We’re proud to not only support veterans in their job search, but to have multiple veterans as a part of our own workforce as well. In honor of Veteran’s Day, we sat down with two of our veterans to hear more about their stories and gather insight into how businesses can better support their veterans. Below, we share a few key insights.
Christian Cañas is the Director of Operations at LaSalle Network, where he spearheads the LaSalle Veteran Network, and our partnerships with veteran causes. Christian served our country as a member of the U.S. Army. In 2009, Christian began his service at Ft. Benning, GA, for basic infantry training. Later assigned to the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Christian deployed to Afghanistan for two tours in support of Operation Enduring Freedom as a member of the Bastogne Brigade, 1- 327th Infantry Regiment. During his service, Christian earned multiple awards including the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Army Commendation Medal and the Army Achievement Medal. He concluded his service at Ft. Campbell, KY, departing the U.S. Military as a Noncommissioned Officer. Upon completion of his service, Christian earned both his undergraduate and MBA at Loyola University Chicago. He now finds passion as an advocate for the utilization of the GI Bill for transitioning members of the armed services. Christian is the Director of Operations at LaSalle Network, where he spearheads the LaSalle Veteran Network, and our partnerships with veteran causes.
Blake Steele is the Veteran Success Coordinator at LaSalle Network. Blake joined the Army out of high school in 2010. After completing basic Infantry training at Ft. Benning, he was stationed with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). He served as a member of the Bastogne Brigade, 2-327th “No Slack” Battalion. During his first tour in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Blake served as part of the Brigade Quick Reaction Force as a Squad Designated Marksman and .50cal gunner. Blake has earned several awards including the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. After the conclusion of his military service, Blake continued his supporting efforts as a Department of Defense contractor. His contracts included working with Triple Canopy and Bravura Information Technology Systems Inc. Blake later went on to a nine-week Explosive Detection K9 course and became certified with his EDD K9, where he was stationed around the Chicago O’Hare Airport where his team searched for any potential threats. During his time as an Explosive K9 Handler, Blake was contacted by various veteran organizations and found his passion helping fellow veterans.
Q: Beyond DEI initiatives and the desire to support a more diverse workforce, what are the benefits of hiring veterans? What skills set them apart?
Christian: What many businesses don’t understand is there is a rather large demographic of skilled workers that are chronically underemployed. These veterans have unique soft and hard skills equipping them to be successful in a myriad of different roles and industries – and especially today as many organizations are understaffed - tapping into this talent group provides an excellent opportunity.
While servicemembers perform thousands of different roles within the military and have varying experiences and skills, there are several valuable skillsets held by most veterans. One such skill is the ability to operate well in ambiguity and take on anything that is asked of us. We’re used to rapid change and being given orders with very little explanation. We’re able to be incredibly productive when it matters most. Veterans are also very team oriented. The focus is always on “we” rather than “me.”
Q: What advice do you have for businesses looking to hire veterans?
Blake: Create a specific program for hiring veterans. Often, it's not enough to simply have a goal of hiring veterans and hope some will apply. Creating specific job posts for veterans and promoting them on veteran job boards is one way of capturing the right applicants.
It’s also important to keep in mind that veteran resumes may be non-traditional or could be screened out based on your applicant tracking system due to their unique background. Try to make sure qualified veterans don’t slip through the cracks due to technicalities.
Christian: Research other companies who have implemented a strong veteran hiring program. What have they done? Have they had success? Reach out and ask them for their advice. Chances are, there is a veteran on staff who would be willing to talk with you and help.
There are also many groups that work to help veterans that businesses could partner with. One of these, of course, is LVN. Businesses can connect with us regarding specific roles they need filled or for assistance getting their own veteran hiring program started.
Q: What methods can businesses use to attract and retain veterans?
Blake: Training recruiters specifically on what to look for while hiring veterans is essential. Perhaps most importantly, tap into the veteran talent already within the organization to learn how they found their position. Ask them if they are comfortable and able to talk with their network and provide referrals of other veterans in the job market. While interviewing, consider involving veteran employees, if appropriate to their role, or highlighting their success within the organization.
Christian: The first, most essential step is education of the current workforce – especially HR and hiring managers/recruiters. Many professionals don’t understand how to recognize veteran talent or how to evaluate their resume – or even why they may be incredible assets to an organization. Training these professionals on how to recruit, interview, and hire veterans is essential. Partnering with organizations that help connect veterans to new opportunities could also help bridge that gap, be it through connections, or educational support.
Focusing on retention is also essential. Acknowledging that veterans may have a different set of skills and different way of communicating is important to know how to lead them effectively. For instance, many veterans may be uncomfortable with frequent or public recognition. Military service is not done to receive praise – and some veterans may still be uncomfortable with too much individual recognition, even within the civilian workforce. Instead, focusing on their role within the team and the team’s success may help veterans become more comfortable.
Whether creating a veteran hiring program for the first time or working to elevate hiring efforts, LaSalle Veteran Network is here to help. Get connected with us here.
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