Helping Veteran Talent Find Opportunity

Greg Jenkins understands the challenges military members face because he has lived them firsthand. Before becoming a consulting partner at inQuest Consulting, Jenkins had a U.S. Army career that included overseas duties in Germany and South Korea and combat duty in Iraq. Now, he helps companies take advantage of the growing amount of available veteran talent. Jenkins says the Chicago-based consulting firm is designed to assist organizations in that regard.

Tell us about yourself and your experiences prior to joining inQUEST.
I began my Army career in 1982, then as a bridge crewman, one of the many components of the Corps of Engineers. The early days of my Army career were spent assigned to combat engineer battalions where our organizations conducted countless Corps of Engineers missions. The Army Diversity Task Force, which subsequently became the Army Diversity Office, developed the Army’s first policy on diversity. Among other diversity-related products, we produced diversity marketing, research and training development.

During your time in the Army, how did you help human relations efforts?
The human relations portion of my career began in 2005 when I was offered the opportunity to attend the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI). [It] really opened my eyes to the value of people, and how leaders and organizations can better include, engage and value their employees in order to innovate and progress. Once I graduated from DEOMI I began my career in human relations. My work was centered on diversity and inclusion and equal opportunity (EO), and my initial efforts were directed at military EO, where I served as the senior EO adviser to the commanding general of Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., the largest U.S. military training installation in the country, with a daytime population of about 35,000 people.

Tell us about your time with the Army Diversity Task Force.
Our EO team at Fort Leonard Wood was very successful, and before long we attracted the attention of the Pentagon, where the Army Diversity Task Force was getting ramped up to begin a dedicated diversity effort for the entire U.S. Army. At that point my human relations efforts were elevated to the executive-level of the Army. That work resulted in the development the aforementioned Army Diversity Policy, the Army Diversity Road Map, leader diversity competencies, marketing products and tools, and a depth of diversity expertise for the leaders and members of our 1.4 million person Army.

Do you think enough is being done to help veteran jobseekers find employment?
No, I do not. As a veteran who has successfully transitioned from the military to the corporate culture, I understand the challenges that a veteran goes through during the hiring process. At inQuest we are sensitive to the transition that veterans are going through, and we help those companies wanting to successfully engage the growing amount of available veteran talent. Our veteran services practice is a business-focused service designed to assist organizations in that regard. We intimately understand the challenges that military service members are going through because we have lived those experiences firsthand.

How do you manage hiring veterans and why is it important?
You begin to manage veteran hiring by understanding the talents and benefits that veterans can provide to the team. Veterans are a proven workforce; their dedication to selfless service and sacrifice is unmatched by any other group in the American workforce. Understanding military culture and the unique benefits provided for and by veterans is important for supervisors and HR professionals alike. Bridging the cultural gap between veterans from a military culture to the civilian corporate/business world is important in the successful transition for the business and the veteran.

Where do you see veteran hiring practices going in the future?
We see a need for a comprehensive process to better facilitate veteran hiring practices in the future. We believe that there are four key steps that make up successful veteran hiring and sustainable working partnerships.
1. Developing an organization’s cultural readiness is the first step in the process. Gaining an understanding of veteran culture and opening up the corporate culture to engage and include veterans will form the foundation of a strong work relationship between leaders, managers and supervisors and new veteran employees.
2. The second step is in determining the effectiveness of existing corporate and HR policies. This step helps to ensure the proper recognition and inclusion of veterans and their concerns while maintaining the proper corporate focus on the overarching goals and objectives of the organization. Included in the second step is also the re-examination of corporation partnerships, partnerships with veteran ERGs, local, state and federal veteran organizations or other veteran groups that may enhance the organization and its veteran employees.
3. The third step involves transition assistance once a company hires veterans. In three distinct phases this step includes training and discovery for 1) new veteran hires, 2) company supervisors and managers, and 3) a dedicated team-building effort between new veteran hires and management that transcends cultural differences, resulting in strong and effective teams.
4. The fourth step focuses on change agent development. During this step, company HR professionals, hiring managers and recruiters learn a more advanced level of veteran culture, benefits and challenges that may face veterans or organizations in the veteran hiring and partnering process.

Jennifer Kahn is an editorial intern at Diversity Executive magazine. She can be reached at editor@diversity-executive.com.