direct action battalion, Rich served in Iraq, where he was wounded in combat. Without irony, even though Rich faced a tough recovery from his injuries, he declared his time with Recon to be his “dream job” and stated he “got lucky”.

Rich found a bumpy road awaited him as a civilian. Like many veterans, he didn’t know what he wanted to do next, and he tried several career and educational paths before discovering his dream opportunity with USAA.

While many hiring managers have learned the benefits of hiring veterans – soft skills, leadership abilities, reliability, dedication- challenges still remain. Companies who want to tap into the veteran market can learn from award-winning military friendly companies like USAA, whose employer brand is closely tied to service. Nobody understands veterans better than USAA, and all companies can learn from their leadership in the area of hiring and retaining veterans. Through Rich’s story, we found five specific ideas other companies can use for inspiration in hiring veterans.

Organize your efforts. It’s not enough to decide that your company will focus on hiring veterans. To up the game, a specific outreach is needed. For instance, Rich found USAA through its Combat to Claims program. Several times a year groups of recently separated veterans are selected at a time to be “the infantry” of USAA. They spend over two months training as a unit, as they adjust to the civilian world. This affords them the opportunity to lean on one another as they adjust to the significant change from military to corporate culture. Says Rich. “In Iraq I was getting shot at, and that’s stressful – but the lifestyle of working at a desk is also stressful. USAA helps us get ready for that transition.”

Learn what veterans can bring. After the Marines but before USAA, Rich worked for a retailer who didn’t fully appreciate how his military background prepared him for leadership. “After I’d been there a while, they finally started to see that I came 30 minutes early to set up, stayed 30 minutes late to complete everything, and helped others. They normally didn’t consider veterans for leadership; they only looked for college graduates with industry experience.” Bias and lack of recognition of veteran skills will often lead veteran talent like Rich to look for greater opportunity elsewhere.

Design an outstanding recruiting experience. Rich was impressed with the thorough, well planned interviews he experienced at USAA. “They asked me questions about personal experiences related to problem solving and teamwork, and they helped me understand what they were looking for.” Interviewers also listened intently to the answers. “I’ve never before felt like an interviewer was so engaged”, said Rich. “Even though we didn’t know if the interviews would lead to an offer, all the interviewees were invited for a full tour of the building. They were selling themselves to me”, Rich explained. “It was so cool. What a unique experience!” Treating a prospective new hire with the same respect as a prospective customer will make your employer brand stand out.

Use the resources you have. USAA has a solid network of military veterans within the company. Experienced employees sponsor and mentor recently hired veterans to share experiences and tips about acclimating to a new work environment. Rich recently acted as a sponsor for a newly hired veteran. Even if a company does not have the size and scale of USAA, they may have veterans who would consider it an honor to informally mentor those recently transitioning into a new civilian job.

Help employees find meaning in work. Military values have been deeply embedded into veterans. It’s part of what makes them so desirable. USAA’s military-compatible values of Service, Loyalty, Honesty, and Integrity especially resonate with veterans. Values-driven veterans like Rich are not likely to find much meaning in financial measures alone, but he can’t say enough about his pride for USAA’s mission. “I’m so proud to be a part of this company so I can help the members in their time of need. I couldn’t be happier.”

While the lessons learned from USAA could help recruiting efforts across the board, but by focusing on veterans, you might land great talent like Rich.

And if you’re a veteran looking for a new career, you can meet hiring representatives from USAA at the BestCompaniesAZ 2017 Military Career Event, February 22. Reserve your spot now!