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Salute has focused on building programs that can take any veteran and provide them with the training and experience necessary to launch a long-term career in our industry. More importantly, we have proven that a business that invests in recruiting and training any veteran can achieve a rate of return that meets the key requirements for long term sustainable business models so others can do the same. The key is that, the business need must first be defined so that a path can be developed for recruiting, training and gaining the experience to fulfill the business need. This becomes an effective work force development strategy that can become a competitive advantage in an industry that is so short of talent.

We all know that there is a shortage of talent in the industry. We also can get everyone to agree that hiring veterans makes sense. But where we are missing the mark is in what we mean when we use the word “veterans”. At Salute we hire any veteran with the aptitude and attitude to learn quickly, continuously adapt, think strategically and operate tactically. So, the 240,000 veterans leaving the military every year have a path to the industry, but a single business cannot consume all so the opportunity is at the industry level. Most in our industry are keen to hire veterans but unfortunately it is only “specific” veterans who are the best qualified and easiest to transition; and that is typically the submariners and communications specialist and engineers from all services. A specialized group of recruiting companies have grown to help companies gain access to what amounts to 1-5% of veterans and that creates self-inflicted supply and demand issues.

If you study the pie charts below you will quickly see that the Veterans demographic is inverse to the Data Center Industry based on how you define selection criteria when you seek to hire. Our industry has always embraced submariners and by all means should continue to do so. But if you do not consider the remaining 99% of the veteran population, you are missing a huge opportunity.

After your business case, the next step is to develop a comprehensive plan that will serve as a road map to success and includes budget for training and ongoing support. Training is an area that is always under pressure as the value is not understood by non-operational leaders, but it is key to success. If you know the value of the use case and can apply the return on investment formulas of your company, expectations will be aligned, and you can execute accordingly. Going through this exercise will ensure the greatest chance for success. It is human nature to want to find short cuts, but it is critical that none be taken in the planning and approval stage as an un-resourced plan is just wishful thinking. Once resourcing is approved, you should take the success metrics and key performance indicators you defined in the plan and operationalize them so that they serve as a dashboard for decision making going forward. These will be key to continuous refinement but more than likely highlight your success and possibly spark other thought leaders in your organization to come up with new use cases that can benefit from lessons learned.

Currently the industry is only considering a small slice of the pie represented above. To seize the advantage and increase your slice of pie, takes a training program that produces tangible returns. Each business case is different, and it starts with assessing your situation and planning a solution. I am happy to share lessons learned with anyone who wants more veterans working in their company (more pie please).

Written by Lee Kirby, Co-Founder & Chairman of Salute Mission Critical

Lee has more than 30 years of experience in all aspects of information systems, strategic business development, finance, planning, human resources, and administration both in the private and public sectors. Lee has successfully led several technology startups and turnarounds as well as built and run world-class global operations. View Lee Kirby's Full Bio →

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